After 20 years of friendship, Bob Sehlinger and Richard Hunt merged their companies to form Keen Communications in 2007. This business collaboration created the foundation for Keen’s ongoing success in the travel and outdoor adventure book category.
AdventureKeen was formed when Keen Communications acquired Adventure Publications. AdventureKEEN is known for providing popular guidebooks for outdoor activities that are geared towards a local/regional area. They aim to help readers explore their town, embrace a healthy lifestyle, and build an appreciation for nature.
AdventureKEEN has become one of the leading guidebooks in the industry, and now they’re using their popularity to give back. They teamed up with the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC) for the SHOP LOCAL, LIVE LOCAL campaign designed to help readers pursue outdoor activities while also benefiting booksellers. Throughout June, 100% of the profits from sales from AdventureKEEN’s titles at independent bookstores will be donated to BINC.
This campaign brings together bookstores, authors, and readers to help support communities and independent bookstores. We spoke with AdventureKEEN’s President Richard Hunt to learn more about the publishing house and the inspiration behind SHOP LOCAL, LIVE LOCAL.
1) What do you think makes a good book?
I believe that a good AdventureKEEN book encompasses multiple aspects. Not only must a book provide expert/friendly advice to produce eagerness for new adventures, but it needs editorial content that entertains while educating. The price point should also reflect a good value in regards to its production. Overall, it is important to create a combination of text/photos/authorial voice that leaves a reader grateful for buying the book, undertaking the activities, and relishing the natural world.
2) What do you look for when signing authors?
I look to see if they are experts in their field, enthusiastic, and hard workers. Many of our authors wouldn't describe themselves first and foremost as authors; perhaps photographer or park ranger or hiker. While we can help draft and edit their words, we rely on them to ensure that the content is accurate.
3) What’s the most unique book you’ve read from your collection?
For me, the most unique book is William Nealy's Mountain Bike! William was a gifted visual artist, and he was able to capture key mountain bike techniques with cartoon-like drawings and handwritten text. I have used his tips in my personal biking experiences. My son and I were mountain biking, and the dirt path was filled with big/loose rocks. My son descended the hill with ease, while I nervously threaded my way down. When we arrived at the bottom, I asked him how he learned to easily ride a mountain bike. "Simple,” he said, “I read William Nealy's book." That is when Mountain Bike! became my bible and kept me from crashing, or a lot less than I did. This type of personal guidance for activities is why readers embrace our books - we help them have fun outdoors.
4) Describe your publishing house in one word.
Hyper-local. We want to help people explore the world around them. Our goal is to support people to take an active role in nature and deepen their appreciation of their hometowns, local parks, scenic overlooks.
5) Why is giving back to Indie Booksellers important to AdventureKEEN?
Many reasons. We support and understand independent booksellers' collective role as the vanguard for free expression and freedom to read in the United States. As an independent publisher, we have depthless gratitude for the hard work that independent booksellers do every day. Independent bookstores and independent publishers know and live the same dream: to have every person in America be a smart, thoughtful, open-minded, devoted, and grateful reader. So, we rally time and again to do this work of bringing people and books together.
6) What inspired your decision to partner with BINC for AdventureKEEN LIVE LOCAL, SHOP LOCAL?
I first heard of BINC after Ingram Content Group donated to their cause in December on behalf of their publishing clients. Shortly after, I heard Ann Pachette speak about the importance of BINC at a Winter Institute back in January. BINC is a revolutionary, meaningful program that's remarkably generous and important. It resonated with me, but I never for a second imagined that AdventureKEEN was big enough to help out in any substantial way.
A few months later, I attended the PGW sales conference where they discussed Patagonia’s success from their latest campaign. Patagonia had donated 100% of their sales to environmental groups fighting to protect vital natural resources. Similarly, the AdventureKEEN list is all about a love of the outdoors and every sort of recreational and aspirational goal we share to improve our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. There was this line from Patagonia’s campaign: "The enormous love our customers showed to the planet on Black Friday enables us to give every penny to hundreds of grassroots environmental organizations working around the world" which mutated in my head into: "We love local. Shop Local. Live Local." To me, no business is a better advocate for local enterprise than an independent bookstore. So, the dream to work with BINC comingled with what I had learned about Patagonia. Molly Merkle, our COO, and Phil Ollila, Chief Content Officer at Ingram, supported and shaped this aspiration into the SHOP LOCAL, LIVE LOCAL initiative.
7) What are you hoping to accomplish with this campaign?
First, a big check to BINC. SHOP LOCAL, LIVE LOCAL is the best way we can contribute to a beneficial outcome for everyone involved. It also means we've accomplished the goal of getting a lot of local books into the hands of customers.
After 35 years in bookselling and publishing, it's satisfying to create a program for independents that’s organic to their business (backlist-oriented, local expertise, active minds and bodies). Independent bookstores have had a remarkable influence on the success of Shop Local initiatives, and they’ve done a stellar job of communicating to their customer base why it’s so important for consumers to shop locally.
Help support SHOP LOCAL, LIVE LOCAL by checking out AdventureKEEN at your local independent bookstore. Click here for more information on how to support the cause.