The Bookseller Rising Stars 2015

The Bookseller Rising Stars 2015

Thirty-nine Rising Stars complete this year’s list of the publishing industry’s movers and shakers, and many have caught the eye by going above and beyond the call of duty—and then some

If there is one constant that unites The Bookseller Rising Stars class of 2015—the fifth time we have released our annual list of the up-and-comers and leaders of the future in the book trade—it is that they go above and beyond the call of duty.  

As we explore further in our lead story, the Rising Stars are, as they say in Hollywood, double or even triple threats. Yes, they excel at their main jobs, but they add extra strings to their bows, strive to constantly improve their skill sets and embark on ambitious projects, often on their own.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson Fiction’s Sophie Buchan, for example, combines top-notch commissioning with social media outreach. Scribe UK’s Sarah Braybrooke deals with all the day-to-day tasks that come with working for a new imprint, plus she is launching a metadata project with a colleague and starting a scheme to help indie publishers to communicate better. Kyle Books’ Anna Cunnane has taken a huge step up as the illustrated publisher’s export sales manager, runs a little thing called the Society of Young Publishers on the side and will soon be learning to code. All in a day’s work. 

Buchan, Braybrooke and Cunnane are not notable exceptions; to a woman and man all of our Rising Stars display a wide range of talents. Is this becoming more common in today’s changing book-trade workplace?

“Publishers have always demanded people with broad skill sets; but the various skill sets required are constantly evolving”, says Suzy Astbury, managing director of publishing recruitment specialist Inspired Selection, sponsor of the Rising Stars 2015. “The Rising Stars are helping to transition traditional publishing by going above and beyond their job roles and making the impossible seem possible with their natural drive and passion for new and exciting ventures.”

One person who exemplifies this dynamism is rights professional turned agent Valeria Huerta, our second annual Shooting Star, the person on the list who we feel deserves an extra special commendation. 

For the second year in a row, the Rising Stars are also backed by the Frankfurt Book Fair. Last year FBF’s investment was in the Rising Stars professional development, by way of sending a number of the 2014 list to its book fair. This year, it is significantly ramping up investment including the Shooting Star award. FBF will fund the Shooting Star’s trip to FBF 2015, as well as putting €500 towards an international business trip to help them expand their overseas dealings. It will provide a weekly pass to The Business Club at FBF (worth €990) and arrange a one-on-one consultation with an expert of their choice. The Shooting Star will also receive invitations to receptions, get-togethers and networking opportunities at the fair and throughout the year, as well as a host of other exclusive benefits.

Thomas Minkus, FBF vice-president of emerging media and English-language markets, says: “We believe it is very important to be nurturing young talent and to be encouraging as many publishing professionals as we can in their chosen careers. We very much look forward to welcoming Valeria Huerta to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October."



The Shooting Star: Valeria Huerta
Capel & Land - Rights manager, agent

Valeria Huerta has been in UK publishing for just two and a half years, but has had a seismic effect on the companies she has worked for. Quickly establishing herself in the rights departments of Faber and then Hodder/Headline, she made dramatic contributions to the companies’ finances. She thus becomes the 2015 Shooting Star, the second time The Bookseller has awarded the accolade to a member of the Rising Stars who deserves extra commendation.       

But don’t take our word for it, take those of her colleagues. John Murray editorial director Mark Richards says: “She is the kind of rights person who thinks like an editor—whose passion for the books and reading comes first and leads the deals she makes. It is, I think, this quality that makes her both so successful and so well liked by those she sells to.”

John Murray Press m.d. Nick Davies says Huerta “made a real difference to our bottom line and an impact on JM’s new publishing programme”. He adds: “She is a charming negotiator with a real flair for business, and is incredibly well-connected and respected.”

At Faber, those deals included selling Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard around the world. Hodder standouts include selling Andrew Michael Hurley’s literary début The Loney into five territories, securing multiple deals for Matthew Syed’s Black Box Thinking and getting Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Diaries (not a book that would necessarily travel well) into more than 
10 countries. 

Huerta’s success in rights may be due to her cosmopolitan upbringing: her parents are Bolivian and Argentinean, she grew up in Italy and speaks five languages. She decided to go into publishing while attending university in Bologna after being “seduced” by the buzz around the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Her first role was at Italian independent Fazi Editore, of which she says: “It was very exciting; that’s where I got my passion for the hunt of the rights deal.”

Huerta is moving to Capel & Land—her first day is 8th June—to handle the agency’s rights and create a list of authors of her own.  

Her background, she hopes, will continue to hold her in good stead in the new phase of her career: “Publishing is becoming more global and I think I 
can bring an understanding of many cultures.”  

The year ahead: “Part of the focus will be building my own list of authors. What I missed from being solely in rights was working closely with authors, and I am looking for people I can help develop.” 



Jay Ali
HarperCollins - Technology operations co-ordinator

An army travels on its stomach, a publisher on its tech department. This year HarperCollins literally travelled, shifting its head office to the “Baby Shard” at London Bridge. Ali was one of the key players that ensured the move went without technological hiccups—a massive logistical enterprise that took months of planning. “It’s certainly one of my career highlights,” Ali says. “To put so much hard work into something and to see it come off—it’s very pleasing.” 

