Rising Stars 2019

  • Magdelene Abraha

    Jacaranda Books Group editorial & marketing manager

    Ambition, yes, but also a hint of frustration at the pace of change in the industry has driven Magdalene Abraha’s publishing career. Immediately before making the leap to the position created for her at Jacaranda, group editorial and marketing manager, Abraha had been a senior publicist at Bloomsbury. She enjoyed her time there, but longed to work with more books near and dear to her heart. She explains: “I wanted to work with authors who represent the society in which I live. Obviously, diversity is at the heart of what Jacaranda does—and going to a smaller indie meant that I could have a bigger impact, more quickly.” Her dual role encompasses marketing and editorial. The highlight on the marketing side is the campaign for #Twentyin2020, which sees the publisher committing to publishing books by 20 black British writers in 2020. Editorially, she has been tasked with ramping up Jacaranda’s non-fiction offering, and she has hit the ground running, acquiring 10 titles in her first two months with the company. This autumn, she will also launch a new list for first-time authors.

  • Federico Andornino

    Weidendfeld & Nicolson Commissioning editor

    Northern Italy native Federico Andornino had the perfect start to his UK career: the first book he acquired while at Two Roads was Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things (from 2017 Rising Star Laura Macdougall, now of United Agents). It did all right: “I think we were six or seven consecutive months on the bestseller list,” Andornino says. He had a successful time at Two Roads, yet decided to cross over to W&N two years ago at a time of flux at the publisher: “I loved Two Roads...but I was attracted to W&N by the rare opportunity to be at an imprint at a time of change, where you have the chance to help reshape it.” His remit is to commission widely across fiction, from literary to crime, and he is spearheading W&N’s strategy for translated fiction, with new authors including Paolo Giordano and Marco Missiroli. Téa Obreht’s follow-up to her Orange Prize-winner The Tiger’s Wife is the imprint’s big literary event of the year, but Andornino is also keen on Chip Cheek’s Cape May (“On Chesil Beach meets Revolutionary Road... with lots of sex”) and Alys Conran’s Dignity.

  • Jenny Baldwin

    Shapes for Schools Founder & director

    When Jenny Baldwin goes to education conferences of late, someone will invariably say: “Aren’t you the Shapes lady?” A welcome question, as it demonstrates the rising profile of Shapes for Schools, the agency she launched in 2017 that connects publishers and schools by creating content and resources for teachers and students. As a teacher-turned-publisher (most recently as a marketing officer for Scholastic), she is eminently qualified to bridge the gap between the books and schools communities. “I started Shapes because I saw the literacy crisis first-hand,” she explains. “And I knew the great work publishers were doing, but I also knew that teachers often didn’t know about new titles. I thought we needed to connect the groups.” The overarching aim is to “help foster a reading for pleasure culture”, Baldwin says, attracting kids with new and fresh books—which are matched to the current curriculum—from publishers so educators do not have to rely on “the 15 battered copies of older books in the teachers’ cupboard”. Publisher partners include conglomerates (Scholastic, Bonnier), well-established mid-sized firms (Walker, Bloomsbury) and new players (Knights Of). Puffin, meanwhile, recently tasked Shapes with developing a year-long plan for its schools-focused communication platforms.

  • Lily Bowden

    Jessica Kingsley Publishers Senior marketing & publicity executive

    When Lily Bowden joined Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP) as senior publicity and marketing executive in 2016, she became the first ever official publicist in the indie-turned-Hachette imprint’s 30-year history; not entirely surprising, as its professional publishing list has often focused on practitioners. But a strategic pivot into some more trade-focused titles, coupled with the fact that areas JKP has long published into—mental health, LGBTQ, social inclusion—are suddenly au courant, meant the publisher was looking to extend its reach. Publishing newbie Bowden, who joined the trade from advertising firm Aesop, hit the ground running, earning lots of coverage for key JKP titles over the past three years. In that time Bowden has been a big part of JKP’s success on the high street: the publisher has had three consecutive record years through BookScan. All the more impressive is that Bowden balances the need for media exposure with JKP’s ethos of empowering marginalised groups and making a positive difference to society. She explains: “It’s sometimes a double-edged sword. For a controversial issue there are often massive opportunities [for coverage], but some of those might not be the right platform; the key is finding publicity that is genuine and authentic to the book and author.”

  • Kit Caless

    Influx Press Editor and co-founder

    With just a three-person team—comprised of Kit Caless, co-founder Gary Budden and assistant editor Sanya Semakula—Influx Press is a small list with a big footprint, publishing some of the most challenging and fêted books of recent vintage, including Jeffrey Boakye’s Hold Tight and Eley Willams’ Attrib. It is also a lynchpin of the indie scene, with a number of events including its popular Influx Quarterly nights, on which it partners with other indies to host readings. Caless says: “I really like community building. As an indie you can often be isolated, doing your own thing. Sharing our platforms is one way to feel that you aren’t alone, shouting into the void.” Since its 2011 launch, Influx has been UK-focused, but it is now looking further afield, inking its first Indian deal (Shiromi Pinto’s Plastic Emotions to Penguin India) and has started to acquire books from abroad, particularly the US.

