Rising Stars 2021

  • Nyla Ahmad

    Scottish Book Trust Reading communities manager

    At just 28, Nyla Ahmad is a 10-year veteran of the Scottish literary sector, having started at Scotland’s legendary comics shop, Plan B, when she was at Glasgow University. She then worked with the Glasgow’s Women’s Library and BHP Comics on various projects—with the latter it was a campaign called Full Colour, which supported BAME comics creators and culminated in an anthology she edited. She moved Scottish Book Trust in part to help coordinate the annual nationwide literary lollapalooza, Scottish Book Week. Within 10 months she was promoted to her current role, taking on more responsibility across the SBT, including masterminding Pitch It, a programme which allows organisations to bid for authors to come to their communities. Graphic novels remain a passion—she did an MPhil on South Asian and Muslim representation in comics, is on the board of the Glasgow Zine Library and the steering committee for the Society of Author’s Comics Creators Network. Ahmad says: “I love the community-based work I get to do and I love being able to approach book programming from a unique angle that aims to engage people in exciting or collaborative ways.”

    Libraries Literacy Trade Bodies
  • Micaela Alcaino

    Freelance Designer

    Almost a decade ago Micaela Alcaino relocated to London from Sydney, “and literally applied to every graphic design job I could find”. Her first interview was at Transworld, “and I’m so happy they took a chance on me”, she says—”it was the best job I could have fallen into”. After spells in-house at a few lists, Alcaino struck out solo, and is regarded as a sure-fire bet to conjure something striking: her cover for Bridget Collins’ The Binding won the Books Are My Bag Beautiful Book Award a few years back, and the designer claimed her first Academy of British Cover Design shortlisting last year with Brian O’Connell’s The Personals. A skilled typesetter with a style perfect for intricate historical and sci-fi titles, as well as literary titles with a classical bent, she cites her highlights of the past year as jackets for Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (Wildfire), Careless by Kirsty Capes (Orion) and Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko (Hot Key), as well as being ”excited for some normality, [she’s] definitely excited for Elektra, Jennifer Saint’s next book and Susan Stokes-Chapman’s Pandora (Harvill Secker)”.

    Creator Designers
  • Amy Baxter

    Little, Brown/Bad Form Assistant editor/founder

    Some “right place, right time” luck brought Amy Baxter to publishing. At university, she wanted to get into the books world but was knocked back from everything she applied to, resigning herself to becoming an accountant. But she happened to go to a talk by Hamish Hamilton’s Simon Prosser, who mentioned the Penguin graduate diversity scheme, which had a deadline that very night; she applied and was accepted. Accountancy’s loss was publishing gain, as she has worked at Penguin Michael Joseph on some of the division’s biggest recent hits including Captain Sir Tom Moore’s memoir before being lured over the Little, Brown this year. Yet, her publishing journey started even before Penguin, for in the three-month interim between graduation and starting at PMJ she founded Bad Form, a literary review and website for Black, Asian and marginalised community writers after trying to find lists of such writers and finding scant resources. Baxter has grown Bad Form from a one-woman band on a shoestring budget to a team of five, publishing six issues a year, their latest serialised in Vogue, along with a Young Writers' Prize and short story competitions.

    Editors Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Eishar Brar

    Knights Of Editorial director

    Eishar Brar entered publishing as a Creative Access intern shortly after graduating, starting in the rights department at PRH Children’s. Though she “learnt a lot there”, she knew she wanted to go into editorial, so she moved sideways to Scholastic. This was “really formative in terms of learning from other editors and figuring out where I wanted to focus my attention” but she became “frustrated, especially when it came to conversations around inclusivity and diversity”. At that point, she was approached by expanding indie Knights Of, which she joined as editorial director in 2019. She says: “The ethos of Knights Of, to build a children’s publisher that is truly representative, felt like a goal I had been striving towards for years.” Since then, highlights have included publishing Elle McNicoll’s award-winning debut A Kind of Spark and Burhana Islam’s Mayhem Mission. There is plenty more to come, such as Happy Here, an anthology of Black British middle-grade authors, and Candice Carty-Williams’ first YA novel. Brar aims to build “an iconic canon of children’s literature”, as well as continuing “to push the barriers of publishing past any comfort zones into true and long-lasting change—and to open up publishing to future editors who may also have never considered this career an option”.

    Children's Editors Leader Publisher
  • Natalie Butlin

    Bookouture Head of commercial analysis

    Natalie Butlin was Bookouture’s fifth hire in 2015. “I think [founder] Oliver Rhodes decided to offer me a job the day I told him his submissions system was dreadful,” she said. “I started out working across marketing, editorial... and everything else.” She became commissioning editor after a string of e-book successes—both The Little French Guesthouse and Bad Little Girl hit the Kindle UK top 5—but then decided to move into a commercial role, in order to better drive Bookouture’s original ethos. She is now head of commercial analysis and manages a small team. “We have gone from publishing a couple of books a month to a book every day,” she says, “and Amazon and Facebook are constantly making changes to keep us on our toes. But we have retained the original spirit of fighting for each title and always looking to improve, and this year have been rewarded with three UK number ones so far.” Butlin hopes to dedicate more time in the future to analysis, “in order to influence strategy in all areas of the business, from promotions to acquisitions”, and also plans to create a formalised copywriting training program. “We’ve just had a year of bringing in new readers,” she says. “Let’s retain them!”

    Driver Innovator PR, sales & marketing Publisher
  • Hayley Camis

    Little, Brown Senior publicity manager

    For four and a half years Hayley Camis has worked across the Little, Brown, Abacus, Corsair, Fleet and Virago imprints and odds are you have seen a few of her eye-catching campaigns as she has chalked up a number of Publishers Publicity Circle award nominations. She is particularly adept at helping to break out early career authors and for the past two years spearheaded L,B’s “must-read” campaigns for débutants C Pam Zhang and Rahul Raina. She enjoys the creative freedom she has been given in promoting books on issues close to her heart such as feminism, diversity and inclusion. She was part of the Hachette-wide team that launched this year’s Feminist Book Box subscription service—which has been a big hit. For the future, she says that “building long-term trusted relationships with my authors throughout their career would be incredibly rewarding...I am also excited by the possibilities that come with the blurring of boundaries between jobs and departments”.

