Hallewell Publications - Scottish Publisher of the Month
To give a little background: I had done the publishing course at Napier, and had subsequently (through a course project) fallen into producing walking guides; firstly for various tourist boards (the first was for the old Perthshire Tourist Board – payment: £800 and a new pair of boots); then for John Bartholomew/Harper Collins. Rebecca, who had trained as an artist, produced the maps and illustrations. We were to design the guides, walk them, write them, edit, illustrate and map them, then deliver them to the publishers, camera-ready.
We had produced eleven guides this way, for Scotland and England, when the old Bartholomew office was closed down and everything transferred to London. Around the same time we found ourselves with more time on our hands and so decided to become publishers.
I was very happy with the Bartholomew/Harper Collins guides (many of which are still in print, in some form, to this day), but they covered large areas and, with their spiral binding, were quite pricey. Also, we were restricted to circular routes, while many of the finest walks – particularly in Scotland – are lineal. When I was researching the books, tourist officers would routinely ask if we couldn’t produce something smaller, cheaper and more local. With the new series, we decided to give them what they wanted.
We divided Scotland into around 40 areas, using County and Tourist Board boundaries (the idea of moving into England came later), and, starting with Deeside, began looking for the best walks – irrespective of length or type. The idea was that, if you were visiting or living in a particular area, the guide to that area would be guaranteed to provide a walk to suit your taste and abilities at no great distance from the point of purchase.
The books are A6, 32pp (generally) and stapled, with two-colour maps and line illustrations. The idea was to produce something light enough that you could stick it in the smallest pocket and not notice the weight, and cheap enough that you wouldn’t worry about bending back the cover or using it in the pouring rain. We were not interested in producing something with a long life (though, as one of our checkers has reported, it is perfectly possible to use one of these guides every day for a fortnight, in torrential rain, without it falling apart); in fact, we are rather against the idea. One of the problems with walking guides is that they tend to go out of date. Some of the longer, classic, routes may remain unaltered for decades, but shorter walks can change quite regularly. Signposts change, likewise gates, stiles, fences and car parks. Paths are opened, closed or re-routed. With new core path networks being established around towns and villages in Scotland, the process has accelerated. If you are giving people route instructions then you need to keep the details up to date. With this in mind, we aim to rewalk all our books approximately every five years, and recommend that walkers always try to use the most recent edition.
To date, we have produced 35 guides in the series (plus a handful of other titles), and have mapped and described approaching 1,000 walks. I have written 15 of the guides myself; the others have been compiled by various people with the time, knowledge and inclination. Our aim is that someone other than the original author should rewalk the books, and consequently we are always on the look-out for diligent rewalkers.
Initially, we undertook all the warehousing, selling and distribution ourselves. This allowed us to gather valuable information on retailers’ and wholesalers’ requirements, and on their views of the books – usually very positive. As the list grew, however, it became impossible for us to carry out all aspects of the business, and we now use BookSource for distribution and a variety of wholesalers and reps for selling. It was not easy to hand the day to day running of the series over to third parties, but the move has been very successful - increasing sales and coverage and allowing us more time to concentrate on new titles.
The greatest developments in publishing, since I have been involved, have been technological. We were only able to start up our business at all because of the arrival of the home computers and good publishing software which made the production and updating of our books possible. Continuing technological development means that the business has to continue to evolve. We have recently launched our website www.pocketwalks.com to try to reach the increasing number of people who find their books and information online. The site provides customers with details of the guides in the series, dates when they are rewalked and news of forthcoming books, as well as an online shop. Then next step will be to allow customers to purchase individual walks as PDF Downloads, giving them the chance to create their own selection of routes. The guides – with most walks covering only one page – lend themselves to this. We hope they will also work well as ebooks, when someone manages to develop a reader rugged enough for hillwalkers.
A new guide, covering the Isle of Arran, was published earlier in the year, and two Peak District books will be available from Aug/Sep. Looking ahead, there are still a few gaps on the map left to be filled.
- Edinburgh On Foot: Detailed Street Map, Sightseeing Walks, Shopping, Museums, Art Galleries, Etc. - Paperback
This guide to Edinburgh features details of its main attractions, maps and descriptions of 11 walks through the city and a street map of the city centre.
- Isle Of Arran - - Paperback
This is a guide to the walks on the moutainous island of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. Known as 'Scotland in miniature', the island provides a fine range of coastal, moorland, woodland and hill walks.
- Add to BasketWalks, Deeside: 27 Walks, 1/2-21 1/2 Mls (0.8-34.5 Kms) - - Paperback
This guide brings together a selection of the best walks in Deeside. The walks include town trails, coastal walks and routes through woodland and farmland and on the high moors.
- Walks, East Perthshire Including Perth, Blairgowrie & Dunkeld: 29 Walks, 3/4-9 Mls (1.25-14.5 Kms) - - Paperback
This guide brings together a selection of the best walks in East Perthshire and its surrounding area. The walks include town trails, coastal walks and routes through woodland and farmland and on the high moors.
- Walks, Speyside Including Aviemore & Glenmore: 25 Walks, 1-21 Mls (1.5-34 Kms) - - Paperback
This guide brings together a selection of the best walks in Speyside and its surrounding area. The walks include town trails, coastal walks and routes through woodland and farmland and on the high moors.