Pocket Guide Nightmare is Over

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Most of the work that we do promoting the Gorilla Highlands region comes free of charge to our partners. But when printing gets involved that becomes impossible; we have to rely on advertisers. With the exception of an issue that was sponsored by a UTB/WTO/UNDP project, our supporters have been paying a dollar per word for their ads appearing in the Gorilla Highlands Pocket Guide.

Prioritising classifieds over full-page ads (USD 500) means a very labour-intense process — to finalise each text and deal with payments from dozens of advertisers — but allows everyone in the region to participate. We honestly wonder when an accommodation provider decides against paying 30 dollars to be in a free booklet printed in 10,000 copies… In almost every case even only one — one! — out of thousands of readers deciding to spend a night would mean that the investment has paid off.

However, with partners actually paying money to be part of our product, the pressure to deliver increases: to get published in time and assure high print quality. Our July 2017 edition was available only on the last day of the month, we actually needed to compromise on our content to make that happen, and a couple of ads had issues.

The December 2017 booklet was therefore meant to be an “S” edition, the way Apple releases a not-so-radical “S” revision of the iPhone every other year. In practical terms: it was supposed to include the stuff we had to discard six months ago (particularly the map of Kampala), get printed early and look better than ever.

It all turned into a nightmare.

First our overworked designer got sick. Then it was January. Then we worked on the booklet from some insane places (the photo above shows a make-shift “office” in Karamoja). Then an online rant lead to a last-minute adjustment of the description of Kampala. Then the booklet was finished with the help of another designer. Then the first 1,100 copies reached us in Kigali… Then we opened the box…

The most frustrating part of a publisher’s life in Uganda is when what you have worked so hard on gets out of the printing press. Surprises abound.

… But this one was a shock. The booklets looked like … toilet paper. A wrong choice of paper had been made and thousands of dollars have been wasted. The photo above was not taken in some bad light condition or heavily compressed. The first print looked like something done with an inkjet printer!

And it was February now! We had no other option but to print again, knowing we would have a very late and loss-making product…

Last weekend the first batch of the new-new “December” edition reached Kabale and Kigali (the photo shows the unusual storage facility and transport by a moto; the box was terribly heavy). The distribution starts today (and you can download the PDF of 22 MB here) while the next Pocket Guide just has to be available at Silverchef at the end of April

That one won’t be an “S”. It will include not only Congo but also stories, interviews and similar magazine-like content. In mid January we had a meeting in Kampala, planning that next stage with two great writers, Charlotte Beauvoisin and David Tumusiime. You can rightly expect unusual high-quality content that will unveil all levels of life in Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The booklet will be thicker but it will remain of the pocket-friendly A6 format.

text and photo: Miha Logar