A little more than one year after it acquired Wildsam Field Guides, Arcadia Publishing has expanded the series through a host of initiatives. For starters, Arcadia added four new editors to join Wildsam founder and editor-in-chief Taylor Bruce. The new additions, all drawn from magazines, are: Hannah Hayes (Southern Living), Zach Dundas (former editor-in chief of Portland Monthly), Rebecca Worby (Pacific Standard), and managing editor Margaret Williams (former editor-in-chief of Tribeza).
The new team has expanded Wildsam’s output from two books annually to 12 during Arcadia’s first year of ownership, and is on pace to put out 18 titles annually going forward, Arcadia CEO David Steinberger said. The higher title output has brought Wildsam into some new areas, including the launch of a new National Park series, starting with books on the Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains. Guides on Yellowstone and Utah's Zion National Park will come out in the first half of 2021. The new series, Steinberger said, fits well into the new travel paradigm, with Americans opting to devote most of their vacation plans to locations where the can drive to rather than fly as a result of the pandemic.
To that end, Wildsam has expanded its American road trip series to include guides for California and Texas, which, Steinberger said, have enjoyed a strong sales start. A guide for the Pacific Northwest is set for publication early next year. Wildsam has also added books about Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle to ist city guides series, which now stands at 16 titles.
Steinberger said that all of Wildsam’s new titles, like all its books, include features from such prominent writers as Annette Gordon-Reed, Rebecca Makkai, Feminista Jones, Rick Bass, Hanif Abdurraqib, and poet Patricia Smith. The objective of each guide, Steinberger said, is to give readers a sense of place before they visit a new area. To enhance that aspect of the guides, all books are illustrated by local artists. "We've found this not only adds a dimension of 'creative credibility'—both for travelers and for local people reading the book—but it also gives our team another person in the place to help us get to know it in a deep way," Bruce said.
The editorial expansion has paid off for Wildsam, Steinberger said. The Arcadia sales force has been able to get the expanded line into more stores, particularly non-traditional outlets. During the pandemic, Wildsam’s e-commerce sales rose 300% from May to September compared to the same period a year ago, Steinberger reported. Barnes & Noble has begun carrying the Wildsam line, and Steinberger said his next goal is to increase the series’ presence at independent bookstores.
Wildsam guides are not available as e-books, and Bruce said that, while the company has been asked by readers about an app, it is sticking to print for now. "Our thinking is that the analog nature of a printed book actually serves the bigger purpose of Wildsam: of helping people unlock a place and having inspired moments," Bruce explained. "Books do that in a way that's more powerful and poetic than smartphones, which often lead us into a research mode or Google search mindset."