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IPG Independent Publishing Awards: Shortlist revealed!

The IPG received a record number of entries for the 2017 Awards, with the quality of submissions higher than ever before. The 12 different Awards have a total of 41 nominations, with several categories extending to four rather than three candidates to reflect the outstanding standard of entries.
The 41 nominations encompass 28 different companies and four individuals. Ranging from centuries-old Cambridge University Press to start-ups of the last couple of years, and from renowned trade names to niche specialists, they cover a vast spectrum of UK publishing. The scope and quality of the shortlists reflects the vibrancy, diversity and ambition of the independent publishing sector at the moment.
The shortlists were compiled by panels of experts over two days of deliberations, and competition was intense in many categories. Six publishers—Bloomsbury Publishing, Faber & Faber, Hoxton Mini Press, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Nosy Crow and Oneworld—have two or more nominations. No fewer than ten—Bibliocloud, Cambridge University Press, Cassava Republic Press, Firefly Press, Hoxton Mini Press, Icon Books, John Catt Educational, Kogan Page, Maths – No Problem! and Saraband—appear on the shortlists for a first time. Several more return after several years away.
The 12 winners of these IPG Independent Publishing Awards will be revealed at a Gala Dinner during the IPG’s Annual Spring Conference on Thursday 9 February, hosted by author, playwright and speaker Damian Barr. They will be followed by the presentation of a final Award—the flagship Fox Williams Independent Publisher of the Year. The shortlist for this Award will comprise of the winners of the five Publisher of the Year categories, with the recipient following Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Templar Publishing, Alastair Sawday Publishing, Earthscan, Continuum, Constable & Robinson, Bloomsbury Publishing’s Academic and Professional Division, Usborne Publishing, Search Press and Nosy Crow as the 11th overall winner.
IPG chief executive Bridget Shine says: “Competition for this year’s IPG Independent Publishing Awards was extraordinary. Our entry field has improved and diversified every year, and it has hit new heights in 2017 in terms of both quality and quantity. Our judges had an exceptionally tough job to do, and we thank them for their diligence and consideration of every entry.
“These shortlists provide the best possible evidence of the richness of UK independent publishing, and every company and individual on them should feel very proud of their achievements. Entrants who did not make the cut should not feel discouraged, and we thank all the IPG members who made these shortlists selections the most difficult task we have ever had at the Awards. We are really looking forward to further celebrating the outstanding achievements of the independent publishing sector in the company of members on 9 February.”
The IPG would like to thank the sponsors of the 2017 Independent Publishing Awards: Fox Williams LLP, sponsor of the overall Independent Publisher of the Year Award; Gardners, sponsor of the Awards drinks reception; and individual Award sponsors Blackwell’s, GBS, Ingram Content Group, Nielsen Book, ProQuest, Publishers Licensing Society, Ruth Killick Publicity and The Bookseller.
The IPG is grateful to all the judges of the Awards: Graham Bell, executive director, EDItEUR; Nicholas Clee, editor, BookBrunch; Elise Dillsworth, founder, Elise Dillsworth Agency; Mary Elliott, associate, Fox Williams LLP; Peter Faber, partner, Fox Williams LLP; Marzia Ghiselli, publisher partnerships, Firsty Express; Clare Grist Taylor, former operations director, Profile Books; Gareth Hardy, head of commercial, Blackwell’s; Ruth Jones, director of publisher business development, Ingram Content Group; Michael Jubb, Jubb Consulting; Simon Littlewood, consultant; Stephen Lustig, non-executive director, Eurospan; Subroto Mozumdar, formerly of Pearson; Jonathan Nowell, senior adviser, Trillium Partners; Steve Potter, commercial manager, Wordery; Ken Rhodes, managing director, Eurospan; Peter Saxton, buyer, Waterstones; Simon Skinner, director of business development, BDS; and Tom Tivnan, features and insight editor, the Bookseller.
Judges’ comments about each of the companies and individuals on the 12 shortlists for the 2017 IPG Independent Publishing Awards follow.
Trade Publisher of the Year
Faber & Faber is shortlisted on the back of a year that saw it continue a restructure and resurgence. Sharp commissioning and marketing drove sales up, and it looked well beyond publishing with popular Faber Members and Faber Academy initiatives. “Faber’s turnaround after a challenging few years is an impressive feat,” said the judges. “It published a lot of books outstandingly well in 2016 and has built a great brand with consumers.”
Icon Books celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017, following a best ever year in 2016. Its publishing was often proactive and imaginative, exemplified by a book on Leicester City’s Premier League triumph, and it was backed up by committed publicity work. “Icon has the gumption to publish into categories that are often dominated by bigger publishers, and many of its most successful books have come from its own initiative,” judges said.
