The Bookseller: Rising Stars
In Association with:
What exactly is a Rising Star? That is one of the questions we contemplated as we looked over the entries for our second annual feature on the next generation of movers and shakers within the British book trade.
At some level of course, this list is about young guns; our chance to shine a light on some of the new (and new-ish) talent in the industry.
Yet our single greatest criteria was not age, but those who are shaking up their businesses—the people in the trade who are responding to seismic changes and are building new models, products and ways of working, telling stories and reaching readers. These are the individuals who can help the industry survive—and thrive. We have people with oodles of previous experience who are ringing in the changes—Meryl Halls driving the IndieBound implementation at the BA, or Lisa Edwards and her team’s sharp digital marketing at Scholastic, to name just two.
There are a slew of entries from outside of publishing and bookselling coming into the trade with fresh eyes and ideas, including Bardowl’s Chris Book and Neil Chapman (both came from mobile operator Orange), or TV executive turned book events entrepreneur Richard Kilgarriff.
The trade’s “digital skills gap” was a big concern a few years ago, but seems a hoary, outdated term now. Not only are the digitalists piling into books because they see a future in it, but all of our entries—from commissioning editors to agents to bricks-and-mortar booksellers—are tech-savvy.
Compiled by a Bookseller team led by Tom Tivnan and Felicity Wood. Entries written by Seeta Bhardwa.
Rupert Heath, agent
Beaumont has been working in publishing for the entirety of her career, but has only been an agent for the last 18 months. She started at Hodder and then moved to Transworld as senior commissioning editor, working in fiction and non-fiction. She left in 2006 to have twin boys, and decided to pursue a career as an agent—she now has close to 20 clients on her list. Recent highlights include a two-book deal for Kim Izzo to Hodder (the first of which was The Jane Austen Marriage Manual) and selling The Vagenda—a book based on the popular feminist blog—to Square Peg after a 12-publisher auction.
Career highlight: “Changing career to something I enjoy so much whilst still remaining within the publishing industry—and combining my work with looking after my sons.”
Hot Key Books, sales and marketing manager
Benton is at the fulcrum of Hot Key, the Bonnier-owned imprint which launched with nine titles this year, with a further 40 due in 2013. In addition to sales, her wide remit includes being part of the digital team and ensuring the company is focused on social media and community activity. Her first major role was at Macmillan Children’s, after which she moved to HarperCollins in 2007, a highlight of which was a campaign for Darren Shan’s The Demonata series, which included a large online pre-order marketing blitz and resulted in Shan topping the children’s charts.
Long-term aim: “To stay in children’s publishing and to keep working with great authors. Reading is an integral part of childhood and I hope I can continue to contribute to that.”
Profile Books, digital publishing director
One of publishing’s leading digerati, Bhaskar has been with Profile since early 2010. He is responsible for the publisher’s digital strategy on all its lists and imprints, including Serpent’s Tail and the Clerkenwell Press. Before Profile Bhaskar worked at Pan Macmillan as a digital editor, and began his career at agency Rogers, Coleridge & White. Next for Bhaskar is his book, The Content Machine: A Theory of Publishing for a Digital Age.
Career highlight: “Watching digital grow from a peripheral part of publishing to something at its heart.”
Chris Book/Neil Chapman
Book and Chapman’s is the tale of a friendship. The two met while working at Orange, but remained close after they left for separate tech jobs in 2005. Aptly named, Book’s love of audiobooks led him to create Bardowl, a mobile audio streaming company, and he brought in Chapman to launch the company. The project was four years in the making, with the two enlisting the help of publishing experts—including Random House’s Mark McCallum.
2012 highlight: “The launch of Bardowl in June has been the highlight of this year. It took us a long time to develop the business and get publishers on board.”
Riot Communications, campaigns manager
Beginning her career at Bloomsbury as an editorial assistant to Alexandra Pringle, Brickell moved into publicity, taking an assistant job at Headline, working alongside Georgina Moore. She worked her way through the ranks and was promoted to publicity manager and later took on a digital communications role, joining Headline’s Digital Board. She then joined book PR specialists Riot in September 2011. During her four years at Headline she spearheaded the campaign for Sarah Winman’s When God was a Rabbit (Headline), for which she was shortlisted for Publicity Campaign of the Year at the Bookseller Industry Awards.
Long-term aim: “I hope to work at a director level, overseeing a team and to be an integral part of Riot’s growing reputation as the best arts PR agency in the industry.”