    PR, sales & marketing Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Bea Carvalho

    Waterstones Category manager for Fiction and Food & Drink

    If you think of the books of the last few years that Waterstones if not “made”, then played a huge part in the success of, then odds are Bea Carvalho was behind them, as she has masterminded Waterstones’ unmissable campaigns for the likes of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light and Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club. It is not just those mega-sellers that appeal, but her biggest job satisfaction comes “when you read a book, and you think, ‘I absolutely love this, and I know how we can make it successful’.” As an example, she cites the chain’s June 2021 Book of the Month, Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind, which sold 25,000 copies during the promotion period. She’s been an “accidental” Waterstones lifer, joining on the shop floor at the Hampstead shop in 2008 after university, staying as she loved the job, moving into management and then the head office buying team in 2011. Her highlight from the past year has been “the excitement of customers back in and having the shops open again” and she is looking forward to “doing what I can to help make the bookshops even better” over the next few months .

    Booksellers & distributors Buyer Fiction Retailer Retail (Chain)
  • Laura Cassidy

    Banshee Press Co-founder

    The genesis of Banshee was some “someday we should…” conversations between friends and fellow writers Laura Cassidy, Claire Hennessy and Eimear Ryan six years ago. Partially, they wanted to do their part to help better publishing’s author care and its recognition of the achievements of women writers, so a biannual literary magazine was born—and Banshee quickly established itself as one of the country’s literary tastemakers, going on to publish the great and up-and-comers of Irish (and further abroad) letters such as Sinéad Gleeson, Niamh Campbell and Ruth Gilligan. The books arm launched in 2019 with Lucy Sweeney Byrne’s rapturously reviewed collection of stories, and its latest is I Want To Know That I Will Be Okay, by acclaimed YA author Deirdre Sullivan. For the future, the literary magazine is remains vital there will be more welly put into the books: “Small press titles by their nature are often niche, but we want Banshee titles to be accessible and interesting to the general reading public.”

    Bosses Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Sophie Clarke

    Daniela Schlingmann Literary Scouting Scout

    Sophie Clarke unashamedly says she “never really grew out of reading children’s books”. An astute career move, it turns out, as after just a little over two years at Daniela Schlingmann she has become one of the most knowledgeable specialist kids’ scouts in the industry. The Bent Agency’s Molly Ker Hawn, for example, enthuses: “Sophie never forgets a book I mention to her; and her international clients often tell me how secure they feel relying on her to keep them on top projects and trends.” Clarke admits her job has been vastly complicated by publishers’ cautiousness during the pandemic but thinks the YA resurgence in the US may just lead to a worldwide uplift (“vampires are coming back!”) and that young fiction, “especially the really heart-warming stuff, feels like a pure growth area”. Down the road, she just wants to get better: “In 10 years’ time I aim to be considered 'the' scout for children’s in the US and UK, and a valued and reliable voice in the industry who knows my stuff inside and out and can help add to the success of a title in my own inimitable way”.

    Children's Deal Maker Scouting
  • Beatrice Cross

    Bloomsbury Head of children’s publicity

    Beatrice Cross, hailed by author Katherine Rundell as “without a doubt the best publicist I ever worked with”, paid some dues breaking into publishing with two years of work experience placements and a part-time gig at Pan Macmillan (which along with a bookseller job at Watermark Books meant she was working 13-hour days) until she was able to get a full-time marketing and publicity role at Macmillan Children’s. She worked her way up the publicity ladder there, where a highlight was accompanying Julia Donaldson on a two-week tour of India in which her duties included, along with a publicist’s usual tasks, walking on her hands across stage as Annie the Acrobat from The Singing Mermaid as the author read from the book. She moved across to Bloosmbury three years ago and was made head of the children's publicity team earlier this year. The Rundell-edited pandemic response The Book of Hopes was a “hugely heart-warming project to be part of in an incredible difficult year and served as a reminder about what is most important—making sure that the books we publish reach readers and provide hope, comfort and pleasure no matter what”.

    Children's PR, sales & marketing
  • Leodora Darlington

    Amazon Publishing/Owned Voices Editor/founder

    Leodora Darlington has blazed a trail through Bookouture and Canelo so far in her career, using her analytical and editorial skills to create a string of e-book bestsellers. While at Bookouture, Darlington discovered author M M Chouinard and her police procedural title The Dancing Girls through Twitter pitching event PitMad. Despite initially poor pre-order sales, the title rocketed up the charts, after Darlington changed the cover and the copy in line with US trends and researched extra US promo partners; to date, the title has shifted 250,000 copies. In 2019, she launched Owned Voices, an organisation that boosts writers from under-represented backgrounds, beginning with writing workshops. “I remember a disappointing conversation about diversity and inclusion at work,” she says. “I suppose I was naïve in not realising that it would be quite hard to get seemingly easy things done in the workplace. I thought ‘Well, I’ll just do it myself!’”. There is a change at the day job, as this month she takes up a new editor role at Amazon Publishing: “I’m looking forward to using Amazon's smart, data-driven approach to grow the sales of established repeat bestsellers, and create new success stories."

    Editors Influencers Innovator Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Sasha de Buyl

    Cúirt International Festival of Literature Director

    This year was de Buyl’s second at the helm of Galway’s Cúirt festival and her tenure has been a bit of a baptism of fire. Not only did she have to programme two festivals in the midst of a pandemic, but also Cúirt’s early spring dates meant that it was one of the first literary festivals to pivot to online during her début as director. Yet it was (from the user’s perspective, at least) a seamless transition, and it is fair to say that the Cúirt virtual template has been copied by most other festivals. This year’s edition has featured some changes to the virtual model including a successful “pay what you can” ticketing scheme, but also de Buyl redoubled her efforts to focus on stories from people of colour, working-class and Traveller writers, LGBTQ+ folk, and disabled artists. De Buyl says: “Typical literary festival audiences are really loyal and we love that. But they can be the same sort of audience and I think it is really important if you are programming to make sure you get people in that aren’t often invited to the table.”

