Pan Macmillan and Waterstones take top prizes at the British Book Awards

Pan Macmillan and Waterstones take top prizes at the British Book Awards

Pan Macmillan and Waterstones are two of the biggest winners at this year's British Book Awards, aka The Nibbies, after being crowned Publisher of the Year and Book Retailer of the Year.

Pan Macmillan has been named Publisher of the Year for the second time in three years, after claiming the title in 2015.  It was awarded the prize, sponsored by Bertram Books, after its TCM sales jumped 30% in 2016. A large chunk of the increase is down to sales of Joe Wicks and Julia Donaldson titles - two of the three highest-grossing authors of 2016. Judges said the publisher also showed "outstanding" support of retailers and diversity in publishing, after making a £50,000 donation to Creative Access. It triumphed from a shortlist comprising HarperCollins, Little, Brown Book Group, Michael Joseph, Penguin General, Quercus, The Quarto Group and Transworld. 

The judges said: "Pan Macmillan was incredibly strong in nearly every area it published into in 2016. There's a palpable sense of enthusiasm and energy about it . . . this is a company that just keeps building and building and building."

Waterstones, meanwhile, was named Book Retailer of the Year, sponsored by Bonnier Publishing, after a "transformative year" culminating in its return to profitability in 2016. The chain used promotions and bookseller recommendations to create unlikely bestsellers and improved its online offering, according to the judges, who commended m.d James Daunt for his “visionary leadership”. 

"Last year showed that publishers simply cannot do without Waterstones," judges said. "Its staff do a phenomenal job - they're brilliant at taking books people haven't heard of and turning them into something huge."

Publishing success

Nosy Crow has won this year's Children's Publisher of the Year award, sponsored by Tesco, after progressing from start-up to 13th-biggest UK children's publisher in a mere six years. It took the title after sales shot up by more than 70% in 2016. "Nosy Crow's growth is incredible - but sustainable too. It's not just cashing in on a mega author but making its publishing work across the board," judges said. "Digital isn't just an add-on but embedded . . . It's got a very strong identity and sense of purpose, and it's now firmly established among the big publishing players."

Head of Zeus meanwhile was crowned this year's Independent Publisher of the Year, sponsored by Firsty Group, for sustaining a "hugely impressive" pace of growth. In 2016 it saw another sharp rise in print, e-book and rights sales and broadened its list with two new imprints. Its chief executive Amanda Ridout was commended in particular for her "superb leadership", described by the judges as "a force of nature doing a fantastic job". 

Collins Learning won Academic, Educational & Professional Publisher of the Year. It was recognised for achieving a steep rise in international sales, in emerging markets in particular; increasing its share across many parts of the UK's primary and secondary markets; establishing itself as a clear leader in the home revision market; and for fully integrating digital technology into its offering with "It has stayed very focused on the areas of publishing and territories it wants to conquer and has nailed them all," praised the judges.

John Murray, one of Hachette's oldest imprints, going into its 250th year in 2018, was crowned Imprint of the Year, sponsored by Clays. The judges saluted the imprint as "a prestige brand that really values its authors" and praised the leadership of the "super-talented" publisher Mark Richards and m.d. Nick Davies. It increased the value of its TCM sales by half, through the consistency of strong performers like Andrew Michael Hurley, Matthew Syed and Jeremy Hutchinson, while e-book sales also bucked a trade-wide trend of decline. "The name might be old but the publishing stays new and exciting," said judges.

Among other awards bestowed on publishers, Juliet Mabey, publisher of Oneworld, was crowned this year's Editor of the Year. The accolade follows Oneworld's success last year winning Independent Publisher of the Year, and also follows a second Man Booker Prize win the for press, after Paul Beatty was given the award for The Sellout last year. The judges hailed Mabey as "groundbreaking . . . bringing things into the UK market from around the world we would never otherwise see". Jenny Tyler meanwhile was highly commended for "a year of quality, profitable publishing" at Usborne.

Drilling down to the work of publicity and marketers behind publishing success stories, Anna-Marie Fitzgerald was singled out to win the PPC-sponsored Publicity Campaign of the Year for her work promoting Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent (Serpent's Tail). Working with only a three-figure publicity budget, Fitzgerald is credited for her "superb planning and execution of a budget campaign for a potentially difficult book", involving the constant reinvention of her campaign and "exemplary" author care, generating extensive media interest - a key factor in the book's six-figure sales. "It shows what can happen when a publicist gets passionate about a book and makes it resonate with others," said judges. Kate Green meanwhile was highly commended for Watching the Wheels by Damon Hill (Pan Macmillan).

