Editor of the Year

Introduction

The pandemic has put editors’ author care and collaborative skills to the test, but they have responded brilliantly to keep the wheels of publishing turning. These ten fiction, non-fiction and children’s book editors—six appearing on the shortlist for the first time—all command intense respect from their authors, and had their loyalty richly repaid in commercial terms in 2020.

Winner

Katy Loftus

Viking

Viking publisher Katy Loftus was the driving force behind the bestselling new book of 2020: Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club. Its record-smashing success was the result of a textbook publishing campaign that got everything right from the point of Loftus’ acquisition onwards. By the end of the year, the book had sold more than a million copies across all formats—including 135,000 in a single week before Christmas—and established Osman as a major-league brand for many years to come.

But Loftus’ year was about more than The Thursday Murder Club. She steered more bestsellers from William Gibson, Rosamund Lupton and Jane Corry, while her knack for e-books led to strong sales for novelists suchs as Cara Hunter and Josie Silver that teed up good print revenue too. On top of all that, Loftus has emerged as a leader in publishing’s efforts to diversify its output, including as co-founder of Penguin’s WriteNow scheme and a search for new voices from underrepresented backgrounds that led to the acquisition of British-Nigerian début writer Lizzie Damilola Blackburn.

A flood of glowing testimonials for Loftus affirms her inspirational leadership, in-house collaboration and care of authors and colleagues in a challenging year for everyone. “Katy is a passionate, tireless and brilliant editor… it is a joy to work with someone so talented but also so smart and kind,” said one grateful author.

The British Book Awards judges were similarly impressed, and said Osman’s success was no surprise given Loftus’ skilful stewardship and strategic thinking. “She doesn’t put a foot wrong,” they said. “She’s equally at home on massive authors and new talent and obviously has a genuine passion for diversity in publishing in all its forms. A phenomenal editor in every way.”

The Shortlist

  • Emad Akhtar
    Orion
    Akhtar has reinvigorated Orion’s crime and thriller publishing in recent years. He led big author brands like Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin to the top of the bestseller lists again, and steered Ben Aaronovitch there for the first time. “A mad genius,” said one author.
  • Christina Demosthenous
    Bookouture
    Bookouture’s women’s fiction sales have soared under Demosthenous, but she has also ranged across historical, crime and suspense. She has proved particularly adept at picking up self-published writers like Sophie Ranald, and is revered by her authors for her energetic championing.
  • James Gurbutt
    Corsair
    The Corsair list that Gurbutt founded in 2009 had its best year yet in 2020, with Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing barely leaving the bestseller lists. It was the result of his ability to land on books otherwise overlooked and line up everyone at Corsair behind them.
  • Mike Harpley
    Atlantic Books
    Atlantic Books’ non-fiction sales have more than doubled since Harpley arrived there five years ago. He generated two unexpected but distinctively Atlantic bestsellers in 2020: John Kampfner’s Why The Germans Do It Better and Chris Atkins’ A Bit of a Stretch.
  • Alexis Kirschbaum
    Bloomsbury
    Bloomsbury’s associate publisher is shortlisted for the second year in a row, having reenergised its adult consumer division. Rutger Bregman’s Humankind and Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age captured the zeitgeist, and she brought more marginalised voices to the fore.
  • Katy Loftus
    Viking
    Viking’s publisher was the force behind Richard Osman’s phenomenally popular The Thursday Murder Club. Her work with William Gibson, Rosamund Lupton and Jane Corry showed the broad range of her publishing and skill for building brands. “Everything I want in an editor and more,” said one author.
  • Jenny Lord
    W&N
    Weidenfeld & Nicolson’s non-fiction publisher gave the list its best year in more than a decade, via Philippe Sands, Adam Rutherford and Deborah Orr among others. She has a knack for matching authors to subjects, and for making serious content accessible.
  • Helen MacKenzie Smith
    Simon & Schuster Children's Books
    Simon & Schuster’s picture books editorial director has built a vibrant list of both big brands and new author-illustrator partnerships, and helped to grow its sales by a quarter. “Razor smart, super insightful and a brilliant and nurturing editor,” said one agent of her.
  • Ravi Mirchandani
    Picador
    Twelve years after his last Nibbie, Picador’s editor-in-chief is back on the shortlists as the editor behind 2020’s Man Booker winner, Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain. Books by Rian Hughes, Patrick Svensson and Emma Donoghue showed the diversity and ambition of his publishing.
  • Camilla Reid
    Nosy Crow
    Nosy Crow’s co-founder and editorial director took the pre-school and novelty list to new heights in 2020. Benji Davies’ Bizzy Bear series was her standout hit, with all the international appeal, longevity and recognisable Nosy Crow feel that has made the business so successful.