  • Natalie Carter & Melissa Cummings-Quarry

    Black Girls Book Club Founders

    Not Your Common Book Club is the tagline for from left Natalie Carter and Melissa Cummings-Quarry’s Black Girls Book Club, but this might actually undersell what has become one of the country’s top live lit events. Since launching two and a half years ago, the duo have transformed BGBC from a meet-up started with one tweet (“Who wants to attend a book club brunch for black women?”) to a multichannel events behemoth. BGBC has ramped up its programme with high-profile events, such as a massive soiree in Angie Thomas’ honour at the Southbank Centre, a debate series at the Houses of Parliament, and a trip to Tobago as part of a focus on Caribbean writers. A who’s-who of recent guests include Roxane Gay, Malorie Blackman and June Sarpong, while 2019 has seen expansion to younger readers, starting with Alexandra Sheppard’s début YA text Oh My Gods in partnership with Scholastic, and a BGBC festival is in the works for the autumn, too. Cummings-Quarry says: “We have positioned ourselves as a place for black women and women of colour to network, establish ideas and to surround themselves with like-minded people within the book industry. BGBC is not only our safe space, but a safe space for those wanting to create long-lasting and innovative change throughout the industry.”

  • Sophie Christopher, Helena Gonda & Ella Horne

    The FLIP/Transworld Founders/senior publicity manager, editor & marketing manager

    When Transworld colleagues Sophie Christopher, Helena Gonda and Ella Horne launched The Female Leadership in Publishing in January to showcase “inspiring, courageous and creative” women in the industry, they had relatively modest expectations. Non-fiction editor Gonda explains: “We knew The FLIP was needed; we’re in a female-dominated industry and there was no real platform where we could hear stories from inspiring leaders. But we expected 200 initial sign-ups, if we were lucky.” They did slightly better: in its first 48 hours, 3,000 people subscribed. Since launch, The FLIP has interviewed high-flyers (such as DK m.d. Rebecca Smart), shared tips and advice, and hosted live events. Christopher, tragically, died suddenly in early June. Marketing manager Horne says: “It is important for us to keep growing The FLIP, as a tribute to Sophie, but also because the issue of women progressing in their careers is so important.”

  • Alexander Cochran

    C+W Translation rights & primary agent

    Alexander Cochran was always keen on joining the book trade, and while earning undergraduate and postgraduate literature degrees at the University of Manchester he had stints at Northern indie stalwarts Carcanet and Comma Press. However, after moving to London for positions at Daniella Schlingmann Literary Scouting and PFD, his focus sharpened. He explains: “I was exposed to a new part of the business. I suppose I originally thought I would go into editorial, but I realised that you can arguably have a greater impact—and be part of the process earlier—as an agent, where you can take an author from slush pile to publication.” He joined C&W as an assistant in 2011, moving to the rights department in 2013. The key to rights is contacts: “The great thing about this industry is you work with people who care deeply about writing and books. And I have built up relationships with friends and colleagues around the world who I can say, ‘Yes, this book will match your taste’.” Now he is also building his own list as an agent, with a particular focus on science fiction and fantasy. He has proven to have an excellent eye: his clients Tade Thompson, Gareth L Powell and Dave Hutchinson took three of the five spots on the shortlist for this year’s British Science Fiction Awards’ Best Novel category, with Powell’s Embers of War (Titan) winning the gong.

  • Emma Corfield-Walters

    Book-ish Owner

    A Rising Star nod is just one of the armful of awards Emma Corfield-Walters and her team at Book-ish have earned of late. The Crickhowell-based store was a regional winner of this year’s British Book Awards’ Independent Bookshop of the Year category, while Crickhowell was named British High Street of the Year 2018, with the organisers of the latter prize singling out Book-ish as the hub of its community. Not bad for an owner who admits to suffering from “massive imposter syndrome” when she opened Book-ish’s doors in 2010: “I came from outside books and had no experience. But this industry is so collaborative. I trade ideas with other indies all the time, and publishers have been really supportive.” A key development was the 2017 move to much larger premises which, crucially, has a sizable space for events. Book-ish lures the heavy hitters (Clare Mackintosh and David Nicholls are visiting in July), but the programme is not just authors-on-tour events. There are workshops; local groups use the space for meetings; and there is the ongoing Conversations and More, meant to “encourage conversations in our communities”—one strand this summer is the intriguing-sounding Grave Talk, which tackles death and dying.