    Bosses Fairs & Festivals Innovator
  • Jo Dingley

    Canongate Commissioning editor

    A Damascene moment for Jo Dingley came when she was a teenager in Cumbria and went to a reading by Sarah Hall and suddenly knew that she wanted to be an editor: “I remember thinking that I wanted to be the person that finds this kind of book.” It wasn’t a direct route, though. After studying English at St Andrews she paid her dues in several low-paying temporary publishing roles, and some offers she turned down because there was no pay. She says: “At times, I felt like it was almost impossible for someone from my background to get a foot in the door.” She did land at Canongate, working her way up from editorial assistant and has really hit her stride in the last few years particularly in her work with up-and-comers like Molly Aitken, Patience Agbabi and Maaza Mengiste whose The Shadow King was Booker-shortlisted. Editing is still the focus long-term: “I want to be the catalyst between writers and readers, I want to give writers from many different backgrounds a chance to shine, with particular emphasis on working class writers, writers from outside the metropolitan hubs, and writers from Scotland and the North.”

    Commissioners Editors Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Max Edwards

    Aevitas Creative Management Agent

    After several assisting gigs at agencies fresh out of King's College, London, Max Edwards was certain he had made the right career choice, as agenting appealed for its “multiplicity of disciplines: dealing with clients, with editors, with the market; working on ideas and discovering talent; sales, contracts and delicate negotiations—all bring something different out. And I loved that: I’m by no means as talented as many editors, publicists, contracts people, but I try to bring 80% of their game to bear in every part of my role”. He began building a list at Mulcahy Associates, then hung out his own shingle before being asked to join the ground floor of ACM UK. It has been a fecund time at ACM: in the past year he has conducted 25 deals, six for over six-figures. Highlights include Debora MacKenzie’s Covid-19, sold to Little, Brown in February last year and one of the first coronavirus books out; and Hannah Durkin’s The Last Slaves, which had a major US auction and William Collins snapping up in a pre-empt three hours after submission. For the future, Edwards just wants to “help truly talented and fascinating people tell their stories and expertise to the widest possible audiences”.

    Agent Deal Maker
  • Alex Fane

    Fane Productions Founder

    Alex Fane launched his eponymous books events company in 2017 aged just 23 (but with five years of theatre and music events programming already behind him) and it is not hyperbolic to say it has revolutionalised book events. His idea was that there was too little “in-the-room” access for authors and a big part of the model was (working with publishers and booksellers) to institute a theatre/music tour ethos with high production values, a focus on the regions (80% of its events are outside London) and with author fees front and centre. Yes, this means Fane has turned to plenty of big names that ensure bums in seats (Margaret Atwood, Nigella Lawson, Malala Yousafzai et al) but there is a concerted focus on up-and-comers like Dolly Alderton and Elizabeth Day. The company obviously had to pivot during the pandemic but Fane says he didn’t want to launch a Zoom events platform “because even online high production is key for us”. So in September Fane Online was launched in partnership with Vimeo which enables as many as 100,000 simultaneous live viewers. To date 2.4 million people have gone through Fane Online to watch 250 events, of which 51% included were book-based.

    Creator Events Innovator
  • Jaini Haria

    Kogan Page Marketing executive

    “Transformative” is how Kogan Page marketing director Alison Middle describes the impact that Jaini Haria has had on the indie. Haria joined the business books specialist in 2018 after a politics degree at Nottingham, having wanted to get into publishing “to create a career that allowed me to actively make a larger contribution to society and help others”. Some highlights have included shaking up how the publisher works with Amazon, using it as a marketing tool as well as a sales channel; and an upgrade of internal systems which has greatly boosted the responsiveness to media outlets. Last year, Haria launched the roaringly successful Off the Page digital seminar and workshop stream—managing the project plus designing and creating its branding—which to date has had over 40 events with 7,000 attendees. Haria has also led Kogan Page’s diversity and inclusion drive and says the industry can’t just tick diversity boxes, it must think deeply about the long-term, the infrastructure and how to progress careers: “It’s not enough to just hire diverse entry level and junior members of staff without understanding how they feel and if they are supported within the organisation.”

    Innovator PR, sales & marketing Publisher
  • Claire Hennessy

    Banshee Press Co-founder

    The genesis of Banshee was some “someday we should…” conversations between friends and fellow writers Laura Cassidy, Claire Hennessy and Eimear Ryan six years ago. Partially, they wanted to do their part to help better publishing’s author care and its recognition of the achievements of women writers, so a biannual literary magazine was born—and Banshee quickly established itself as one of the country’s literary tastemakers, going on to publish the great and up-and-comers of Irish (and further abroad) letters such as Sinéad Gleeson, Niamh Campbell and Ruth Gilligan. The books arm launched in 2019 with Lucy Sweeney Byrne’s rapturously reviewed collection of stories, and its latest is I Want To Know That I Will Be Okay, by acclaimed YA author Deirdre Sullivan. For the future, the literary magazine is remains vital there will be more welly put into the books: “Small press titles by their nature are often niche, but we want Banshee titles to be accessible and interesting to the general reading public.”

    Bosses Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Fraser Hutchinson

    Creative Access Head of partnerships

    Fraser Hutchinson has “always worked in publishing”, starting out at OUP Children’s and then going to widen his experience across the industry, with stints at Pearson and Wiley. After returning to OUP Children’s as senior marketing manager, he decided to transition into cross-industry roles where he could “try to make a difference across the publishing sector”. He was initially head of partnerships at The Reading Agency, building bridges between publishers and libraries, and more recently joined Creative Access as head of partnerships. There, he wants to focus on “developing deeper and more bespoke partnerships” to help make the publishing sector and wider creative industry as diverse and inclusive as possible. He has also recently taken on a trustee role at Calibre Audio, which aims to provide free audiobooks to anyone struggling to access print. Considering his future career, Hutchinson sees himself continuing to work for cross industry-level organisations and he promises further development for Creative Access, including a “brilliant rebrand” and “more training than ever before”.

