Susan McBeth is the President of Adventures by the Book™, which she founded in 2011 to more intimately connect readers with authors and their books through unique and interactive literary events and travels. Affectionately referred to as “multi-sensorial” opportunities, her dynamic brand of literary events are custom-designed and redefine traditional author readings.
Susan was first inspired to found her company after meeting Frances Mayes, international bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun. Having never traveled to Tuscany before, Susan shared with Mayes that she lived vicariously through her books, and what a dream it would be to visit Mayes IN Tuscany, UNDER the Tuscan Sun, and to invite other readers along as well. Mayes encouraged her to do just that, and thus the seed for Adventure by the Book was planted.
Since 2011, Susan has coordinated dozens of author events and travels, including of course an Under the Tuscan Sun Adventure with none other than Mayes herself, an Equestrian Adventure with New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Letts, a Chinatown Walking Tour Adventure with New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, multiple Ladies Literary Tea Adventures with bestselling authors like Sarah McCoy, Amanda Hodgkinson, and Lynn Cullen, a Paris/Provence Adventure by the Book with New York Times bestselling author Susan Vreeland, and even a Fancy Nancy Children’s Tea Adventure with New York Times bestselling children’s illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser.
Having specialized in event management for over twenty years, including four and a half years as Director of Marketing and Events for one of the oldest independent bookstores in the United States, Susan is the happiest she has ever been in career right now. “I want to transport you to historical and magnificent destinations – whether they be half way around the world or right in our own backyard.”
Susan is also the founder of AuthorPreneurs™, an incubator program for writers. She is a contributor to Midge Raymond’s Everyday Book Marketing and a contributing editor to international online magazine Wine Dine & Travel, with her column “Travel by the Book”. She has been featured on NBC San Diego, KPBS, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego Magazine, Women’s Radio, Reading with Robin Radio, and many more. Susan is a facilitator for the San Diego State University Osher Institute’s ‘Ed’-ventures and sits on the committee for KPBS One Book, One San Diego. She holds a Masters in Comparative Literature with an emphasis in German Literature from San Diego State University, where she earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board Honor Society.
How do the experiences you offer at Adventures by the Book give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of the places you travel?
Adventures by the Book was founded in 2011 with the premise that readers will connect more intimately with authors and their books through unique, interesting, and adventurous travels and events. Thus, our author-led tours are designed to accomplish just that, by taking readers to the places, meeting the people, tasting the food, experiencing the culture, and recreating moments that inspired an author to write their book.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
The tours we have taken thus far have exceeded all expectations, both from a reader’s perspective and from our perspective, because we did not immediately anticipate the extent to which an author could provide special opportunities beyond what we had immediately planned. For example, on our recent Paris/Provence Adventure by the Book featuring New York Times bestselling author Susan Vreeland, our goal was to host a special book-themed welcome reception for our group once we arrived in Paris. My dream was to host it at the world-renowned Shakespeare & Company Bookstore, but we had been advised that never in the history of the bookstore have they allowed outside groups to host an event at their bookstore. However, because of our special author connections, we were able to not only host such a special reception, but also to invite a half dozen American authors living in Paris to join us for the reception, the first time in the store’s history that such an event was allowed, which exceeded our dream of a welcome reception and then some.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
On a recent travel Adventure by the Book, we had a long bus ride to one of our destinations, and our guests were quite content chatting with each other in their seats until we arrived. However, I realized that our group was not aware that several of our travelers, besides our New York Times bestselling tour leader, were also writers, and that gave me the idea to introduce them as such and allow them some time at the mic on the bus to share about their own writing experiences. After the writers presented, we invited all the travelers to the mic to share a bit about themselves as well, and we were stunned to learn we also had several artists, a concert pianist, a nuclear submariner, a television cameraman, and other incredibly talented people in our midst. Had we not arranged this impromptu presentation time, these valuable tidbits would have gone unnoticed by the travelers. While we find that our group typically bonds quickly during our travels, this experience deepened that connection many-fold.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider joining one of your adventures?