  • Lucie Cuthbertson-Twiggs

    Vintage Publicity manager

    It has been a good awards season for Lucie Cuthbertson-Twiggs, beginning the year shortlisted for the Publishers’ Publicity Circle Awards in the hardback fiction category for Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion. A few weeks later she and now-Sceptre publicity director Louise Court collected the Publicity Campaign of the Year Nibbie for their work on Imogen Hermes Gowar’s début, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. There may be more silverware next year, too. She has been praised by the Vintage brass for the campaign for Tessa Hadley’s Late in the Day. The novelist has long been admired by critics, but has never set the tills afire; Vintage says Cuthbertson-Twiggs’ “fresh zeal” helped propel Hadley to the Original Fiction bestseller list for the first time. And you can hardly have failed to see the mounds of coverage she helped generate for Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, which calls out systemic gender bias. (In an ironic yet timely boost, around publication NASA cancelled its first all-female space walk because it did not have enough suits for women astronauts.) Cutherbertson-Twiggs says: “It was a great book that hit a nerve and got many women asking: ‘Why is the world like this?’ I’m really proud of getting [Criado Perez] on ‘Women’s Hour’, ’Today’ and ‘Start the Week’— any publicist will tell you, it’s almost impossible.”

  • Matt Devereux

    NBNi Client account manager/marketer

    When you hear “influencer”, you probably think of a Kardashian/Jenner, not a publishing services manager and marketer from a distribution and logistics company. But after taking over the NBNi social media accounts Matt Devereux has, in the words of his boss Juliette Teague, “singlehandedly transformed the NBNi brand to present us to the world as a dynamic and highly interactive distributor”. Former journalist Devereux was keen to add social media marketing to his role, because “our side of the industry can often be seen as faceless and be overlooked. I wanted to make us more visible—and not just what we do as a business, but the people who work here, too”. The key has been engaging with those outside the narrow confines of the usual logistics Twitter-verse and ensuring that NBNi’s social media has a “coherent visual language that reflects the shift in focus from distribution to service provider”. Later this year, a bit part of his job will be about overseeing the messaging of NBNi’s warehouse move, when the distribution side moves to owner Ingram’s Milton Keynes operations, with most front-office staff remaining in the original Plymouth base.

  • Amy Ellis

    PLS Permissions Rights & licensing manager

    If you boil it down, Amy Ellis’ role at Publishers’ Licensing Services is helping clients make money more efficiently. The Virginia, US native joined PLS in 2016 after completing a digital publishing masters from Oxford Brookes, with her first role helping to deliver the final version of PLSclear, the rights permissions management platform. That original version has grown from a pilot to a full suite of permissions services, with 120 clients now signed up. Ellis herself has managed the permissions for over 60 of those publishers across books, journals and magazines. If you are unfamiliar with PLS, worry not—many publishers are not exactly au fait with the intricacies of rights clearing and licensing. Therefore, a good part of Ellis’ job now is about proselytising the cause at industry events, most recently PLS’ own Annual Rights & Licensing Forum, and the 2019 IPG Spring Conference. She says: “I’m working hard to encourage publishers to recognise the importance of permissions for their business, and see how they fit within the broader copyright framework. Looking ahead for PLS, I think there is a lot of scope for growing from a UK-centric firm to a more global business.”

  • Kay Farrell

    Sandstone Press Assistant publisher

    Kay Farrell’s assistant publisher role at Sandstone has a wide remit, encompassing editorial and acquisitions, and her work overseeing the Scottish indie’s production. She enjoys both sides and cut her teeth in book production, which appeals, as she is a “complete detail freak”. She adds: “I think book delivery day is the best day of each month—seeing the titles that we’ve all worked on coming in as a product is a beautiful thing.” A production highlight was delivering Andy Howard’s The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare, which won Favourite Scottish Nature Photography Book 2018. As an editor and part of the acquisitions team, she says she “consistently encourages diversification of the list”, and as a result Sandstone published its first Arabic novel, Jokha al-Harthi’s Celestial Bodies (translated by Marilyn Booth) which won this year’s Man Booker International Prize; and its first speculative novel, Rebecca Ley’s Betty Trask Award-winner Sweet Fruit, Sour Land. For the 2020 list, she is keen on the acquisition of a cycling memoir—“pitched to me as ‘Gears for Queers’”—of two authors who are touring through Europe, one of whom is non-binary.

  • Lyndsey Fineran

    Cheltenham Festivals Literature festivals programme manager & commissions manager

    Cheltenham may be the grand dame of UK literary festivals ( 2019 is its 70th edition) but there is a freshness to it of late, with a diversification and broadening out of the programme—and Lyndsey Fineran has played a huge part in its makeover. She says: “I think a big part of what we should be doing is breaking down the conception that a literary festival is elitist; we need to show how fun it is.” A key to this is bringing in guest curators such as George the Poet, Anthony Anaxagorou and Akala, and there is an Off the Page spoken word strand, with partners such as podcast “The Moth” and “stand-up poetry” group Bang Said the Gun. Fineran says the programme now reaches a younger audience and “has a greater proportion of free events and ensures a 20% BAME representation”. Getting out of the confines of the festival itself helps, too, with Fineran’s popular creation Lit Crawl Cheltenham (broadly, a pub crawl with literary pop-up events) now in its fourth year.

