A Note from the Publisher on Orca’s 40th Anniversary

A Note from the Publisher on Orca’s 40th Anniversary

Publisher Andrew Wooldridge reflects on the past and looks ahead to the future on Orca Book Publishers’s 40th anniversary. 

When I started at Orca 32 years ago, I was one of four employees. I worked part-time in the warehouse, packing books, loading them into my powder-blue Pontiac Astre and taking them to the post office. 

A lot has changed over the years—the books, the staff, the creators. The Pontiac is long gone, and the pace of change appears to be speeding up all the time, with digital delivery of content, artificial intelligence, metadata, social media influencers and more. But at the end of the day (and at the beginning), it is the books that matter.

Without those stories and the artwork that accompanies them, we would be just another company. So, thank you to our authors and illustrators for trusting us with your stories.

Orca was started 40 years ago by Bob Tyrrell and his book about the pubs of Vancouver Island. Over those early years, the list grew and changed, from guidebooks and regional history to fiction and children’s publishing. The attempted banning of Maxine’s Tree in the 1990s by a logger on the Sunshine Coast; and Orca’s first Governor General’s Award for Waiting for the Whales by Sheryl MacFarlane and Ron Lightburn, proved to Bob that children’s books had a wider appeal and presented the opportunity for growth.

And now, after 40 years, Orca is one of the largest independent publishers in the country. With 50 employees, 1000 titles in print, and more than 80 new books a year, we continue to grow and innovate. We are publishing compelling nonfiction, Governor General’s award-winning fiction, bestselling Indigenous stories and many titles in Cree, French, Anishinaabemowin and more languages. 

We continue to publish books that challenge our audience to see diversity in the world, engage young readers and contribute to a literate, curious and compassionate audience.

We have two warehouses, one in Victoria and one in Washington state, where we distribute our own titles and those of 15 other publishers to Canada and the United States. Orca is unique in this industry in that we control virtually every aspect of the operation, from editorial and design to marketing, sales and distribution. We continue to grow—cautiously but with purpose. And we are lucky enough to do it with an incredible group of people. I can safely say that none of what we have accomplished would be possible without each and every member of the Pod.

Orca staff at a 40th celebration event in Victoria, BC.

The other critical aspect of all of this is the creators: the authors and illustrators who bring us their stories, entrust us with their voices and work with us to bring out the most amazing books. 

We are living in trying times, where intolerance has gained a foothold, where we see books become the target of bigots and the close-minded. But all of that makes us more committed to bringing diverse voices and stories to the world, and to focus on reaching, educating and supporting young readers where they are. 

We are now looking ahead to the next 40 years, finding new books, pushing the envelope as much as we can and doing our best to bring our authors’ voices to the world. To them, I say thank you for all that you do, for bringing us your stories, for trusting us with your ideas and for working with us to create the best books we can. 

Thank you.