Ali joined HC in 2010, just two days after finishing his exams at the University of West of Scotland, after impressing in work placement stints at the publisher’s Glasgow office. During his career at its London HQ he has taken on large-scale projects, such as spearheading and implementing the company-wide move to Office365 software. In the coming year Ali will juggle several projects designed to improve workflows. Ali says: “I guess that drives me overall: I like looking at new technology to see how we can make it work for us, to make us more efficient and move the business forward.”      

They say: “Jay is a fantastic asset: an expert in his field, responsive, conscientious and calm under pressure.” – Laura Meyer, HC chief information officer

Naomi Bacon 
Pan Macmillan - Digital communications manager

After joining two years ago from digital PR agency Think Jam, Bacon has become a key force in Pan Mac’s digital comms team. She has amplified multiple campaigns with integrated digital elements and niche partnerships: joining with Gumtree to launch a Missing Imaginary Friend campaign for Moone Boy: The Blunder Years; working with agency Ralph to create an interactive fortune-teller using Instagram video; and forming a partnership with Oxo Tower for Alice in Wonderland-inspired afternoon teas.

Bacon has also built relationships with lifestyle and fashion brands, creating six-month content strategies that enable them to cross-promote without competing—the combined reach of these partnerships is close to four million unique monthly visits. She is excited about becoming the line manager for Pan Mac’s new creative producer and having a “digital strategy that is completely different . . . we want to see content from the audience’s perspective and build communities.”

They say: “Naomi is a dream to work with, pitching innovative ideas for content with a solid understanding of what works from a digital publishing and brand perspective.” – Karla Evans, digital editor, Topshop

Chris Baker
Four Colman Getty - Account director

Baker, who has been at Four Colman Getty since 2008, was the driving force behind the PPC award-winning PR campaign for Foyles’ move to 107 Charing Cross Road in 2014, and one of those who helped run The Bookseller’s industry-wide #FutureFoyles workshop the previous year. 

Spearheading one of the most talked-about industry events in years isn’t the only thing he has been up to, however. In his time at the PR powerhouse he also launched National Poetry Day’s successful Twitter account in 2009; delivered World Book Day’s first publisher-backed digital initiative for young people, Digi-tale, in 2011; and in the same year he was part of the core team that launched Unbound, the UK’s first crowd-funding publisher. As Baker says: “I’d like to think that our PR campaign for Foyles 107 Charing Cross Road recaptured some of the spirit of William Foyle—the ‘Barnum of Books’—and his grand vision for a ‘people’s bookshop’.”

They say: “Chris is a huge asset. His expertise in all things digital, combined with his passion for the visual arts, gives him a fresh perspective which leads to knockout results for his projects and for our clients.” – Dotti Irving, Four Colman Getty c.e.o.

Nick Barreto
Canelo - Co-founder/technology director

Rising Stars stick together. At least they do at Canelo, the digital publisher Barreto co-founded with Michael Bhaskar and Iain Millar (Rising Stars in 2012 and ‘11, respectively). In many ways, Canelo’s ambitious plans—it hopes to release between 100-150 e-books this year—will be on the shoulders of the Rio de Janeiro native. Barreto’s ability to code and edit e-books (“he can get inside them, change them and build them like no one in the industry,” says Bhaskar) is crucial to the start-up.  

Barreto cut his teeth at Snowbooks and Onix Central and then worked at Bloomsbury and Quercus. He is enjoying being able to set up Canelo from scratch: “The freedom that comes from being new means that I’m able to create workflows geared towards making amazing digital products.”
He promises innovation: “We’ll expand and be a digital publisher in the wider sense, producing digital products on the web as well as mobile apps.” 

Long-term goal: “Until recently I would have said setting up my own digital publisher! I would love to create and manage a close-knit team of developers, editors and authors. This isn’t something we’ve seen before; I think it has a lot of potential.”

Tom Bonnick
Nosy Crow - Business development manager 

Want to get into publishing? You could do it the Tom Bonnick Way™: become an intern while at university, then more or less refuse to leave. That was Bonnick’s 2011 entrée, loosely speaking, to the only publisher he has worked for. But it is to Nosy Crow’s good fortune that the work experience kid was so tenacious—he quickly proved his worth, moving from an assistant to project-managing a good chunk of the business’ signature apps. 

Last September he was promoted to his current role which includes expanded digital responsibilities, organising “real world” events and building the Nosy Crow brand with commercial partnerships. 

“The events and partnerships are really intriguing,” he says. “It’s about looking at ways to expand your audience outside the usual channels.”
A busy 2015 will see the launch of a direct-to-consumer e-commerce channel, a new tranche of apps and digital projects, and “lots of interesting events”.  
Career highlight: “I am really proud of our fairytale apps and how we took them to market. We have brilliant content, as well as excellent developers, to start with. Particularly when we first released them, I think we were able to show that you can make beautiful, innovative apps work commercially."

Sarah Braybrooke
Scribe UK - Publicity and operations manager

On the publicity side alone, Braybrooke has Rising Star chops. Her clever campaigns have amassed an amazing amount of coverage and astounding media hit-rate for titles such as Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land and those in the Best of Britain’s Political Cartoons series—incredibly impressive, given that this is only Scribe UK’s second full-blown year of publishing.  

But publicity is just part of Braybrooke’s role. Scribe is the British outpost of the well-respected Melbourne-based indie, and as the UK lead actor she is involved in all parts of the publishing process: marketing, author care, liaising with the Faber Factory Plus sales and distribution team—and she and colleague Molly Slight have embarked on an ambitious project to overhaul Scribe’s metadata.