  • Stevie Hopwood

    Usborne Senior marketing executive

    It is hard to think of someone who has had a more well-rounded beginning to a career than Stevie Hopwood, who in the first five years in the industry with HarperCollins worked in editorial, sales, rights and digital (“like a lot of people of my generation, I started in the e-book department”). But it was not until she got her taste of marketing—where she could combine analytic and creative elements—that she found her calling. At Usborne for the past three years, Hopwood has managed a string of standout campaigns for its Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction. There is a lot of DIY crafty elements to her work, such as hand-stamping 900 proof copies of Sophie Anderson’s The Girl Who Speaks Bear in five different colours, which was a hit at this year’s Bologna and generated a huge buzz on social media. “We don’t have £50,000 budgets like some bigger publishers,” Hopwood says. “So it’s a question of how we can use the resources we have to gain as much attention as possible.” YA is a passion: Hopwood manages the @usborneya Instagram account, oversees its YA Newsletter, and her campaign for Meredith Russo’s recent Birthday helped the book become the bestselling YA title in the UK in its first week on sale.

  • Sarah Hornsley

    The Bent Agency Agent

    After stints at Orion and in film and TV script development, Sarah Hornsley was determined to turn her hand to agenting. “It was my dream job,” she says. “I like the deal-making side, but also I really love being with an author from the very beginning to shape a story.” She started as the assistant for Juliet Mushens, then at United Talent Agency, before being made a full agent in 2016. “I had an empty list, which was scary. But building a list is about getting yourself known, following your gut, taking risks and tirelessly looking at the submissions to see those diamonds in the rough.” There was success right off the bat: the first book Hornsley sold was wilderness expert Megan Hines’ memoir at a multi-publisher auction. Hornsley then moved across to The Bent Agency, where her list has truly flourished, conducting multi-territory deals for a string of bestselling authors including Anstey Harris, S M Wilson and Gina LaManna.

  • Rosie Howie

    Hodder Gibson Publisher

    It has been a little over a year since Rosie Howie left Edinburgh-based indie education publisher Bright Red to move to Hodder Gibson. She enjoyed her time at Bright Red—she joined in 2012 as a marketing and publicity assistant and worked her way up to publishing manager—but the step up at the Hodder Ed Scottish outpost was too good to pass up, she says. “It was a chance to take ownership of a list in a market I know really well.” Job one was a wave of new editions of textbooks and the How to Pass revision guides; Howie and the Hodder Gibson team released 39 of those new editions, plus 36 freshly commissioned Official SQA Past Papers titles. Changes in content are in a big part influenced by Howie interacting with educators, parents and students at conferences and events: “It is important that we always consider the end user in whatever we do.” The acquisition of leading Scottish mathematics specialist TeeJay Maths in April is a fresh opportunity, with Howie hoping to roll the TeeJay content out of Scotland to the England and Australia markets.

  • Ammara Isa

    HarperCollins Senior trade marketing executive

    Ammara Isa always wanted to get into publishing and, like many, paid her dues with a series of temporary contracts. She gained a solid toehold at HarperCollins in its marketing department. “I wasn’t necessarily looking for marketing, it popped up,” she says. “But it was a happy coincidence as I love the balance of face-to-face and digital engagement.” Happy coincidence indeed, for Isa has parlayed those skills to be at the fulcrum of HC’s engagement with booksellers. She has transformed its IndieThinking and HarperInsider platforms—which provide information, marketing material and proofs to indie and chain booksellers respectively. She also organises roadshows and events across the country, including the London and Ireland Big Book Bonanzas, which give booksellers the chance to meet authors. HC’s group sales director Anna Derkacz saluted Isa for “going above and beyond to ensure that our indie booksellers and shops get whatever they need. She is an asset in-house, working across all of our divisions to ensure that we are sharing all our wonderful resources.”

  • Zainab Juma

    Penguin Random House Creative manager, audiences & audio

    Zainab Juma almost literally grew up with books—afternoons after school were spent hanging out at the family bookshop—but says she “fell arse backwards” into the industry. A temporary position after university at the Folio Society’s member services team morphed into a permanent role in its marketing department. She later jumped at the chance to join “[PRH audience and audio m.d.] Hannah Telfer’s cool experimenters and forward-thinkers” in Penguin marketing. Juma’s eye-catching campaigns have included #LikeAWoman, Penguin’s pop-up shop stocking books only written by women. The shop made a powerful point about the lack of female voices in literature and garnered national media attention. She is the brains behind Penguin Pride, the LGBTQ celebration launched in 2016 which has evolved from online and social media content into a nationwide series of music and spoken word events. The well-established Penguin brand is a good marketing starting point, Juma admits, but adds: “That’s just the gateway; you need to use the leverage of brand to do so much more. I want Penguin to continue to evolve into a home and a hub for people who love books.”

  • Robyn Law

    Society of Authors Awards manager

    In June, the tranche of prizes Robyn Law oversees for the Society of Authors gave out just over £100,000 to 32 different winners at the organisation’s awards shindig. The night is the culmination of Law’s year, the result of essentially 364 days of planning. She says: “It’s a long process. And the challenge in administering our prizes is that almost all of them are from bequests, and they all have their quirks and special criteria.” In addition to the SoA’s main awards, Law works with head of prizes Paula Johnson to administer external awards, such as the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writers’ Award. She also works on the grants programme, in particular the Authors’ Foundation and K Blundell Trust. Law started her books career at 16, working for Blackwell’s-owned Heffers in Cambridge. She stayed with Blackwell’s during and after her undergraduate and masters degrees, as a senior bookseller at the much missed London Charing Cross Road branch and managing events the Holborn shop, where she led the bookseller’s involvement in huge events such as New Scientist Live and Jewish Book Week.

