In this article series I Want That Job! I'll be interviewing people from various professions within the climbing world. If you think your job is a dream come true (it has to be climbing related) and if you're willing to be interviewed - then drop me a line. Likewise if you can think of a job that you'd like to have - suggest it in the forums and I'll try and track someone down.
Chris hard at work
© Chris Craggs, Sep 2008
Chris Craggs is a regular face on the UKC forums, usually causing a bit of mischief. He has been involved in guidebook production for at least 300 years, and has recently ticked his 1000th route at Stanage. Here he gives us the ins and outs (and ups and downs!) of guidebook writing. Fresh off the press is his new masterpiece Lofoten Rock.
Chris Craggs on Wuthering, Stanage
Name: Chris Craggs (not a pseudonym!)
Job Title: Guidebook writer
Relevant Qualifications: O-level English!
Salary: More than I used to earn teaching though it has taken several years to get to the current position! One attraction is though, once a book is published the payments roll in for quite a long time, if I didn't do another stroke, I would have an income (a diminishing income though!) for the next five years or so.
Perks and holidays/time off:
Describe your job:
How did you get this job? How long did it take? Any hardships? Did you always want it or did it just happen?
About the same time I was asked by one of the BMC guidebook team if I could write up Bamford for the new BMC Stanage guide, as their man on the job had let them down. I researched the crag, found over a dozen new routes (the perk of doing the job properly) and enjoyed the whole experience. Over the next few years I went on to check and write up Gardoms, Chatsworth, Birchen, Willersley and of course the mighty Stanage for the BMC.
A go at a guidebook of my own seemed like a logical step, I contacted Cicerone and did a small guide to the Costa Blanca. They printed 3000 (minimum print run) and laughed when I said it would sell well it sold out! After several years and a clutch of guides I wanted to get more involved with the production side, (the books often took well over a year between me handing them over, and the volume appearing in the shops) but their payment structure and way of working didn't really suite this. So I approached Alan James of RockFax, he took a gamble and invested time in training me up, and we produced Peak Grit East, which became the UK's best selling guidebook and even won a Guidebook of the Year award! It became obvious whilst we were working on the guide that we had stumbled on a very special formula. The advent of digital cameras and the falling cost of full colour printing helped. I spent my teaching backpay award on a new Mac and digital camera - it was probably the best investment I ever made! Alan is the reason we do so well I am good at the donkey-work but he is the techie whiz and has a superb eye for the design/layout.
What attracted you to the job in the first place?
How long have you been in the job now? How long do you see yourself continuing?
Describe your average day at work? And the average week?
Is it how you/other people imagine it to be?
The best day? The worst day?
CC ten years younger, The Swan.
© Chris Craggs
Some days, especially towards the end of the production of a book can be a real grind, proofing something for the n'th time, researching and writing the never-ending intros, but overall, those kind of days are few and far between and are all part of the job. Best Days, when the finished item arrives, after all the hard work a great buzz.
Why is it great being a Guidebook Writer, and why is it rubbish?
Do you 'love' your job? Why? Why not?
If a teenager said to you 'I want to be a Guidebook Writer, like you' what would you say? Recommend it? Warn them off? Laugh?!
Any tips and advice on how to get to where you've got to?
Any friends through work?
Any amazing stories?
And finally - What's your dream job? Why?
You can read more about Chris Craggs on his blog and most of his current books are on the Rockfax site. Keep an eye out for his postings on the UKC Forums which tend to be forthright and 'to the point'. That is just Chris "telling it like it is"!