Five book trade professionals who are “forces of nature” with “passion and determination to affect change” have been shortlisted for this year’s Kim Scott Walwyn Prize, which recognises the achievements of promising women in the industry. The quintet (see below) were chosen from a record number of entries.
The Kim Scott Walwyn Prize was founded by Felicity Bryan Associates m.d. Catherine Clarke in 2003, and is named after Clarke’s former Oxford University Press colleague, who died in 2002. Since 2011, the award has focused on “acknowledging promise”, with honourees required to have worked in the industry for less than seven years. Clarke believes the prize is needed more than ever. She said: “It’s ironic that when [the prize] started, we actually had women in a lot of the most senior roles in corporate publishing—Random House’s Gail Rebuck, Penguin’s Helen Fraser, HarperCollins’ Victoria Barnsley... When they left, they left gaps behind, and we need to promote the next generation so they can fill those gaps.”
Four of the five on the shortlist are from small independent houses and/or companies they have started themselves. Clarke said: “Maybe that is indicative of the work environment at the moment—women with a strong entrepreneurial spirit want to either found their own business or be at smaller publishers that allow [them to use] more initiative. That said, someone who can affect change from within a large corporation, like [Candice Carty-Williams, the only shortlistee from a conglomerate] can be even more impressive.”
The shortlistees are conscious of “a massive imbalance in the proportion of men to women in top jobs”, according to Amy Durant. She added: “I think there is still a lot of work to be done before we will see equal numbers of men and women in top positions. But I have met a lot of inspiring young women working in publishing, and am hopeful this will starting changing.”
Carty-Williams agrees. “I’m very lucky in that in my company, I work with and see incredible women in leading roles, making bold decisions and driving the publishing of great books. Sadly, this isn’t statistically reflected across the industry,” she said.
“This can only change when deep-seated attitudes towards women change and, effectively, the patriarchy is abolished. I’m not sure how soon this can occur, but I think good things are happening to get us there.”
Sarah Braybrooke said the reason why there are fewer women in the top jobs is “complicated and nuanced and not down to pure discrimination”, and include “the amount of part-time work (often at full-time hours) that women do owing to things such as childcare... I’m not sure publishing is worse than other industries [in its promotion of women], but we should be at a moment of self-reflection, in terms of what we do next.”
On the eve of the London Book Fair, Braybrooke was promoted to m.d. of Scribe UK, the British outpost of the well-respected Austalian independent. In fact, Braybrooke had been functioning as the firm’s de facto m.d.—she almost single-handedly set up the London office in 2013, ran all its comms, publicity and marketing, and oversaw its operations and editorial. She was named a Bookseller Rising Star in 2015.
It has been a meteoric rise at two of the biggest UK publishers in a space of three years for marketer Carty-Williams. Moving to the book trade from the newspaper industry, she first joined HarperCollins where she created, launched and ran the Guardian/Fourth Estate BAME short story competition. She joined Vintage in 2016 and is part of PRH’s Write Now, a scheme for writers from under-privileged backgrounds.
In 2014, fresh from finishing her PhD in children’s literature at Australia’s Macquarie University, Curry set up kids’ books specialist Lantana Publishing in London. Partially reacting to the paucity of diverse voices in the market, Lantana’s focus is to work with writers and illustrators of black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and to help promote “forward-thinking and unbiased” views on multicultural societies.
Durant joined Endeavour Press as an assistant in 2013. Within two years, she was promoted to publishing director, producing as many as 10 e-books a week for the digital-first company. Since 2015, she has launched and headed up four new imprints and has been instrumental in setting the company’s print-on-demand programme. Her newest project, Endeavour Ink, is a more traditional print imprint, of which she is editorial director.
In a short career, Maroševic has been the lynchpin for two hugely respected small presses. At 23, she set up and single-handedly ran the UK arm of Brooklyn-based indie Melville House—doing everything from commissioning to publicity and marketing, which earned her a 2014 Bookseller Rising Stars nod. Since 2016, she has been the co-publisher of Daunt Books, the publishing division of the boutique bookselling mini-chain.