Author Interview with Travel Writer Emma Higgins from Gotta Keep Movin’

Emma Higgins

Birds of a Feather welcomes fellow Brit, Emma Higgins, to the Nest

In an era besieged by travel bloggers and travel writers trying to make a name for themselves by identifying a travel niche and working hard to establish themselves as a subject matter experts, I was excited to see the approach fellow Brit and Travel Writer, Emma Higgins is taking.

Rather than compiling travel guides, she is taking what I think is a unique and refreshing approach to travel writing. Her blog is the foundation for an annual print journal that is inspired by spending a full year in one place before moving onto the next. It’s Emma’s take on slow travel, which focuses on creating deeper connections with the locations she visits rather than just chasing another stamp in her passport, or keeping a tally of how many countries she’s travelled in the world.

Her first travel journey focused on A Year in the UK and Ireland, and September 2017 sees the arrival of her next journal unveils her Year in Portugal. The production quality of these journals is top-notch, and although the print isn’t dry on this year’s release, I’m already looking forward to seeing what destination Emma is heading for next.

Interview with Emma Higgins

Emma and Lottie in Cheltenham, UK

Emma and Lottie in Cheltenham, UK

How would you describe the type of books/genre you write?

My print series is long-form travel writing, and a mix of reporting and narrative pieces. My website (Gotta Keep Movin’ – otherwise known as GKM) visits one country or part of the world for an entire year, and at the end we publish these collections of stories rounding up the best of our travels. Our first issue was A Year in the UK & Ireland, and our latest edition, A Year in Portugal, is out in September 2017.

The Algarve Portugal

The Algarve Portugal

What motivated you to start writing?

I was always told by friends and family that I should be a writer, but didn’t much like the task until after I finished university. Once I didn’t have a reason to write, however, I figured out that I craved one. Couple that with a trip I took around Europe straight after university and I landed on travel writing, which I, of course, adore. My motivation is simply to share my passion for the world in a beautiful way – and with people who love print like I do.

A 2-page spread for A Year in Portugal

A 2-page spread for A Year in Portugal

Tell us the journey you went on to get your books published (e.g. direct on your website, self-published, assisted-publishing, traditional publisher)

I just went ahead and did it myself! I was fortunate in the sense I had an established website to piggyback onto. The print series was an extension of that so I had followers already interested in my work. I remember thinking I had absolutely no idea how someone went about finding a designer (our journals are equal parts words and photography, so this was particularly essential) and printer, then marketing the thing, but I knew the only way I would learn was just by starting.

A year in Portugal spread

A 2-page spread from A Year in Portugal

What publishing elements do you most enjoy and most like to avoid, and why? (e.g. design, marketing, formatting etc.)

Every time my designer comes back to me with new pages I cannot stop myself from opening the email immediately and having a look. It’s the most wonderful feeling seeing my words and pictures come to life, and the books wouldn’t be what they are without him. I find marketing brutally difficult, as at some point every self-publisher will, but spending all your time and money on a project is motivation enough to just keep going – I never avoid it otherwise I’ll never shift any copies!

Burgau Portugal

Burgau Portugal

With the hindsight of being a published author, anything you would have done differently?

So many things, it’s all such a learning curve. I have a habit of leaving all the hard writing bits until right at the end, when pre-orders are already out, which creates these difficult deadlines. But I have to do it that way otherwise I won’t keep my momentum up. In future I’ll also get more people involved – we have done so for issue two but the next ones will only be a few pieces from me and more from others (I’m sure the readers will be sick of my voice by then anyway…)

The Algarve Portugal

The Algarve Portugal

What tips or advice would you give an aspiring indie author who is looking to self-publish?

Just do it. Don’t wait until you’re ready, because ‘ready’ doesn’t exist. Be really clear on your goals and your vision, and get ready for a hard slog after you’ve finished. I won’t sugar-coat it; writing is the hard bit, selling is even harder. That said, it’s such a wonderful journey, one that I feel privileged to go on. Nothing beats the feeling of getting an order in.

Copies of A Year in the UK & Ireland

Copies of A Year in the UK & Ireland

What marketing or promotional tools or techniques do you use to reach your readers?

Lots of social media – it’s travel, so it’s picture-driven – and connecting with similar brands to my own. So there are a few publications I will happily guest post for because I know I reach my target audience via them. Knowing who you’re speaking to, and where else they hang out on the internet, is essential.

Emma Higgins in Sintra Portugal

Emma Higgins in Sintra Portugal

What impact do you want your books to have on your readers?

I want to motivate them to travel, and experience the journeys we’ve been on for themselves. And I want the books to make them think twice about a destination. A Year in Portugal is particularly of that ilk – the whole thing is about putting a new spin on a well-heeled place.

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

What is your latest book about?

A Year in Portugal is exactly as it sounds – travel stories about 365 days adventuring in Portugal. From meeting the activists pulling the communities of Porto together, to exploring refined tourism trends in the wine- and cork-filled Alentejo, protests and politics on Ria Formosa, new food festivals in the western Algarve, off-season adventures in the Douro, and much – much – more, A Year in Portugal takes an under-the-radar look at this far corner of Europe.

Cover for for A Year in Portugal

Cover for for A Year in Portugal

What’s next on your writing journey?

I can’t reveal that yet! We’ve got a location in-mind for our next issue, but it’s best to get the production and selling of this journal sorted before I start dreaming of exploring a new place. Let’s just say it’s further east…

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Author Bio

Emma HigginsEmma Higgins is a British travel writer who spends an entire year in one country before moving onto the next. Her second book, A Year in Portugal, documents her 365 days around this corner of Europe, and is due for release in September 2017.

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