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Shortlists unveiled for 2018 IPG Independent Publishing Awards

The Independent Publishers Guild is delighted to announce the 12 shortlists for the 2018 IPG Independent Publishing Awards. They are:
Frankfurt Book Fair Trade Publisher of the Year
Bloomsbury Publishing, Hurst Publishers, Verso, Zed Books
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Blackwell’s Children’s Publisher of the Year
Bloomsbury Publishing, Little Tiger Group, Nosy Crow, Walker Books
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ProQuest Academic and Professional Publisher of the Year
Boydell & Brewer, Class Publishing, Edward Elgar Publishing,
Emerald Publishing, Kogan Page
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PLS Education Publisher of the Year
John Catt Educational, Maths – No Problem!
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IPG Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year
Hoxton Mini Press, Quiller Publishing, Search Press, SPCK
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Nick Robinson Newcomer Award
Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing, Old Barn Books, Otter-Barry Books
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The Bookseller International Achievement of the Year
Kogan Page, Nosy Crow, SPCK
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IPG Digital Publishing Award
Bloomsbury Publishing, Class Publishing, Nosy Crow, PG Online
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Nielsen Digital Marketing Award
How2Become, Nosy Crow, Pluto Press
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Alison Morrison Diversity Award
Carcanet Press, Cassava Republic Press, Otter-Barry Books
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IPG Young Independent Publisher of the Year
Ola Gotkowska, Nosy Crow; Sam Hutchinson, b small publishing;
Emma Milman, Class Publishing
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GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award
Suzanne Collier, Inpress, The Independent Alliance, Lynette Owen

The shortlists cover the full spectrum of UK publishing and reveal the vibrancy of the independent sector. Drawn up by panels of experts from the largest number of nominations ever received in the 12 years of the IPG Independent Publishing Awards, the categories feature a total of 42 nominations, taking in 26 different publishers, two other publishing organisations and five individuals.
Six publishers—Nosy Crow, Bloomsbury Publishing, Class Publishing, Kogan Page, Otter-Barry Books and SPCK—have two or more nominations across the shortlists. Ten publishers—Boydell & Brewer, Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing, Emerald Publishing, Hurst Publishers, Little Tiger Group, Old Barn Books, Otter-Barry Books, Pluto Press, Verso and Zed Books—appear on the shortlists for the first time.
The winners of the 12 Awards will be revealed at a Gala Dinner during the IPG’s Annual Spring Conference on Thursday 8 March 2018. A final Award, for the prestigious title of Ingram Content Group Independent Publisher of the Year, will be selected from a shortlist made up of the winners of the five Publisher of the Year categories, with the recipient following in the footsteps of Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Templar Publishing, Alastair Sawday Publishing, Earthscan, Continuum, Constable & Robinson, Bloomsbury Publishing’s Academic and Professional Division, Usborne Publishing, Search Press, Nosy Crow and Edward Elgar Publishing.
IPG chief executive Bridget Shine says: “Each year we say it: competition for the IPG Independent Publishing Awards is tougher than ever. We were blown away by the quantity and quality of the entries from IPG members, which gave our judges an extraordinarily tough job. The shortlists they have produced reveal the incredible diversity and dynamism of independent publishing in 2018, and our only regret is that many more superb entrants could not be included. We can’t wait to celebrate the outstanding achievements of the independent publishing community with members in March.”
The IPG would like to thank the sponsors of the 2018 Independent Publishing Awards: Ingram Content Group, supporter of the overall Independent Publisher of the Year Award, Blackwell’s, the Frankfurt Book Fair, GBS, Nielsen Book, ProQuest, Publishers’ Licensing Services and The Bookseller.
The IPG is also grateful to all the judges of the Awards: Graham Bell, EDItEUR; Nick Clee, BookBrunch; Elise Dillsworth, Elise Dillsworth Agency; Marzia Ghiselli, Publisher Partnerships, Findaway; Jo Henry, Nielsen Book; Ruth Jones, Ingram Content Group; Stephen Lustig, SJ Music Publications; Sam Missingham, Lounge Books; Natasha Onwuemezi, The Bookseller; Steve Potter, Wordery; Ken Rhodes, Eurospan; Peter Saxton, Waterstones; Kieron Smith, Blackwell’s; and Chris Wold, consultant.
Judges’ comments about each of the 12 shortlists for the 2018 IPG Independent Publishing Awards follow.

