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This is the first of a new ongoing series that will take you through the steps of publishing a hiking guidebook. 

After the copy-editing is finished with Georgia, the book goes back to Cicerone and on to the galley proof stage. This is the first chance we have to see how the book will look with the photos and maps added. It’s basically set up as an A4-sized document, and again we are asked to mark up the pdf document using Acrobat Reader DC. The 300-page document takes a while for Tom and I to carefully examine, and we take turns marking it up since we need to submit just one document, so we use a shared folder in Dropbox to accomplish our tasks.

Editing is done through Acrobat Reader markups

It’s about a month between the two stages, so we have a chance to take a break and forget about the book while looking at the galley proofs with ‘fresh eyes’.  All in all there are about 100 issues that need to be dealt with before the book can go to layout, but the attention to detail is worth it in order to make a better finished product.

 

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

One the appraisal and the overall issues of the guidebook were complete, our manuscript was sent to the copy-editor for a thorough check. A copy editor’s job is to prepare a manuscript for layout, but the task involves much more than just arranging a few words on a page, for the copy editor can ensure that the book flows from start-to-finish, and offers a “fresh set of eyes” to point out things that may need further elucidation.

Cicerone usually subcontracts this important task out to freelance copy editors, and our book ended up in the hands of Georgia at Laval Editing, who had previously worked on a number of other Cicerone guides. We were in good hands.

The process involved Georgia going through our manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, compiling all of her inquiries into a word file that Tom and I needed to work through, one issue at a time. It involved a lot of back-and-forth over a period of 6 weeks or so, where we turned a strong manuscript into a tight, concise fortress of a guidebook. It’s something that self-published authors don’t have at their disposal, so if you’re considering publishing your own book, hiring a copy-editor and proofreader will be an invaluable asset.

Most of our work involved highlighting and commenting on issues that Georgia brought up about each hike, a simple task made easier by utilizing the ‘track changes’ function. Some of the issues were quite simple to address, while others involved a slight rewriting of sections to make them easier to comprehend. By living here in Japan, I often times fail to elaborate upon things that first-time visitors may have trouble understanding, so providing a bit of “cultural context” hopefully ensured that our readers would avoid some common pitfalls. For instance, when we recommend that people avoid hiking during Obon, then Japan residents automatically know that it refers to the holiday in mid-August, while those coming to Japan for the first time will likely have never heard of this mid-summer ritual.

It was a pleasure working with Laval Editing, and if anyone out there is looking for someone to look over their manuscript and get some valuable feedback, I can think of no better place to seek such wisdom.

 

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A Bigger Audience

I’ve been making an effort to post more on this blog, but sometimes paid writing assignments take precedence, especially when it comes to promoting the guidebook.

Please enjoy my latest article on Kita-dake for Cicerone, a bit of a hybrid between the prose of Tozan Tales and the practicality of Hiking in Japan.

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

 

As Tom dropped the manuscript off at the Post office, we took some time to relax and forget about the book for a while. Even though our word count was too high, we knew that if Cicerone approved of the contents then there would be a way to make it work.

It took about 6 weeks for them to get back to us. Despite their initial budget to release our guide as a 288-page work, we were given the green light to expand it to 400 pages, knowing that it would both increase the cost of production and the final resale price. Tom and I were both happy with that, as anything less than a near-complete guide to the Japan Alps would be a letdown. Sure, there were some routes that needed condensing, but at least we had the space to write about almost all of the options available to avid hikers and trekkers when they hit Japan’s alpine wonderland.

The first step in the production process was an overall read through the manuscript to deal with some ‘big picture’ issues, the first of which dealt with the elevation gain and loss figures for all of our hikes/treks. All of this information needed to be included in a handy chart in Appendix A. I have never been a big fan of arithmetic, so the fact that some of our elevation gains/losses figures weren’t adding up was hardly a surprise. Luckily these were all red-flagged and corrected with a little help from the calculator.

In addition, we needed to lose a couple of treks in the book in order to come in under the page count. Fortunately, we found a great work-around that by consolidating the Daikeretto info into the Yari-ga-take hike. Originally we had planned to have the Yari-Daikiretto-Okuhotaka traverse as its own separate trek, but were able to just add a side box with a more condensed description. Likewise, the Shirane Sanzan traverse in the Minami Alps was included within the Kita-dake hike description instead of its own stand-alone trek.

With those major issues solved, it was time to move into the copy-editing phase and the ‘micro’ issues within the actual hiking descriptions.

 

 

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

With the table of contents set, Tom and I create a 2-year schedule for finishing the manuscript. Before we could even begin to write, we needed to actually do all the ‘hands-on’ research, which involved hiking all of the routes in the book. Tom set off first and walked the Chō – Jōnen loop in the Kita Alps. As usual, he had glorious weather and even saw an Asiatic black bear (but unfortunately could not capture any photos of the elusive creature). Our best chance of getting a bear photo, we fear, will be in the local zoo.