“It was very challenging starting essentially from scratch, with a home office 10,000 miles away—especially in the first year,” Braybrooke says. “But I feel like I’m in my dream job. Going forward, I want to continue to learn, and just get better and better.” 

The year ahead: “Particularly since [editor at large] Philip Gwyn Jones joined, we have really started to commission home-grown British talent. I’m really excited to work on those books.”

Karen Brodie
The Reading Agency - Head of publisher relations 

The Reading Agency—with its mission of getting more people reading—is unequivocally a force for good, both because its intentions are noble and because it delivers results. This doesn’t happen by accident: behind the scenes a lot of hard work is done by its top team—including Brodie, who acts the lynchpin between publishers and library partners.      

Brodie has been in situ for seven months, after a spell in arts management and working for the British Council’s literary arm, which saw her project manage Turkey’s Market Focus at the 2013 London Book Fair. She has hit the ground running, forging new relationships (including a new partnership with DK). The job is “rewarding but challenging,” Brodie says. “We all want to promote literacy. But the challenge is that our partners—such as libraries and publishers—often have slightly different agendas and operate in different landscapes. Finding common ground is key.”

The year ahead: “I’m going to focus on continuing to work on ways of building relationships between libraries and publishers, and hopefully finding new ways to engage the 33% of the UK population that doesn’t read for pleasure.”

Juliet Brooke
Chatto & Windus - Senior editor

Brooke is one of best commissioning editors in the business, with bestsellers and up-and-coming authors across fiction and non-fiction. Recent standouts include Xiaolu Guo’s I am China (Baileys longlisted; Guo was named in Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists list too) and Sandra Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star.  

But the monumental Hogarth Shakespeare project has really caught the eye. Devised with Hogarth deputy publisher Becky Hardie, the series sees superstar authors pen prose versions of the Bard’s plays—launching with Jeanette Winterson retelling “The Winter’s Tale”, while Edward St Aubyn will take on “King Lear”. Even before publication the list is a success—rights have been sold into 14 languages and 20 territories. There are a number of promotional tie-ins and a link-up with the Royal Shakespeare Company, with “interesting plans for digital and audio”. The project will keep Brooke busy; she is scheduled to commission and edit the series until “at least” 2020.
Career highlight: “The Hogarth Shakespeare has been amazing for its global scale and working with amazing authors. But I’m really proud of the central premise that we’re trying to show that Shakespeare is for everybody, not just the literary world.”

Jenny Broom 
Wide Eyed Editions - Editorial director

After earning her stripes at packaging company Brown Wells & Jacobs and Jolly Learning, Broom moved to Templar Publishing to take on the role of senior editor at Big Picture Press after the imprint was launched to high acclaim in 2013. 

A graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art, Broom has authored many critically and commercially successful titles, including Walk this World and Animalium, which was nominated for the National Book Award, the Blue Peter Book Award and was chosen as the Times‘ children’s book of the year. In 2014 she followed former Big Picture Press publisher Rachel Williams (herself a Rising Star last year) to Quarto to build the Wide Eyed Editions list.

Wide Eyed has garnered a very positive response—internationally all books on its list have sold in more than six languages—and Broom says, “it was a leap of faith from Quarto. It has put a lot of trust in us, so we just want to make the best visually exciting and informative non-fiction books we can.”

The year ahead: “I can’t wait for the publication of Wonder Garden [September]. I wrote the text alongside Kristjana S Williams’ illustrations—it is a tour around five different habitats—which I am so proud of. The long-term goal is the launch of Wide Eyed in the US this autumn. We want to break the market in a serious way."


Sophie Buchan
Weidenfeld & Nicolson - Commissioning editor

Buchan is the very model of a modern-day editor. Yes, there is the day-to-day commissioning at which she excels (recent highlights include Michéle Forbes’ Ghost Moth and the just released The Letters of Ivor Punch by Colin MacIntyre), but part of her remit includes taking the lead on digital initiatives. For example, Buchan commissioned W&N’s first digital exclusive publication, Anna North’s The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, and she is also heavily involved in the publisher’s social media communities.    

As a multilinguist and modern languages graduate—before her career in publishing, Buchan worked for French TV—a particular focus of hers has been fiction in translation, with one of her big hits this year the “Deutschicrime” thriller, Bernard Aichner’s Woman of the Dead. 

Plus, she also edits some of W&N’s big-name, world-class authors, including Bernhard Schlink, Boris Akunin, Walter Mosley and Jostein Gaarder.  

Career highlight: “Publishing Michéle Forbes’ Ghost Moth: it did well critically, but we also experimented with repackaging and different formats and helped it to get the audience it deserved.”

George Burgess
Gojimo - Founder and c.e.o.

Burgess is one of those whizkid go-getters who makes one despair of a wasted youth. At 15, Burgess’ eBay shop was earning more than £40,000 a year, and in the intervening eight years he has helped found three different companies.   
One of those, Gojimo, he launched while he was doing his A-levels when he became frustrated by the dearth of quality education apps. So with a freelance coder he began designing his own revision app, and continued to develop the idea when he attended Stanford University. He dropped out of Stanford to return to the UK and focus on Gojimo when the start-up was awarded $1m in seed money from investors.

