Sunday, May 13, 2007

How To Make Money Creating Custom Travel Guide Books

two years ago, Colleen Cavanaugh Anthony and Alexis Owens, who met in Los Angeles while working on film and fashion projects, came up with the idea of creating their own series of custom guides, tailored to the special interests and needs of travelers headed to a particular destination at a specific time. They envisioned a personalized guidebook that would travel well, containing information unavailable to most other tourists. "Aside from setting up shoots, we were always figuring out where to have a client dinner," says Owens.

The pair, already avid globe-trotters who had often put together listings of activities for clients arriving in town for a photo shoot, poured their experience into launching in 2005 a custom travel-publishing outfit, Miss Information. The company reaped $5,000 in sales that year and tripled sales its second year. It doesn't yet have a sales goal or a projection for 2007.

After plunking down a $300 investment at a do-it-yourself publishing operation, Cavanaugh Anthony and Owens were in business. To create a truly customized product, their process begins with an interview of the client to mine the essential details the guide should contain. Using a Macintosh publishing program called Pages for layout, the pair then print pocket-size guides with photos and text that run 50 to 60 pages and are hand-bound with an old Japanese binding technique.

For an added touch, an old-fashioned library pocket bearing the client's name is placed on the inside jacket. The covers—a map of the destination—are made from archival paper (a particularly durable acid-free paper) and coated for wear and tear. "They're meant to get banged around," says Owens. "You can toss them when done or keep them; they hold up well. You can even use them as a coaster."

Without employing any marketing or advertising, Miss Information has relied solely on word of mouth. Not surprisingly, the outfit's first clients were people the pair knew from the film and fashion industries. Corporate clients so far have included The Gap and Campbell Soup. Yet the company has expanded its range of customers and will even produce guidebooks for, say, out-of-town guests attending a wedding that include personal details, such as where the bride and groom had their first date and where they got engaged.

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