British writer Simon Weir explains how Mapcreator let him turn his idea into a best-selling self-published book

I’ve been a journalist since the early 1990s and since 2003 have worked on motorcycle magazines – testing bikes and products and, my speciality, writing travel stories about two-wheeled trips.

In 2013 I wrote a guidebook called Bikers’ Britain for the UK’s Automobile Association. It was so successful that we followed it up in 2016 with a companion volume, Bikers’ Britain: The Tours and, in 2019, an updated second edition.

But I wanted to do more. I wanted to focus on Europe – on sharing the great roads I’ve ridden and amazing places I’ve seen in more than 30 years of exploring on the Continent. I pitched the idea to the AA several times, but it never got off the ground.

Finally, I had enough of waiting for the publisher to pick up on the idea. During the coronavirus lockdown, I started to look into self-publishing. It’s surprisingly simple but one aspect looked like putting a stop to the whole project: where could I get the maps? Then I discovered Mapcreator and everything fell into place. Here was a simple but powerful piece of web-based software that would let me generate maps for my routes. It was easy to use, the styling was tailored to the look I wanted for the book and the output was high-quality, suitable for printing.

Working with Mapcreator

I need to create quite detailed maps and the whole point of them is that the routes are… complicated. These aren’t A-to-B on the fastest roads. Touring routes are about taking the most scenic roads that deliver the best riding experience.

Rather than creating lines, I import GPX files – which appear as straight lines but snap to the road when “route” is selected. For some routes, I offer my readers alternatives and I will use the Mapcreator line tool to add the shortcut points, setting these to be dashed lines so they’re obviously alternatives.

GPX files are uploaded and converted from a “line” to “route”
GPX files are uploaded and converted from a “line” to “route”

I don’t expect readers to put my book in a tankbag and follow the maps I create with Mapcreator (usually they’ll download a GPX file for the route from my website) but for those who want old-school navigation, the maps need to provide enough detail to transfer the route – with a highlighter pen – to a conventional fold out map.

How maps help being best-selling author
If additional roads need to be highlighted – to show shortcuts – the Mapcreator line tool is used to add them.

This means making sure every place that my readers will see on a road sign when riding the route is placed on the map. I also annotate each road, with a preset label style created for me by the Mapcreator team, making the process quick and easy. I plan all my routes with suggested morning, lunch and afternoon break points, which also have to be marked on the map.

How maps help being best-selling author
The place names that will help readers follow the route are added to the map.

That is a lot of information on each relatively small map. Mapcreator’s control-drag function allows me to position each element for maximum legibility, building up the detail to give my readers everything they need to enjoy each route.

How maps help being best-selling author
Annotations to highlight road numbers are added – using a bespoke label style.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the results I get from Mapcreator. In June 2021 I published Bikers’ Europe: 60 must-ride motorcycle routes and it’s spent the seven months swapping places with my own Bikers’ Britain: The Toursas the number one and number two best-sellers in their Amazon category.

finished map in the article
The finished map is placed in the book.

This week I’ve published a second book powered by Mapcreator, Bikers’ Europe: Hidden Gems – European motorcycling’s 60 best-kept secrets.

For further information see

How maps help being best-selling author
Simon Weir is a British writer who is publishing travel guides for motorcycle tours through Europe.

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