    Influencers Trade Bodies
  • Kiri Inglis

    Bookshop.org Marketing and editorial manager

    Undoubtedly, the most important retail launch in Britain last year was the UK arm of Bookshop.org, which arrived at a time it was needed most. If you were to construct the ideal staffer for the e-tailer you would probably want someone with digital nous and deep connections in the trade. Lucky for Bookshop.org, then, that Kiri Inglis—whose CV includes time at streaming service MUBI and in marketing at Faber—has been with the firm since launch. Inglis’ role includes overseeing the site’s homepage, replete with its exclusive content, while those connections have helped with the events and partnerships, such as with Stylist on its upcoming festival and working with her old pals at Faber for Bookshop.org’s first event, an interview with Kazuo Ishiguro, which led to 1,000 book/ticket sales. It has been an exciting year, Inglis says: “Launching during the pandemic has meant we have been able to provide a platform for bookshops to sell online when their doors were closed. Since then we have established ourselves as a viable alternative for readers looking to support independent booksellers in a scalable way, in the shadow of a certain dominant online retailer.”

    PR, sales & marketing Retailer Retail (Indie)
  • Sophia Jackson

    Society of Authors Head of events

    Like every one of her fellow event programmers assuredly also would, Sophia Jackson admits to “panic” and “insomnia that gripped my entire being” when the pandemic hit. But that was a passing phase as Jackson nimbly pivoted the SoA with the launch in April 2020 of its #SoAatHome virtual festival, with its first iteration having 42 events with 5,100 attendees “from Newcastle to Nairobi”. Jackson’s role probably has more complexity than many other events programmers as in addition to that consumer-facing side a lot of her work is aimed at a wide range of SoA members’ needs from organising professional development seminars to hosting online meet-and-greets. A former journalist, Jackson also runs Afridiziak Theatre News, an outlet which celebrates the African-Caribbean theatre which is often overlooked by the mainstream press. Jackson is really looking forward to some IRL events—including next year’s SoA Awards to be held in Southwark Cathedral—but adds: “We’re also looking at how we can make our recorded events go further as there’s so much amazing content and we want to make the most of it. I’m also hopeful for much more inclusive and diverse events in the publishing space and contributing to that changing landscape.”

    Events Innovator Trade Bodies
  • Drew Jerrison

    Profile Publicity manager

    Drew Jerrison’s boss Andrew Franklin says the publicist “has a genius for feeling the pulse of a book and how it can connect to the media and the reading public”. That has undoubtedly been true for the eight years Jerrison has been in the business, but the past 18 months Jerrison has stepped up another level, having directed a number of stellar campaigns including for the launch of Profile’s new crime imprint Viper Books; the as-it-turned out apposite timing of the March 2020 release of Adam Kucharski’s look at epidemics, The Rules of Contagion; and Viper’s 2021 breakout, Catriona Ward’s bestselling literary gothic-horror The Last House on Needless Street. But arguably it was his astute and sensitive handling of Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby that showed Jerrison at his best, as he showcased the author’s passion and ably handled the all-too-predictable fallout when Peters became the first-ever trans woman on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist. Jerrison says: “Trans people get such a hard time even in best case scenarios so finding ways to celebrate her was such a mission of mine. And in a way, when the Women’s Prize ‘controversy’ happened, we didn’t really change our strategy because we were at a point where so many people were engaging with her and the book.”

    PR, sales & marketing Publisher
  • Sabby Kaur Jivanji

    Emerald Publishing Digital product manager

    Being a Yorkshire native and state school educated, Sabby Kaur Jivanji says: “I didn’t know anyone who worked in publishing or anyone who could help me decipher my career pathways.” She overcame the struggle when she came across Emerald, the Bradford-based academic publisher, where she successfully landed some work experience, and spent her gap year working across the publisher’s sales, marketing, and customer support teams. After graduating with a degree in International Business from the University of Westminster, Kaur Jivanji was drawn back to Emerald, first working in sales and content licensing. Yet the pandemic found her switching gears, moving to the digital product team as Emerald pivoted to provide more online resources for the scholarly community, where she has driven the vast upgrade of the “UX” (user experience) on the Emerald Insight platform in order to tap into academics who are remote working. She has found her calling and is keen to continue to further explore user design, though she has plans to write a book (or two), once “I’ve mastered the skill of sitting in one place long enough”.

    Academic Innovator PR, sales & marketing
  • Shannon Kneis

    Bristol University Press Associate commissioning editor, sociology & gender

    After stints at Routledge and Zigzag Education, coming to the BUP sociology list four years ago was something of a homecoming for Shannon Kneis, as she studied sociology at Bristol. It was, in fact, Kneis’ dream to be in academic publishing “to be at the nexus of research and publishing, a career which would allow me to be embedded within the academic community and work to disseminate ideas and books which move towards achieving a better, more just, world”. She practices what she preaches: Kneis leads the Press’ equality, diversity and inclusivity drives and is setting up a series that will focus on decolonising the social sciences. Starting as an editorial assistant she worked her way up and in her first full year of commissioning, hit 160% of her commissioning target and a highlight this year was having published two of the four books on the shortlist for sociology’s biggest books gong, the Philip Abrams Prize. Looking ahead, her first priority is “curating a cutting-edge sociology and gender books programme...Medium term, I’d like to broaden my commissioning in terms of formats and content areas, and have experience in management and mentoring. Longer term, I’m striving to be an editorial director”.

    Academic Commissioners Deal Maker Publisher
  • Cherise Lopes-Baker

    Tate Publishing Children’s commissioning editor

    Since Cherise Lopes-Baker has been at Tate leading the award-winning children’s list, she has “developed a compelling new strategy and re-envisioned our programme to put an intersectional, inclusive ethos at its heart,” says Tom Avery, Tate’s publishing director. This year, she has been working with authors and illustrators including Lucy Farfort, Joelle Avelino and Maliha Abidi to relaunch Tate’s children’s list with a focus on “the power of community, untold histories, and the immigrant experience in the West”. Lopes-Baker grew up with a passion for both books and human rights and holds an undergraduate degree in Law from Durham University, and master’s in Publishing from UCL. She entered publishing as a freelancer for Jacaranda, which soon morphed into a full-time position as their commissioning editor and manager of fiction. She is also the co-founder and editor of Desert Rose, a literary magazine that platforms “femmes of colour”. Her long-term dream is running her own imprint or publishing house, however, she says the real motivation for her career is to be part of decolonising literature and making the industry more inclusive and accessible.

