Rights Professional of the Year

Introduction

Rights departments have been hit harder than most by the pandemic. With travel impossible, schedules thrown into chaos and many markets nervous about spending, they have had to be more resourceful and tenacious than ever. The en masse nomination of two teams here reflects the excellent collaboration that has been shown too, while all four individuals on this shortlist appear for the first time.

Joint Winner - Rights Professional & Rights Team of the Year

Caroline Clarke & Nosy Crow

Rights Professional of the Year judges were unable to split this year’s two top contenders, so the award is shared between an individual and a team. Caroline Clarke above was instrumental in the superb 2020 performance of Independent Publisher of the Year Canongate. She and her two rights colleagues scored nearly 200 deals—including dozens for the phenomenally popular Matt Haig — and grew revenues by a third. Backlist and audio contracts increased sharply, and she nurtured partnerships in underexploited territories across Asia, the Arab World and Scandinavia.

Like all rights professionals, Clarke had to adapt to a new world of rights trading, digitising processes and finding ways to bolster online pitches. Judges liked her involvement in every aspect of rights, and her work beyond the day job, including support of aspiring publishers and co-creation of Canongate’s Nan Shepherd Prize.

“Caroline stepped up in difficult circumstances and delivered an amazing performance… she goes above and beyond,” said the judges.

The Nosy Crow rights team of Michela Pea (pictured), Erin Murgatroyd, Núria Martí Pampalona and Lucy Dunnet are recognised after another stellar year of international trading. Between them they generated more than half of the publisher’s turnover, increased sales by 50%, and doubled them in Asia. A Covid strategy of focusing on core customers, coedition deals and backlist reaped rewards, though it established several dozen new partnerships too. “Nosy Crow is a rights machine,” said the judges. “It was a real team effort—they were laser-like in their focus and showed that rights is as much about listening to customers as pitching to them.” They also noted that part of this award belongs to Nosy Crow rights manager Ola Gotkowska, who was diagnosed with MND in 2018.

The Shortlist

  • Caroline Clarke
    Canongate
    Canongate’s rights manager helped the publisher to respond nimbly to the challenges of 2020, steering dozens more deals for Matt Haig, stepping up sales in markets including Scandinavia, India and the Arab World and managing sub-agents. Developing video content from authors proved a very good support to Canongate’s virtual Frankfurt Book Fair work, and she calmly managed unglamorous but vital admin like contracts, reports and data. She has also co-founded Canongate’s new literary award for under-represented authors, the Nan Shepherd Prize.
  • Thérèse Coen
    Hardman & Swainson
    Hardman & Swainson’s Thérèse Coen flies the flag for literary agencies on this shortlist. She has single-handedly created its rights department from scratch, deftly handling big deals and auctions across a wide range of genres and proving particularly adept with debuts. As well as selling direct she handles a network of co-agents and scouts, and is active in the agency’s outreach. “Thérèse is one of the most passionate foreign rights professionals in the business, and goes above and beyond for her authors,” said one scout.
  • Cathryn Gregory
    Pan Macmillan
    Cathryn Gregory and her team gave Macmillan Children’s Books its best ever year of coedition business despite all the disruption. Deals in Germany, Italy and Turkey rocketed, and US sales across the Campbell and Two Hoots lists have risen sharply since she took on the market. Gregory has brought fresh rights energy to the backlist, especially Julia Donaldson’s catalogue, and grown non-book rights like audio and performance. A great collaborator, she plays an important role in acquisitions and promotional activity as well.
  • Nosy Crow Rights Team
    Nosy Crow
    Nosy Crow turned ten in 2020, and owes its phenomenal success over the decade to buying world rights in nearly all its content, then squeezing every last drop of sales from them. Its four-strong team—Michela Pea, Erin Murgatroyd, Nuria Marti i Pampalona and Lucy Dunnet—grew translation and coedition sales by half, focusing on its most regular partners and finding new potential in the backlist. Its flexible approach and interactive rights guide went down well with its many partners, among whom it enjoys huge respect.
  • Simon & Schuster Rights Team
    Simon & Schuster
    S&S’ rights team of seven—Stephanie Purcell, Maud Sepult, Amy Fletcher, Nino Tarkhan-Mouravi, Amy Threadgold, Ben Phillips and Filipo Bernardini—had their best ever year, excelling in coeditions, Asia and children’s fiction, where they secured more than £1m of contracts for Annabel Steadman. And it wasn’t just about the big deals: the team pursued lesser exploited rights like serialisation, large print and book club, and sealed translations into minority languages like Welsh and Gaelic. “An absolute joy to work with,” said one partner publisher.
  • Emma Thawley
    Quercus
    Hachette’s deputy rights director and Quercus’ head of rights Emma Thawley led one of the rights sector’s most creative responses to Covid disruption: a digital substitute for The London Book Fair called #lbftoyou. As well as generating sales it provided sociable connections between publishers, authors and others when they were needed, and was typical of her positivity and can-do approach. She is widely admired across Hachette and beyond. “She’s been a rock and an inspiration to all her colleagues,” said one testimonial.