Ed Victor Ltd, agent
Campbell perhaps is Exhibit A of the new breed of “360° agent”. He is a partner in Ed Victor’s Speakers Bureau (which hires out clients for after-dinner talks); is involved in the agency’s publishing imprint, Bedford Square Books; and handles film, TV and serial rights for Ed Victor’s clients. And he does a few things with books, too. He recently sealed a deal with HarperCollins for the remaining titles in Will Hill’s bestselling Department 19 series, and is set to sign a follow-up to Jen Campbell’s Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops (Constable). Campbell was deputy editor of the Literary Review before he began agenting, so it is no surprise that he writes himself, publishing Scapegoat: A History of Blaming Other People (Duckworth) in 2011.
Long-term aim: “To keep doing the same thing really, I’m quite happy to keep pottering on. Oh, and to make more funny books win prizes.”
Scholastic, publishing and commercial director
The children’s sector is increasingly about building brand authors and licenses, and Scholastic’s stonking year was in no small part due to Edwards and her team’s handling of its enviable properties. Yes, having the “Hunger Games” film was helpful, but Scholastic leveraged the tie-in astutely, with author Suzanne Collins worth over £10.1m through BookScan thus far in 2012. Edwards joined Scholastic in 2000 from Hodder and began working on one of Scholastic’s other big brands, Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories. In March 2010 she became publishing and commercial director, as well as being responsible for the digital programme SCB.
Long-term aim: “To develop début authors and work on lots of different types of media.”
A P Watt, literary agent
Elek came to publishing fresh out of academia. After a PhD in Literature, he held a teaching post in the English department at UCL. His heart, however, was set on agenting, but he first took “some good advice” and went into publishing, joining Viking as an assistant editor. He became an agent in 2009, and has built up an impressive stable of around 60 clients. Bestsellers have included Megan Rix’s The Puppy that Came for Christmas (Penguin) and Will and Kate’s Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (S&S). A 2012 highlight has been the release of rapper Mike Skinner’s The Story of The Streets (Transworld).
2012 highlight: “I’ve been lucky enough to see several books I’ve represented go into multiple reprints, which is always a good sign.”
Michael Joseph, cookery publisher
You could argue that Evans is the best cookery publisher in the business, with a list that includes the bestselling cookery writer ever (Jamie Oliver), established celeb chefs (Nigel Slater, Rick Stein) and new superstars (Rachel Khoo). She has even helped make cookery bestsellers out of Gok Wan and Marian Keyes. Evans became the cookery editor at MJ shortly after she joined in 1995, but her career-changing moment came when she edited Oliver’s The Naked Chef. In 2004 she joined Oliver’s own company as the head of editorial, working on his books, magazine articles and product packaging, and returned to MJ in 2007.
Long-term aim: “I want to keep working with the best-loved names in the business to produce commercial cookbooks and to find and nurture new talent.”
Taylor & Francis, e-production controller
After a degree in Computer Games Programming, Flockton worked as a freelance programmer for a year. He joined T&F in September 2010, initially as a temp to work on e-book production. He was promoted to full-time e-production controller in May 2011. This involved redesigning and replacing the internal tools that manage digital workflow and re-organising the e-book archive.
2012 highlight: “I developed the processes, tools and business relationships needed to increase e-books production by 600% over the last eight months. It’s been very satisfying.”
Moving decisively may be a useful trait in the e-book age. It certainly worked for Forrester and her boss Jon Wood earlier this year; the two acquired Vina Jackson’s Fifty Shades-esque Eighty Days trilogy in June and released the first title in mid-July. The title peaked at number eight on BookScan’s overall chart, and has shifted a tidy 76,000 copies in six weeks. Forrester works mainly on Orion’s crime and thriller list, as well as reading-group fiction. She recently secured a major deal for two novels by débutant R S Pateman from Oli Munson at Blake Friedmann.
Long-term aim: “To commission lots of brilliant books, to have bestsellers and to diversify my list at Orion.”
Hodder, digital key account director
Gutcher has worked on both sides of the trade, starting his career with Ottakar’s in 2002 before earning a place on Hachette’s graduate scheme in 2007 and subsequently joining its sales team in 2008. He was promoted to key accounts manager in April 2009 and became digital key account director in July of this year, managing Hodder’s crucial relationships with Amazon, Kindle and Waterstones.com.
2012 highlight: “My recent promotion, as online books are key to our market.”
Booksellers Association, head of membership services
Halls has been at the BA since the late 1980s and spent eight years organising the BA Conference before taking over the membership services brief. She later developed services and initiatives for indies, which has included the establishment of the Independent Booksellers Forum, the launch of Independent Booksellers Week in 2007 and the introduction of IndieBound.