    Children's Commissioners Editors Trade Publishing (Children's)
  • Zain Mahmood

    Waterstones Head of e-commerce

    Within five years of starting as a part-time student bookseller at Waterstones, Mahmood was part of the team running the flagship Piccadilly shop. After various roles across the retail arm, he moved into the e-commerce manager position two years ago and stepped up to his current job in 2020. During this time, Mahmood helped to launch the Waterstones app and a transactional website for Hatchards. Of course, the pandemic presented a unique challenge, with the retailer’s website becoming the primary commercial element of the company pretty much overnight. “We needed to ensure that the site quickly and competently adapted to a sudden and vast influx of online orders,” Mahmood says. “The e-commerce team faced the challenges with aplomb and worked tirelessly to ensure our customers had continued and reliable access to books from Waterstones once our shops had to close […] Through a diverse and engaging book curation across the site, a rapid expansion of email marketing and strong promotional online campaigns for Black Friday, Waterstones Plus and Christmas, our online sales exceeded any forecasts.” Mahmood was praised for his “extraordinary confidence” in allowing the site to flourish during this time, while under incredible pressure.

    Booksellers & distributors Divisional heads Innovator PR, sales & marketing Retailer Retail (Chain)
  • Suzy Medeiros

    Jolly Learning Publishing director

    Suzy Medeiros spent her early career in production, first at printers St Ives then at several publishing services companies. But she has had a step change at Jolly Learning, which she moved to in 2013, starting again in production but moving up to publishing director in the last three years. She says: “After many years managing production, I feel I have found my home in children’s education publishing, heading up the editorial team.” She has driven the publisher’s new title and product development but perhaps her biggest task at the moment is overseeing a top to bottom rebrand at Jolly, a refresh of the list that has essentially remained unchanged for 30 years. Another huge project is the new digital platform to launch in 2022, and new a range of comprehension and creative writing resources. Of all that she has achieved at Jolly, she says she is particularly proud of her work on Jolly Futures, a pro-bono project to help boost literacy in some of the world’s poorest areas—which has had a particular uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Deal Maker Divisional heads Education Leader
  • Malissa Mistry

    William Collins/Fourth Estate Senior key account manager

    Malissa Mistry has been in her current role for two years, selling in prizewinning and bestselling authors, from Hilary Mantel to David Attenborough, Craig Brown’s Baillie Gifford Prize winner 1,2,3,4 and Anna Jones’ One in the last year. As the division’s lead on Amazon and supermarkets, she secured “repeated successes in a year when nothing was certain”, and is also HarperCollins’ group sales champion for Sainsbury’s, advocating for books across every division. Mistry is “unfailingly the most prepared and positive person in any given meeting, with numbers at her fingertips and inventive, reactive instincts for strategy”, according to her colleagues. Her passion goes beyond her own role—she spearheaded an internal scheme in response to the Spread the Word “Rethinking Diversity” report. “The aim was not just to provide a space where we could have open discussions about this, but to focus on action points for ourselves and each other, and to hold ourselves to account,” Mistry says. Developments include the Harper:Lite virtual open days for would-be publishing professions and participation in cross company task forces on how to diversify the freelancer pool. Mistry is also a committee member for the HC BAME network Elevate and volunteers company-wide as a Mental Health First Aider.

    Deal Maker Divisional heads PR, sales & marketing Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Charlie Morris

    Macmillan Children's Books Marketing manager

    Given that her mother is a librarian, it’s hardly surprising that Charlie Morris was an avid reader growing up, working at her local indie bookshop as a teenager before beginning her publishing career as children’s publicity assistant at OUP. She moved to adult titles at Orion, then spent five years as Little Tiger Group’s publicity and marketing manager. While there, she was shortlisted for a PPC Award for her work on the BAME YA anthology, A Change Is Gonna Come, and she spearheaded the campaign for prize-winning LGBTQ+ YA anthology, Proud. During lockdown, Morris became marketing manager at Macmillan Children’s Books, where she is delivering the campaign for the first title in the Marcus Rashford Book Club. She is also a founding member of the Pride in Publishing network, an SYP London mentor and an ambassador for Inclusive Minds. Recently, she was joined the "Down the Rabbit Hole" podcast and launched her own website championing LGBTQ+ inclusive children’s books, You Read It Queer First. This ties into her long-term mission: “I believe that by giving young people the opportunity to learn about themselves and their peers through positive and well-developed representation in books, we can help change the world for the better.”

    Children's Influencers PR, sales & marketing Publisher Trade Publishing (Children's)
  • Holly Ovenden

    Freelance Designer

    Striking out as a freelance is a well-trodden route for in-house designers looking to spread their wings; few will have been as unfortunate with timing as Holly Ovenden, who did so in March 2020, on the cusp of lockdown. She has “fortunately been keeping busy with projects from a range of publishers”, but those familiar with her work will argue luck has little to do with it. A skilled illustrator whose designs span genres with ease, she has worked on striking liveries for Avni Doshi’s Booker-shortlisted Burnt Sugar and Rosanna Amaka’s The Book of Echoes, and was shortlisted for the revived Designer of the Year Nibbie. Her route to cover design “started out on an unusual footing”, as Ovenden completed a science degree and worked in the field for a couple of years, before taking a graphic design course and landing a junior designer role at Bloomsbury. What’s next? She’s “sworn to secrecy” on a “fantastic series project” due this autumn, and her cover for Annie Macmanus’ Mother Mother will be oft-seen this summer.