At launch, the app contained free mock exam papers for the UK and US curriculums, with in-app purchases of content available from Oxford University Press in the UK and McGraw-Hill in the US. Gojimo recently launched in South Africa.

Long-term goal: “Our mission is to become the world’s most recognisable exam preparation brand, bringing high-quality exam preparation resources to students wherever and whenever they need them.”


Cindy Chan
Pan Macmillan - Commissioning editor, non-fiction

Chan, who worked for Ebury’s Vermilion and Rider imprints for four years, began her Pan Macmillan career in 2010, covering maternity leave (twice) before scoring a permanent position as commissioning editor for non-fiction.
Focusing on self-help, business, health and cookery, Chan’s successes in the past 12 months include The Mindfulness Colouring Book. Self-help is an old genre, says Chan, but the recent crossover between the scientific and the spiritual has been exciting, and the colouring book trend has been a “joy to watch”.

“I love this ‘new’, sophisticated approach to self-help that blends insights from pop culture, literature and science,” says Chan.

In the longer term, she wants to carry on commissioning, she says—“I really love working with books and being hands-on”—and hopes to head her own list one day.

They say: “Cindy is a huge talent and one of the most discerning editors I have ever worked with. I am very proud to have her at the centre of our 
non-fiction editorial team.” – Robin Harvie, non-fiction publisher, Pan Macmillan

Anna Cunnane
Kyle Books/Society of Young Publishers - Export sales manager/chair

It has been a meteoric rise for Cunnane. Less than two years after finishing a Publishing MA at University College London and joining Kyle Books as an assistant, she was promoted to export sales manager, a crucial role at an illustrated publisher. Kyle has some established customers across the globe, but Cunnane has ambitions for more. “If there is one thing I want to do this year, it is to grow our customer base,” she says. “I want to help cement our position in some markets and build the number of territories we sell into.” 
Cunnane became chair of the Society of Young Publishers at the beginning of 2015 and under her leadership SYP has been dynamic and energetic. She helped re-start its mentoring scheme, added new string of events and re-engergised the London Book Fair seminar strand.   
Career highlight: “My promotion this year. I suppose it is typical of a progression in a smaller publisher, in that you can move up faster because you are able to get involved in more aspects of the business than at a bigger publisher. But [the new role] lets me stretch and challenge myself. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Abigail Fenton
HarperCollins - Audio editor, digital

Audio is having something of a moment and Fenton is one of the vanguard driving its revolution. Things were different when she arrived at HC in 2011 from the University of York, joining its e-book and audio team; the publisher was producing 60 to 80 audiobooks per year. “Now it’s about 400,” Fenton says, “pretty much every narrative title that [HC] publishes.”

The team is small, so Fenton—working alongside director of audio Jo Forshaw—has a wide remit. She drives strategy, acquires rights, liaises with authors and actors, and markets HC content with podcasts and a social media presence. 
“Audio is still a small market,” Fenton cautions. “People say they love radio and love podcasts, but don’t listen to audiobooks. That’s our market! I want to rebrand audio to show how great it is.”  

Long-term goal: “The great thing about audio is that it is the book and much more. I love reading; I think that’s why all of us got into publishing. But I think we have to realise that we aren’t, and we can’t be, just book publishers anymore. That’s what I would like to do: explore new ways to tell stories.”

Joe Haddow
BBC Radio 2 - Producer, The Radio 2 Book Club

After working at Radio 2 with the likes of Chris Evans and Steve Wright for almost a decade, in 2012 Haddow moved to Simon Mayo’s drive-time show and took on responsibility for The Radio 2 Book Club. He has run it, and more importantly grown it, by bringing The Reading Agency on board to widen the show’s reach, including putting promotional stickers on books, for example. Under his stewardship Haddow has turned the slot into one of the most important promotional opportunities for breaking a book.

The past year has seen Haddow create The Radio 2 Book Club Day, 24 hours dedicated to books on air which saw Mayo speak to show listeners live from the Cheltenham Literature Festival, alongside David Nicholls, Charlie Higson, Rachel Joyce and Michael Rosen.

The year ahead: “This autumn will see the launch of a non-fiction book club on Claudia Winkleman’s weekly BBC Radio 2  ‘Arts Show’. We wanted to serve another audience and really have a place for narrative non-fiction on the show, and just talk about as many different types of books as possible.”

Stephanie Hall
HarperCollins - Resourcing manager

Most publishers are talking the talk about diversity in the workforce, but Hall is helping HarperCollins to walk the walk. 

The HR dynamo cut her teeth working for recruitment company Atwood Tate and has hit the ground running since joining HC at the beginning of the year—particularly in her revamping of the recruitment processes in the company’s graduate scheme.

She says: “The changes [to the grad scheme] were made because we need to cast a wider net to diversify, and not just with race but class too. I’m passionate about it. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but there is a solid commercial case: if we want to reach the widest possible audiences, we need a diverse workplace.”     

Long-term goal: “Making HarperCollins the place to work, not just by attracting the best ‘typical’ publishing people—which I hope we continue to do—but by positioning ourselves so creatives from sectors such as gaming and film think of [HC] as a place they would love to come and work.”


John Hammersley
Overleaf - Co-founder, c.e.o.

