The ninth edition of The Bookseller Rising Stars—our annual list of the up-and-comers and future leaders of the industry—is revealed today with this year's list the most competitive yet following a record number of submissions.
Themes tend to emerge each year from what the Rising Stars include in their submissions and the issues that are on their minds when they are interviewed for this feature. It is striking that most of this year’s class—no matter the sector—talked about expanding readership and getting books and stories into as many people’s hands as possible. There are those who do this in more obvious ways: Jenny Baldwin set up Shapes for Schools specifically to help foster a reading for pleasure culture among book-deprived kids; the very raison d’être of Natalie Carter and Melissa Cummings-Quarry’s wildly successful Black Girls Book Club is to promote books from women of colour as widely as possible.
But there are more subtle ways of doing this, too. Rowman & Littlefield International’s Dhara Snowden and Zed Books’ Kim Walker operate in broadly comparable humanities subjects. Both women have made great strides in expanding and opening their lists up to reach much wider audiences, without sacrificing their publishers’ core values. This underlying theme of market expansion is perhaps why, for the first time, our Shooting Star—the member of the list we choose to give that little bit more recognition to—goes to someone from sales: Laura Ricchetti, who heads Pan Macmillan’s European and Middle East international sales department at the tender age of 27.
There is another first with this year’s Rising Stars list, one we had certainly not planned or wished for: Sophie Christopher of Transworld, one of the co-founders of Female Leadership in Publishing, is sadly our first-ever posthumous Rising Star. We had concluded our judging process, selecting Christopher and her fellow FLIP founders Helena Gonda and Ella Horne as a joint entry, two days before the desperately sad news reached us of her death, aged just 28. This left us with a wrenching dilemma of whether it would be appropriate to still include her. After much soul-searching we decided that we would, pending approval of her family. After all, she deserved the accolade in life, so she should still be saluted even after she had passed on. Christopher’s family graciously said they would be glad if she was still on the list, as did Gonda, Horne and their Transworld colleagues.
Rising Stars is at its heart a celebration of the wide array of talent in the trade. Christopher’s inclusion will inevitably give the Class of 2019 a tinge of sadness. But maybe we shouldn’t look at it like that. Instead of thinking “what if?” about what would have happened in her career, let us say “thank you” for the legacy she has left. And maybe it should make us appreciate the rest of this year’s incredibly gifted bunch that much more.
The Rising Stars is in association with the Frankfurt Book Fair.