    Creator Designers Innovator
  • Ella Patel

    Quercus Books Publicity manager

    Throughout university, Patel tried working in different sectors, which left her “wanting to do something creative, fast-paced and media related”. After a short placement at John Blake, she joined Quercus as publicity assistant in 2018, quickly rising to press officer and now publicity manager. A career highlight has been managing the publicity for Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy, which was “huge for me, personally and professionally”. Her campaign earned her a Nibbies shortlisting and two nods at the annual PPC Awards. She has also worked with bestsellers Elly Griffiths and Beth O’Leary and has been instrumental in developing Quercus’ Annual Word of Mouth Bestsellers Evening. Colleague Jane Sturrock calls her an “an editor's dream publicist”, saying: “She really takes the books and authors that she works on to heart and is continually looking for new ways to get [them] in front of readers.” Patel recently became the lead publicist for SFF imprint Jo Fletcher Books and is now working on model and influencer Emily Ratajkowski's My Body, with plans for “a campaign we can really be creative with”. She is also an active member of Hachette’s BAME employee network, THRIVE, and vows that diversity and inclusion work will “definitely be a focus throughout my career”.

    PR, sales & marketing Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Nicki Powell

    Bolinda Audio Books Senior rights and content executive

    One reason that her bosses at Bolinda might have picked Nicki Powell’s CV out of the pile for her first role at the audio publisher was that she designed it to look like a book cover. But undoubtedly they could also see her talent, as she was quickly promoted from publishing assistant to her current role, where she now oversees Bolinda’s children’s and non-fiction lists. She says her career highlights include acquiring the audio rights for Emily Rodda’s The Glimme and casting Andrew Scott (the “hot priest” from “Fleabag”) to narrate, which then went on to be a finalist at the Audies (the Oscars of the audiobook world) for best male narrator. Proud of the range of genres, stories, age ranges and diversity which are now showcased on Bolinda’s children’s list, one title Powell can’t wait for everyone to listen to Melvin Burgess’ latest YA novel Three Bullets, which is due to come out later this year. Driven and passionate about children’s and YA stories, Powell wants to help ensure children’s content is accessible to all younger readers and listeners.

    Audio Children's Publisher
  • Kishan Rajani

    Vintage Designer

    A “winding road of internships” led designer Kishan Rajani to Vintage—but he’s yet to meet all of his colleagues IRL, having moved from Hachette in lockdown. After “a three-month stint at HarperCollins India, where I set up at a little flat in Noida and got to work with and meet some brilliant people”, he credits Orion’s ex-creative director Lucie Stericker with aiding his development on these shores. Alongside notable covers for Evie Wyld’s The Bass Rock and Susie Dent’s Word Perfect, his bold jacket for Akala’s Natives was a chart staple following “a real appetite for books by authors of colour” last year, and “I’m proud to have played a small part in bringing these titles to readers, and to have worked with some incredible artists, photographers and illustrators of colour. Representation is so important, and I’m excited to see the needle moving in a direction that enriches us all.” A striking, mostly monochrome jacket for Warsan Shire’s Bless the Daughter is in the pipeline, as are series revamps for literary titans Ben Okri and Margaret Atwood. But first, “the normality of biscuits in the office and a tipple or two”. Cheers to that.

    Creator Designers Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Emily Ross

    Storysmith Co-founder

    In October 2018, Ross made her lifelong ambition happen and moved from London to Bristol with husband Dan to open their own bookshop. This was after 10 years working in production in children’s publishing at Hachette, Usborne and Bloomsbury. Looking back, she says: “Working on the production side of things really made me appreciate great design, and what a difference things like paper quality and cover finishes can make.” The shop has been a roaring success, twice shortlisted in the South West region for the Independent Bookshop of the Year Nibbie. Of course, the pandemic tested the new shop, but Storysmith pivoted to online models. In fact, its subscription orders increased so much during lockdown Ross was banned from her local post office for taking too many drop-and-go parcels. Since the shop has been reopened, Ross has upped the staff headcount and is looking forward to hosting some of their favourite authors in the shop again—and also getting back into schools for author and illustrator events. Expansion is on the cards, with Ross’ eye on a larger premise on the same street.

    Booksellers & distributors Bosses Retailer Retail (Indie)
  • Zoe Ross

    United Agents Agent

    “The delight of being an agent,” Zoe Ross says, “is you can follow your instincts and whatever piques your interest.” With self-confessed “magpie tastes", Ross' eclectic client list ranges across literary fiction (A K Blakemore, whose The Manningtree Witches just won the Desmond Elliott Prize) to thought-provoking non-fiction (Nels Abbey’s satirical anti-racist Think Like a White Man, Nell Frizzell’s The Panic Years) to celebs (Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish’s Clanlands) and cookery (Olivia Potts’ award-winning foodie memoir, A Half Baked Idea, and YouTube vegan chef Gaz Oakley, a.k.a. @AvantGardeVegan). Her cascade of eye-popping deals is all the more impressive as Ross has only been a full-time agent for 16 months having previously worked at United as a foreign rights and film/TV agent. That background holds her in good stead as she knows what works abroad—Alice Slater’s debut thriller Death of a Bookseller was sold to Hodder in April, and has gone to six territories—and for cross media opportunities. Ross adds: “Working at an agency like United is a perfect harmony of independence and having people behind you. You feel secure to just go and explore and do what you want to do.”

    Agent Deal Maker
  • Eimear Ryan

    Banshee Press Co-founder

    The genesis of Banshee was some “someday we should…” conversations between friends and fellow writers Laura Cassidy, Claire Hennessy and Eimear Ryan six years ago. Partially, they wanted to do their part to help better publishing’s author care and its recognition of the achievements of women writers, so a biannual literary magazine was born—and Banshee quickly established itself as one of the country’s literary tastemakers, going on to publish the great and up-and-comers of Irish (and further abroad) letters such as Sinéad Gleeson, Niamh Campbell and Ruth Gilligan. The books arm launched in 2019 with Lucy Sweeney Byrne’s rapturously reviewed collection of stories, and its latest is I Want To Know That I Will Be Okay, by acclaimed YA author Deirdre Sullivan. For the future, the literary magazine is remains vital there will be more welly put into the books: “Small press titles by their nature are often niche, but we want Banshee titles to be accessible and interesting to the general reading public.”