Oneworld realised every literary publisher’s dream by winning the Man Booker Prize in 2015—then did it again in 2016. While riding the crest of the wave in fiction, it has also maintained an excellent non-fiction list. Judges noted that it takes bold decisions in commissioning and has adopted a very strategic approach to sales and marketing. “Oneworld could easily be resting on its laurels, but it’s continuing to do lots of new and creative things.”
Saraband could have had a tough 2016 after the closure of its sales partner Faber Factory Plus, but instead it achieved a dramatic increase in turnover. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Man Booker shortlisted His Bloody Project was its standout bestseller, but it had a diverse range of other hits, driven by excellent collaboration with retailers and some non-traditional channels. “Saraband has amazing energy and great focus in a challenging market,” judges said.
Blackwell’s Children’s Publisher of the Year
Bloomsbury Publishing grew sales and profits in 2016, and its books scooped a host of awards, including a Costa and the double of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals. The Harry Potter brand helped, but Bloomsbury showed progress in picture books, apps, rights and exports, especially in Australia and India. “Its figures in 2016 were excellent, at home and abroad,” judges said. “There’s plenty of innovation and support of new talent.”
Nosy Crow, a three-time winner of this Award in its first six years, had another remarkable year of growth. Judges noted its innovation in digital, high production values, proactive publishing partnerships and lively marketing and publicity. It excelled on the international stage too, and managed its growing backlist brilliantly. “There’s so much energy at Nosy Crow, and the backlist sales are exceptional for a relatively new company,” judges said.
Walker Books outpaced the buoyant children’s market in 2016, thanks to some big brand authors, excellent exploitation of backlist and rising export and coedition sales. It launched a new Walker Studio imprint too, and took a collegiate approach to sales and marketing. “For a long established business to grow as it did in 2016 is impressive,” judges commented. “It uses its heritage very well but it’s constantly trying new things too.”
ProQuest Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year
Cambridge University Press is the world’s oldest publishing business but is shortlisted for these Awards for the first time in 2017. Standout achievements last year included the launch of new book and journal content platform Cambridge Core and a revamped Open Access programme, Cambridge Open. Judges noted its excellent author care too. “It might be hundreds of years old but it’s still doing a lot of very interesting things,” they said.
Edward Elgar Publishing, winner of this Award in 2014, celebrated its 30th anniversary last year with growth in sales and profits amid a challenging market. It diversified from monographs, bolstered its law publishing and ramped up sales through its Elgaronline platform. “Moving into law was a bold move that has really paid off,” judges said. ”It’s a great example of how independent publishers can beat the big boys at their own game.”
Jessica Kingsley Publishers is another company celebrating 30 years in publishing, but continuing with an experimental attitude. It spread its wings in 2016, relaunching its children’s books, stepping up its graphic programme and moving into religious publishing. “JKP has been going for a long time now but it’s still making bold moves,” said the judges. “The passion for everything it publishes really shines through.”
SAGE Publishing is a fourth well-established publisher on the shortlist, and likewise remains hungry for fresh publishing and sales opportunities. It made more acquisitions in 2016, added to its SAGE Video collection and established itself as a key player in the fields of big data and computational social science. “SAGE could be just coasting along but it’s advancing on a lot of fronts and finding new ways to get its stuff out there,” judges said.
Publishers Licensing Society Education Publisher of the Year
John Catt Educational has been publishing for the independent schools market for nearly 60 years, and recorded its best ever book sales and profits in 2016. It added some big titles to its rich backlist, and achieved impressive publicity and sales into trade as well as education channels. “John Catt has been doing some great stuff for a long time,” judges said. “For a company of this size to get the profile it does is impressive.”
Jolly Learning marks its 30th anniversary in 2017, and used last year to refine its print resources, launch a new free app and carve out some innovative new marketing strategies. It was very active around the world, distributing into 120 countries including far-flung territories like Kiribati and Papua New Guinea. “For a company that has been around for a long time to embrace so many new things is very impressive,” said the judges.
Maths – No Problem! is a newer company here, having published its first textbooks just three years ago. But it quickly shook up maths learning with resources imported from Singapore, and grew sales exponentially in 2016. Its approach has been adopted by more than 1,000 schools and endorsed by the Department for Education too. “This company has seen an opportunity and run with it. The growth in a short space of time is phenomenal,” judges said.
IPG Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year
Bradt Travel Guides has carved out a niche as a publisher of guides to places that are off the beaten track. It had its most profitable year ever in 2016, picked up a host of travel writing prizes and used its website to grow direct to consumer sales. Judges also admired its strong company culture. “Substantial sales growth is a hell of an achievement in travel books at the moment. Bradt is well established but still daring to try new things,” they said.