  • Laura Lichtensteiger

    Cengage Strategic marketing manager

    Laura Lichtensteiger, who joined Cengage in 2016 from previous marketing roles at Palgrave Macmillan and Hodder Education, admits, with a laugh: “I am quite data-driven; I feel very strongly about spreadsheets, insight and information.” But she marries the facts and figures with oodles of creativity and outside-the-box thinking. Her wide remit spans Cengage’s sciences, humanities and maths publishing—an early success was her work on the psychology list, which she helped achieve a 30% uptick in sales in her first year on the job. Lichtensteiger does deep dives into Cengage’s customer base, winning internal marketing campaigns of the year awards two years on the trot for webinars and interactive online sessions based around student motivation and how to support those teaching in Higher Education (HE). She says: “There is an interesting shift in HE. Traditionally, lecturers have been most important—and of course they still are—but because of the way content is delivered, students are increasingly making their own choices.”

  • Silvia Molteni

    Peters, Fraser + Dunlop Agent

    When Silvia Molteni joined PFD in 2015, it had no dedicated children’s agent and very few kids’ authors on its books. Fast forward four years and Molteni has built up a roster of bestselling, award-winning writers that would be the envy of any agency. Top of the highlights for Molteni’s stable includes Onjali Rauf’s The Boy at the Back of the Class, sold to Orion Children’s, Delacorte (US) and 11 other territories; it went on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year and the Branford Boase. An earlier triumph was Ross Welford’s début Time Travelling With a Hamster, shortlisted for virtually every kids’ book award in 2017; on the back of Time Travelling…, Molteni was able to rack up two subsequent six-figure deals for Welford. Pretty impressive, considering that Molteni also handles translation rights for all of PFD’s children’s clients, and negotiates the agency’s global audio deals. Molteni was initially drawn to agenting because “it allows a 360° view of publishing and you are able to spot talent from the very beginning”.

  • Harriet Moore

    David Higham Agent

    Harriet Moore’s first client was Sophie Mackintosh, whose début, The Water Cure, Moore sold to Hamish Hamilton in a seven-publisher auction. It would go on to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018. Which is a nice overnight success story, but it was anything but—and the reasons why perhaps point to why, in a relatively short period of time, Moore has assembled one of the hottest lists of up-and-coming literary stars. Moore had worked with Mackintosh since 2013 and had put an earlier novel of hers out on submission—and no one bit. Moore says: “I was in a fog of disappointment and felt so sorry for Sophie.” But the two went back to work and, helped by Moore’s close editing, Mackintosh produced her Booker-shortlisted title. It is that close editorial work, consummate author care, and the fact that Moore “can become violently passionate about the work” that has drawn clients to her. Recent successes include: Naoise Dolan’s début, Exciting Times, sold at auction in the UK and pre-empted in the US; Kathryn Scanlan’s Aug 9—Fog, a non-fiction account of finding a stranger’s diary which is FSG’s lead title in the US this summer; and a trio of Faber début poets, Rachael Allen (Kingdomland), Sophie Collins (Who is Mary Sue?) and Jack Underwood (Happiness).

  • Charlotte Mursell

    HQ Senior commissing editor

    HQ recently promoted Charlotte Mursell to her current role, just six months after she was elevated to commissioning editor, with publishing director Kate Mills praising her “smart, intuitive commissioning and huge passion for commercial fiction and non-fiction”. It is a well-deserved step up for Mursell, who has been on a roll. Her fiction successes include Christina Dalcher’s The Handmaid’s Tale-esque VOX, a Richard & Judy summer pick which has shifted almost 65,000 units, Sophia Money-Coutts’ The Plus One, and Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo. Upcoming non-fiction is the “taboo-busting” Period. by broadcaster Emma Barnett, which looks at menstruation (female visitors to London Book Fair 2019 will be undoubtedly familiar with the title from the HQ marketing campaign featuring free sanitary products in the ladies’ loos). Mursell says: “I’m excited about it, and I think it reflects what we do at HQ—agenda-setting books that can draw a wide readership.” Less taboo-busting, perhaps, is Rob Hobson’s non-fiction title The Art of Sleeping, about the science of getting more sleep, out in November.

  • Rory O'Brien

    Pan Macmillan Key account manager

    It was a case of right place, right time for Rory O’Brien’s entrée into publishing. The Cork native was keen to get into the industry, so moved to London in 2013 to do “the old work experience/intern thing”. After a couple of month-long publicity roles at Penguin and Headline, a spot on the sales team at Pan Macmillan opened up and, suddenly, he had found his calling: “I loved the energy, how creative you get to be. I loved working on special sales with its sometimes ad-hoc randomness, where you need something yesterday.” In five years, O’Brien has steadily moved up the ranks at the Pan Mac sales team and his current role means looking after huge supermarket accounts of Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose. For highlights, he points to his contributions to the massive success of Pinch of Nom, Adam Kay and Joe Wicks, and adds: “I’m very proud of Jack Monroe’s Tin Can Cook, where we make a donation to the Trussell Trust for every copy sold at Asda—a great example of publishers and retailers working together [for good].”

