Author Tags: Advice, Publishing

Bob Tyrrell was born in the Peace River country in 1948 but raised on the coast. His self-published 1984 guide, Island Pubbing (Orca Books), co-written with Boyd Corrigan, helped Tyrrell make the switch from being a high school English teacher to operating Orca Books, as did The Pubs of B.C. (Orca, 1986), co-authored with Jane Seyd. Tyrrell is also credited as co-author of his company's tenth title, Rumrunner: The Life and Times of Johnny Schnarr, a bestseller about Johnny Schnarr's remarkably smooth sailing for 12 years as a Prohibition rumrunner, co-written with Marion Parker. Schnarr stayed out of trouble mostly by designing and building some of the fastest boats on the coast.

Tyrrell has primarily been the owner and publisher of Orca Books, a Victoria-based publishing company, founded in 1984, that has increasingly specialized in books for children, as of the early 1990s, after its picture book Waiting for the Whales received a Governor General's Award and the company simultaneously received Publisher of the Year honours. In 2006, on behalf of his company and its new co-owner Andrew Wooldridge, Tyrrell accepted the Jim Douglas Award from the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia. On hand to present the award, Douglas cited his peers when he said, "If Jack McClelland and John Gray could see the list of Orca Books they would be gobsmacked!"

When Bob Tyrell rescinded full ownership control of his company to his former employee Andrew Wooldridge in January of 2017, Orca Books had more than 850 titles in print and was producing more than 80 new titles a year from Victoria, augmented by a distribution warehouse in Ferndale, WA.

[BCBW 2017] "Publishing" "Advice"

Rumrunner: The Life and Times of Johnny Schnarr

REVUOCNAV IS NOT A RUSSIAN seaport. It's simply Vancouver spelled backwards...During the Prohibition B.C.'s most successful 'rumrunner', Johnny Schnarr, christened his fifth boat 'Revuocnav' so that anyone spotting his 56-footer would have difficulty remembering his boat's name. It was one of the few tricks he ever needed. At full speed the Revuocnav's twin 860-horsepower airplane engines sucked back 120 gallons an hour at 45 knots twice as fast as the U.S. patrol boats that never caught him during 600 trips south of the border to over 40 locations, including Ensenada, Mexico. "In looking back on it," says Schnarr, 93, "I'd have to say that that challenge of staying out of reach of the authorities meant as much to me as anything else. I certainly wasn't in the business just for the money."

Marion Parker and Robert Tyrrell's B.C. bestseller, Rumrunner: The Life and Times of Johnny Schnarr (Orca $24.95), recounts the extraordinarily lucky years between 1920 and 1933 when Schnarr was a courier for over 60,000 cases of booze mostly whiskey, not rum -into the "dry" U. S.

"People liked the liquor and I would freight it for them," says Schnarr, "1 thought it was perfectly okay. I wasn't buying and selling any liquor. "If you consider an average of about one hundred and fifty cases per trip, that amounted to over four million dollars of revenue that I brought into Canada. And that was no small sum in the Thirties!”

Schnarr was run aground by an incompetent employer on his first run. American cutters once put 17 bullet holes in Schnarr's boat with a machine gun. A $25,000 reward was offered for its capture.

It sounds harrowing and dramatic. But Schnarr says by far the toughest part of the job was simply coping with very little sleep. He never drank on the job. And he claims the rum trade was at least as honest as most businesses.

"During the time I was rum running I had four or five different people come to me -all from the American side -and ask me to run dope for them. They made offers as high as $25,000 to take a suitcase full of dope and land it on the other side. I wanted nothing to do with that."

Schnarr made his final run on April 2, 1933, two days before Prohibition was lifted. He had only $10,000 in the bank, having spent about $75,000 customizing his boats. "In those days that was a lot of money. But maybe that was what kept me out of jail!" He went on to work as a logger near Ladysmith and Nitinat Lake, then spent 25 years as a commercial fisherman out of Bamfield in Barkley Sound.

[Autumn / BCBW 1988]

Publisher of the Year Award
Speech (2006)

In 2006, Bob Tyrrell received the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award for British Columbia publishing, as coordinated by the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia. At a reception held in Vancouver on April 6, he said:

“Those of you who know me at all have probably heard me use the expression “the luck of the Irish.” It’s an expression my father used, and one that I find useful to explain things from time to time, even though I’m only part Irish and several generations removed from the olde sod. I prefer to attribute my good fortune to my Irish ancestry and my passion for whiskey and flyfishing to my Scots blood. In any event it’s hard to ignore the good fortune that has come my way over the course of the growth and development of Orca Books. I’d like to share a few of Orca Bob’s luckier moments:

“Stumbling into the world publishing in the first place, not knowing my ass from paint, as I like to say, and surviving those first couple of years, was certainly as much luck as anything else. I cringe looking back at some of those early titles. But I suppose we all do that, don’t we.