    Bosses Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Charlotte Seymour

    Andrew Nurnberg Associates Agent

    Charlotte Seymour studied modern languages and worked as a scout in France and the UK, so when the opportunity arose six years ago at Andrew Nurnberg with a dual remit to rep some of the agency’s foreign authors in Britain and build her UK list she leapt at the chance. Seymour has a 50/50 split between home-grown and foreign talent and over the years she has had a remarkable strike rate for translated titles, such as Italian author Elena Varvello's English PEN award-winning thriller Can You Hear Me? On the UK side, Sarah Pearse’s The Sanatorium has been this year's monster hit, a bestseller for Transworld and sold into 28 territories. Going forward Seymour thinks a large part of her job will be how to nurture careers for the long term and that will include more cross media properties. She adds: “So while I expect my focus will always be on books, the more opportunities around them that I can identify, the better. If I can keep on top of an ever-changing landscape and help my authors navigate it, so that they can focus on producing their best work, I think I’ll be pretty happy.”

    Agent Deal Maker
  • Nichola Smalley

    And Other Stories Publicity director

    Having a book that you’ve publicised on the International Booker Prize longlist is no mean feat, but it was a double celebration for Nichola Smalley when Andrzej Tichý’s Wretchedness made this year’s list, as she also translated the novel. In her own words, Smalley’s journey into publishing was “long and winding”, taking in a fashion degree, time abroad, then a language BA and PhD. During the latter, she became increasingly interested in translation, leading to a traineeship in publicity, marketing and sales at Sheffield-based indie And Other Stories. After taking maternity leave a couple of years ago, she returned to And Other Stories as publicity director, dedicating one day a week to translation. Currently, she is working on the final draft of a Swedish novel she has translated for Scribe and she is “really excited” about And Other Stories’ autumn list, particularly Tice Cin's Keeping the House. Lockdown has proved challenging as “the job of a publicist has changed dramatically”, but she has been bolstered by sharing knowledge and resources with other small presses. In fact, she describes getting to know authors and other industry professionals as a career highlight, saying: “I'm in this for the people as well as the books”.

    Creator PR, sales & marketing Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Delayna Spencer

    SAGE Senior commissioning editor

    Delayna Spencer joined SAGE in 2015 and was promoted to senior commissioning editor at the start of this year. “I prefer that academic publishing is research heavy and very market-focused,” she says. One of her first projects as commissioning editor was the Little Guides for Teachers series. A key part of the project was running a survey for practitioners, making the final product “something by teachers for teachers” and the leading title in the series is now a major bestseller in the professional teacher market. She is also spearheading Social Science for Social Justice, a new international book series for SAGE on social justice topics written by authors of colour. “This series is a response, a speaking back to the Ivory Tower of academia," she explains. After spotting “a clear lack of intersectionality” in SAGE’s diversity work, Spencer co-founded employee-led BAME and LGBTQIA+ groups with colleagues Lina Ashour and Sarah Brook. She says: “Already we’ve seen a lot of changes ...I feel the biggest impact we’ve had is making the company think about who is having these conversations and calling for marginalised folks, especially those at lower quartiles, to be heard.”

    Academic Commissioners Editors Publisher
  • Kate Straker

    Atlantic Books Senior publicity manager

    Straker’s career began with a “brilliantly varied introduction to the wider publishing industry” at arts PR agency FMcM in 2012, where she promoted literary awards, charities and industry events as well as publishers and authors. In 2015, she moved in-house to Quarto where she worked on the Aurum Press and Frances Lincoln lists and then went on to join Atlantic as publicity manager in 2017, being promoted to senior publicity manager in 2019. There she has produced campaigns across a wide variety of genres and publicised all five of the publisher’s Sunday Times bestsellers in the last four years, including Oyinkan Braithwaite’s award-winning My Sister, the Serial Killer and Chris Atkins’ prison memoir A Bit of a Stretch, which she was instrumental in pitching for. Her skills have boosted less obvious titles—she ran the campaigns for Atlantic’s two surprise hits of 2020: John Kampfner’s Why the Germans Do It Better and Pen Vogler’s Scoff. While Straker values commercial success, she also cares about the cultural importance of the books she works on. She says: “One of the joys of my role is seeing the long-term impact a successful publicity campaign has on the author, long after publication has come and gone.”

    PR, sales & marketing Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Kathryn Tann

    Parthian Books Reading engagement editor

    Upon graduating, Tann was set to join a London business writing agency but when that offer fell through, she was drawn to a career in publishing. With no industry contacts, she picked up experience remotely from her home in South Wales, eventually meeting Parthian Books director Richard Davies. In her two years with the indie, highlights have included: project managing an essay anthology from marginalised writers, Just So You Know; producing and recording Parthian’s first podcast series, "Queer Welsh Writing"; commissioning an audiobook list; and overseeing the “lightning-fast” publication of Alys Morgan’s Covid-19 hospital journal. As the pandemic took hold, Tann developed the new role of reading engagement editor, significantly growing Parthian’s online presence. She has also had freelance roles for organisations like the British Council and Wales Arts Review. During her MA in Creative Writing at Manchester University, she founded the "Podcast for New Writing" and project edited The 2020 Manchester Anthology. Tann is now at “a crossroads” as she is currently based in the North and keen to immerse herself in the local literature scene. With a passion for editing and working with authors plus a growing interest in audio platforms, looking ahead she would “like to be part of something new".

    Commissioners Editors Influencers Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Marianne Tatepo

    Ebury Press and Pop Press Commissioning editor

    It has been an eventful 18 months for Marianne Tatepo who moved across from Penguin Life to Ebury, made a string of big acquisitions and, in her spare time, founded the industry networking and mentoring group Black Agents & Editors, plus she guest-edited The Bookseller's inaugural Black Issue. Oh, and she also had to contend with contracting Covid...twice. Additionally, Tatepo also makes a bit of history, as being just the second person (after Nikesh Shukla) to appear on both The Bookseller's Rising Stars and 150 lists in a 12-month period. Those acquisitions demonstrate her proactive and astute publishing: buying Sharon Jones’ TikTok sensation Burn After Writing from micropress Carpet Bombing Culture; winning at auction Paula Sutton’s lifestyle-cum-happiness guide, Hill House Living; and, in what assuredly will be one of autumn 2021’s biggest books, signing “I May Destroy You” creator Michaela Coel’s Manifesto, after she contacted the star directly. A Brussels native, Tatepo moved to the UK in 2010 to study comparative literature with film at King’s College, London and did a publishing masters at UCL. She worked as a journalist and started her in-house career at Fourth Estate/William Collins before moving over to PRH. While she studied literature, non-fiction has been the professional draw: “I like its certainty...It brings together a range of skill as, obviously you still need to be good at editing, you also need to be good at structure, the pitch, the positioning. And you get a lot more of an opportunity to steer where the book is going.”

