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Featured Travel Blogger: Craig Martin from Indie Travel Media

Welcome to November’s featured travel blogger series! Just to give our readers a bit of background, every month we host some of the most fascinating and successful people who have taken life by the horns and thought of unusual ways to earn a living on the road.  And remember, for those of you who prefer a more relaxing two-week holiday in Goa instead of a round-the-world ticket, check out our winter holiday specials to get a great deal!

Indie Travel Media is an online press focused on the travel blogging community, “helping people travel more, and travel well”. We sat down for a chat with Craig Martin, the company’s Managing Director, to talk about e-books, the tourism industry and visiting Moldova’s famous wineries.

1. You mentioned that you thought of the idea for Indie Travel Media “on a European train somewhere between Italy and England”. How did Indie Travel Media (and Podcast) grow from there?

During that trip, way back in 2006, Linda and I realised we weren’t travelling very well. While magazines gave us inspiration, and guidebooks gave us the ‘where to go’, there were no resources to help independent travellers navigate the world of travel. We wanted to change that, and today we try to blend inspiration — through real-life stories in podcasts, articles, photos and videos — with practical advice, such as the resources and practicalities sections on Indie Travel Podcast, and our range of travel planning books at Indie Travel Guides.

Next year, we’ll keep extending the guidebooks as well as increasing our ability to help people decide between, and to book, hands-on activity- and experiential-travel experiences.

2. All your e-books are professionally edited and custom designed for platforms that include Kindle, Nook & .pdf. How do you source the scripts and who does the editing? Did you have a prior background in publishing that enables you to do this work?

We’re creating a platform that allows independent authors to have their work professionally edited, sub-edited and laid out, plus providing the sales platform and some of the marketing. We receive a mountain of author ‘pitches’ each month, and try to work with potential authors to understand if it will be a good fit with our brand. Once a contract is signed we start a process of further market research, manuscript development, editing and design… and then launch, of course!

Our schedule next year includes books on career breaks, a second edition of our Art of Solo Travel, plus guidebooks on Las Vegas, Buenos Aires, and Auckland. We’re looking for more guidebook authors specifically around South America and Europe, and have talks open on everything from travel memoirs to how-to books.

3. You also provide some useful services such as design and content creation, consulting and coaching. Have these grown out of your e-publishing work or were they unrelated services that bloggers requested?

We found we had developed certain skills and connections that bridged the tourism industry, online publishing, and social and search marketing. People were coming to us and asking how a tour company could best use social media, how accommodation providers could build community, how a small provider could get a professional web presence and market it, how a website could convert better… So we are trying to provide an answer by combining years of experience, the latest study results, and a flexible, well-trained team spread around the world.

So, the skills were learned (and are still being learned) in developing our own projects, but the service offerings and our team are being built based on market demand. A selection of recent work can be found at Indie Travel Media.

4. Your affiliate program seems like a really great idea. Can you explain briefly how it works?

Sure. We have a range of travel planning and guidebooks but, like many small businesses, a limited budget for marketing. We want to reward the people who promote our work though, so we give them half of the sale price when they refer customers to us. We really believe in our products, and we know they help people have amazing life-changing experiences; so if you refer customers to us, you not only get a whopping 50 per cent of the sale price, but you also know that the person is more likely to have a safe, enjoyable trip. It’s a win-win.

We’re also in the early stages of building a worldwide network of affiliates in activities, accommodation, and transport sectors: they provide the product and we provide a network of influential travel bloggers who promote it. This program is open to all travel bloggers, and we’re interested in talking further with companies in the tourism industry.

Interested bloggers can get in touch here, companies can contact me directly here.

5. You offer valuable information to travellers, but it seems like this has grown out of genuine love and enthusiasm for travelling yourselves. What’s on your travel agenda for the rest of 2012?

Absolutely: it’s a business that’s grown out of a love of travel, of new experiences, and of the amazing people we meet. Sitting in an office would certainly pad the bank accounts faster, but I really can’t imagine doing that.

So far this year we’ve travelled from New Zealand to Europe via Asia, walked 1,000km on the Via de la Plata, spent four months in A Coruña, Spain, and are currently on a multi-month campaign called #IndieRail which has seen us in Portugal, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, France, San Marino, Monaco and Andorra. As I write, we’re in the air between London, where we attended World Travel Market, and Zaragoza. On arrival we’ll spend another few weeks on the rails before arriving in Cadiz or Jerez where we’ll spend the winter.

Next year? Northern Africa, a summer in Berlin, and then east: I’ve been wanting to visit Moldova’s famous wineries and wine festival since I heard about it in 2007 and, although things are likely to change, it looks like 2013 might be the year.

You can learn more about IndieRail here, or see and hear stories from around the world on the Indie Travel Podcast.