Hammersley is undoubtedly the only person in the wider UK scientific publishing space who co-designed the world’s first driverless taxi system. It was through working on that project—the taxi pods are now in use at Heathrow Terminal 5—with his business partner John Lees-Miller that Overleaf was born. The two academics—Hammersley has a PhD from Durham in theoretical and mathematical physics—became frustrated with the difficulties of collaborating online, and decided to fix the problem.     

Overleaf is an online collaborative writing and publishing tool that makes the process of writing, editing and publishing scientific documents quicker and easier. Overleaf could broadly be described as a souped-up Google Docs for researchers, but developed for the more demanding needs of scientific researchers, institutions and publishers. In under two years, the platform has already garnered 200,000 users worldwide, linked up with scores of publishers and has been backed by Digital Science, Macmillan’s digital investment arm.  
The year ahead: “We have exciting product developments in the pipeline, and we’re also going to make a stronger push with institutions and focus on integration with libraries.”


Felice Howden
Little, Brown - Digital marketing manager

Two years ago Howden was promoted to her current role at Little, Brown with specific responsibility for its Orbit list, and a broader remit for digital marketing—since then she has worked on two huge Orbit campaigns, for M R Carey‘s The Girl with All the Gifts and Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. The former was a genre novel turned mass-market bestseller (200,000 copies sold in all editions) and Howden’s marketing campaign, which won Best Campaign at the Books Marketing Society Awards, even saw her directing personalised trailers for fans such as Joss Whedon, who retweeted it to his millions of Twitter followers. Howden helped Harry August become a bestseller too, as well as acting as a “webmaster” for L,B’s websites and the Robert Galbraith and The Casual Vacancy Facebook pages.

They say: “Felice is one of the most talented, imaginative and dedicated young marketers in the industry” – Charlie King, group marketing, publicity and creative director of Little, Brown


Anna Jean Hughes 
The Pigeonhole - Editorial director

With stints at Conville & Walsh, Random House and PFD, Hughes has spent 10 years working in various roles in the publishing industry, but it is for her latest that she earns her place on this list: co-founder and editorial director at The Pigeonhole, a new digital serial publishing platform that aims to create communities around the experience of shared reading. Launched last October, a mere 18 months later it has released projects such as Deadlines, a crime thriller by Chris Brosnahan; a collaboration with And Other Stories on Angela Readman’s Don’t Try This at Home; and an anthology of retold fairytales called Fable, each published in 10 serialised sections. 

The year ahead: “We want to reinvent the reading experience by offering extras such as author interviews, photo galleries and soundtracks, to communicate with readers and encourage social reading in a new way. Everything that has happened so far has been so exciting, and the educational aspect of social reading is really something we want to tap into next.”


Humfrey Hunter
Silvertail Books - Publisher/agent

As an agent who has represented the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Calum Best, Hunter is a “reliable and slightly maverick guy who comes up with the goods”, according to Simon & Schuster non-fiction publishing director Iain Macgregor.
Hunter has taken that maverick spirit to Silvertail, the start-up, low-overhead independent publisher he founded two years ago. Early results are positive, led by John Sweeney’s novel Elephant Moon, which has sold around 120,000 units in digital and print formats. Releases slated for 2015 include a novel from renowned humanitarian Terry Waite, and a reissue of Derek Malcolm’s Cold War spy classic A Dandy in Aspic.   

The year ahead: “I will be doing what I’m doing now, but on a larger scale. I started Silvertail because I believed a publisher with fixed costs nailed to the floor that pays high royalties to authors could become extremely profitable in the new publishing landscape, if it published the right books in the right way. I hope to spend the next few years proving I was right!”

Lizzi Jones
Hodder & Stoughton - Online and digital accounts manager

Jones, formerly an editorial office manager for the Nature Publishing Group, moved to Hodder & Stoughton in 2010, and she reckons she was “lucky to move into digital just as it was really beginning to boom”. 

But it is skill and hard work that have led Jones to her current role, where her achievements include delivering sales growth and helping staffers within the company to engage more with digital.

A stint working on mass-market partners was followed by a move to online and digital, where she manages accounts for Amazon and Apple, among others. 
Attracted to the speed and pace at which her role changes, Jones loves “the immediacy with which we can connect with readers, helping them uncover not just our frontlist but our long-forgotten backlist gems too”.

Long-term goal: “My ideal long-term job doesn’t really exist at the moment. It sits somewhere between sales and marketing and it’s very consumer-facing, letting our readers help shape the best way to market and sell to them. I think digital offers a great opportunity to connect with readers directly, provided that we are innovative and experimental enough to make the most of it.”

Molly Ker Hawn
The Bent Agency - Agent

Next year Hawn will have 13 of her clients’ books published: not bad for a list that was built from scratch by a first-time agent only a few years ago when, in 2012, Jenny Bent asked her to establish the Bent Agency’s UK office. 

Growing a literary and diverse list, recent deals have included Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands (Faber Children’s), which sold for nearly seven figures to Viking Children’s in the US after an eight-bidder auction—auctions in 10 countries, including the UK, were contested by four or more publishers, totalling well over £1m in deals for the author—and selling Glaswegian Martin Stewart’s literary YA début, Riverkeep, in a pre-empt to Puffin on just a four-and-a-half-page partial. Having worked in editorial roles at Chronicle Books, Penguin and the Children’s Book Council in New York, Hawn also co-reps a selection of the US agecny’s titles in the UK.