Hoxton Mini Press, just three years old, has made a big splash with beautifully designed books at good price points. Its early publishing has focused on east London, but it is now pushing its brand further afield and trying new things like book club subscriptions and giftwrapping. Judges said: “Hoxton Mini Press really captures the imagination—it’s a textbook case of how to get a small press up and running.”
SPCK has stood out lately in the challenging Christian publishing sector. Under the guidance of 2016’s Young Independent Publisher of the Year, Sam Richardson, it achieved its highest ever turnover and adhered to well thought out strategies around investment, brand authors, digital activity and marketing. “SPCK is performing very well in a tough market,” judges noted. “It’s got a clear sense of purpose and what it needs to do to get better.”
Nick Robinson Newcomer Award
Firefly Press made a mark in the competitive children’s fiction market in 2016 with a host of award wins and shortlistings. Marketing and publicity were exceptionally strong for a still small company, and many of its books went to reprints. Its ambitious plans are balanced with careful expansion. “2016 was a really good year for Firefly,” judges said. “It’s forging out a good reputation in children’s publishing and its authors clearly have a lot of love for it.”
Hoxton Mini Press, also shortlisted for the Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year Award, has taken an innovative approach to publishing ever since it launched with the help of Kickstarter funding. Its photography books have become collectables, and it has achieved extensive retail support and publicity. “The company has got a lot of excitement and momentum about it,” said the judges. “It’s a great business strategy and a sustainable model.”
Orenda Books is only just into its third year, but has carved out a reputation as a resourceful, risk-taking and thoroughly professional publisher. Its literary fiction list drew widespread critical acclaim in 2016, and founder Karen Sullivan single-handedly tackles everything from acquisition to production to sales. “Orenda goes on getting better,” judges said. “Its books look great and a lot of what it does is worthy of a publisher with far greater resources.”
The Bookseller International Achievement Award
Kogan Page is shortlisted for an Independent Publishing Award for the first time in its 50th anniversary year. It drew nearly half its print sales from global markets in 2016, with strengths including direct to consumer ecommerce in the US and several European and Middle Eastern markets. “Kogan Page is capitalising very well on some high-worth titles,” judges said. “It’s reaping success without compromising its fundamentals.”
Nosy Crow is shortlisted here for the fifth time in six years. It had another outstanding year of international business in 2016, doubling sales in the US and Asia and making more than half its turnover outside the UK. It added several hundred coedition and rights deals, and launched a rights newsletter for global publishers. “The sense of energy at Nosy Crow is incredible—it goes at international sales hammer and tongs,” judges noted.
Oneworld used its remarkable success at the last two Man Booker Prizes to ramp up its international profile. It more than doubled export sales in 2016, establishing strong new relationships with sales agencies and distributors and using its authors to sharpen up marketing and publicity around the world. “Oneworld didn’t just sit back after its Booker wins—it really capitalised on the opportunities they brought,” judges said. “It’s punching way above its weight.”
Pavilion Books is seeking to win this Award for the second year in a row. It owed much of its success in 2015 to Millie Marotta’s phenomenally popular colouring books, and capitalised on it by building in new markets including India and South Africa in 2016. It reinvigorated backlist sales in the US too. “Pavilion was coming off a stellar year but has worked out how to follow that success in a very strategic way,” said the judges.
Ingram Content Group Digital Publishing Award
Bloomsbury Publishing is shortlisted for Fashion Central, its new portal of content for higher education that builds on the Berg Fashion Library. It combines subscription and rental models and serves both instruction and research needs from a seamless, integrated platform. “Bloomsbury has got a clear sense of its audience segments and how the platform can deliver for them,” judges said. “It’s a global play with thinking outside of the box.”
Class Professional Publishing receives a first ever place on a shortlist for the Independent Publishing Awards for iCPG, an app that gives ambulance personnel clinical information. Drawn from Class’ print content, it is constantly updated with the latest guidance and has quickly built a substantial subscriber base. Judges said: “This app is highly focused and successful. For a small publisher with limited resources it’s very impressive.”
Faber & Faber, winner of this Award twice in the last three years, is shortlisted for Faber Permissions. By simplifying and partly automating the permissions process, it has helped reduce admin and grow revenue, and Faber is now exploring license opportunities. “This is a really creative and innovative use of digital to help a time-consuming and admin-heavy process,” judges noted. It shows how technology can really streamline a business.”
PG Online was recognised by judges for its new digital resources for teachers and students of new Design and Technology disciplines in schools. Packed with content, neatly organised into modules and easily customised, it has been well received in the market and helped PG Online to sharply increase its turnover in 2016. “This is a very well thought through platform—full of content and nicely integrated,” judges commented.
Nielsen Digital Marketing Award
How2Become, winner of this Award last year, impressed again in 2016 with campaigns including YouTube videos and a new ‘customer funnelling’ strategy. It led to a steep rise in sales, more than half of which were made direct to consumers from its website. “A lot of big corporates could learn from how it segments audiences and uses non-traditional channels,” judges said. “For a company of its size the marketing is a massive achievement.”