2012 highlight: “Fully integrating IBW into the umbrella IndieBound campaign and increasing bookshops’ participation.”
Cornerstone, publicity manager
In just five years Harvell has gone from publicity assistant to manager at Cornerstone. She handles a range of titles—from fiction authors such as Katie Fforde and Ben Kane to Ripley’s Believe it or Not. In the future she hopes to continue working on diverse titles for Cornerstone, and to hone her PR skills to match this ever-changing digital landscape.
Career highlight: “Winning a PPC award in 2009 for my work on Christopher Stocks’ Forgotten Fruits and working with big authors.”
Harvill Secker, senior crime editor
Having cut her teeth at Random House as an editor, digital media executive and a part of the Vintage paperback crew that oversaw crime authors such as Arnaldur Indridason, Susan Hill and Jason Webster, Hennessey was also pivotal to the team which made Jo Nesbø a superstar. She was promoted to senior crime editor in January with a remit to essentially find the next Nesbø by commissioning and publishing crime novels in translation, as well as finding homegrown talent.
2012 highlight: “I’ve been working on an exciting new project involving many of our crime authors which launches in October. I’m afraid it’s a secret until then . . .”
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, m.d.
Bloomsbury chose wisely in 2011 by selecting Hopkin to fill the boots of previous boss Sarah Odedina. Before Bloomsbury she was m.d. at Macmillan Children’s, where she worked with the likes of Julia Donaldson and Rod Campbell. It has been a busy time at Bloomsbury since Hopkin has taken over, with a major hit from the Pirates! series tying in with the Aardman film and the launch of an activity books list, beginning this autumn. A huge acquisition was Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass, a wildly hyped YA trilogy.
Career highlight: “Producing a picture version of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.”
Penguin, director for new businesses and IP acquisitions
Huang may just be the most travelled of our Rising Stars, with a career that has seen him work on three continents. The Californian “fell into publishing” after studying paleontology at Berkeley, joining Walt Disney Publishing in Los Angeles, eventually becoming global product development manager. He then joined Penguin Australia, before moving to toy company Funtastic. Next he moved to Parragon in the UK, before switching to Penguin.
Career highlight: “It would have to be my current job. I am working towards redefining what a book is, and the role of a publisher.”
Octavia’s Bookshop, owner
It’s a brave bookseller to admit to only reading about one adult book a year; Karavla is excused as she spends the bulk of her time devouring children’s books in order to recommend them to customers. Ex-Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s bookseller Karavla opened the doors to her children’s specialist shop (which also stocks a selection of adult titles) in Cirencester, Gloucestershire in March 2011. It has certainly been a good 18 months, with Karavla being shortlisted at the Bookseller Industry Awards for Children’s Independent Bookshop of the Year.
Career highlight: “Book signings from great authors like Robert Muchamore and Jilly Cooper and our continuously expanding book groups.”
Voewood Festival, arts consultant and co-director
Keogh has worked in almost every part of the arts sector. He started at Bloomsbury as a publishing intern in 2004 and moved to Faber in 2008, where he set up the Faber Academy, the publisher’s writing programme which has helped develop authors such as S J Watson and Rachel Joyce. He left Faber for the Guardian group in 2010, where he launched the Guardian Masterclasses. This year he helped parenting website Mumsnet launch Mumsnet Academy. In 2011, along with agent Clare Conville, he founded the Voewood Festival, the “arts garden party” in the eponymous Norfolk stately home.
Career highlight: “Launching the Faber Academy. It was great to be able to help find new talent and to help people achieve their dream.”
Books for Breakfast and Bookomi, founder
An English literature graduate, Kilgarriff worked at Boomerang, TCM and the Cartoon Network before joining Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s arts venue The Hospital Club. Whilst working there he met authors such as David Eagleman and David Nicholls, and was inspired to launch Books for Breakfast, a company that produces book-related events. He recently founded Bookomi, a digital platform for people to connect with authors, and is working with clients including Foyles, Penguin, Hodder and Random House.
Career highlight: “Driving a golden caravan down the Croisette at Cannes Film Festival, showing shorts films out of the back was fun.”