The year ahead: “I am so excited about the publication of The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock. It is a portrait of Alaska, looking at teenagers in the 1970s [sold at auction in the UK to Faber Children’s] and it is so beautiful. I also want to find some great UK Middle Grade fiction.“

Mobeena Khan
Hertfordshire County Council - Stock and reader development librarian

While many of our Rising Stars can claim to have a lifelong love of books, not many can say they have been working in their field since the age of 16. That was when Khan first began helping out as a counter assistant for libraries in Hertforshire. A BA and MA in English Literature at the University of Hertforshire and the Open University intervened, but she never stopped working among the stacks. She is bringing her skills to bear to help revitalise stock and reader development for Hertfordshire County Council across 13 libraries in Watford, Three Rivers and Dacorum.

Khan has been a vocal advocate for libraries and librarians, being actively involved in The Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) as a committee member for the London and the South East. She endeavours to bring her passion for libraries outside of Hertfordshire, including chairing the judging panel for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger in the Library awards. Yet her heart “remains in the branches . . . I want to help turn the people who walk through the door into lifelong readers”.

The year ahead: “Working in libraries is what I love. I want to stay in the profession and help spread a positive message about public libraries.”


Louise Lamont
LBA Literary Agency - Agent

Beginning at AP Watt under Caradoc King, Lamont’s first client was then unknown author/illustrator Rebecca Cobb, who later won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize’s Picture Book award. Moving to LBA in 2013 to develop its children’s department, she represents authors and illustrators such as Helen Hancocks, Julie Mayhew and Lucy Mangan, and displays a sharp eye and an innovative approach. 

A keen supporter of new voices, she spearheaded the launch of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing last year and has also been an integral part of children’s books radio show “Down the Rabbit Hole”. 

In the next few months, she is particularly excited for débuts from “MasterChef” champion Ping Coombes, Radio 1 DJ Matt Edmondson and teen author Julia Gray. 

They say: “Louise is a prime example of an agent who does more for her clients than brokering deals. She is a keen-eyed editor, a coach and all-round champion for them, with an enormous talent for intelligently nurturing their work and careers.” – Katherine Woodfine, author and arts project manager, Booktrust

Hannah Love
Faber - Children’s publicist

With a Masters degree in Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature, Love always wanted to work in children’s publishing. After cutting her teeth as a junior press officer at Walker Books, she has headed Faber Children’s publicity department since 2013. Highlights have included launching Faber’s picture book list and working on Kate Saunders’ Five Children on the Western Front, which was named the Costa Children’s Book of the Year 2014.  

In the next year, she is looking forward to working on YA début Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton which she believes is “the UK’s answer to the big US YA series”. Longer term, she wants to work with “the best children’s books available” and “lead a team to help those books become bestsellers that really inspire children”.

They say: ”Hannah is an extremely talented publicist with skill that goes beyond her years and experience. She is quick to grasp the type of campaign a book needs and is able to build a varied, creative and far-reaching programme of events with very little resource.” – Leah Thaxton, children’s publisher,
Faber & Faber

Lucy Malagoni
Sphere - Commissioning editor

Working at Little, Brown for her whole career, Malagoni has made an impressive mark since joining eight years ago—she made her first acquisition while still an editorial assistant at Piatkus: Charlotte Betts’ The Apothecary’s Daughter, which went on to win a Romantic Novelists’ Association award. Soon after, Malagoni started successfully commissioning for Sphere. Acquiring world rights to Clare Mackintosh’s début two years ago and spending over a year fine-tuning it, I Let You Go has now sold into 15 territories, including a six-figure deal to the US, been a Sunday Times bestseller, achieved pre-paperback e-book sales of over 12,000 units and been a Richard & Judy Book Club pick. Showing a natural skill for acquisition, Malagoni also moved quickly to secure world rights for The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer; later a Radio 4 “Book at Bedtime” and a Waterstones Book Club pick. She is also a key member of the J K Rowling/Robert Galbraith and Val McDermid publishing teams.

They say: “Lucy is, for us, the very definition of a rising star.” – Catherine Burke, publisher, Sphere

Jessie Mendez-Sayer
MacLehose, Servadio & Pupo-Thompson - Literary scout

It was during an internship at Editorial Anagrama in Spain that Mendez-Sayer first met Koukla  Maclehose and Rebecca Servadio and in September last year she joined them at the pair’s near-eponymous agency MacLehose, Servadio & Pupo-Thompson—alongside Yolanda Pupo-Thompson—as a full-time scout. 

Given responsibility for Young Adult books, in a few short months she has become a real powerhouse for crossover fiction, finding and placing titles with publishers around the world. 

The next year will see a concentrated effort to focus on Middle Grade fiction titles, and Mendez-Sayer hopes to become the in-house children’s expert. Being bilingual, she has also become the agency’s resident Spanish reader, adding another string to its global bow. 

They say: “We gave her responsibility of the YA sector, a domain she didn’t know well, and in less than a year she is becoming a real expert in the field. Our publishers trust her judgement, which is the most important thing to us. She is eager and curious . . . and a fast reader! She is the future!”
– Koukla Maclehose, co-founder, MacLehose, Servadio & Pupo-Thompson

Niamh Mulvey 
Quercus - Acting editorial director

Mulvey joined Quercus as an editor four years ago after a brief career in teaching, and now publishes some of the most interesting new YA authors in the industry. One of her biggest successes to date has been acquiring Only Ever Yours by Irish débutante Louise O’Neill, which went on to win multiple awards, including The Bookseller’s inaugural YA Book Prize. 