Tom used another Cicerone guidebook to take a stab at writing up that trek for the book. He enlisted my help in writing an ‘alternative approach’ via Ichinosawa to the summit of Jōnen. It had been quite a while since I hiked that route, but I used my photos to help jog my memory and we submitted the hike to Cicerone for feedback. The comments from the editorial team were most assuring, and with that stamp of approval we could begin the writing process in earnest.

My first stab at a hike description involved Mt Senjō in the Minami Alps. I set off after the rainy season finished and managed to have somewhat acceptable weather, meaning that I didn’t get rained on and captured a few photos worthy of publication. I forwarded my write-up to Tom, who then passed it along the Cicerone for feedback.

Thus began our slow, methodical construction of the guidebook, which relied on the foundations set by our first two write-ups. We continued this process hike by hike, so by the time we completed the manuscript, the publisher had already seen it all piece by piece. After the first summer, Tom and I were actually relieved that we had another year-and-a-half to finish writing it, because it turned out to be quite a lot of work.

As we moved into the spring of 2018, I took a short trip back to the States but spent most of my time locked in a room trying to finish writing up the Minami Alps traverse. Upon returning to Japan, Tom and I looked at the submission guideline checklist in more detail. Our manuscript was nearly complete, but we still needed to compile the photos and caption list.

Cicerone were incredibly supportive during the entire process, and assured us that the April 30th deadline was for a digital copy of the completed manuscript. Photos and a printed copy of the manuscript could come a few days later if needed.

We made the deadline and sent off the package. We were relieved to get everything completed, but were a bit concerned whether our submission would be accepted or not. Instead of the agreed-upon 60,000 document, we handed-in a 90,000 word monster.

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

To be honest, this was the part of the guidebook I was most concerned about, but not because of my camera skills. On the contrary, the biggest worry involved the weather, for as every devoted reader of this blog knows, I don’t have the best track record when it comes to clear weather. In Japanese, there is the term 雨男 (ame-otoko, or ‘rain man’). I’m pretty sure if you looked up 雨男 in your dictionary, you’ll find a picture of me standing in the pissing rain on top of a cloud-covered mountain.

So what to do? I would simply have to become a very picky mountaineer and only head to the Alps when the weather was certain to be fine, which meant keeping a very close eye on the weather forecasts and trying to find a clear-weather window. Alpine weather is notoriously fickle, but on days of high pressure there is usually a small window of 2 or 3 hours after sunrise that dawns clear before the clouds in the valley escape from the heat and head to higher elevations.

My batting percentage was nearly flawless. While I did get rained on quite a lot, I managed to make it to the safety of the mountain huts just before the skies opened with fury (except for a soggy stretch on the descent from Shiomi-dake).

We were asked to submit 200 photos from the guidebook, for around 100 would be selected for the final book. Choosing among thousands of photos was an arduous task, and in the end we submitted close to 250, for which around 140 made the final edition of the book.

In addition to submitting the photos by thumb drive, the publisher required a caption list for every single photo, compiled in a Word file in numerical order. We set about making a very general set of captions at first, and then fine-tuned them in the copy edit stage.

The photos you see in this post are from a collection of pictures that did not make the final cut.

 

 

 

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

 

Elevation profiles are something that we really wanted to include in the guidebook, but we never really got a definitive answer from the publisher. We decided to include them as part of our manuscript submission anyway, hoping that Cicerone would see the value in including them.

I set off to work, using my GPS data to create the profiles using software on my computer. While we couldn’t use these verbatim, they could potentially be a useful reference guide for the in-house design team. The majority of Japanese hiking guidebooks include these mountain cross sections, and they really do provide an invaluable resource in the planning stages of a hike, especially when you learn how to read them. Novice hikers are unaware that a day of 1000+ vertical elevation gain is a ‘big day’ in the mountains, but experienced hikers can get an idea of the up/down involved without having to read any hike descriptions.

In the end, Cicerone agreed to include elevation profiles for each hike and trek, and all of these needed to be annotated. There ended up being a total of 27 elevation profiles for the final draft of the  book (down from the 30 we initially included with the manuscript). The effort was well worth the labor involved, as you will hopefully see when you finally get your hands on the book.

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

 

Maps are an integral part of any hiking guidebook and can really make the difference between a best seller and a lemon. We knew going into this project that we wanted to include high-quality, easy-to-read contour maps and Cicerone delivered.

The publisher enlisted the services of map company Lovell Johns, who have provided on-line maps of Japan that Cicerone can incorporate into their electronic mapping portal. Tom and I were provided instructions for generating the maps in the portal, which basically entailed either uploading gpx files or manually drawing routes into their system.

There was a bit of a learning curve involved, and the physical work of inputting map information for every route in the book took quite some time, as there were 30 different hikes and treks for the first draft of our book. These were further subdivided into stages for each trek, and in the end we ended up with 65 different maps that needed annotating and editing.