“The sales end of the business was never my forte and I found it very difficult in those first couple of years, going into bookstores with my heart on my sleeve and a copy of Island Pubbing in my hand. I’ll never forget how fortunate I felt the day, -- it must have been in 1986-- when Alan MacDougall phoned to tell me that Stanton and MacDougall would represent Orca. That association has, of course, continued to this day, thanks to Kate Walker and her terrific staff at Walker & Company.

“All our stars must have been aligned in 1992 when Waiting for the Whales won the Governor General’s Award and Orca was named Publisher of the Year by the Canadian Booksellers Association. This was at a time when I was only vaguely aware that anyone east of the Rockies had even heard of Orca.

“I went to Toronto for CBA and the award presentation that June, feeling very much the hick from Hicksville. It’s kind of funny because today I have only one clear memory of that trip. Karl Seigler and I happened to be staying in the same hotel and I sat down with him for breakfast one morning. With very little preamble that I can recall and with the Teutonic frankness that we’ve all come to know and love, he said “What I can’t understand is why the hell they named you publisher of the year.” All I could say was, luck of the Irish, I guess.

“But it was really those two events in 1992 – the G.G. and the CBA award—that set Orca on the path to becoming a children’s publisher; not a path I intentionally choose but one I feel very fortunate to have followed.

“I’ve certainly been more than a little lucky in terms of the people who’ve come to work at Orca. Back in the fall of 1990 – at a time when there were only two of us and work for four—I got a promising application from someone in Edmonton. The person had some experience in the industry but I wasn’t going to hire anyone sight unseen. So I phoned and she said she was planning a trip to the coast anyway. It cost me lunch but Susan Adamson stayed with Orca for more than ten years and was a tremendously valuable colleague. She was also pretty good at keeping me in line whenever she thought I was getting too big for my britches.

“And then there’s Andrew Wooldridge, who we like to call “the shipper who refused to leave.” I guess it’s all about good luck and good timing. Andrew worked as our part-time shipper while belatedly completing his degree at UVic. When he graduated, it just happened that once again I was short-staffed. Almost fourteen years later he’s associate publisher and deserves a good deal of the credit for the success of our US operations and especially the Soundings series… and thus for the award that you’re honouring us with tonight.

“Obviously, everyone on the staff shares in this award. I’m pleased to have Christine Toller, who tried to retire but missed us too much, Maureen Colgan, Melanie Jeffs, and Lynn O’Rourke here to celebrate with us tonight. The rest of the staff are, I hope, here in spirit. The quality and dedication of my staff constantly reminds me that there are advantages to being so far from the centre of the universe in Toronto. The good ones don’t get poached.

“I’d also like to say that the involvement I’ve enjoyed in our various professional associations has been very rewarding and I’ve always felt that I took far more away from this work than I gave. For me the standard was set in those early days in the mid-80s when I would troop over from the island for ABPBC meetings, knowing absolutely nothing at all about publishing and finding this wonderful group of people willing to share their knowledge. It’s a wonderful industry that way. And out here in the west we’re particularly fortunate to have the benefit of the energy and experience of Margaret Reynolds, who somehow manages to keep this diverse group of eccentrics and misfits getting along more often than not.

“Finally I have to acknowledge some people who can’t be here tonight. My parents were tremendously supportive of Orca Books, especially during the early years when the company’s prospects were less-than-sterling. My mother told me from the time I was very young that, if I wanted to do something badly enough, I would do it. And my father was always there with his chequebook when I needed it and took a good deal of pleasure in being my silent partner.

“My wife Avril and my daughter Alex unfortunately could not be here tonight either. Both deserve enormous credit for not only putting up with me but also with the long hours and frequent travel that are such a part of my life. But those of you who have seen my two beautiful girls lately know full well why I will always feel I’ve been blessed with the luck of the Irish.

“Thank you all.”

About Orca Books
Publisher's Promo (2012)

from Orca Books (2012)
Founded in 1982, Orca Book Publishers is an independently owned Canadian
children's book publisher. With over 500 titles in print and more than 65
new titles a year, Orca publishes award-winning, best-selling books in a number of genres.

