Bob Sehlinger is a trifecta of talents in the travel writing industry: not only is he a writer (he has written 27 guidebooks!), he’s also editor and publisher of Menasha Ridge Press. With 27 years of publishing reference and non-fiction books, Menasha Ridge touts titles that help travelers with everything from finding a peaceful place in a big city, to offering tips on hiking, canoeing, and mountain-biking. Bob is also the creator of the Unofficial Guide travel series and a recipient of the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for journalistic excellence. (And he was nice enough to publish a book with this Tim Leffel guy’s name on it.) Check out submission guidelines here!
What path led you to the position you have now? What’s your background?
Entered publishing as an author. Became marketing director for my press. After 5 years started my own press which is now 28 years old.
What qualities do you look for and admire in someone you hire to write, edit, or update a book?
Professional, schedule conscious, good consumer sense, excellent research capabilities, coachable, writes with humor, accurate, exceeds expectations.
What mistakes do new freelancers make in how they approach you and what do the good ones do right?
I’m almost never approached by new freelancers, but a common mistake of many is not understanding in depth the market they’re writing for. It’s not about the writer and it’s all about satisfying the reader’s needs.
Based on what delights you and what irks you, what honest and unvarnished advice would you give to an aspiring freelancer who wanted to become a successful travel book or guidebook writer? (Besides, “Don’t do it.”)
Always deliver more than you promise, and deliver it on time.
Obviously the book business is changing big time. What is Menasha Ridge doing to cope with the loss of Borders and most independent bookstores?
Other retailers, for example outdoor retailers and big box stores, are stepping into the vacuum. Though most people don’t realize it, sales of printed books are up from a year ago. We’re also deeply involved in the digital market and offer both e-Book and print versions of all new titles.
How do you find the right writers for books you have on the publishing schedule? How do potential writers reach your company and what are you looking for from them?
We network, interview candidates, and complete rigorous due diligence on any writer we’re considering. Author guidelines spell out what we’re looking for.
Bob Sehlinger is the publisher of Menasha Ridge Press, a 27-year old book publishing company specializing in adult non-fiction and reference titles. He is also the creator and executive publisher of the Unofficial Guide series published by Wiley. A Lowell Thomas gold award winner, Sehlinger has personally authored twenty-seven guidebooks with lifetime sales of over 3 million copies.
Interview conducted in December, 2011 by Travel Writing 2.0 author Tim Leffel and edited by Kristin Mock.