Furniss Lawton, senior literary agent
Getting your name above the door after less than a decade in the business is no mean feat for an agent. Lawton joined her former William Morris colleague Eugenie Furniss earlier this year to create Furniss Lawton, a new agency backed by the sprawling James Grant sport, media and culture management group. Lawton first worked with Furniss at WME when she started as an agent 10 years ago, before moving to PFD where her clients included Jessica Fellowes and Alex Scarrow. A recent highlight has been Emylia Hall’s début A Book of Summers (Headline), which readers voted their “favourite summer read” on the Richard & Judy/W H Smith 2012 Book Club.
2012 highlight: “Setting up Furniss Lawton.”
The Reading Agency, programme director at Reading Partners
As part of literacy charity The Reading Agency, Mahal is inspiring Britain to read. Community and literacy has been integral to Mahal’s career, which started as a mobile library assistant at Sandwell in the West Midlands, where she directed, developed and managed a diverse range of library outreach services. In 2006 she won CILIP’s Young Librarian of the Future award, which led to her being snapped up by The Reading Agency with a remit to develop the charity’s connections with ethnic minority readers. Since 2009 she has led Reading Partners, the alliance which builds relationships between publishers and libraries.
2012 highlight: “Reaching new audiences and to enriching reading experiences—especially through digital innovation.”
Picador, editorial director
In her 10 years in the business at Hamish Hamilton and Simon & Schuster, Main had developed an eye for spotting new writers, including Mark Watson, Orange-shortlisted Monique Roffey and Desmond Elliott winner Edward Hogan. This was one of the main reasons she was poached by Picador in 2011, where she made an immediate impact by signing début author Emma Chapman.
2012 highlight: “Winning a 12-publisher auction for UK and Commonwealth rights to Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach, which will be one of the biggest début launches of 2013.”
Sceptre, editorial director
Moir is responsible for acquiring one of 2012’s most anticipated débuts, Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds, which was the first book he bought after moving to Sceptre in 2011. In his previous role at Heinemann, Moir worked with authors such as Heather Brooke, V S Ramachandran and Kevin Dutton, and published Random House’s first straight-to-digital title—an “instant e-book exclusive” on the death of Osama bin Laden, released just eight days after the al-Qaeda leader was killed. Moir has also compiled a potential Christmas 2012 hit: Just My Typo, a compendium of typos.
Career highlight: “Publishing The Yellow Birds . . . there has been an unbelievable amount of excitement.”
PFD, literary agent
Mushens started her career in fiction marketing at HarperCollins in 2008, but left to join PFD as an assistant and was made an agent in February 2011. In just a year and a half she has racked up a number of deals, including Hodder pre-empting a tie-in to the BBC’s “Pointless” game show, and having The Yeo Valley cookbook bought by Quadrille after a four-way auction. Another highlight was selling Dr Steve Peters’ The Chimp Paradox to Vermilion.
Career highlight: “Seeing any book that I come up with ideas for being sold to a publisher, or selling a début fiction writer.”
Faber, digital production manager
Publishing’s digital skills gap has been a worry for a few years, yet Noble represents the next generation of tech-savvy young guns who are piling into the industry. Noble’s first job was in production at Leagalease, a legal publishing firm. Yet, it was a Society of Young Publishers conference that convinced him to go into trade publishing. Noble started at app developer start-up Enhanced Editions—who produced an app of Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro (Canongate). In 2011, Noble moved to Faber, where his role includes developing enhanced e-books, creating a bridge between developers and publishers and working with XML for projects like Drama Online.
Long-term aim: “To get to grips with some of the essential challenges facing the industry.”
Quick Reads, project director
The head of Quick Reads, the adult literacy charity, perhaps needs two main skill sets: knowing what people want to read, and being able to communicate effectively with publishers. Rentzenbrink is perhaps the Quick Reads director from central casting. She spent 10 years at the Waterstones coalface, eventually becoming the manager of the Richmond branch, before moving to head office as publisher liaison manager.
Career highlight: “Working with [Chair of Quick Reads] Gail Rebuck is fantastic. Also working on behalf of the industry to make lives better through reading is great. Earlier this year I visited Pentonville Prison with Andy McNab, and hearing him speak about how lives can be changed through reading was really inspiring.”
bookouture, founder and publisher
Harlequin Mills & Boon has one of the sharpest digital teams around, and Rhodes was just one of the people that has made it happen. He worked at HMB for 10 years, starting as an assistant product manager, and later working on the MIRA list in 2005, where he was part of the team that rapidly grew sales and profitability. He became marketing controller in 2008, introducing Mills & Boon’s social media strategy, and played a key role in the company’s centenary campaign. He is now taking those skills to bookouture, a digital publishing company that will publish commercial women’s fiction.
