I am pleased to have come across Sunflower Books, another niche publishing-house whose modus operandi is similar to Cicerone, one of the subjects of my previous blog post.
I first came across Sunflowers’ oeuvre at my local Cotswolds Outdoors store, which I thought was a very astute place to pitch literary-wares pertaining to walking and mountaineering. Perhaps with this in mind the publishers of the Sunflowers guides don’t provide a mail-order service but instead point you in the direction of stockists who do, enabling them, as a business, to concentrate on continually creating new titles, thus doing what they do best. Any tie-ins with cross-referenced retailers will of course also get their books to the uninitiated far quicker.
Offering guides to destinations throughout Europe, Sunflower doesn’t pigeon-hole itself as merely a promulgator of alpine guides – to do so leaves a publisher at risk of exhausting the finite possibilities of such a specialised topic. To be able to cover areas as wide-ranging as the Greek Islands, the Turkish Coast and the Alps does though place a large emphasis on Sunflower to be masters of their own universe, a pressure of being expertly on all that they write about, be it Slovenia or Cyprus. I feel this is something they do with aplomb.
This being an alpine blog, it is only fitting that I dedicate some of the contents of this post to one of Sunflower’s offerings for the mountain-walker. Walking in Slovenia as a title is perhaps a little misleading, due to the book assuming the reader is touring the country by car. Whilst of course this doesn’t rule out a backpacker and hut-to-hut hiker deriving benefit from this guide, it perhaps limits its audience to those of the independent, motorised kind. Here though lies the rub: to set themselves apart in an increasingly crowded marketplace, a travel-guide publisher needs to offer something a bit different. In any case, just because one prefers not to drive in the alps doesn’t mean the obvious depth of knowledge displayed in this book cannot be enjoyed by all.
Impressively covering most of Slovenia save for Dolenjska and Prekmurje, this guide provides a comprehensive overview of many of the best day hikes that I have undertaken, such as the Rudnica walk above Bohinj, as well as strenuous outings to Aljazev Dom, Kranjska Gora, Tolmin, Bovec and Kobarid which provide terrific alternatives to the usual ‘all roads lead to Bled’ attitude of some authors who visit Slovenia. For the record, you can though score your Bled-fix within this guide but I would strongly suggest eschewing its commerciality and attendant crowds, instead heading for nearby Pokljuka or Radovljica. Time on holiday is usually short and by simply visiting the tourist hot-spots you will never get an authentic feel for a country, nor detect its pulse.
I of course cannot say whether this guidebook of Slovenia is for you. Sunflower seem to operate somewhat under the radar – perhaps this is where they are happiest residing – but only they will know if their offbeat approach to guidebooks and how they are marketed works for them. Sales are of course the bottom-line; although it is dangerous to do so I presume that their guides, just by dint of the breadth of their oeuvre, sell in the necessary numbers to be viable. I do not pretend to be an expert on Sunflower – as you may have gathered from this blog – but I feel they warrant some positive publicity, not just because of their unique presence in the guidebook marketplace but also, for a travelogue on Slovenia which offers tangible competition to Cicerone and is infinitely more use to the hiker than Rough Guides, for example.
If the numbers stack up for Sunflower, the fact they seem to hide their light under a bushel needn’t be a problem to them. Having though recently ‘followed’ them on Twitter, I would strongly advise them to have a more obvious social-media presence than their embryonic Twitter account which doesn’t do them justice or positively publicise the impressive body of work they have to their name.