Over the coming months she will publish the adult edition of Only Ever Yours in July and O’Neill’s follow-up, Asking for It, in September. Next year two YA débuts are on the cards too: We are Giants by Amber Lee Dodd and The Creswell Plot by Eliza West. 

Quercus Children’s will be fully integrated into Hachette Children’s Group this autumn. Mulvey is excited by the move and hopes to publish “the best, most original, most distinctive writers out there”.

Career Highlight: “When Only Ever Yours won Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, and then The Bookseller’s YA Book Prize. The Irish literary community really got this book right from the very beginning, and it’s always good for an Irish author to have recognition from a UK prize. The YA [readers’] community is so passionate, committed and knowledgeable.”

Jonathan O’Brien
Waterstones - Digital and social media director

O’Brien is a books man through and through. Starting his bookselling career at Borders, he moved to Waterstones Stockport’s shop-floor seven years ago and has since worked his way up to head office through innovative hard work and social media nous. After moving to Oxford Street West he was given control of the branch’s Twitter account, and he tweeted his way to almost 70,000 followers, gaining popularity both within the company and online. 

Leaving the industry to expand his skills—with a stint in the marketing department at the BBC, working on shows such as “Top Gear” and “Wolf Hall”—he has since returned to the Golden W to put what he has learned to good use, unable to resist his love and passion for reading and publishing. Now running the digital show and celebrating books online from head office, he hopes to work directly with the branches, upskilling and empowering his colleagues to develop their own digital strategy.

They say: “I have never had more faith in the future of Waterstones than I do now with Jonathan there. And I believe he’ll have a real impact on the trade as his career develops.” – Julia Kingsford, agent, Kingsford Campbell

Rachel Petty
Macmillan Children’s Books - Editorial director

Despite beginning in the art department at Kingfisher, when the publisher was bought by Macmillan in 2008, Petty found “the call of editorial was too strong to resist”. She is now Chris Riddell’s main editor and helped to conceive his Goth Girl series—she cites being drawn as one of the characters in Goth Girl and the Pirate Queen as a career highlight—which has brought in £760,000 through BookScan for the publisher, as well as securing Riddell’s writing exclusively for MCB with a new contract.Her astute acquisition of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and her clear vision and clever marketing ideas saw it succeed and reinvigorate UK sales of Rowell’s backlist too, helping Macmillan’s YA list to grow by 68% year on year and increase its market share.

As a result, Petty was recently promoted to editorial director, with a particular focus on the YA category. Coming up, she is launching Eleanor Wood’s My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend, Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s The Square Root of Summer and Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things, which she “fought hard to win and can’t wait to publish”. 

They say: “Rachel is a very impressive young editor with strong strategic thinking and a great eye for talent.” – Belinda Rasmussen, publisher, Macmillan Children’s Books

Adrian Searle 
Freight Books - Publisher and founder

Searle’s launch of Glasgow publisher Freight Books in 2011 was an evolution. He first founded design firm Freight Design, then a creative writing MA at the University of Glasgow inspired him to launch literary magazine Gutter. The publication morphed into a fully-fledged publisher and in just a few years Searle has chalked up an astonishing track record for finding new talent such as Anneliese Mackintosh, Kirsten Innes and Pippa Goldschmidt.   

Sales increased exponentially last year—particularly in digital and export—while investment in rights has paid dividends, including the recent sale of Saragh Maine’s Bhalla Strand to S&S in the US, Allen & Unwin in Australia and Goldmann in Germany. While début fiction remains the passion, Freight has been particularly successful with a strand of humour titles, many done in-house, including Searle and Judith Hastie’s 101 Uses for a Dead Kindle.  

Career highlight: “Anneliese Mackintosh’s outstanding, confessional Any Other Mouth winning the Green Carnation Prize last year. The first of many prizes, we hope.”

Martha Sedgwick
SAGE - Executive director, product innovation

Entering publishing via Macmillan’s graduate recruitment scheme in 2003, Sedgwick joined SAGE in July 2008 as senior manager for new online product development, rising quickly to the role of executive director of product innovation within five years. Instrumental in developing and leading its digital strategy, she has played a key role in the development of SAGE’s online digital products and content delivery platforms for the library market, now one of its key departments. Establishing SAGE’s online products team in 2010, she has approached this new field with aplomb, and now manages a team of 25 across the publisher’s US and UK offices—with seven new products launched this year alone.

Career Highlight: One of the biggest product launches under Sedgwick’s watch has been the development and launch of SAGE Video, a video collection designed to support a range of needs across Higher Education. She says: “We now have over 120 hours of new material and licensed video and I am really proud and excited by what we have achieved. It’s been great to do a new form of publishing.”

Leilah Skelton
Waterstones - Manager, Waterstones Doncaster

A dedicated bookseller at its Doncaster branch for almost a decade, Skelton has combined her love for books and crafting, and taken the art of hand-selling the former to a whole new level. 

From a Monster May Madness celebration in store (complete with giant hand-made monster eyes) to celebrate Shane Hegarty’s Darkmouth series to a moving carousel for a window display for Rob Biddulph’s Blown Away (both HarperCollins Children’s Books) and crafting a mini dolls house in honour of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist (Picador), Skelton knows that nothing persuades shoppers to buy a book more than personal passion. For Skelton, “it is important to be at the heart of my community. I have this passion for books that I want to share.”