  • Mairi Oliver

    The Lighthouse Bookshop Owner

    Mairi Oliver took over the running of Edinburgh’s long-standing radical bookshop Word Power upon the former owner Elaine Henry’s departure, and transformed it into Lighthouse Books. Oliver says the need for a radical bookshop in our trying political times has never been greater: “I remember crying when [Henry] told me she was selling. It was February 2017—Trump had just been sworn in, Brexit loomed large and it seemed like the most desperate thing in the world.” She adds: “It’s so hard for people to find reliable information and feel empowered enough to act. A radical bookshop can expose people to new ideas, give them armour and help prepare them to confront real challenges.” Running the shop has been “an emotional roller-coaster” but highlights have included the Book Fringe, run in tandem with fellow Edinburgh indie Golden Hare Books, and the sell-out events the shop has hosted with Reni Eddo-Lodge, Shami Chakrabarti and Gary Younge.

  • Francesca Pathak

    Orion Fiction Publishing director

    There have been many successes for Francesca Pathak’s crime list since she moved to Orion from Cornerstone in 2016, but her work with Steve Cavanagh is arguably the highlight. Prior to Pathak becoming his editor, the Belfast-based writer’s three Eddie Flynn books had shifted only 7,500 units through BookScan. Pathak decided to change tack: “Steve delivered Thirteen, which had an exciting premise, and I just knew we had get him more attention. So we went back to basics and almost thought about his new book as a début”. The result? A massive hit through the tills, with Thirteen shifting 211,000 units across all formats in 2018 and bagging a number of prize shortlistings. Plus, Cavanagh’s previous effort, The Liar, won that year’s CWA Gold Dagger. Backlist boosts are something of a speciality for Pathak, having relaunched Orion heritage author James Lee Burke, growing his hardback sales by 139% and e-book sales by 86%. But she has a keen eye for the young’uns, too, including pre-empting for Elle Croft’s début The Guilty Wife, which has gone on to shift 160,000 books in all formats. With the Orion crime humming, Pathak was promoted to publishing director at the end of June, just five months after she was made editorial director.

  • Simon Richardson

    BBC Radio Assistant producer

    If you have heard a show on the Beeb that features books in the past few years, it’s a pretty good bet Simon Richardson had a hand in it, as he has produced a range of “Book of the Week” and “Book at Bedtime” programming, and is a key contributor to “Open Book” and “World Book Club.” His work has been almost inescapable on Radio 4 in June, as he has produced nearly all the queer book content for the Stonewall 50th anniversary, including Rupert Everett reading Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature on “Book of the Week”, the “Front Row’ series on queer writing since 1969, and an “Open Book” discussion on the growing trend of queer nature writing. “LGBTQ writing is my specialist subject,” Richardson laughs. “But I’m proud of pushing it across the networks in the past, and the Stonewall anniversary is perhaps the culmination of that.” It is the opportunities created by the music and podcasting app BBC Sounds that is really energising him of late. He is in the midst of developing a number of classic audiobooks for the platform with another recent highlight the 10-part drama adaptation of Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie: “We got Queenie on Radio 1xtra, it’s done well on the app. BBC Sounds is youth-oriented and I am really excited to bring new fresh voices there and engage with audiences who may not normally be drawn to books.”

  • Eve Roberts

    Macmillan Children's Senior rights manager

    Meeting foreign publishers on their own turf, Eve Roberts says, is the key to doing well in translation rights. She explains: “It’s about building relationships, learning what editors are looking for. And you can’t get those connections over 20-minute meetings at Frankfurt.” It helps if you know different languages, and the fluent Spanish and Portuguese speaker has flourished in Spain and Latin America: 2018 was a record year in Spain, and co-edition revenue has increased 380% in the five years she has been at Macmillan Children’s. The boots on the ground ethos has seen her join Julia Donaldson on a tour of Spanish schools and bookshops—even performing with Donaldson in front of more than 400 children—helping Gruffalo revenue to triple in the country. She has cannily exploited Spain’s multi-dialect market, concluding four language deals (Galician, Basque, Catalan and Castilian) for a number of authors, including Chris Riddell. Roberts is a “rights champion” across all territories for some of Macmillan’s major brands. A standout has been her work on Campbell Books, with co-edition revenue leaping an eye-popping 230% during her tenure. The Moomins and Rod Campbell also fall under her bailiwick, with the former now sold into 16 languages, while Campbell’s classic Dear Zoo is now available in 26 languages.

