The Vermont Way

In his new book, Governor Jim Douglas takes you on a guided tour of forty years of Vermont history and politics

Jim Douglas was first elected to the Vermont House in 1972, just months after graduating from Middlebury College. He was re-elected three more times and rose to Majority Leader before leaving to join the senior staff of Governor Snelling. Douglas was then elected Secretary of State, where he served for twelve years. In 1994, Douglas became State Treasurer, and was re-elected three times. In 2002, he was elected to the first of four terms as Vermont’s 80th governor. 

Douglas became a true insider, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the people and practices of government. But his real legacy grows from his unflagging commitment to get out of Montpelier and meet Vermonters one-on-one in the places they lived, worked, studied, and played. He took this intimate knowledge of Vermonters’ hopes and needs to craft the policies and programs that earned him more votes than any other politician in Vermont history. 

The Vermont Way includes forty-one photographs that bring history to life, creating a portrait of Jim Douglas and the state of Vermont. Douglas does it all: kissing a cow at a county fair, chatting with kids at their lemonade stand on the campaign trail, visiting Vermont National Guard troops in the Middle East, and offering advice to the president in the Oval Office. 

A great book for lovers of Vermont and Vermont history. 

Common Ground Communications LLC was founded by Christopher Bray in 1990.

Bray Books are published by Common Ground Communications, located in New Haven, Vermont, population 1,666. We're a small publisher focused on creating books of enduring value. 

We work with authors to bring forward great information, and we produce books of very high quality, using high quality papers, smyth sewing, spines that are rounded and backed, binding with head and tail bands, colored endpapers, and more. In short, we aim for artisanal quality but at an affordable price for the average reader.  

We collaborate with other local talent for production and design—thank you Peter Holm, for a great cover, and thank you Kate Gridley, for the great portrait in that cover. Why local? Because in my experience, local business is good business. When we support others in our community, they can better support us. Rather than participate in the "race to the bottom" (cheap books), our goal is to participate in rising to new levels--and to bring everyone along with us. 

For printing, we have to go outside Vermont, as we've lost our in-state commercial book publishers over the years. There is, however, plenty of great talent elsewhere, we know, such Bob Bethune and his colleagues at Maple Press in York, Pennsylvania, with whom we've worked. 

We distribute our books in two ways--first and foremost through independent booksellers. I have worked to forge a mutually supportive and positive relationship with booksellers--in terms of pricing, terms of payment, and promotion. I want to help them do well—and when they do, it's of course a good thing for the author and publisher. And second, I sell directly to customers through this website, because some folks either no longer have a local bookstore, or simply prefer to shop online.

At the outset, I made a major decision: to run the business as an "Amazon-free" enterprise, meaning you can't buy the books we produce through Amazon. The "Amazon Advantage" program sounds good at first blush, until you do the financial analysis and discover that the name of the program is all too apt: it's primarily to Amazon's advantage, with a small residual benefit to the publisher or author. 

What's the significance of this decision? While I know It's risky to forgo the services of this modern publishing juggernaut—Amazon—, I think it's a risk worth taking because it reflects the world I want to live in, not the dog-eat-dog world that efficiency experts tell us will rule all. When I'm at work, I make time to talk with people—shopkeepers and shoppers, suppliers and vendors. I learn about them, and they about me; it's business on a human scale. I handwrite notes on packing slips and invoices.  I pack books using recycled paper from our great local newspaper, The Addison Independent. When I go to the post office to drop off shipments, I get to chat with George, the clerk. And on and on. Each task has its own enjoyment.  

And what does this decision mean for independent booksellers? Let me not presume to answer that question, but share a recent piece that appeared  in Publishers Weekly. The piece was written by Josie Leavitt, who co-owns with her partner Elizabeth Bluemle, Flying Pig Books in Shelburne, Vermont. You can hear what working with an "Amazon-free" publisher means to her and her business. 

If you have any questions or comments, I hope you'll write. You can reach me in the following ways: 

Email: commonground@madriver.com

USPS: 829 South St, New Haven VT 05472

Phone: (802) 453-3444

Best wishes to all, 

--Christopher Bray, Publisher