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Everything's A-OK at AAA
Heather Vogel Frederick -- 6/5/00
AAA is heading down a new road this fall with the launch of the AAA Hidden Highway series, a copublishing venture with Ulysses Press of Berkeley, Calif. Ulysses, well-known for its Hidden travel guidebook series, is delighted with the arrangement. "It's a nice combination," says sales and marketing manager Bryce Willett. "AAA is a well-trusted and respected brand name in travel, while at the same time, we're known to be more adventuresome. We seek out the more overlooked places, and we have a stable of proven travel writers."
"Don Patton is the visionary behind all this," notes VIA Books publisher Peter Beren, who explains that the concept is the brainchild of the former v-p of publishing at the California State Automobile Association. It was Patton, now v-p of membership and branding for CSAA, who helped transform Motorland into the sleek new magazine VIA (which has expanded into Oregon and Idaho), and it was Patton who approached Beren, former Sierra Club Books publisher, to enlist his help in developing new products. "This is a kind of pilot program for us," explains Beren, who calls VIA Books "the new product development laboratory" for AAA's national publishing program. The series kicks off in October with AAA Hidden Highways of Arizona and AAA Hidden Highways of Northern California; Colorado joins the series this winter, Willett notes, adding that the planned output is four to five new titles a year.

Geared for a somewhat younger audience than perhaps has been AAA's target in the past, the books traverse America's back roads and two-lane byways in a linear fashion, while sidebars suggest hotels and restaurants, side trips, festivals, places of interest to children--as well as activities aimed at baby boomers and their offspring. "These are very modern guides," explains Willett. "They're not just about stopping and taking photos. We suggest places to hike, fish, sea kayak--even surf." Or, as Beren puts it, "This is not your father's AAA."

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