How To Write A Guidebook: Beg, Borrow And Deal

You don't make any money writing a guidebook. That's basically the first and most frequently repeated thing I heard from the half-dozen authors I talked with before embarking on a book-writing odyssey of my own. And they were right. Early on in my mission to write a climbing guide to the alpine rock climbs of the Cascades, my goal simply became: "Don't lose money." Even that is fairly difficult, though, considering that everything from design software to printing proofs to book storage costs money. Fortunately for me, the Northwest is full of generous and skilled photographers, knowledgeable route-beta-checkers and skilled editors who helped without costing an arm and a leg. I owed (and still owe) these folks far more than the $0/hour that I set as the going wage.

Over the past 18 months I've emailed dozens of climbers and photographers out of the blue, cold called crusty old timers who retired from climbing before I was born, and finagled beta and route suggestions from anyone I encountered or roped up with. I've cajoled friends and partners into modeling for photos and double-checking road mileage markers. And not a single person has responded rudely or in an unhelpful manner. So in lieu of paying actual cold hard cash, I've developed a BlakeCentric barter system, trading on what I have in abundance, in order to compensate members of the community for all the help I've begged of them.

  • Loan your bouldering pads, #5 cam or 80-meter rope. Have a piece of bulky, specialized, or expensive gear that you don't use every week? Make sure that your friends know they can always count on you for a loaner when the need arrises to go offwidth chasing or tackle that highball requiring 10 stacked pads.
  • Trade top secret beta, topos, or route suggestions. It goes without saying that anyone writing a book should have the best and most current info on area climbing. By sharing any and all completed work, I was able to help friends avoid epics and find uncrowded classics that they would have missed.
  • Offer load-carry or car shuttle help. If you live or frequently visit an area with long approaches or carry-over climbs, offer to arrange a gear drop or car shuttle for someone. Include a surprise six-pack for their end-of-climb morale boost.
  • Live somewhere cool? Share it! If you have a place to crash in a destination that area climbers find to be crash-worthy, offer a stay at your house or a shower and dinner after their next visit to the area.
  • Break bread (or whatever you make). I am an enthusiastic amateur baker. Other people craft homebrew beer or snap inspiring photos. Even if you can't pay someone cash for a favor they've done, odds are you can make or do something better than they can. Trade that skill.
  • Hook them up with gear. Maybe you have access to lots of new or lightly used gear, or you simply have store credit or can score deals on new equipment. Hooking a partner up with something all climbers can use—like new light wiregates or another green Camalot since you just bootied one—is definitely a well regarded way to give something back.