The shortlists for the 2021 FutureBook Awards have been revealed, featuring the likes of BookBar, the Feminist Book Box, Bad Form Review and the Working Class Writers’ Festival as well as a strong showing for Penguin Random House across various categories.
In total, 34 companies or teams have been selected across six categories in the newly unveiled shortlists: Campaign, Startup, Discover, Event, Sustainability and Team. Shortlisted candidates will showcase their entries to judges ahead of the FutureBook Conference on 19th November, with their pitches to be shown at the event. The awards are this year supported by Midas PR, with the Discover category—focused on work promoting underrepresented writers—sponsored by Audible.
There are six nominated in the Campaign category including the team behind The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (Usborne), HarperCollins’ publicity team’s efforts for Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff and Orion’s showing for Careless by Kirsty Capes. Fellow shortlistees also include Templar for What I Love About You by Frankie Jones, the Atlantic Books team for The Muslim Problem by Tawseef Khan as well as Sara Hunt, Aisling Holling and Rosie Hilton who managed the campaign for Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Case Study (Saraband).
In the Startup category, there are seven contenders including audiobook app Xigxag, personalised storybook publisher Picabook along with BookBar, an independent bookshop and social space in north London. Speechki, an AI-generated audiobook agency, is also in contention, along with Bradford-based indie press Fox & Windmill, Afrori Books, a Brighton bookshop which showcases black writers and Peek, a social reading app.
The Working-Class Writers Festival, spearheaded by Natasha Carthew, is one of the projects up for the Discover category, a new award for 2021. WriteNow, Penguin Random House’s mentoring scheme for writers from underrepresented backgrounds, is also shortlisted as is 404Ink Inklings, pitched as “big ideas in small books” and I Belong Here, a foundation inspired by Anita Sethi’s book of the same name charting her tour across northern England.
Other nominations for Discover include Bad Form Review, a literary journal by and about Black, Asian, and racialised community writers, founded by Amy Mae Baxter, as well as the Spare Zoom Project, which matches publishing hopefuls with hosts in the industry, founded by publisher and editor James Spackman. Finishing off the shortlist is Lit in Colour, run by PRH and the Runnymede Trust, which recently revealed only 0.7% of English Literature GCSE students in England study a book by a writer of colour.
PRH is featured again in the Events category for Penguin Talks, in partnership with Speakers for Schools — a programme of free, creative talks for young people. World Book Night 2021 is nominated, after running in April with Sandi Toksvig as the 10th anniversary event's lead ambassador. Vying for the prize alongside it is the London Library LitFest, which took place in May to mark 180 years of the London institution, as well as the Booker Prize 2020, which saw Douglas Stuart's Shuggie Bain (Picador) crowned the winner in a virtual ceremony, and VoyagerCon 2021, a festival celebrating fantasy and science fiction in September.
A new category for 2021, Sustainability, sees six shortlisted companies compete. PRH is nominated again alongside Kogan Page, the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG), Cambridge University Press, Ivy Kids and Bonnier Books UK.
Bookseller comment editor and author Molly Flatt added: "Our new Sustainability award unearthed encouraging evidence that publishing really is taking action to tackle its climate impact. Policies, projects and even whole imprints are showing what’s possible if publishers put their full weight behind this most important of issues, and I hope the work of our shortlistees will help galvanise the industry to do more, better and faster across the board. This is one category where copycats are only to be encouraged."
Up for Team of the year is PRH's creative responsibility team, the publisher’s fifth recognition in the awards, which will see it pitted against the London Library Postal Loans, which was upgraded in lockdown so that fees were waived and more books could be borrowed and sent out, and the Feminist Book Box, founded by a team from Hachette UK and launched earlier this year.
The Bookseller’s editor Philip Jones said: "The close to 100 entries for the FutureBook Awards showed that after an adrenaline-fuelled 2020, there was no looking back during 2021 as innovation and excellence drove the trade on. I was particularly delighted to see a strong showing in both of our new categories, Discover and Sustainability, with the business deeply committed to making a difference in these two important areas. We look forward to seeing the presentations at the judging this week, and awarding the winners at the FutureBook Conference."
Marketing consultant Miriam Robinson added: "Marketers and publicists didn't just knock it out of the park this year — they created a whole new ball game. From new channels to untapped markets, fresh perspectives to staggering ambition, this year's shortlist is a testament to comms teams across the industry who continued to push boundaries and take nothing for granted, all without that adrenaline frenzy which fuelled us through 2020."
Bookseller events co-ordinator Polly Smith commented: "The teams behind these events have once again battled social distancing and government rules changing at the drop of a hat. To reach so many people takes creativity, problem-solving and a lot of hard work. These events have done just that. They have changed the model and will impact how we set standards for publishing events in the future of 'hybrid'."
Georgina Moore, deputy m.d. of Midas PR, said: "We are delighted to sponsor The FutureBook Awards. They do something unique in the industry in the way that they celebrate digital innovation, creativity and pivoting in the fast-changing media landscape. As winners of FutureBook Best Lockdown Campaign last year for Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and with World Book Night shortlisted this year we are proud to play some part in making sure we are working always with the future in mind, and carrying the FutureBook spirit of innovation through our campaign work."
The winners will be announced from 5.15 p.m. at the conference on 19th November, with pitches from the shortlistees to be filmed and shown at the FutureBook Conference. Full information on the awards can be read here. To book tickets for the hybrid conference, visit the conference website.