Jon's Christmas Blog

December 11, 2020 4 min read

Happy Christmas!

Well, that was a bit different wasn’t it?

Usually I’m only let loose on the company blog once a year to give a bit of a round-up of the year and to look forward to what the coming year has in store for you book lovers.

This year, however, I’ve been all over the blog, and it’s been a useful way of keeping in touch with everybody. In a year where we’ve not been allowed to see one other, we’ve strangely become closer than ever before.

I’m only very briefly going to thank our book buyers here – I’ve already done that, and I think reminding you all again about just how many books you’ve bought since March is perhaps the last thing you need to hear. There are a few people I do need to thank, though.

Skipping right past Rishi, the media has been massively supportive of independent publishers this year. The Sunday Times, The Times, BBC and local radio, specialist media like The Great Outdoors, Trek and Mountain, UKClimbing, MyOutdoors, Runner’s World, Climber and others, Alpkit, the Alpine Club, the British Mountaineering Council, Kendal Mountain Festival and many, many more have been right there for publishers. But if I only had one slot for a thank you, it would have to be to the team at Vertebrate.

Ordinarily, they’re a right pain to work with, forever questioning my scant regard for spelling, punctuation and grammar [or total lack thereof – Ed.], greeting my hand grenades thrown into the publication schedule with less courtesy than one would expect. But this year their support and hard work has meant that no one has been let down – no author, no customer, no photographer, not me, not you – and via innumerable Zooms, remote but never far away, often seven days a week, they’ve worked early in the morning and late into the evening to keep the wheels turning. What a team. At times we were like Shackleton and his crew, except with Zoom instead of oars. We’re a team of sixteen and without the support this year from my senior team – John, Sophie, Lorna and Stephen – you’d all be stuck with Bear Grylls books this Christmas.

So, that’s it: strange year.

Here’s what we plan to do about it next year.

It may come as a bit of a surprise to you all, but I’m not a doctor. I won’t be curing Covid any time soon, but I do genuinely think that outdoor adventure has a role to play and thus our books, which have only one aim – to inspire adventure, can be part of the cure. Healthy active people have fared a lot better in the pandemic. Now I don’t suggest we should, or indeed could, all go off and do the Bob Graham Round, but Vertebrate can get involved in health and tackling obesity initiatives: we’ll be supporting school author visits in 2021, we’ll be donating titles to libraries, we’ll be making our books as accessible as we can. As one of our authors always reminds me, disabled doesn’t mean unable. Whatever your aspirations, we hope to supply some inspiration in the coming year.

The climate crisis and the conflict between the human race and the environment is now something that we cannot ignore, and we need to be working towards solutions. Vertebrate will continue donating to rewilding projects where we can, supporting food banks and auditing its own impact upon the environment through its collaboration with the Independent Publishers Guild’s Sustainability Action Group.

I almost forgot; you are actually here for the books.

First back from the printer in 2021 will be Graham Hoey’s Peak District Gritstone guidebook. Graham is without doubt the most qualified guidebook author we could find to write a complete ground-up guidebook to the best outcrop climbing in the world … IN THE WORLD. Then we have several new Day Walks books covering, in publication order, Fort William and Glen Coe, Northumberland and East Anglia.

Boardman Tasker winner Victor Saunders heads up the first of our climbing narratives of 2021 with his more autobiographic than trip-centred Structured Chaos (special edition hardback available to pre-order soon!). Into the spring we have a little flurry of books I’m personally looking forward to the most. John Burns’ fourth book, Wild Winter, is a homage to the Scottish landscape, hills and nature. Next up is Alf Bonnevie Bryn’s Peaks and Bandits – a highlight for me, a complete literary masterpiece. If you’ve enjoyed Ally Beaven’s Broken this Christmas, then Damian Hall’s book In It for the Long Run will be a real treat.

The summer has more guides, Big Trails books and new editions of classics such as Lake District Mountain Biking before our autumn releases. All of these books are very special to us, and it’s a real privilege and honour for us to be able to publish them. There is one 2021 book which, personally, perhaps transcends the lot, but I’m trying not to let that overwhelm me this week in particular.

I’ll just sign off with a few keywords: Pritchard, Peat, SUP, Roddie, running, Scotland, and, of course, Kangchenjunga.

Thank you – heartfelt thank you. To get up in the morning and spend my day publishing books is truly a privilege.