Orca Book Publishers has seen steady growth over the last few years and
continues to produce high-quality books while developing new and exciting
projects. Title output has grown with new nonfiction projects and a series
of adult novels for struggling readers—Rapid Reads. The staff at Orca is
passionate and dedicated to continually improving both the quality of the
books published and their commercial and critical success. All editorial,
production, marketing and distribution is done in-house and Orca has a
well-deserved reputation as an efficient and successful publishing company.

The main warehouse and editorial offices are located in Victoria, British
Columbia. From a warehouse near Bellingham, Washington, Orca distributes its own titles and those of a number of other Canadian publishers into the United States. Learn more about these publishers on our Distributed Titles page.

Orca prides itself on publishing Canadian authors and bringing them to a
wider market. The international recognition garnered has shown that Canadian authors can compete on a world stage while writing for, and about,

Authors published by Orca Book Publishers include many bestselling names, including Norah McClintock, Eric Walters, John Wilson, Andrea Spalding,
Sigmund Brouwer and many more. While publishing established authors, Orca
remains committed to publishing new writing. Approximately 20 percent of the
list comes from first-time authors and/or illustrators and unsolicited
submissions are accepted. Orca has been instrumental in establishing the
careers of a number of authors and illustrators who have gained
international prominence.

The list of books published includes: baby board books; hardcover,
high-quality picturebooks; early chapter books in the Orca Echoes and Orca Young Readers series; novels for the reluctant reader in the Orca Currents, Orca Sports and Orca Soundings series; standalone juvenile fiction and teen novels; nonfiction; and short adult fiction and nonfiction with the Rapid Reads series under the Raven Books imprint. A number of titles are also published in French and Spanish, and our translation activities continue to grow.

New Directions

As the publishing industry evolves and changes, Orca is committed to bringing our stories and authors to as wide an audience as possible. In the digital age, book publishing is continually changing. All Orca titles are now available in multiple digital formats for reading on a variety of devices. Orca titles are available electronically through Amazon, Overdrive, Sony, the Apple Store and in many other places, including the Orca website. Collections of titles are also available on a subscription basis through various services including the Tumble Readables online database and through Big Timber Media and the Canadian Electronic Library. Always looking for newdirections, Orca is working with several app developers to bring our picturebooks and board books to the digital realm.

Many Orca titles are now produced in audio format and are available on the
Go Reader audio device from Book Buddy as well as from other sources. Launched in 2011, a new middle-school Language Arts program, Text2Reader, is proving popular with teachers looking for new classroom resources. Available on an annual subscription, this affordable, accessible program marks a new direction for Orca as the educational market grows in importance.

Orca in the Marketplace

Solidly Canadian, Orca also markets around the world with almost 65 percent
of sales outside the country. The United States is one of our most important and developing markets and continues to grow. Always active in the trade bookstore market, sales to schools and libraries now make up a growing segment of the business. The series novels for struggling readers continue to set the standard for those facing literacy issues. Along with the books, Orca is active in producing resource material to accompany the books, both as teachers' guides and student material and as complementary websites and online material. A new website resource, www.reachingreluctantreaders.com, is being developed as a destination for educators looking for resources on
this important topic.

Foreign rights to many titles have been sold all over the world, including
to Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, Korea, Japan, Latvia and many
other countries. World rights (excluding North America) to many titles are available and are represented by Amy Tompkins of Transatlantic Literary Agency.

Orca in the Community

Orca Book Publishers is a long-time member of the Association of Book
Publishers of British Columbia and the Association of Canadian Publishers
and is committed to the ideal that a healthy BC- and Canadian-owned and
controlled book publishing industry is essential to the educational, social,
cultural and economic life of the province and country. Orca is also a
member of the American Library Association, the Canadian Library
Association, the Canadian Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers
Association and the Educational Book and Media Association.

Orca Book Publishers also supports emerging writers by sponsoring two
scholarships in the English Department and two in the School of Access at
Victoria's Camosun College. Our focus on literacy is also evident in our
support of the Victoria Read Society and as a National Learner Champion and
sponsor of the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournaments and Events for Literacy. Orca also supports many smaller literacy initiatives.

Environmental Initiatives

Long committed to publishing books with an environmental theme—from the Orca
classic Siwiti—A Whale's Story and In the Company of Whales by whale
researcher and wild salmon activist Alexandra Morton to the recent The
Salmon Bears—Giants of the Great Bear Rainforest by Ian McAllister and
Nicholas Read, and Nowhere Else on Earth—Standing Tall for the Great Bear
Rainforest by Caitlyn Vernon—Orca continues that commitment with responsible publishing practices. Virtually all books are printed in Canada on Forest Stewardship Certified paper and every effort is made to reduce, reuse and recycle. Orca is part of an innovative program through the GreenStart Small Business Pilot Program with the Capital Regional District in Victoria. Office waste has been drastically reduced and the staff continues to find new ways to save energy and help protect the environment.

