Archive for February, 2019

This is part of a ongoing series that will take you through the steps of publishing our hiking guidebook


Correspondence with the publisher was going well, but you can’t count your chickens (or should I say you shouldn’t count your tanuki skins before the hunt as they are apt to say in Japan). You don’t want to be set up for a letdown, so I continued to climb mountains while having this potential guidebook lodged safely hidden away as an afterthought until March 2016, when the publisher asked for our mailing addresses.

We received an agreement to sign and a large set of author guidelines. Our task was simple: produce a 60,000 word guidebook with 200 photos and clearly annotated maps with a strict submission deadline of April 30th, 2018. Here we go.

The guidelines are pretty straightforward but very intimidating when dealing with a new publisher, who has firm rules regarding writing style, punctuations and abbreviations. It’s a lot to work your head around, especially when reading them in advance before even beginning a project.

The other issue is with consistency of style. Since there are two of us writing the book, there should be a flawless integration of prose between hike descriptions written by two completely different authors. Readers of the book should not be able to discern which author wrote each particular section of the book. This may seem easy for two authors residing in the same country, but the issue is further complicated when working with someone from an entirely different part of the globe. I would need to up my game and study more about British vernacular and spellings. With Tom being the lead author, he would be able to ‘remix’ my writing into something a bit more palpable to a British audience and to more closely match his writing style.

In addition to the agreement and guidelines, the publisher sent along a collection of other Cicerone guides that we could use for reference. These proved invaluable and I actually read through the Corfu guidebook from front to back (possibly my first and last time to read a guidebook from start to finish, especially for a place I’ve never visited), highlighting key British vocabulary such as ‘waymark’ and ‘tarmac’ that I could borrow when writing my own hiking descriptions.

Tom and I split up the mountains and I was given the responsibility for the entire Minami Alps section of the guidebook. For those who are unaware, the Minami Alps is one of the most remote mountains ranges in Japan, with no easy access from any one direction. I gladly took on the challenge, as it gave me an excuse to revisit some of my old haunts from my Hyakumeizan days.


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This is part of a ongoing series that will take you through the steps of publishing our hiking guidebook


Hiking guidebooks are a great way to get insider information from experts about a particular region or mountain range. I came to Japan just as Lonely Planet’s Hiking in Japan guidebook went to print and I immediately picked up a copy. The information inside was invaluable in helping me plan trips and, while the maps inside leave a lot left to be desired, they did provide a basic layout of the trails and provided just enough kanji information to help decipher the Japanese signposts. In fact, I probably would have never climbed the Nihon Hyakumeizan if not for the informative side box about the peaks written by seasoned author Craig Mclachlan.

Still, as I dove deeper into the Hyakumeizan, I realized that Lonely Planet could only get me so far, so I invested in a handful of excellent Japanese-language hiking guides to help me complete my quest. I started both my Hiking in Japan and Tozan Tales sites exactly 11 years ago to help share my vast wealth of knowledge, but something inside me told me that it was not enough.

So back in 2009 I started the search for a publisher who may be interested in publishing a English-language guidebook on Japan’s mountains. I talked with publishers far and wide, submitted proposals, but in the end I always received the same answer: there just isn’t enough interest in Japan’s mountains. Japanese publishers were not interested in English-language content either, and I was reluctant to self-publish a guidebook that did not have well-made maps, as I lacked the resources and motivation to produce them myself.

Fast forward to February 2015, and with 90% of the way through the Kansai Hyakumeizan, I host a gathering of Kansai-based hikers and give a short slideshow on my top 10 mountains in the Kansai region, a list that continues to change (one day I’ll post the list on this blog). After my presentation, I am approached by British-author and mountaineer Tom Fay, who mentions his desire to write a guidebook on Japan’s mountains. We talk for a brief time and I offer him any assistance to help him achieve his dream, including a suggestion to help him co-author the book should he want to share the duties.

We keep in touch over the coming months, and after writing an informative article for the Guardian, Tom makes contact with esteemed British publisher Cicerone. They are interested in seeing a proposal and Tom formally asks me if I would like to partner with him in the project, with him being lead author. I accept his proposal and he gets to work on submitting a sample chapter and table of contents.

The response is positive, but the publisher is backlogged with other guidebooks, so we are asked about the willingness to wait for 2 years. We accept, knowing that you should never turn down an opportunity to work with a great publisher, even if it means waiting a while for your project to see the light of day.

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With the new guidebook slated for release next month,  I’m starting a new series to give readers a behind-the-scenes peak into what it takes to put together a hiking guidebook. Stay tuned over the coming months and feel free to pre-order the book directly from the publisher!

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