So, Bryson's project was set up for huge success. He only needed to deliver a quality product. Yet, at that step in the writer's journey, he apparently slipped on some bear scat and fell off a cliff. The book began enjoyably enough. Bryson used his wilderness unpreparedness to make his epic trek relatable to couch potatoes as well as nature lovers. He also used data about the Appalachian Trail to create a sense of its vast length and significance. Thus, he made the trip seem both accessible and important.
From the start, the trek was slowed by physical challenges (taking breaks and detours nearly as often as steps) and mental challenges (using data more like filler for a book that needs to be finished than take-home treasures from an inquisitive quest). Whatever miscalculation led to the gap between the promise of the book's introduction and the letdown of the book's conclusion isn't the issue. If Bill was unable to walk the walk (in terms of physical energy for the hike, mental energy for the subject, and possibly even time to finish), he shouldn't have talked the talk. Instead, he abandoned the foot-journey midway, drove to some car-accessible spots on the uncovered route, downloaded more trivia without much attempt to weave it into literature, then sent his publisher an inferior creation.
Writers who don't want their masterpieces to be lost in the sunken wreckage of an overloaded publishing industry must try not to produce too much of the excess cargo themselves. Just as publishers have obligations to authors, writers have obligations to readers. If a dearly-loved and richly-paid travel author like Bill Bryson should avoid launching a dud, how much more should less-known writers avoid establishing their reputations with shoddy work. Don't we all want to read books that represent an artist's greatest potential?