The main theme emerging in The Bookseller Rising Stars list—the annual run-down of the best and brightest young (and some not so young) guns in the industry—is that job specs in the modern book trade are evolving rapidly, with a plethora of new roles that would have been inconceivable 10 years ago.
The Rising Stars 2014 consists of a number of people who have set out their stalls with completely new jobs both outside and within organisations. Philippa Donovan set up her literary consultancy Smart Quill Editorial to bridge the increasing gap between agents, publishers and authors. Similarly, Gareth Howard and Hayley Radford set up their consultancy Authoright to help both authors (traditional, self and hybrids) and established companies navigate the increasingly choppy publishing waters. They have also expanded with a related events arm (it launched the London Authors Fair this year) and an imprint, Clink Street Publishing.
Donovan explained that after working in editorial at Egmont, as a scout for Anne Louise Fisher and as an agent at AP Watt, she felt she was doing less and less of what she loved most: working directly with authors. She said: “Roles are changing. As editors are becoming more involved with costings, marketing, etc, agents are taking on more and more. This means that there is an increasing workload for both sides, and there is often less time for authors. So I felt I needed to create a business that carved out that direct bond.”
Within organisations there are the likes of agent Alice Lutyens (pictured), who saw a gap in the market and boldly reimagined Curtis Brown’s audio rights business, hugely increasing the number of deals for the agency. Entrepreneur Matthias Ick, meanwhile, was hired by Macmillan Digital Education specifically to seek out start-up investments. Yes, publishers have acquired other businesses for ages, but it is almost revolutionary for an established company to bring in a relative outsider with a wide remit that looks at the consumer first.
Even the Rising Stars in ostensibly traditional roles have greater reach and responsibility than their book trade counterparts of previous generations. The Wellcome Collection’s Kirty Topiwala, for example, has not only revamped the organisation’s publishing programme, she has also taken on the reimagining of the Wellcome Book Prize. Gollancz publishing director Gillian Redfearn has signed up some of the science fiction and fantasy imprint’s biggest stars, but is also instrumental in the success of the online portals such as SF Gateway; her job is as much about reaching out to the SFF community as it is about commissioning books.
John Athanasiou, HarperCollins’ director of people, believes those in the industry “simply can’t be one dimensional anymore”. He said: “Obviously digital is at the heart of this; everyone has digital as an added part of their job.” Claire Law, m.d. of recruitment consultancy Atwood Tate, has also noticed a shift. She said: “Roles are evolving. I think it is crucial for anyone in publishing to seek training, to make sure they have the skills they need to succeed.”
Athanasiou agreed. “Ongoing development is key,” he said. “And it works best if it goes two ways. We have a mentoring programme and often the mentor learns as much as the mentee, as the mentee tends to be from [tech-savvy] Generation Y.” He added: “Ultimately, the mindset might be as important as the skill-sets in making future Rising Stars. A powerful thing for an employee to have is emotional intelligence, which enables them to adapt to the constant changes and ambiguity of the industry.”
Rising Stars look to the future
If you look at the list of Rising Stars, it will not take long to see just how busy the 42 entrants have been so far in 2014. From new initiatives and thriving campaigns to publishing bestsellers and creating new websites, there is a whole raft of creative and clever thinking coming from the selection of stars. But it does not end there—the rest of the year is set to be just as promising.
Determined to take books to where its customers want them, Gavin Sathianathan, m.d. of blinkbox books, Tesco’s e-book site, said that his goal for the year ahead was to widen blinkbox’s reach and “align with Tesco’s broader digital ambitions . . . there are a lot of things we want to do both platform and device-wise and we will be thinking about devices and services and how we can expand. More and more people are reading on smartphones and I expect that niche to become more mainstream, so we will be thinking about that and making sure we get books to people how and where they want them.”
Similarly, Gareth Howard and Hayley Radford, co-founders of Authoright, said the company was aiming to, “keep growing and reach more authors in the UK, the US and beyond. Our New York Author Fair in September will be another benchmark for us, as will the self-publishing space we’re curating for Frankfurt Book Fair. We’re always juggling new ideas and we have two or three in the pipeline which might just cause a stir.”
Faber editor Sarah Savitt and Penguin Random House’s digital project manager Hattie Foster will focus on “exciting” projects. Savitt will be working with Faber’s Henry Volans on the release of Iain Pears’ Arcadia, a multi-layered story that was conceived and written for digital publication. It will be released as a purpose-built app before its issue as a print book.
Foster said that PRH has “a highly ambitious project coming up”, adding: “I’m excited by ideas and opportunities to re-frame our authors’ and brands’ work in new and interesting ways. This project will explore that with one of our key authors, putting a story and its content in the hands of a global audience, inspiring them to roam and interpret outside the usual restrictions of format types or their location.”