The Bookseller’s Rising Stars initiative has been anointing the book business’ next generation of talent since its inception in 2011. Lara Pace and Sophie Scott-Foss caught up with six of its number to discover how their careers have progressed.
Hailing from the Bookseller Rising Star Class of 2015, Anna Cunnane was nominated for her stratospheric rise at independent publisher Kyle Books. She joined the company as an assistant, after finishing her Publishing MA at University College London, and in less that two years was promoted to the role of export sales manager. Cunnane, as chair of the Society of Young Publishers in 2015/16, was also integral to the development of the SYP, helping to re-start its mentoring scheme and adding a string of new events that re-enger- gised its London Book Fair seminar strand. Somewhere in her very busy schedule she found time to expand her skill set further by learning to code, with the aid of online courses from Code Academy and weekend coding bootcamp General Assembly.
Anna was poached from her position at Kyle by Abrams & Chronicle, where she has transformed the publisher’s data dissemination since joining.
It’s a myth that you need to work for months for free. Above all, hustle.
Named as a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016, Clara Nelson was recognised for placing the small independent Michael O’Mara Books right at the heart of the adult colouring book phenomenon. A range of tactics were employed to achieve this, namely generating extensive media coverage, setting up events and promoting its range of books intensively within the trade. Nelson joined Michael O’Mara as head of communications after nearly nine years at Penguin Random House, and in her varied role there also oversaw the evolution of the O’Mara and Buster Books brands, as well as the reinvigoration of the company’s website.
Clara was snapped up by The Blair Partnership and Pottermore; she works across both businesses, implementing PR and communications plans for J K Rowling’s Wizarding World all across the franchise.
Work experience is key... apply for everything and once you’ve got your foot in the door you can then work out which department is right for you.
Renowned for spotting “self-published gems”, Emily Yau received her Rising Star accolade in 2017 off the back of her success as commissioning editor at Ebury. Among her acquisitions are the formerly self-published The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J Walker and Riley Sager’s Final Girls, which was won in a heated seven-way auction. After completing her BA, Yau enrolled on the MA in Publishing course at Oxford Brookes University, which gave her the opportunity to intern at HarperCollins. There, working for its Avon imprint, she discovered that commercial fiction was her métier. She initially joined Ebury as editorial assistant and made her name helping to build its small fiction list. While at Penguin Random House Yau was also involved in its WriteNow campaign, which aims to “find, mentor and publish new writers” from underrepresented communities.
Last summer Quercus hired Emily in the position of editorial director, after five years spent at Ebury. Reporting to fiction publisher Cassie Browne, she now acquires commercial fiction, including women’s fiction and crime and thriller titles, and also spearheads the imprint’s digital strategy.
The best advice I can give is the same for pretty much anyone in the publishing world, and that is to read often, and widely.
Clarissa Pabi is a member of the most recent cohort of Rising Stars. Motivated by a desire to “get books into as many people’s hands as possible”, she is noted for her innovative approach to marketing and clever use of digital. As an undergraduate at Oxford University, Pabi worked on a number of extracurricular projects with youth-led creative network Livity, after which she secured a year-long internship via Creative Access at Ebury, Penguin Random House’s non-fiction specialist. Six months into her time there she was offered a permanent role and, in the following five years, continued her upward trajectory to become senior marketing executive. Pabi has an eclectic range of marketing campaigns under her belt, including her work on Dan and Phil’s The Amazing Book is Not on Fire, which earned her a Book Marketing Society award.
Clarissa continued her stellar work at Ebury while spreading her marketing wings. She now executive-produces and manages podcast Mostly Lit, cited by the Guardian as one of the best podcasts of 2017. And, on the eve of LBF, she was poached by Bonnier Publishing to take on a new role as senior marketing manager. All this hasn’t gone unnoticed: Pabi has also been named one of the FutureBook 40.
You should continually look to learn from others to improve your own skills and expertise. Go to events, read books and articles, listen to podcasts...
Jack Smyth was tipped for success among 2017’s Rising Stars. Despite falling into a career in design “by accident”, his work quickly picked up awards. Last year, for example, he received plaudits for his work on Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds and Robin Wasserman’s Girls on Fire at the Academy of British Cover Design’s annual awards. Smyth’s first foray into design involved a stint at Dublin’s Tower Records, but it was a personal project, redesigning classic books’ jackets, that kindled his passion for publishing.
He started out in publishing as an intern with Little, Brown’s art department, where as a junior designer he worked on a series of eye-catching covers. From Little, Brown Smyth moved to Simon & Schuster, showcasing his skills as a senior designer on titles such as F Scott Fitzgerald’s I’d Die For You..., which proved to be one of 2017’s most note-worthy jackets.
Jack, who has picked up an occasional teaching gig at Kingston University, was nabbed from his position at Simon & Schuster by HarperCollins; he now works on the publisher’s jacketing for titles on its William Collins and 4th Estate imprints.
There are no shortcuts to producing a good cover... You need to be willing to stare at a blank portrait rectangle and keep working at it with all the tools you have until you’ve got something right.
Jasmine Denholm was named a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016, in recognition of the outstanding contribution she made to Shropshire-based independent Wenlock Books in her role as a bookseller. She first started working in her local shop on Saturdays, before undertaking an apprenticeship in retail. During her A-Levels Denholm struggled with depression and agoraphobia, and she credits her time working at the bookshop with having a positive impact on her mental health.
At Wenlock Books, Denholm was responsible for the day-to-day running of the shop, as well as its website, social media, children’s storytime sessions and book clubs. Her particular high points while there included organising some very successful Books Are My Bag celebrations.
Jasmine was shortlisted for Young Retailer of the Year at the British Book Awards, before she moved across the aisle in January 2017 to work for David Fickling Books, where she is currently sales and publicity assistant.
Visit your local bookshop and get to know the staff and other customers, take part in as much as you can and get some work experience.
The Bookseller is currently accepting entries for its 2018 Rising Stars list. Find out more here.