Marketing Strategy of the Year, sponsored by Nielsen, meanwhile went to Lean in 15: The Sustain Plan by Joe Wicks (Pan Macmillan) as "a campaign that got absolutely everywhere" and was "full of great ideas and imaginative use of Joe Wicks' fanbase". Highly commended went to Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal by DanTDM (Orion). 

Bringing Books to Readers

Book Retailer of the Year Waterstones came top of a shortlist that comprised several other prize-winning booksellers. Dublin's The Gutter Bookshop, also shortlisted for Book Retailer of the Year, picked up a cheque from Gardners for £5,000 after being crowned  Independent Bookshop of the Year. The shop "punches way above its weight", according to the judges, who remarked on its "outstanding" service and marketing, along with its "welcoming" environment and "carefully chosen" range that has earned it a devoted following. Its win marks the first time a retailer in Ireland has claimed the title. 

Tales on Moon Lane in London's Herne Hill meanwhile scooped Children's Bookseller of the Year, sponsored by Macmillan Children's Books, for going "over and beyond the call of duty" for its customers. It put on a record number of events in 2016, including its own half-term reading festivals and co-ordination of the Southwark School Reading Festival, and it launched Can't Put it Down - a website for self-published authors and indie publishers and a Moon Lane Education portal for schools. Working with literacy charity Beanstalk, the bookshop also runs a "Moon Lane Ink" scheme giving students the opportunity to run pop-up bookshops in schools. "Children's publishers have many reasons to be thankful for what it does," said judges.

The Royal Horticultural Society picked up Non-Traditional Retailer of the Year, sponsored by The Quarto Group. Only the second time the award honouring retailers opening up new channels to market has been presented- RHS was selected over rivals the National Trust, Snapplify and Royal Museums Greenwich for its "superb curation", "knowledgeable staff" and "extensive stock". It offers a definitive range of titles for gardening enthusiasts and stocks other genres to the tune of 10,000 titles at its flagship Wisley site. The judges said its operation was as good as any pure bookshop's and advised publishers to "sit up and take notice".

While Blackwell's missed out on the Book Retailer of the Year gong, Rebecca MacAlister from its flagship in Oxford took home the title of Individual Bookseller of the Year, sponsored by HarperCollins. She was praised for revolutionising the image and performance of the high-profile bookshop, providing “outstanding” customer service and justly earning the loyalty of her large team. Highly commended was Jo Heygate from Pages of Hackney.

Also focused on bringing books to readers, the title of Library of the Year, sponsored by The Reading Agency, went to Camberwell Library in London. The institution doubled numbers of issues and new borrowers in 2016 - its first full year of operation - and was praised for using imaginative promotions including "Choose a Book for Camberwell Library".

Star individuals 

J K Rowling was awarded The BA Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Book trade. Her impact on the trade was dubbed "remarkable" and beyond it she was hailed "a loud and proud force for good".

"Rowling has received numerous accolades and awards, but it was booksellers that first recognised her talent and sold her books, and in 1998 the Booksellers Association (BA) made her its Author of the Year. Two decades on, we are delighted to honour J K Rowling for what has been a truly Outstanding Contribution to the Book Trade," said a spokesperson for the BA.

On receiving the Outstanding Contribution to the book trade, Rowling said: “How thrilled I am to receive the Bookseller’s Association Outstanding Contribution Award.  Twenty years ago I would hardly have believed I’d have a book published, let alone an accolade as wonderful as this; I am truly honoured and overwhelmed. But tonight is really all about you, the booksellers, without whom of course there would be no bestsellers. I want to thank you all for supporting my books throughout the years –this award is really for you!”

In addition to Mabey of Oneworld's win as Editor of the Year and MacAlister's as Book Retailer of the Year, Kate Hibbert of Little, Brown Book Group was honoured as Rights Professional of the Year. She won the award, sponsored by the Frankfurt Book Fair, for her "budget-smashing" record of hundreds of deals in dozens of territories in 2016 and her "inspirational" leadership that has earned her "universal admiration" from authors and colleagues worldwide. She takes the award home after five years of being shortlisted for the prize.

The title of Literary Agent of the Year, sponsored by The Orion Publishing Group, was awarded to Catherine Clarke of Felicity Bryan Associates, as "an agent who puts in yards for her authors, resolutely focused on not just their next bestseller but their whole careers". The Oxford-based agent has a diverse list across non-fiction, children's and YA, with notable successes in 2016 including Peter Frankopan and Meg Rosoff, and is a prominent campaigner for authors' rights via the Association of Authors' Agents. "You get the sense she has been building up to something big and this was the year it came together," said judges.