Jessica Kingsley Publishers is shortlisted in its 30th anniversary year for some ambitious digital marketing, led by a two-day virtual festival for its Singing Dragon imprint. It engaged its customers and authors, strengthened its brand and increased sales. “JKP is always looking for fresh ways to promote its content, which isn’t easy in niches,” judges said. “A festival like this is a big thing for a small publisher to take on, and it executed it very well.”
Nosy Crow, winner of this Award in 2014 and 2015, is nominated after again pushing the boundaries of digital marketing. It relaunched its newsletters, added to its Stories Aloud digital audio content and blogged daily, further increasing traffic to its lively website and social media platforms. “Nosy Crow really knows what it wants to achieve from its marketing and has brilliant author engagement. It does what it does so well,” judges said.
The IPG’s judges of the Digital Publishing and Digital Marketing Awards were struck by the depth and ambition of activity in both categories. “Independent publishers have made huge strides in digital—it’s no longer an add-on but at the centre of their businesses,” they said.
Alison Morrison Diversity Award
Carcanet Press, winner of this Award in 2016, is shortlisted again for its hugely diverse list of poetry, fiction and non-fiction from around the world. Its backlist now has work in 37 languages and 50 countries, and it added to its track record in 2016 with more bold publishing and honours including the Forward Prize. “Carcanet is giving voice to authors from around the world who would otherwise not be heard here—it’s a very important job,” judges said.
Cassava Republic Press became the first African publisher to open a UK office last year. It has since sought to bring under-represented African voices from diverse backgrounds to the market, and has set up lists for romance and children’s books as well as literary titles. Several of its books have picked up widespread reviews and recognition at awards. “This is diversity in action—a welcome and much-needed effort to redress the balance,” judges said.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers has impacted diversity by publishing books that seek to normalise people’s differences and promote inclusion. Its titles span autism, special needs, depression, dementia and other areas, and last year it took on an editor to develop a new gender identity and diversity list. “Jessica Kingsley has made a big difference to a lot of lives over its 30 years, and the range of diversity issues it addresses is impressive,” judges said.
Oneworld has one of the most diverse literary lists to be found anywhere in publishing, giving voice to authors from around the world. It has published the last two winners of the Man Booker Prize from Jamaican novelist Marlon James and African-American author Paul Beatty, and is now extending its approach into children’s books. “The diversity of Oneworld’s list is incredible—it’s an outward-facing, risk-taking and passionate publisher,” judges said.
Ruth Killick Publicity Young Independent Publisher of the Year
Joshua Brown of How2Become drove a record year of turnover for his company. Rising from temporary admin assistant to operations director in less than three years, he now has a vast remit including sales, marketing, title management and recruitment—and he’s still only 25. “Joshua achieved so much in 2016 and did remarkable things in some non-traditional publishing environments. He’s a real rising star,” said the judges.
Ola Gotkowska of Nosy Crow has been instrumental in the phenomenal international performance of the fast growing children’s publisher. As rights manager she steered several hundred coedition and rights deals in 2016, constantly turning up new markets and giving Nosy Crow a high profile in eastern Europe in particular. “Rights is such an important part of publishing, and Ola builds on her impressive successes every year,” judges said.
Emma Milman of Class Professional Publishing has become an indispensible part of her publisher’s team after just 18 months in the job. From commissioning and complex production tasks to app development and publishing partnerships she has been a hugely productive all-rounder. “People like Emma are the engines of publishing,” said the judges. “She’s a real self-starter who has done an amazing variety of things in a very short time.”
GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award
Bibliocloud is a publishing system that has been nominated here for the help it has given IPG members in their data management and other tasks. By streamlining and automating processes, it has freed up many independents to focus on their publishing. One said: “Bibliocloud is a game-changer for us as a small publisher—it’s transformed how we manage our titles and our metadata. It’s so easy to use and does whatever we want it to do.”
Compass Independent Publishing Services has been shortlisted for its unstinting support of many IPG members’ sales efforts. Its team works closely with publishers to build their profiles among retailers, and strives to unearth new opportunities for sales. “The commitment, energy and knowledge of the Compass team has been outstanding from day one of our collaboration—they are a proactive and positive partner,” said one member.
Martin Palmer is nominated for his tireless efforts in pursuit of sales for various independent publishers. As well as helping them to gain traction with key retailers, he has been a valued partner on important publishing decisions. “Martin’s passion for the books we produce and his drive to put them on shelves across the UK is evident,” said one IPG member. “His advice on everything from covers to AIs and print outsourcing has been invaluable.”
Best wishes
Bridget Shine, Chief Executive, IPG
Bridget 2016