Orca in the Future—Reaching More Readers

Always looking ahead, Orca Book Publishers is continually changing and
growing, finding ways to make our content available as widely as possible.
With a changing industry and rapidly shifting world, we see opportunity and
potential wherever we look. Moving beyond the printed page, the audience for the quality fiction and nonfiction we publish continues to grow and expand
as the means to reach readers multiply and as reading and literacy are more
important now than ever before.

-- Andrew Wooldridge, Publisher
Orca Book Publishers

Wooldridge acquire full Orca ownership
Press Release (2017)


Orca Book Publishers is pleased to announce that on January 1, 2017, Andrew Wooldridge purchased founder Bob Tyrrell’s remaining fifty-percent stake in the company and is now president and sole shareholder. This transaction represents the final stage in a succession strategy more than fifteen years in the making. Wooldridge acquired an initial ten percent stake in Orca in 2004 and, under an innovative financing arrangement, became a full partner when he took on a further forty percent share in 2007.

Tyrrell had these thoughts on the culmination of a thirty-three year career in publishing: “In hindsight, perhaps the most fortunate day of my publishing life came in September of 1992, when Andrew Wooldridge applied for a part-time job in our tiny warehouse. He was finishing up his degree at UVic at the time and when he graduated he asked about the possibility of full-time work. We were growing, slowly but steadily, in those days, and I was able to offer a half day in the warehouse and a half day doing order entry. Some months later, when I decided that the US was key to our future, I gave Andrew responsibility for developing that market. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I have been extremely lucky in many other ways too. I have been consistently blessed in terms of the quality and dedication of the staff who have worked with us to establish Orca Books as one of the finest publishers for young readers in North America. And of course, a publishing house is defined by its authors and illustrators, and we have been fortunate to have worked with and to continue to work with many of the finest in the country.

“Truthfully, however, one of the accomplishments of which I am most proud is the transition that is now taking place. Successful succession is a huge challenge for Canadian publishing houses. And while it is true that Andrew and I have been very lucky in that we have shared both a common publishing vision and perhaps some magic in the composition of our individual personalities (twenty-five years without a cross word!; who, knowing me, would believe that?), I know we have also worked long and hard to make this work.

“Now is the right time for me to (finally) step aside… confident that the company is in great shape and in the very capable hands of Andrew and associate publisher Ruth Linka. To retire with both financial security for my family and the knowledge that Orca Book Publishers will continue to publish the kind of books that will make me proud, how lucky is that?

“Of course, there is much that I will miss: the thrill of first reading a new piece of fine writing, the pride in that initial look at a beautifully designed and produced picture book or novel, just out of the box and still smelling of the press, and yes, the satisfaction of a positive financial report at month-end. But ultimately, it will be the people that I will miss the most. Not only the staff in our offices in Victoria and Washington state, but also publishing folks from across the country. I’ve always been amazed by the wonderful collegiality that exists in the Canadian industry, especially here on the Left Coast, but nationally as well. Due to the unique nature of the product we produce, we manage to be both competitors and colleagues, and this is perhaps the thing that makes the work more a vocation than a profession. For a guy who stumbled into publishing without any grand ambitions at all, it’s been a wonderful adventure and I will be forever grateful.”

Andrew Wooldridge began his career with Orca twenty-five years ago and has spent the intervening years learning most aspects of the business. “I can’t imagine a better place to be, day in and day out. Working with like-minded people in a creative environment is a real gift, and when we look around at the state of the world, we see that books and ideas are more important now than ever before. Orca has been privileged to publish many wonderful books, and, as we look ahead, we are committed to bringing more important stories to young readers.”

“It will be a real change not to have Bob involved in day-to-day operations, and I will certainly miss his always spot-on business sense, and his commitment to Orca and to the Canadian industry at large.” Wooldridge said. “I am relieved though that he will never be far away and, I am sure, never shy with his opinion. These are exciting times for Orca; we have an incredibly competent and committed staff, and we are taking this opportunity to recommit to our ongoing mission of providing the best possible books for young readers. We wish Bob all the best and will always be grateful for his commitment and the vision that will continue into the future.”


Founded in 1984, Orca Book Publishers is an independently owned Canadian children's book publisher. With over 850 titles in print and more than 80 new titles a year, Orca is based in Victoria BC with a distribution warehouse in Ferndale, WA.