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A lot can change in 12 months: from Wild Vision to The Wild Within

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Bosley Cloud in Staffordshire. Photo copyright John Coefield 2012.

Spring 2011, picture the scene: all of a sudden over 300 Waterstone's shops stop ordering books, the country emerges from an ice age, nobody has been able to get to the shops let alone buy anything, online retailers haven’t been able to deliver and it has hardly been good conditions out on the hills. Not great news for a publisher of outdoor leisure books and guides.

Twelve months ago, as winter turned to spring, we put the economic woes to one side, made a conscious decision not to join in with the recession and carried on producing the kind of books we wanted to read. That's not to say we didn’t have our fingers crossed and lost the odd night’s sleep as paper costs went up, delivery costs went up and traditional sales channels went down.

First up was John Beatty’s Wild Vision. A great big luscious, sumptuous visual treat of a book, brought to life with a series of essays where John talks about what motivates him to produce such stunning photographs, and the experiences – very rewarding experiences – he has had along his journey. For Vertebrate Publishing it marked the start of the most important twelve months in our story, a chapter which concluded last week with the publication of another book stepping into the wild, Simon Yates’s The Wild Within.

As the last 12 months elapsed it changed us as a company, helping to reinforce our ideals and vision. We have committed ourselves to a strong environmental policy, for example using only FSC certified paper. Also, despite the recession and problems with shops such as Waterstone's, we carried on with our ambitious publishing schedule; we boldly figured that if we wanted to read these books, so would everybody else! Readers might just have to work a bit harder to find them until the market improved (which it has). The presses, fresh from printing the well received Wild Vision started work on the book that defined our year: Peak District Bouldering, it contained everything we knew about producing a guide, used everybody we knew and every favour we were owed. Flattered to win big in Canada at the Banff Mountain Book Festival, but even more honoured to receive a good pat on the back from the beanie wearing, pad people shuffling around the Peak.

A chap by the name of Rupert Hoare got in touch; he’d written a book, documenting his lifetime of climbing mountains and photographing the views. We worked hard and fast to deliver a finished product to Rupert. Mountain Views was the published title, and it is very much a personal project, and as picked up on by Roderick Manson in his review for Scottish Mountaineer magazine:

‘It falls to few men to write their own memorial and know that is what they were doing. This is as fine a memorial as any man could wish. I did not know Rupert personally, although I know people who did, but I feel that, having read this book, I will miss him.’

It was one of those times when I was proud of how professionally my publishing team worked in order to not let Rupert down with what was to him a very important project.

We ploughed on; we signed up to a new digital book distribution system, the clown that is Andy Kirkpatrick knocked on the door with his finished manuscript, and Cold Wars hit the shelves in time for Christmas. Ed Douglas booked himself a long trip to the Himalayas to recover from the editing experience and we laughed and laughed and laughed our way through Andy’s very personal view of his life, marriage, kids and hanging off skyhooks on some seriously hardcore climbs around the world. Day Walks in the North York Moors made a quiet and gentle appearance on our list, overshadowed by its boisterous companions. This guidebook, written by Tony Harker and beautifully illustrated by photographer Adam Long, joins a growing list of Day Walks titles, aimed at the enthusiastic and dedicated hill walker.

And so we were very excited and positive as we entered 2012: we had secured the UK rights to Bernadette McDonald’s brilliant Freedom Climbers, Benji Haworth's West Yorkshire Mountain Biking was at the printers and we had German, American and Italian publishing partners for a number of our authors.

Twelve months on, I’m proud of what we have achieved – we gambled and kept our nerve producing ten books to the best of our abilities. Our new titles have been very well received, with shops like Waterstone's, Amazon and others such as Stanfords, Outside, Cotswolds and Go Outdoors, to name just a few, continuing to support our work.

But most of all, readers, riders, walkers and climbers have continued to buy, read and use our books and guidebooks. This is important to us, as we have ambitious plans for the next twelve months, with some great books in the pipeline and some really good ideas for the future of publishing climbing, cycling, walking, nature and photography books. All books we can’t wait to read.


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