As a co-publisher of travel guidebooks, I have to participate in choosing, each year, the destinations--the countries, the cities--about which we will be researching and writing. And in doing so, I must constantly remind myself that the mere fact that a destination is heavily visited by Americans, does not mean that a large number of Americans buy a guidebook to that location when they go there. Their failure to do so is one of the great mysteries of travel.
For example, an enormous number of Americans go each year to the Appalachians and the Adirondacks for their vacations. But hardly anybody buys a guidebook to the Appalachians or Adirondacks when they prepare for, or head towards, them. Why? I'm not sure anyone knows.
Conversely, only a small number of Americans vacation nowadays in Iceland. And yet a particular guidebook to Iceland is presently selling like hot cakes, and appears high up on the best-seller lists published for the edification of people like me. Because I can't argue with that development, we're presently rushing to press a Frommer guidebook on Iceland. And yet I can't understand why.
For whatever it's worth, here's a fast summary of the guidebooks that do well, and those that don't. Perhaps the readers of this blog may explain why.
To Europe, guidebooks to Ireland do awfully well; they generally compete with guidebooks to Italy as among the books that most American travelers buy in advance of their trips. Yet Ireland isn't nearly the most popular destination of Americans going to Europe; it doesn't receive anywhere near the same number of American tourists as France, England or Spain.
Domestically, guidebooks to New York lead the pack of all guidebooks, racking up enormous sales. Yet guidebooks to Las Vegas, which enjoys nearly the same number of tourists as go to New York, don't do nearly as well in guidebook sales. Our main guidebook to New York sells three times the number of copies as our guidebook to Las Vegas. Do gamblers read? Go figure.
Among the tropical destinations, guidebooks to Jamaica don't sell; guidebooks to Puerto Rico sell like gangbusters. Guidebooks to Cancun do wonderfully well, guidebooks to the Dominican Republic don't. In Europe again, guidebooks to Italy outsell guidebooks to France or Spain, a disparity that can't be explained by the comparative number of American tourists going to these several countries. Guidebooks to Croatia are presently jumping off the bookstore shelves; guidebooks to the French Riviera--visited by far more tourists--don't do nearly as well.
As i've said, I must choose not only the destinations covered by our guidebook series, but the initial print run for each book. Does anyone have a crystal ball they can lend me?