Jon's 2019 Christmas blog
- Wednesday 18 December 2019
Photo taken from White Peak Mountain Biking. Credit: John Coefield.
As is the tradition I’ve written a Christmas blog – the good bits, the bad bits, and the best forgotten bits; maybe even a controversial bit; and then give a few hints as to what we will be publishing next year. So here goes ….
This year we’ve really grown as a business, more people, more books, a bigger home for us. Growing has been about growing as a responsible business, and that has meant three things. Firstly, we believe that reading is a gateway for personal well-being and development; a good book resonates unlike other media. We have grown so that we can produce better books that are more rewarding to read. The kinds of books you’ll want to keep, read again, treasure and share; not the kinds of books that’ll end up in the recycling, unread. Secondly, our publishing industry is a rewarding trade to work in; growing has allowed us to take on six new people this year – providing career-orientated and satisfying employment in Sheffield for local people. Thirdly, the outdoors, and having adventures in the outdoors, is a great way of managing the stresses of daily life, appreciating the natural environment and generally being healthy. So that’s us twelve people trying to produce the best books we can, paying our taxes, supporting our families and inspiring adventure.
I’ve two controversial things to say. I figure as the new Ken Wilson, or Ken Wilson Lite as I prefer, I should be spouting more crap anyway.
The Boardman Tasker Award needs to decide between being a mountaineering book prize or a mountain book prize, because they cannot be both, and I’d suggest, having just this week finished reading the still outstanding Savage Arena, that they should be a mountaineering book prize. If a rope doesn’t get uncoiled in the book then it shouldn’t be eligible for the award. It isn’t about getting as many entries as possible, and thus making it as broad as possible. The winner should be a book in the mirror image of Pete and Joe’s writing; it should champion the fine tradition of mountaineering literature in this country, and also, while I’m banging on about it, the winning publishers should have an obligation to support and promote the award. I note the last two publishers to win haven’t even updated their title listings to acknowledge the win. I’m happy to admit this is all in the interests of Vertebrate with its focus on the genre, but wouldn’t it be nice if we did have a genuine mountaineering book award again? So come on BT, let’s see those rules clearly defined, let’s see the shortlisted titles actually readily distributed in the UK, half weren’t this year, and let’s see the winner do an acceptance speech, at the very least, to acknowledge what an important literary award this is.
Second rant, I was hosting a book stall at a local primary school, selling a selection of children’s and some adult adventure books. I had a bunch of books from £1 to compete with all the sweets and cheap plastic tat stalls. I was selling many at our cost price just to encourage reading. I left the fair quite downbeat at the number of sweets and chocolates parents were feeding their kids and the number of kids wanting books but being told no, while clutching a half-eaten selection box. Each selection box was cyclophane wrapped; a card box, with a plastic tray and five or six plastic-wrapped bars contained within. Many kids had that, plus assorted other sweets. Come on parents, buy the kid a book, read the kid the book.
That said, lots of you were buying books this year. Buying books direct from our website is the best thing to do. We get more of the margin, so we can pay each other and pay our taxes. Lake District Bouldering broke our pre-order record previously held by Peak Rock, and then Scottish Island Bagging went one further. Then Pete Whittaker came in to finalise his book Crack Climbing and he casually asked what the record was … because he liked breaking records. Crack Climbing is now our most pre-ordered book ever. Other highlights of the year had to be Fantastic Female Adventurers and the Edmund Hillary biography, and our new initiative to produce a few lighter reads. The three John D. Burns books have been really well received: The Last Hillwalker, Bothy Tales and, our office favourite, Sky Dance. We’ve always tried to keep classic mountaineering literature in print; it is one of our fundamental principals, and it has been nice this year to have had a successful reissue with our brand new-edition of the classic First on the Rope.
Sadly, it’s not been a great year for authors. We lost Ed Drummond, a fabulous writer and, of course, one of the key essayists from the iconic Hard Rock. We lost Hugh Norton, son and biographer of Norton of Everest, and, very sadly, Andy Pollitt. It’s been great speaking to Andy’s family recently and taking the time to reflect on what it meant to Andy to write his book and see it published. It’s still the book I always go back to, more so now my climbing hero has gone.
Still reading? As always a few thank yous. Readers go without saying. Without you, I’d still be unemployed, heading out to the Peak or sneaking into climbing walls. But big kudos to The British Mountaineering Council for supporting our initiative to get free copies of Fantastic Female Adventures into school libraries. Thanks to Alpkit for a strong affiliation. There are a lot of parallels between our two companies; we both have a desire to inspire adventure.
Next year (hopefully this is the bit you have been waiting for), mountaineering fanatics will get a bit of love. Fairly confident Doug Scott will submit his Kangchenjunga book. Victor Saunders has written his third book and it is superb! The book I’m probably most excited about is a brand new edition of the uber classic Last Blue Mountain, and then, in the autumn, Bernadette McDonald’s book about the winter ascents of the 8, 000-metre peaks will be released. Get yourself in your safe place before reading that!
Rock climbers are going to be our next most-loved user group – they can look forward to a new edition of the inspirational Hard Rock, plus, we’re publishing our new Peak Gritstone guidebook, the where-to book Seven Climbs and The Climbing Bible training book. Watch this space crimpers.
There will be plenty of guidebooks too, from a guide to doing laps of Mont Blanc, to one ticking off walks in the highlands to another featuring Europe’s best (my words) urban trail, to a swimming one and a couple you’ll need a bike for.
If you’re reading this when you should be doing your homework then we have some great children’s/teen books coming out; the highlight being the final instalment of The Snowdonia Chronicles trilogy by Sarah Mussi.