After our initial map data was entered into the portal, the designer send us a rough draft of every map, which included only the basic trail information. We needed to input all of the text and symbol information on each map. This was all done through pdf files, but for the first run it proved much easier to print out each map and do the mark-ups by hand, with subsequent drafts fine tuned using detailed annotations on the pdf files.

 

The hand-marked maps were sent together with a Word file which included detailed instructions and text to include on the maps. Rather than the publisher having to manually input mountain names, they could simply cut and paste from our Word file. This was important due to the sheer number of kanji characters involved in our informative maps.

This never would have been possible without the power of the Internet, where files can be instantaneously shared across the world. In addition, Adobe Acrobat Reader allowed us to mark-up drafts from the luxury of our home computers. Remember the old days, when maps were completely hand-drawn, and drafts were sent overseas by snail mail? Tom and I would have likely flown back and forth between Japan and England if our book was written just a generation ago.

 

 

 

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

There’s really no way to ‘fake’ a guidebook. It’s like trying to give driving advice to a Nascar vet. You just can’t ‘talk the talk’ without ‘walking the walk’, which in my case involves hiking nearly every route in the Minami Alps in order to confirm existing conditions and document the scenery. But where to start?

I could have easily headed to the northern section of the South Alps, and that was the original plan during Golden Week until fresh snowstorms put a halt to that idea. With such relatively easy access, I could just hop on over to Kofu any weekend and knock out the routes in a systematic fashion. The southern section, however, would take a bit more time and planning, so why not start with the hardest?

That is my predicament for the 2-year deadline. With 8 peaks to climb, I need to split up the work, with 4 peaks each summer, and will probably face two separate trips into Sawarajima in the Southern section of the South Alps. The peaks in the northern section can be knocked off during weekend excursions if needed, but the most important factor for my trips would be the weather.

During my Hyakumeizan days, I would climb peaks regardless of the weather, which meant summiting Akaishi-dake in a raging typhoon. This time around, I need clear-weather photos for the guidebook, so I simply could not chance climbing in anything less than ideal conditions, quite a challenge in the ‘rainy’ Minami Alps.

I decided that the best course of action would be to knock off the hardest part of the Minami Alps first – the Warusawa-Akaishi loop. Then I could combine Senjō and Kai-koma in a separate trip along with either Hō-ō or Kita-dake after that. This would leave me with Shiomi and Hijiri for the following summer. Time to hit the trail.

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

 

Before you can even begin to write a guidebook, there is a lot of behind the scenes work regarding content. Tom and I had to narrow down a list of mountains/hikes to include in the guidebook, and with only 60,000 words to work with (including the introduction and appendices), we had to choose carefully. We could easily allocate our entire word count to the Kita Alps alone, so we needed to be picky.

We were both in agreement about including the ‘mainstream’ peaks of Tsurugi, Yari, and Hotaka, as well as the full traverse of the Kita Alps. However, there were a couple of mountains that were tough choices: should we leave Jonen and Kasa out in favor of Goryu and Kashima-yari? How about Kuma-no-daira and the Washiba/Suisho section?

In the end we decided to push for the inclusion of Jonen and Kasa, since they have never appeared in any English-language hiking guide. Lonely Planet mentions them briefly but doesn’t provide any detailed hike descriptions. This would not leave enough room for Goryu and Kashima-yari, but we were fine with that, as avid hikers can simply seek out a copy of the elusive Lonely Planet guide for these hikes.

I also wanted to include Yatsu-ga-take, as it is a very popular area with relatively easy access to Tokyo, but there wasn’t nearly enough space in the book to include it. Instead, we opted for a day hike near Kawaguchiko to satisfy those hikers coming to visit Mt Fuji.

Our decisions were by no means easy, and the contents could always change in future editions of the guidebook, but hopefully there are a few hikers out there that can respect our decisions and won’t deride us for leaving out two very impressive peaks. It wasn’t an intentional oversight.

The Minami Alps section, on the other hand, is as complete a guide as you’re going to see. The only peaks we left out were the ‘minor’ summits of Nokogiri and Zaru, two of the 200 meizan that are definitely worth mentioning, but probably not worth the potential risk of including them in a hiking guide. Nokogiri itself borders on a proper alpine rock climb, with many visitors opting for a rope, harness, and helmet for safety.

The guide also includes all 4 routes up Mt Fuji, which is something a lot of guidebooks forgo due to lack of space. Since Fuji is our ‘hit single’, we hope by including the minor routes it would appeal to a larger audience looking for a quieter way to ascend Japan’s highest peak.

Time will tell if we made the right decisions, but for now it seems like we have made an honest attempt at a comprehensive guide to the Japan Alps. If the book sells well, then we can always make adjustments in future editions of the guide.

 

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