State of independence

Jessica Kingsley Publishers kicked off its 20th anniversary year in style by winning two awards--the overall top publisher of the year and academic publisher of the year--at the inaugural Independent Publishers Awards.

Faber & Faber was also a double winner, for trade publisher of the year and innovation of the year, at the Oscar-style ceremony held on 3rd March at the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Independent Publishers Guild's (IPG) annual conference.

The awards, which the IPG runs in conjunction with The Bookseller and the London Book Fair, aim to celebrate independent publishers and highlight their "enormous contributions to UK culture and business". Panels of industry experts chose the winners from shortlists that had 22 publishers competing for the prizes.

IPG executive director Bridget Shine congratulated the winners, those shortlisted, and publishers who took time to enter the awards: "The hard work and wonderful books of all our entrants show how important they are to publishing in the UK, and prove that independents of all shapes and sizes can look forward to a bright future. Independent publishers represent some of the most imaginative and entrepreneurial companies in the business. All too often their achievements fall 'under the radar', but year in, year out they are delivering great quality products and compelling financial results away from the glare of publicity and the high street. These awards were devised to shed light on both the creativity and commercial vitality of the sector, and to promote and celebrate even higher standards."

Nine awards were handed out on the night. Joining Faber and Jessica Kingsley in claiming publisher of the year categories are children's winner Barrington Stoke and education winner Featherstone Education. The prize for international achievement was scooped by Jolly Learning, the diversity gong went to Frances Lincoln, while Philip Kogan, founder of Kogan Page and an independent publisher for 40 years, received the lifetime achievement award.

Jessica Kingsley, which specialises in books in the social and behavioural sciences, took home the van Tulleken Publisher of the Year Award for "encapsulating the very best of independent publishing in the UK". The judges said: "This is a classic example of brilliant niche publishing, where an independent has found an area and made a difference through its books. It has performed consistently well over a sustained period of time, and is still seeking new ways to grow and push the boundaries in publishing."

Jessica Kingsley's first award of the evening was the Taylor Wessing Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year, topping a shortlist that included Class Legal, Earthscan and Hart Publishing. The IPG judges said its "dedicated and authoritative" publishing programme, strong brand and expansion into the US market helped to swing it. They added: "This is a publisher that knows its market and targets it with great books and excellent marketing and promotion."

Literary excellence

Faber, in pipping Milo Books, Profile and Snowbooks to the National Book Tokens Trade Publisher of the Year prize, was praised for its ability to combine literary excellence with bestsellers. "Faber had a fantastic year, with great agility in its marketing," the judges said. "It goes from strength to strength and represents the very best of independent publishing."

Faber also took home the Nielsen Innovation of the Year Award for its formation of the Independent Alliance of Publishers. IPG judges praised the alliance for increasing sales for its members among mass retailers, and for helping to support independent booksellers with better terms and promotions. "This is a genuine innovation that will help independent publishers and booksellers survive," the judges said. Others on the shortlist were 100-Minute Press for The 100-Minute Bible; The Bodleian Library for its Instructions for Servicemen books; Class Legal for its family law software; and Salt Publishing for its efforts to reinvigorate poetry sales.

Edinburgh-based Barrington Stoke garnered the Lighting Source Children's Publisher of the Year Award for its commitment to children who have dyslexia or reading difficulties. Its strengths include experimenting with new formats and expanding its sales with schools. "Barrington Stoke has stuck closely to its niche and its readers while constantly seeking ways to innovate," the judges said. Other candidates in the category were Catnip Publishing and Piccadilly Press.

The SBS Worldwide Education Publisher of the Year Award was given to Featherstone in recognition of its rapid success since its launch in 1998. Judges liked the company's commitment to the entire publishing process—from creating and editing books to printing them on inhouse digital facilities and dispatching and invoicing. Featherstone specialises in books for adults who work with children from birth to eight, and judges praised its knowledge of its niche. Barrington Stoke and Galore Park were runners-up.

Jolly Learning, in edging out Faber and Willan Publishing for the UK Trade & Investment International Achievement Award, was recognised for its efforts to increase sales overseas. Careful targeting of potential customers for its books about the teaching of reading and writing had been backed up by in-depth understanding of overseas markets.

Rewarding diversity

The IPG Diversity Award was given to Frances Lincoln in recognition of its commitment to publishing for black and minority ethnic communities in the UK. Judges were impressed by its dual language books and titles that introduced children to different people, cultures and religions around the world. Highly commended in this category was Tamarind Books, an independent that has specialised in multicultural children's books--and titles for black children in particular--for 20 years. Also shortlisted were Arcadia Books and Flipped Eye Publishing.

Finally, the IPG Patrons Lifetime Achievement Award celebrated Philip Kogan's 40 years as an independent publisher. He is the founder and chairman of Kogan Page, Europe's largest independent publisher of business books with around 1,500 titles in print. The IPG's patrons nominated Philip Kogan for the award for his commitment to the Kogan Page business and his vigorous support of the IPG since its foundation. "He is an inspiring independent publisher with great vision who has refused to be bullied and has led his company into its 40th year," the judges said.

Bridget Shine concluded that the awards were a "best of breed" showcase for independent publishers and that the sector was growing for good reason. She added: "Being 'an independent' is more than just a claim about ownership structure. It makes a bold statement as to a company's creativity, confidence, agility and tough commercial practice."