Long-term aim: “Creating a successful business model with bookoutre that adds value to authors. To continue to learn, innovate and push boundaries.”
Fourth Estate, editor
Getting a Man Booker-longlisted title in just your fourth year as an editor is good going: Richards achieved it this year with Sam Thompson’s début Communion Town. Finding prize-winners might become old hat to Richards: the first novel he published was Anjali Joseph’s Saraswati Park, which won the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Betty Trask Award. Richards has also brought energy and flair to the Fourth Estate list, publishing the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, and one of his books to watch in 2013 is Sam Byers’ much-anticipated début Idiopathy.
Career highlight: “In my first week of being an editorial assistant we were sent Netherland by Joseph O’Neill. It was entirely under the radar but it was an incredible success for us.”
Foyles, head of marketing
After graduating from the University of Virginia, Robinson moved to Paris to work at Shakespeare & Co. However, London soon beckoned and she joined another famous book shop, Foyles, as a bookseller in its fiction department. Volunteering at author events led to Robinson running the events programme, she was soon made local marketing manager and then promoted to head of marketing in spring 2011. Currently working on the move of Foyles’ flagship store, Robinson’s aim is to one day apply all she has learnt at Foyles to a social enterprise of her own.
Career highlight: “The [Bookseller Industry Award] wins were wonderful, but opening the doors to our Bristol shop to a queue of eager customers was very emotional.”
HarperCollins, director of pricing and analytics
It is safe to say that “director of pricing and analytics” is not a job title you would have seen at, say, Faber & Faber of the 1950s. Yet so important to HC is Sasot—he essentially works alongside editorial, sales and marketing teams to develop pricing strategies for physical and digital books—that c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley has called him a “secret weapon”. An engineer by training (he is assuredly the only person in publishing to work at the European Space Agency), he has an MBA from INSEAD and worked at American Express in revenue management before joining HarperCollins.
Career highlight: “I believe in making every day a highlight, even more in the currently dramatically changing publishing environment.”
Curtis Brown, literary agent
Sutton’s first job in publishing was as the assistant to two agents, for film and books, at ICM. When the film agent left, Sutton took over, though her heart lay in books. When ICM moved to Curtis Brown she became a literary agent, and now her list boasts a number of brand and début authors including Naomi Klein, Nicholas Shaxson and Patricia Cornwell. She oversaw Haruki Murakami’s publicity campaign for IQ84 and says she loved helping turn a cult writer into a widely recognised one.
Long-term aim: “I want to continue to work in literary lists and to keep discovering new authors. I want to expand my list and to keep it balanced between début and heavyweight authors, fiction and non-fiction.”
Watermark, buyer and manager
Following Taylor’s successful revamping of the Islington branch of Waterstones, she was headhunted by Australasian retail giant LS Travel to open its first Watermark bookshop in the UK, and to head up the brand’s British development. The first shop opened in Kings Cross station earlier this year, and the company hopes to open 35 more shops across Britain. Taylor seems the perfect fit for the job—she started working part-time at the Heathrow branch of Hatchards in 1998, before moving on to Waterstones Richmond. She was seconded in a few other London branches before settling in Islington.
Career highlight: “Being headhunted by LS Travel, as it gives me the opportunity to keep trying different things. It’s an exciting challenge and I’m enjoying developing the brand.”
And Other Stories, founder and m.d.
Tobler has had a varied career. While working in Dresden as a translator, he became interested in publishing. After his return to the UK, he completed his MA and PhD in translation and contemporary Brazilian literature, and it was during this time that his frustration at the selection criteria of big publishers led to him setting up And Other Stories, with funding from the Arts Council, in 2010. In just two years, the company has seen Juan Pablo Villalobo’s Down the Rabbit Hole appear on the 2011 Guardian First Book Award shortlist and Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize.
Long-term aim: “I hope that And Other Stories will continue to publish quality literary fiction and grow to be just the right size.”
Waitrose, book buyer
After graduating from Royal Holloway in 2002 Wright entered the world of retail, where she has remained ever since. After short stints at Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, Wright worked at Woolworths for two years, then moved on to Alliance Pharmaceuticals as a space planner. Joining Waitrose in 2006 as a buyer, Wright is a key part of the retailer’s increasingly competitive books offer—focusing the chain’s range to respond to customers’ wishes and keeping abreast of other supermarkets’ offerings.
Long-term aim: “Waitrose has been through lots of changes in the past few years and we have seen customers shift from magazines towards books; it has been great to be a part of that and hopefully we can carry on getting people reading.”