  • James Roxburgh

    Atlantic Senior editor

    One of James Roxburgh’s first jobs in the trade was administrative assistant to Ravi Mirchandani, “the most challenging role in British publishing”. He is joking—Roxburgh learned a lot of from the now Picador editor-in-chief, but when Mirchandani left Atlantic and Roxburgh stepped up to run the literary list, he realised there were some big shoes to fill. He explains: “We had to think about how we change the shape and nature of the list and forge a new identity.” The answer was the launch of an imprint, Atlantic Fiction, which he says has a “clearly defined animating spirit and brand identity, one that communicates and supports our values of diversity, innovation and long-term author care.” In the past two years Roxburgh and his colleagues have had some standout successes, chalking up 20 literary gongs shortlistings and longlistings, including for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Jhalak Prize, while its Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlistees in 2018 and 2019 were two of the most-discussed books of their respective years: Meena Kandasamy’s When I Hit You and Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer.

  • Molly Slight

    Scribe Editorial and publicity manager

    It helps to be an all-rounder when at a relatively small concern. It is fortunate for Scribe UK that Molly Slight is so adept at all facets of her wide-ranging role, which spans publicity, marketing, data analysis, digital publishing and editorial. Scribe publisher-at-large Philip Gwyn Jones states simply: “I have rarely come across a young person so immediately capable across pretty much all the functions of contemporary trade publishing.” Slight joined Scribe after a publishing masters (hired despite spilling a glass of water on Gwyn Jones and m.d. Sarah Braybrooke at the interview). She was thrown in at the deep end: “We all have to pitch in—the motto is sort of, ‘you just do what needs doing’—so I was doing publicity campaigns straight away.” Other roles quickly followed, such as designing a dynamic e-book pricing strategy and setting up Scribe’s Creative Access BAME internship. She has moved into commissioning, publishing Jonathan Carr’s début novel Make Me a City earlier this year, while upcoming titles include Cambridge professor Susan Golombok’s look at unconventional families, We Are Family, and Slight’s first book in translation, German author Maike Wetzel’s Elly.

  • Dhara Snowden

    Rowman & Littlefield Senior commissioning editor

    Dhara Snowden cut her teeth in academic publishing at Bloomsbury, Berghahn and Edinburgh University Press, but found her home when she moved to Rowman & Littlefield International, with its “start-up energy”. She explains: “Sometimes there is a well-established, prescribed structure in academic publishing. Because we are so new [RLI launched in 2012], we can be more reactive and publish around themes and topics, rather than into academic silos.” Being reactive is of utmost important to Snowden, and she has brought her personal interests in intersectionality and hearing from a wide range of previously marginalised voices to her politics, international relations and security studies list. The practical part of this is widening the scope of who she commissions from; “we look not just to professors, but to activists and policymakers”. It has done the business, literally: in 2018, she hit 112% of her commissioning target and revenue from her frontlist contributed to 46% of the total RLI frontlist income. In addition to Snowden’s politics commissioning, she manages RLI’s relationships with learned societies and think tanks, including Policy Network and the Centre for European Policy Studies.

  • Hayley Steed

    Madeleine Millburn Agent

    In March this year, Hayley Steed was named a full agent at Madeleine Milburn’s agency, 18 months after being made associate agent, and three years since she joined the industry. A quick rise, but well deserved. After being named an associate, she was assisted by boss Milburn on building her list, with a string of high-profile deals. The first was selling Clare Pooley’s The Authenticity Project to Transworld and Pam Dorman Books (US), before it went on to be snapped up in 33 other territories. One of her first solo deals was her initial foray into non-fiction, with midwife Leah Hazard’s medical memoir Hard Pushed bought by Hutchinson after a seven-way auction. Steed is building a list “firmly in the commercial adult fiction space” and non-fiction geared around those with “unheard but relevant stories”. A recent couple of deals demonstrate her taste: The Shelf, a début novel from Helly Acton centred around a “Love Island”-esque reality show, went to Zaffre, and Orion snapped up Ipsita Agarwal’s With a Whistle in the Dark (“an Indian ‘Hidden Figures’”), about the team of female scientists behind India’s first orbiter mission to Mars. Steed is also helping to develop the agency’s film and TV arm, handling the options for Elizabeth Macneal’s The Doll Factory and Abbie Greaves’ The Silent Treatment.

  • Jessie Sullivan

    Quarto Deputy head of marketing

    Jessie Sullivan admits that, “like many people in publishing marketing, when I first started I thought I would eventually become an editor”. After graduating with a medieval history degree from Nottingham, she did a couple of internships, then a “right place, right time” stint as the Quercus receptionist morphed into a press and communications role at the (then) indie, which opened her eyes to the many possibilities outside editorial. It was at Little Tiger that she found her home in marketing, where she was energised by the combination of data-driven analytics and the scope for creativity. She moved to Quarto on a maternity cover contract, left briefly, but was headhunted back in a new job created for her, and later promoted to her current role. Highlights include growing Quarto’s Amazon revenue through Amazon Advertising campaigns by an eye-popping 1,230% in two years, and developing a number of out-of-the-box creative partnerships, resulting in visible sales spikes.

