The cover of the spring 2001 catalogue announces "30 Years, Ten Speed/Celestial Arts" and shows a cartoon of founder/owner Phil Wood wafting through the sky from a parachute. Were it not for the extraordinary success of Ten Speed's What Color Is Your Parachute? (eight million copies sold, 1,000 copies still being shipped out daily after 27 years in print), the catalogue would no doubt have pictured him on a bicycle, for it was Anybody's Bike Book, his first title, that gave the company its name, and which today is still in print and has sold over one million copies. Both books are featured on Ten Speed's "30+1" list of titles "representative of the best of Ten Speed over the past 30 years," as publisher Kirsty Melville described it. Ten Speed is extending a special yearlong promotion for titles on the list of an added 1% discount and free shipping.
The company has annual revenues of $20 million and produces more than 130 titles a year, 60% of which are illustrated books and a third of which are cookbooks. Ten Speed also distributes for Lanier Guides, degree.net and Boaz Publications and has added Oregon-based art book publisher Collectors Press this year.
"I used to think that being eclectic was a weakness," said Wood of the array of subjects published and distributed by his company—from cooking to education, from oncology to Asian arts. "But it's turned out to be a strength." Added Melville, "We publish unique, definitive, highly individual books that really reflect Phil's character. We're one of the last editorially run houses that is privately owned and independent."
Melville, who joined the company seven years ago from Australia, has helped grow the cookbook section from 10% to 30% of the company and noted, "the illustrated chef line has really come of age in the last 10 years." Other changes enacted under Melville's watch include separating the marketing and publicity departments, pumping up special sales and doubling the staff to 90 people. Gonzalo Ferreyra, previously at Borders, was hired as director of trade sales and marketing. Kristin Casemore now heads the publicity department, and Marc Anderson of Book People was hired in special sales.
Of the titles on the 30+1 list, 20 are from Ten Speed, including Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter and Why Cats Paint; six are from Celestial Arts, the self-help and alternative spirituality publisher that Wood acquired 15 years ago; and four from Tricycle Press, the children's book division that was launched five years ago with Molly Katzen's Pretend Soup. The "1" of course is What Color Is Your Parachute?, listed by the Library of Congress as one of the most important books of the past 50 years.
Said Wood, who started out working for Barnes & Noble, then repped for Penguin and later cofounded Shambhala before launching Ten Speed from his apartment in Berkeley, "There is constant change in the book business, and the opportunities are as good now as when I started."