We’ve had a lot of fun publishing this year, mainly thanks to these ten things …
December 15, 20225 min read
It’s been a tumultuous year out there on social media – I’ve largely chosen not to have an opinion on Twitter and Elon. After all, what does one expect from a global media network that’s free? It is surprisingly straightforward to avoid all the idiots on there; taking a break sometimes is recommended. It’s a bit like rowdy pubs – if you don’t like rowdy pubs, don’t go in them. However, social media is great when you want it to be. We use social media for advice: to help us choose a cover design, look for a new supplier, solve a tech problem … and we always get a positive response. We use it for promotion – annoyingly, sometimes – but you’re patient with us. Even if you have a mad idea, like I did one evening about running the Welsh 3000s, a quick visit to Facebook finds someone equally mad to help out with the plan.
Our authors are the best. Sometimes we only experience an author through the words they have written, or the times they ran a race, or the grade they climb at. But many of our authors are really cool people – authorities on their subject – and I love bumping into them out in the wild. Rachel Ann Cullen wrote the brilliant, and moving, Running for Our Lives, in which she told the stories of various people who found running to be a release from the challenges they were facing. There I was one day, dropping off the Kinder Plateau on the way over to Bleaklow, and there was Rachel, and one of the women from her book, just making their way up the rocky path, having a day out together.
Support from the team here at Vertebrate Publishing, during a very challenging year, has been tremendous. Behind every book is a long series of processes: from commissioning, funding and editing to designing, printing and marketing. All done to make the best possible book, to reflect the efforts of the author and to give the best possible experience for the reader. And, although this is set against constraints of time and money, time and time again the team here delivers superb books that we know need to be just right to warrant space in the top pocket of your rucksack.
The media is something we often hear about in a negative capacity, but we work with many different publications that always give us support, advice and take time to listen to our stories. Whether it be The Sun, the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Guardian or the Mirror, we have had lovely supportive copy written about us and our books. Imagine a little publishing company like us being able to phone up some of the biggest media organisations in the UK and get right through to a journalist! The specialist media are also great – working with limited budgets, they are always happy to hear from us and run stories whenever they can. Massive thanks for the support.
Special thanks to post-covid festival land. The Kendal Mountain Festival this year was awash with Vertebrate authors; the bookshop was full of our books and every stage, every day, had a Vertebrate author chatting about swimming, running, climbing or walking. Many other events have hosted our authors this year, from the Night Run event at Outside in Hathersage to the prestigious National Book Awards – it’s good to see everyone back.
Bookshops have a difficult job; they can only carry so much stock. They need a good supply of the classics; they need perennial bestselling books in each of their genres – crime, poetry, children’s, cookery, fiction, and so on – then they need the new books. There isn’t a lot of space left over. So, it is brilliant to go into almost every independent bookshop, and every Waterstones, and see a smattering of our titles. It is always appreciated. Shops like Simply Books, Ullapool Bookshop, The Grove Bookshop, Stanfords and Sam Read, among many others, do the best they can for our publishing business.
The posties have been great this year. We are essentially a mail-order business and, without Royal Mail, couriers, our packing gnomes, those secure delivery boxes, electric vans and the humble stamp, we’d not be a company at all.
There are a few people behind the scenes who contribute to the creation of a book but are rarely thought about. Translators, illustrators, cover designers, photographers … that person who wrote the blurb who guided you to read the book in the first place. If the translation is good, or the right photo is used for the cover or the blurb captures exactly the essence of the narrative, it can make a huge difference to the ultimate quality of a book.
Then finally, there are two things that we have in mind with every single title: the landscape and the reader. If the book is respectful of the environment it is written about, if it is true to the activities played on that land and if it is inspired from that place – rather than imposing itself on it – then we have got it right.
But if you, the reader – the outdoor person – isn’t inspired by the book, doesn’t nod along knowingly at some passages of text, doesn’t dream of visiting the routes, paths and waterways talked of in text, then the book isn’t worthy of the Vertebrate name and, more importantly, your £20. Bridging the gap between the land, the mountain and the reader is one of the greatest things we do. We don’t ever forget our responsibility here.
So, thanks to everyone. Thanks to Twitter, Instagram, and even TikTok. Thanks to our amazing, hardworking authors; thanks to all the newspapers, magazines, and websites that support us. Bookshops and festivals have been great all year for us: selling books, hosting events, putting up with us when we show up and place our books ‘face out’. We’ve had great support from a whole host of people all year; all the people who get our books into your hands – whether it be the postie or the printer – there are a lot of very skilled and dedicated people involved in each title.
But the biggest thanks from me this year goes to my team here. I could say a lot about them, but I won’t, because, when there is so much to say, it is maybe best to just keep it simple and say thank you for being great publishers and colleagues.