  • Kim Walker

    Zed Co-owner & editorial director

    Kim Walker confesses that “maybe it was naïve... but what appealed about getting publishing is that you have the power to put something good into the world.” After a stint at Manchester University Press, she moved to London to join Zed seven years ago, attracted by the indie’s political non-fiction and “track record of pushing out books that go against the grain”. Since joining, she has moved to expand Zed’s scope, complementing its more academic heartland by ramping up its trade-facing titles—without sacrificing its core values. Walker’s main focus was boosting Zed’s LGBTQ, BAME and feminist books, with recent highlights including the queer poet and critic Maggie Nelson’s Jane: A Murder, Kehinde Andrews’ Back to Black: Black Radicalism for the 21st Century and Kath Browne and Sydney Calkin’s After Repeal. Andrews’ book is one of the big releases in the Blackness in Britain series which crosses Zed’s trade and academic lists—one of the first UK Black Studies list. All this paid off, with industry recognition at this year’s Independent Publishers Guild 2019 awards, at which Zed took home the diversity award. While the list’s direction is admirable, it is worth noting this is all backed by a clear-eyed view of the market and a commercial nous that recently helped Zed deliver its best results in its 40-plus years.

  • Hannah Whitty

    Plum Pudding Agent

    Hannah Whitty knows what her clients at Plum Pudding—the illustration agency founded by Mark Mills in 2006—are going through. Before joining the company she was an illustrator and animator, but switched over as she ”loves the business side and the scope for being involved creatively”. A huge part of her role is developing concepts and writer/illustrator packages. She and Mills worked with Kate Pankhurst on Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World; the now bestselling series was acquired by Bloomsbury, but Whitty retained theatre and animation rights—both of which have now been sold. Client care is paramount, and a highlight is Whitty’s work with Paula Bowles. A few years ago, Bowles’ career had stalled, but the two went back to basics and developed Superkitty—stories by Whitty which enabled Bowles to experiment with a more graphic style. The series has been sold to Simon & Schuster.

  • Kishani Widyaratna

    Picador Editor

    After doing politics, psychoanalysis and philosophy at university, Kishani Widyaratna contemplated a career in academia. She says: “But I decided I wanted to do something more proactive and practical, and in publishing you can make more of a real-world impact.” She started out at a paid editorial traineeship at Verso, then began working for the White Review while going on to gain experience at Faber, Cornerstone and Quercus before finding her home at Picador in 2016. She began assisting Francesca Main and Paul Baggaley on some of the imprint’s biggest titles, such as Alan Hollinghurst’s The Sparsholt Affair and Olivia Laing’s Crudo. Over the past year or so, she has built an impressive roster of her own authors, including luring Sarah Moss from Granta after a nine-way auction (“it is beyond a dream to work with her”), and signing Jamaican poet Safiya Sinclair’s memoir. She is the in-house editor of Picador’s Poetry, working with Don Paterson, and is proud of the new blood, such as Jericho Brown and Layli Long Soldier. She says: “Poetry is undergoing a really fascinating, exciting, necessary change. A greater variety of voices and forms are breaking through and we’re seeing new poets get recognition on an unprecedented scale. The internet and social media are a crucial part of that, as they allow readers to sidestep gatekeepers and the establishment in finding the work that speaks to them.”

  • Hannah Wood

    Little, Brown Women’s fiction art director

    You may not know Hannah Wood’s name, but you are familiar with her design work on many of Little, Brown’s biggest hits, including Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go (and subsequent titles) and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Her distinctive design style and art direction have led to a shower of awards lately, including two wins at this year’s Academy of British Cover Design gongs—one for her design of Virago’s 80th anniversary edition of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and one for art direction on Camille Perri’s When Katie Met Cassidy (Piatkus), designed by Sinem Erkis (a Bookseller Rising Star in 2014). Wood and designer Yehrin Tong won a V&A Illustration award for Best Book Cover Design for Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, part of Wood’s 13-title-strong Virago Modern Classics revamp; the pair also picked up the Beautiful Book of the Year gong at the BAMB Readers’ Awards. Yet Wood’s work extends to boosting the profile of book design in general: she and her L,B design colleagues Nico Taylor and Sean Garrehy run workshops for, and speak to, design students, and have launched a L,B design internship. Wood says: “Design education is a really important part of my role, and I think it is important that we demonstrate what it is really like, because we are part of the process that can be a bit underrated.”

  • Rowan Yapp

    Square Peg Editor

    Rowan Yapp, who has run the Vintage imprint Square Peg since 2017, loves the project management side of non-fiction: “It’s the collaborative process—we have an idea, we determine the audience and find the right people to develop it with us.” That creative process has been driving Square Peg’s 2019 list—an idea for a title on female sexual pleasure became More Orgasms Please by the podcasters The Hotbed Collective; the notion the imprint should celebrate the Queen’s fashion morphed into Our Rainbow Queen by Sali Hughes. There are, of course, more traditionally sourced titles, including bestsellers The Bookworm by Lucy Mangan and Steve Moss’ The Wren. Square Peg’s biggest success, The Roasting Tin series, was a slush pile find. After reading Rukmini Iyer’s handwritten proposal, Yapp saw the potential in tapping into the flexitarian food sector. The three books in the series thus far have shifted 191,000 units, for £2.5m, through BookScan.

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