I can give you an example of this that is very close to home for me. When I founded Adventures by the Book in 2011, the first tour I wanted to offer was an Under the Tuscan Sun Adventure by the Book to meet up with Frances Mayes, the author of that international bestselling book. When I asked my husband if he would join me on the trip, as someone who doesn’t read much for pleasure, he passed on the opportunity, as he felt that hanging around with book people to do readings and talk about books wasn’t his cup of tea. After I guilted him into joining me as I was fulfilling a dream of mine, he reluctantly came along and quickly learned that this was no standard book tour. We met people, visited places, and experienced opportunities that the general public doesn’t have access to, and he was amazed so much that when we returned from the trip, he became my biggest advocate and, to date, has not missed any of our trips, nor does he refrain from sharing his experiences with anyone who is willing to listen. He truthfully and exuberantly proclaims each trip as a life-changing experience.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
Experiential travel is what really excites me, and what drives our own literary tours. We live in a culture and time where travel has become relatively simple and inexpensive, so that anybody with a little money and a little free time can travel wherever they want to. The down side is that the market has become saturated with inexpensive and quick travel opportunities for the masses, and they can lose their appeal in their uniformity. However, there will always be people, like myself, who don’t want to do what everyone else is doing, and want to drive our experience economy. I want to go behind the scenes and meet people and visit places that aren’t necessarily accessible to the general masses, and this is an exciting aspect of our business.
Apart from the obvious literary focus, what sets Adventures by the Book apart from other, similar, travel companies?
We are not a cookie-cutter travel company. We strive to make each of our travels and events a unique, one-of-a-kind experience. While our tours do incorporate some typical tourist favorites, the majority of our experiences are unique and will never be experienced by a vast majority of travelers. I would venture to guess that most people who travel to Alaska do so by cruise, as it is often the only way they know to travel to Alaska. With our Alaskan Adventure by the Book, we actually stay in the author’s home for a week, gaining access to his wealth of knowledge and expertise gained from forty years of being a wilderness tour guide, along with his hospitable spirit and connections to the community that open up experiences that few will have.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Regardless of whether or not you are on an Adventure by the Book trip, reading is the best way to get the most out of an experiential travel vacation, which is why we like to provide travelers with recommended reading lists as an additional resource. Books are the best way to put a traveler into the spirit, learn about the destination and its people, and to help people prepare for their trip.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
We pride ourselves on the personal touch, so our business has grown organically by word-of-mouth. While this sometimes can be a slow process, we have found it to be extremely fulfilling, as the readers who attend our events or travel with us are those self-selected who will get the most out of their participation in our Adventures by the Book programs.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Lol, well the most helpful has been my compulsive organizational genes! I have spent my life organizing everything from my color-coded closets to my alphabetical spice rack and bookcases. Luckily, I moved beyond that and now spend my OCD hours meticulously planning and organizing events and tours that won’t be forgotten, down to every last detail.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
On our most recent trip to Paris, the author wanted our travelers to re-enact a scene in her book wherein two lovers emulated Rodin’s famous pose of The Kiss. Each couple on the journey took turns posting on a bench in the Musee d’Rodin garden, which in and of itself was emotional. Soon, we found that couples outside of our group were photographing us and started lining up to also participate. In that group happened to be a young couple on honeymoon from Brazil. I will never forget Francisco and Elisabet who took their turn posing very seriously. The passion in their bodies and love in their eyes was so real that it deeply touched us all, and provided just another reminder how the experience of books (and art) connects all human beings.
Susan’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/susanmcbeth
Adventures By the Book on Facebook: www.facebook.com/susansadventuresbythebook
Adventures By the Book on Twitter: @adventurebybook
Adventures By the Book on Instagram: @adventuresbythebook
Location: Based in San Diego, California