Pan Mac and Waterstones triumph at British Book Awards 2020

Pan Mac and Waterstones triumph at British Book Awards 2020

Pan Macmillan has been named Publisher of the Year, while Waterstones has claimed Book Retailer of the Year, at the British Book Awards.

Nosy Crow took home the Independent Publisher of the Year prize and there were also trophies for Usborne, Jacaranda Books and Avon. Books stores Book-ish and Moon Lane also won their categories at Monday night's virtual ceremony.

Bluebird publisher Carole Tonkinson, agent Karolina Sutton and Hachette UK's rights director Rebecca Folland also picked up awards.

Publisher of the Year winner Pan Mac was praised for a year that saw its TCM sales leap by 25% thanks to smart acquisitions, particularly the phenomenal success of Pinch of Nom. Judges praised the company for figures that were “incredible across every bit of the company”. One judge said: “I’m in awe of how they retain such a friendly and warm atmosphere while operating at the scale and level they do.”

Waterstones won the book retailer category after successfully integrating Foyles and opening six new stores. It set up initiatives including a Bookseller Development Programme and the Waterstones Podcast, while its online business has come through the pandemic with great success. “It owns event publishing like The Testaments, its events programme is the envy of all other retailers, and its investment in staff and the estate are yielding benefits,” judges said. “Their profitability is seriously impressive compared to where they were even a couple of years ago.”

Nosy Crow was named Independent Publisher of the Year after making the shortlist for the seventh year in a row. The children's press has more than tripled revenue in just four years, and now gets two-thirds of its sales from rights, exports and coeditions. Judges praised the press as an "innovative, talent-led publisher with great growth" alongside excellent figures, creative publishing and imaginative marketing campaigns. They said: “Everything Nosy Crow does is really well thought through and brilliantly executed.”

The same category saw Atlantic Books get highly commended following a successful year with hits including My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

Children’s Publisher of the Year went to Usborne following a year that saw it perch just below Scholastic in the TCM’s publisher list, its sales up 6.8% year on year. Two-thirds of its revenue came from overseas, including via its nine foreign-language imprints. Usborne also celebrated the 20th birthday of the That’s Not My… series in 2019. Thee category also saw Scholastic highly commended.

HarperCollins UK's Avon took Imprint of the Year following another year in its transition to a digital, international business. Sleep by C L Taylor was its biggest TCM seller, and Mandy Robotham was a standout début while export and rights were both up substantially. Ladybird was highly commended by judges in this category.

Jessica Kingsley Publishers was named the winner of the Academic, Educational & Professional Publisher of the Year title following another successful, mission-driven year since its acquisition by Hachette UK in 2017.

In the small publisher category, Jacaranda triumphed after grabbing attention with its #TwentyIn2020 campaign to publish books by 20 black British authors in 2020. This was followed by the #InclusiveIndies campaign, a fundraiser for diversity-led independent publishers launched by Jacaranda in collaboration with children’s publisher Knights Of and literary organisation Spread The Word that raised more than £174,000.

Philip Jones, chair of judges and editor of The Bookseller, said: “This has been a pivotal time for small presses, and this was reflected in the regional winners that made up this shortlist. But one press rose above the others in 2019, with an agenda-setting approach to its publishing that was loud and proud, and I was delighted that Jacaranda and Valerie emerged as the winner at this important moment for diverse voices. This is a small press with big ideas and one that is going places.”

Valerie Brandes, founder and publisher, added: "This is such a wonderful acknowledgement by the industry of the hard work we have been doing at Jacaranda and feels especially significant this year. We are proud to be one of the vibrant small presses that form such a crucial role in UK publishing and we are ecstatic for this recognition."

Bluebird publisher Carole Tonkinson swooped off with the Editor of the Year award gong following a stellar year for her imprint that saw Pinch of Nom ever present in the charts. Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone’s million-selling hit helped five-year-old Bluebird triple its TCM sales in 2019.

Meanwhile in the Agent of the Year category, Curtis Brown's Karolina Sutton came out on top after being in the rare position of agenting for two Booker winners in the same year – Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton) and Margaret Atwood's The Testaments (Chatto). Evaristo, who moved to agent Emma Paterson at Aitken Alexander during the summer ahead of her Booker win, later thanked both Sutton and Paterson for her Nibbies wins.

Rebecca Folland took the Rights Professional of the Year prize, leading a cross-division rights team that racked up nearly 2,000 separate deals in 2019, their value up by more than a third year on year. Holly Miller, Elaine Fox and Noreena Hertz were among the authors to benefit.

Publicity Campaign of the Year went to Fran Owen, Mari Yamazaki and Alison Davies for The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Chatto). Their campaign positioned the release perfectly and dealt calmly with huge media demands and worldwide embargoes. Meanwhile, Chatto's Lucie Cuthbertson-Twiggs was highly commended for her work on Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.

Jodie Mullish, Andy Joannou, Will Upcott and Alex Ellis bagged Marketing Strategy of the Year for their work on Pinch of Nom (Bluebird). The quartet's campaign targeted social media fans and an e-book teaser fired up pre-orders, before ads and retailer promos pulled in new readers. Scottish Book Week, run by the Scottish Book Trust was highly commended.

Across the nine-strong shortlist for Independent Bookshop of the Year, Book-ish in Crickhowell landed the prize. Emma Corfield-Walters' store had its best-ever year in 2019, running its own literary festival, hosting numerous book clubs and local groups and launching a new book subscription service. As winners of the prize, sponsored by Gardners, the shop was awarded a cheque for £5,000 to be invested in the day-to-day running of the shop, or potential improvements. The shop has kept going, despite the Covid-19 crisis and coping with flooding before lockdown.

Corfield-Walters said: “We really couldn’t have achieved this without the support from so many people throughout the book trade who are just the best of people to work with, collaborative, creative and extraordinarily generous with time and expertise. Our customers and loyal supporters from all over the world really help us strive to keep evolving and keep pace with what they want to see happening in their town and in what they see as ‘their ’ bookshop, it ’s wonderful that so many people have a sense of ownership of the shop.”

Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller’s managing editor and chair of retailer categories, said: “Our winner, Book-ish, is an exemplar of why indies are surging, with a personalised experience that outmatches any online algorithm and being at the very heart of its community. There is no question the past few months have been a strain, but at a time when reconnecting people is paramount, indie shops such as Book-ish are well placed to thrive in a post-pandemic world.”

Moon Lane was named Children's Bookseller of the Year. Moon Lane won the same award in 2017 and has since grown into a network of three bookshops, an education business and a not-for-profit initiative.

Finally, in the Export category, Nosy Crow won for publishers with export sales below £10m, while Pan Mac won for those with sales of £10m or more.

For the full list of this year's award winners go to: British Book Awards website