    Commissioners Editors Influencers Innovator Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Hermione Thompson

    Hamish Hamilton Commissioning editor

    Hermione Thompson published four début novelists since being promoted to commissioning editor three years ago, and two of them (Sophie Mackintosh and Avni Doshi) have been Booker longlisted. A third from that quartet, Lara Williams’ Supper Club, won the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. The common thread? Thompson was the only UK editor to see their potential and offer to publish them. This fits with Thompson's role within the imprint, where she has been since joining as an editorial assistant in 2015, as “a champion of provocative and risk-taking new literary voices”. She recently published one of the most anticipated débuts of 2021, Natasha Brown’s Assembly, while that provocative nature extends to non-fiction, too, such as Rafia Zakaria’s upcoming Against White Feminism. She has also recently led the relaunch of the literary magazine Five Dials, angling its remit to feature writers from underrepresented backgrounds. In the future, Thompson wants to “continue editing for my whole career...I like working with authors, editing books, and finding people who love those books. Wherever I end up, I wouldn't want to find myself in a position where I'm not in daily contact with the books ”.

    Commissioners Editors Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Belinda Toor

    HQ Digital Acting head of digital

    Belinda Toor is probably the only person in the industry to go from a Cadbury factory (working in data analytics on the Orwellian-sounding Continuous Improvement production line team) to publishing. Toor always wanted to get into the books, but had been knocked back time and again from publishing internships and work placements, until she gained a place on HarperCollins' traineeship. She then landed a role in HQ Digital and moved up rapidly from editorial assistant to commissioning editor, taking over as acting head of digital in a maternity cover last autumn. The commonality across her HQ roles has been “above all a fabulously talented list of authors” but also a strategic plan for each book: “Booksellers and physical bookstores play vital roles in building print bestsellers...we don’t have this luxury and rely on being able to communicate the ‘hook’ of the story within the few seconds...good metadata and dynamic pricing are, of course, important in trying to increase online visibility, too.” A highlight for Toor was launching her Born to Write open submissions project last year, aimed at writers from underrepresented backgrounds. For the future, “the plan is to keep building bestselling brands, and to continue to expand our publishing globally".

    Editors Innovator Publisher Trade Publishing (Adult)
  • Hannah Weatherill

    Northbank Talent Management Agent

    Following a Masters in Translation Studies at Edinburgh, a couple of internships with indie publishers, and two years as an assistant at Mira Trenchard Literary Scouting, Hannah Weatherill joined the newly launched Northbank Talent Management as adult fiction and children’s agent in 2019. According to founder Diane Banks, she “stood out right away” for her “detailed knowledge of the market and out-of-the-box thinking”. Over the last two years, she has struck 11 début fiction deals and five début children’s deals, as well as hugely expanding the territories sold for existing Northbank authors. Highlights include The Lock In by Phoebe Luckhurst sold to Michael Joseph for six figures at auction and Marion Todd’s See Them Run being shortlisted for the Bloody Scotland Début Prize. She has also helped several non-fiction writers pivot into historical fiction and into children’s books. Recently, she took over the agency’s book-to-screen representation, getting off to a flying start, with two projects optioned in her first two months, one at a four-way auction. Long term, she aims to “support authors to initiate and sustain successful publishing careers by being proactive” and also wants to “encourage openness within the industry by supporting new writers’ schemes and seeking out talent from a range of backgrounds”.

    Agent Children's Deal Maker
  • Eve Wersocki Morris

    Simon & Schuster Children’s Publicity manager

    Eve Wersocki Morris has achieved “unparalleled” media coverage for children’s books over her career—author Liz Kessler describes her work for her title When the World Was Ours as “hands down the best publicity campaign I’ve ever had”—and, from March 2020 onwards, her strategy and management of virtual events was described by colleagues as “incredible”. When lockdown hit, Wersocki Morris “didn’t for one moment think events couldn’t go ahead in some form”. A virtual event with bookshop Read Holmfirth for Katie and Kevin Tsang’s Dragon Mountain saw 850 children join in, and another for Sophy Henn’s Pizazz saw 1,200 kids get involved. Across 2020’s lockdowns, her virtual schools campaigns reached over 5,000 children and sold thousands of books. “The pandemic has made us realise we need books more than ever,” Wersocki Morris says. “Giving more space for children’s books in the media and retail area will help make a reader for life, which makes a book buyer for life. It’s in everyone’s interest to create new readers by investing in diverse stories and authors. Those potential customers will only want to join the ‘reading club’ when they can see themselves reflected in books.”

    Children's PR, sales & marketing Trade Publishing (Children's)
  • Stuart White

    WriteMentor Founder

    Children’s author Stuart White set up WriteMentor, a platform for kids' writers looking to improve their craft, after signing his first publishing deal in 2017, as a way to “give back”. Nearly 150 authors,— including Eugene Lambert, Sophie Cameron and Aisha Bushby, volunteered—and the scheme has now mentored over 200 children’s writers. Success stories have included Jenny Pearson, AJ Sass and Jenni Spangler. In total, 72 writers have signed with agents, 29 have publishing deals and the online community is currently 7,000 authors strong. White has also set up the WriteMentor Children’s New Novel and Picture Book Award, now in its fourth year, tailored mentor service WM Spark and online courses, and online conference WOWCon—which White describes as being “for those of us with little time, money or ability to travel, either due to geography or disability, where we can benefit in the same way as those in more fortunate, privileged positions”. He adds: “One of the things I’m very proud of with all the work I’ve done on WriteMentor, is that I’ve had very few negative interactions – the people who decide to write for kids, or work in the industry, are the very best of us.”

    Authors & illustrators Children's Creative Writing
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