the trail of success
Author Brett Dufur finds niche publishing Missouri books
by Bob McEowen
Dufur pauses at a bench along the Katy Trail near Rocheport. Self
publishing his first book, The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook,
gave Brett the experience to launch Pebble Publishing, which specializes
in books about Missouri.
Although Brett Dufur is an experienced mountaineer hed never climbed
on ice and snow before this past July 4th weekend. But that didnt
stop him from grabbing an ice axe and attempting to scale Washingtons
14,000-foot Mount Rainier.
optimism is no surprise to anyone who knows Brett. Hes been tackling
mountains in his professional life for nearly a decade. One only needs
to visit the new storefront offices of Pebble Publishing in Rocheport
to see how far hes climbed.
Eight years ago
Brett graduated from college with little more than degrees in Latin American
studies and journalism and a love of the outdoors. Today, at age 30, hes
the author of several guidebooks, the head of his own publishing company
and, arguably, the leading purveyor of books exclusively about Missouri.
created a niche where none existed, Brett says of the publishing
company he created with his wife, Tawnee.
set out to start Pebble Publishing. He was just looking for work when
he graduated from the University of Missouri in 1994. Instead of taking
a job, he decided to combine the travel experience he gained guiding backpackers
in Mexico with his journalism skills and write the first guide to the
Katy Trail, the 225-mile hiking and biking trail that was unfolding across
Missouri at the time.
From the beginning
the Boone Electric Cooperative member envisioned something more than mileage
charts, lists of campgrounds and descriptions of bed and breakfast inns.
to explain to people that theres more to the Katy Trail than just
this 12-foot-wide gravel strip for 225 miles. I tried to give readers
a taste for the different communities theyre going to pass through,
all of which have very unique personalities of their own.
With his research
completed and his book written, all that remained was to get his work
into print. Brett decided to publish The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook
theres two kinds of people, Brett says. Theres
the kind that start a business knowing exactly what its going to
take and the other kind, like me, who dont have a clue and just
stumble and fight their way through a sort of workingmans Ph.D.
With the sixth
edition due to be released, Bretts book is the definitive guide
to Americas longest rails-to-trails project. It has sold more than
30,000 copies and is carried by most bookstores in Missouri as well as
national booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
quickly attracted the attention of other writers. I was suddenly
giving a lot of other authors advice on how to get their books published,
he recalls. So I said, Hey, Ill act as the publisher
and well get your book out.
Thus Pebble Publishing
was born. Named to leave no doubt of its size, the business operated from
Bretts apartment, with boxes of books stacked behind the sofa and
used as furniture.
second project was 99 Fun Things to Do in Columbia and Boone County,
followed by A to Z Missouri: A Dictionary of Missouri Place Names
and Wit and Wisdom of Missouris Country Editors.
books by other Missouri authors, Brett again put his own words on paper,
co-authoring Forgotten Missourians who Made History. He then
wrote more guidebooks, including Exploring Missouri Wine Country
and Show-Me Mountain Biking. Current publishing projects include
books about Lewis and Clarks 1804 exploration of the Missouri River.
Its a topic Brett knows well from four months traveling the river
on reproductions of Lewis and Clarks boats.
writing his first book, starting a company or climbing a mountain, Brett
often charges in first and discovers the pitfalls and challenges of a
project as he goes along.
stumbles. His foray into magazine publishing ended when the Missouri Wine
Country Journal folded two years ago. His River Valley Companion,
a field guide to plants and animals in mid-Missouri, languished on the
shelf until he stripped the covers and renamed it the Katy Trail
For the most part,
though, Bretts act-first approach has worked. In addition to distributing
15 titles under the Pebble Publishing banner, the company also distributes
other books, including a high school textbook on Missouri history recently
adopted by the St. Louis School District.
Booksellers, a division of Pebble Publishing, carries more than 500 books
about Missouri or written by Missouri authors. What had previously been
a mail order and Internet-based business recently became a brick and mortar
operation when Pebble Publishing relocated its offices and opened a retail
bookstore in a historic building located a block away from Brett and Tawnees
Rocheport home and in sight of the trail which launched the enterprise.
Its a big
step for the couple, who are expecting their first child in October.
purposely tried to stay very small, Brett says. We realize
the niche we want to stay in, publishing books on Missouri, is only so
big and you dont want to get carried away.
In fact, one might
wonder how long a business can last specializing in books only about Missouri.
But Bretts not worried.
look at our bookstore and you see 500 different Missouri-related books
you realize, well, I will be writing books on Missouri as long as Im
around, he says. Theres a never-ending fountain of ideas
in the state.
For more information
write Pebble Publishing, P.O. Box 2, Rocheport, MO 65279; call 1-800-576-7322
or visit www.pebblepublishing.com. You can
also visit the bookstore at 205 Central St. in Rocheport.