Career highlight: “The first book I ‘crafted’ for was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and we sold more copies of that book in my branch than any other [Waterstones shop]. I also did the motorised ‘Peebo’ bird from The Miniaturist, and it was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. For a girl from a mining town in the north, that’s unbelievable!”


Mark Thwaite
Foyles - Digital director

Thwaite has been at the forefront of publishing’s digital outreach for more than 15 years, and at Foyles he may now have a platform on which to truly extend himself. 

He has worked for the likes of, The Book Depository and Quercus, and he also founded the book review website ReadySteadyBook, capturing the attention of publishers and the wider media in a time before vloggers even existed. In 2009 he was listed in the inaugural Bookseller 100, the index of the trade’s most influential figures. Following the difficult Quercus years, Thwaite is on the rise again, having been brought in by Foyles to “revaluate [its] online offer and think about how it complements [its] bricks-and-mortar operation”. 

The year ahead: “As we look to open a new shop in Birmingham, we’re also looking to put digital at the heart of our business. Foyles is a premium retailer and our customers expect a premium omni-channel offering with exceptional service levels: we’re looking to deliver that in spades!”


Ruth Waldram
Jonathan Cape & Bodley Head - Publicity manager

The most fêted non-fiction book of 2014 arguably wouldn’t have been so if not for Waldram. The publicist’s innovative campaign for Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk built up a head of steam prior to release and kept the momentum going for over a year, helping Macdonald achieve a Samuel Johnson/Costa Prize double. Waldram herself took home Publicity Campaign of the Year at the 2015 Bookseller Industry Awards for her work on the book. “I really thought H is a Hawk was a masterpiece when I first read it,” she says. “I’m just glad I helped it get the readership it deserved.”

And it was no one-off. Waldram has done stellar work at Random since joining in 2008, including on To Kill a Mockingbird’s 50th anniversary and Cape’s graphic novel list. Next month she steps up to cover Lisa Gooding’s maternity leave as publicity director at Chatto and Square Peg. 

The year ahead: “I’m really looking forward to working at Chatto and Square Peg, particularly on Emma Cline’s The Girls—a powerful, coming-of-age début which takes in California in the 1960s and the Manson family—and of course to the Hogarth Shakespeare launch as well.”

Flora Willis
Profile Books - Marketing manager

Willis was a key contributor to the success of Karen Joy Fowler’s huge 2014 hit, the bestselling We are all Completely Beside Ourselves; stepping up and driving its marketing across all channels—without revealing the book’s killer twist. 

Her work on New Scientist title Chance saw it reach Sunday Times bestsellerdom and Willis was part of the team that marketed 80 Days, the innovative story-based digital adventure created in association with developer Inkle, which has had 350,000 downloads and was nominated for four BAFTA Video Game awards. An engaging campaign for Andrew Gant’s Christmas Carols saw the creation of a digital advent calendar exclusively for the Telegraph, driving pre-Christmas sales. Willis also edits and commissions content for Serpent’s Tail’s editorial-led newsletter. 

They say: “Flora is thoroughly innovative—I am constantly amazed at the direction of her social media activities and the fresh eye that she brings to everything she does. We need new, different people who break the traditional mould of UK publishing:  Flora Willis is such a person.” – Andrew Franklin, Profile Books m.d.


Katherine Woodfine 
Booktrust - Arts project manger

With her skills in both arts project managing and novel writing, Woodfine is one of the most talented young people working in publishing today. She started her career at Arts Council England before moving to Booktrust in 2009 as children’s digital content editor and Children’s Laureate co-ordinator. She was promoted to the role of arts project manager in 2013. 

During Malorie Blackman’s time as Children’s Laureate, Woodfine was her right-hand woman; together they launched the hugely successful Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) last year. She is also a published author: her first book, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, was released this month by Egmont and a second novel,  The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, is out next year.

Career Highlight: “I’m very much looking forward to the second YALC, in July. It has been a chance to learn from the first year to develop an even bigger and better event. I’m also hugely excited to be working with the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate for 2015–2017, who takes over from Malorie Blackman on 9th June.”

Matt Young
Penguin Random House - Designer

The relaunch of PRH’s Pelican list has been one of the most fully-rounded reading experiences to have emerged from a “legacy” publisher in years, excelling in design and content across print and digital—and bagging two coveted D&AD design awards en route. Central to that feat is Young, who took on the task of giving the non-fiction list a nimbleness that defies its age—and defines the modern publishing zeitgeist.

Reading on-screen can be arduous, as age-old typographical best practices are too infrequently applied to digital texts—often there is glaring wordspacing, awkward textflows, unsightly kerning. Not so with Pelican. Young drew on his typographic nous to optimise the texts’ readability, creating a cross-platform reading experience that pays off: in the past month, logged-in users have spent an average of 52 minutes reading on the Pelican website—practically an eternity in clickbait-infested waters. His redesign offers the best of both formats: print titles have lush production values; the digital offer exceptional interactivity. Young’s approach may prove to be the vanguard for the future of multi-device reading.

The year ahead: “I’m about to take on a new role working on a variety of innovative digital projects—and I’ll still be doing cover design work, too!”


The Rising Stars is produced in association with the Frankfurt Book Fair, and sponsored by Inspired Selection.