When Tom Brosnahan left for the Peace Corps in 1967, he couldn’t have begun to imagine the career that would develop after his travels! Beginning with his iconic Frommer’s Turkey on $5 a Day, his guidebooks (he has authored 40 of them!) have now sold over four million copies and are translated into a dozen languages. Having just published his first travel memoir, Bright Sun, Strong Tea, Brosnahan is also involved in a number of travel websites specializing in Turkey, France, and his homeland of New England. Check him out here!
How did you “break in” to travel writing? What have been the keys to your success?
I wrote a guidebook on spec, and Frommer’s published it. Success: hard work, and always keeping the traveler’s needs in mind.
Where do you see your career as a travel writer being three years from now? How will your income mix change and what are you doing to adapt to the changing media landscape?
My income will continue to come from electronic (not paper) publishing. I will publish more work on mobile devices.
Knowing what you do now, if you were starting from scratch today to become established as a travel writer, what would you do?
Concentrate on websites, mobile apps and ebooks.
Don’t write what you want to write (like a blog), figure out what millions of people want to read, and write that. The world doesn’t care about you. It cares about what it wants to know.
You’re one of the best examples out there of someone who has parlayed his knowledge as a guidebook writer into owning a niche in the online world. What advice would you give for guidebook authors who want to follow in your footsteps?
Know your audience. If you were successful with guidebooks, you already know how to satisfy them.
You run what is by most accounts the most popular travel site for Turkey, but you also cover your own back yard in New England. What do you do differently in running these two websites?
Every destination is different, requiring a different approach, because the audiences and their needs are different—same as it was with guidebooks.
Tom Brosnahan went to Turkey in 1967 as a US Peace Corps Volunteer to teach English. He wrote Frommer’s Turkey on $5 a Day (1972) as a Peace Corps project. In 1975 he returned to Istanbul on a Fulbright fellowship to study Ottoman history and language, expecting to be a university professor. Instead, he became a travel writer, guidebook author, photographer and consultant on travel information. His guidebooks to a dozen countries for Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Berlitz and Insight have sold over four million copies worldwide, and have been translated into multiple languages. He served as a founding Contributing Editor for Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine. In 2000 he founded Travel Info Exchange, Inc., a developer of destination websites. TurkeyTravelPlanner.com now serves over five million visitors from 235 countries annually. He is also developing NewEnglandTravelPlanner.com, FranceTravelPlanner.com, and other travel websites.