Frankfurt Book Fair Trade Publisher of the Year
Bloomsbury Publishing had a standout year in 2017, with sales notably up and a host of prizes including the Man Booker with George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. Judges admired its risk-taking fiction and non-fiction, the smart reimagining of backlist titles and a commitment to promoting new and diverse voices. “This was a great entry that really conveyed the story of an excellent year, full of creative and ambitious trade publishing.”
Hurst Publishers also impressed with a diverse range of publishing, morphing from its scholarly remit into successful publishing for the trade. It generated record sales from a list of challenging titles, and achieved wide media coverage and social media traction, including via a YouTube channel. “Moving from academic publishing into the trade isn’t easy, but for a small publisher Hurst is remarkably good at publicity and marketing,” judges said.
Verso has followed a similar path into the trade, and found a receptive audience for its left-wing list in 2017. Its creative marketing, led by social media and author events, has triggered substantial sales through its own relaunched website as well as in shops. “Verso has really reached out to the trade lately, and it’s paying off in sales,” judges said. “There was some very significant publishing last year and the level of direct sales is phenomenal.”
Zed Books, like Hurst Publishers and Verso, appears on this shortlist for the first time. It produced some nimble and responsive publishing in 2017, backed up with excellent PR and digital activity. A rethinking of its visual identity led to a sharp upturn in direct to consumer sales. “Zed is a small publisher with a big story to tell and a very clear business strategy,” said the judges, who also applauded its ethos as an employer and its support of BAME voices.
Blackwell’s Children’s Publisher of the Year
Bloomsbury Publishing, shortlisted here for the fourth time in a row, had another year of growth across print, digital, audio and rights. Highlights included the Costa Children’s Book Award, the 20th anniversary of JK Rowling’s first book and the successful launch of new novelists. “Bloomsbury is still inventive and successful with Harry Potter, but there’s a lot more going on,” judges said. “The figures are strong and the author branding is great.”
Little Tiger Group makes this shortlist for the first time after a year in which it drastically improved its retail partnerships, production values, rights trading and digital marketing. The publication of A Change is Gonna Come showed its commitment to diversity too. “Little Tiger has listened to feedback and massively upped its game lately,” judges said. “It’s very well led and the team there clearly work their socks off.”
Nosy Crow has won this Award four times in the last six years, and is shortlisted once again for another 12 months of growth across the board. Judges singled out its brand-building, partnerships with booksellers and constant digital innovation, and noted its relentless rights activity around the world. “Nosy Crow keeps moving along on an incredibly successful path,” judges said. “The way it listens to readers and retailers is second to none.”
Walker Books combined its rich backlist with several frontlist hits in 2017, and UK sales were enhanced by export and co-edition growth. From attractive picture books to edgy Young Adult fiction, it showed creative publishing and energetic marketing and publicity. Judges said: “Walker sets really high standards in everything it does. It constantly mines its properties for new sales while breaking a lot of new writers into the market too.”
ProQuest Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year
The shortlist of five companies for this category—extremely rare for the Independent Publishing Awards—reflects the vibrancy of the academic and professional community within the IPG at the moment.
Boydell & Brewer has been publishing in the humanities for nearly half a century and has more than 8,000 titles on its list, but 2017 was one of its best years yet. Growth was spread across print, e-books and rights, and judges also admired the ethos of the company, which is now owned by employees. “It has really enlivened its publishing lately, and the switch to staff ownership has obviously reinforced its independent spirit,” they said.
Class Publishing was another long-established publisher hitting new heights in 2017. There were record sales across its healthcare and law specialisms, a bold switch from one-off sales to subscription models in many areas of content, and new long-term deals on co-publishing and US distribution. “Class’ wide reach and switch to distribution is paying off in sales,” judges said. “It seems equally at home selling direct and in partnership.”
Edward Elgar Publishing, winner of both this Award and the overall title of Independent Publisher of the Year in 2017, is shortlisted again for another record year of sales and commissioning. Innovative use of technology is enhancing its reputation as the go-to publisher in its field. “It’s got a really solid business model and total clarity about its market,” said the judges. “Like a lot of independents in this sector, it’s punching way above its weight.”
Emerald Publishing is shortlisted here for the first time—for achievements in its 50th anniversary year. It marked the occasion by reimagining not just its brand identity but its ecommerce website, publishing formats and Open Access offer, and it launched a new Author Hub too. “Emerald is a big company now, but it’s stayed nimble and responsive to customers,” said the judges. “What it’s achieved in the last year is very impressive.”
Kogan Page also had its 50th birthday in 2017, and celebrated with sharp growth in print, digital and rights revenue. It created its first online course and a new B2B digital collections platform, and secured some important co-publishing contracts. “An increase in sales like this is impressive for a well-established publisher,” the judges commented. “It may have been going for 50 years, but it’s clearly determined to keep refreshing itself.”
PLS Education Publisher of the Year
John Catt Educational was founded nearly 60 years ago, but recorded its best-ever book sales and profits in 2017. It has successfully diversified its school publishing lately, and brought in extra cash from guidebook advertising and foreign rights. “John Catt is very focused on its niche but not afraid to try new things,” said the judges. “Its investment has been very strategic and it has turned up some very good new sources of revenue.”
Maths – No Problem!, winner of this Award last year, had another remarkable year of growth. It achieved exceptionally high customer retention rates, expanded its teacher support resources and ramped up its digital marketing. “To build such a substantial business from a single subject in such a short space of time is extraordinary. It’s managed its growth extremely well, and many larger publishers could learn a thing or two from it.”
IPG Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year
Hoxton Mini Press won the Nick Robinson Newcomer Award in 2017, and has bedded down further in its niche of east London photography while also moving into guides, photo anthologies and a joint venture with Penguin. Judges liked its stylish approach and the scale of direct sales generated by events like launch parties. “This is beautifully produced specialist publishing, and it will be very interesting to see where the company goes next,” they said.
Quiller Publishing also diversified its publishing in 2017, adding some successful food and drink books to its rich backlist of country life titles. It also rebranded its image and website, made its digital marketing more targeted and switched sales to an agency, increasing turnover as a result. “It’s great to see an established and respected independent move its direction a bit while staying totally committed to its niche,” judges said.
Search Press, the overall Independent Publisher of the Year at these Awards in 2015, maintained its dominance of the art and craft market in 2017. It created an impressive number of new accounts in 2017, set up a telesales operation for the craft trade, and struck new co-publishing deals while working its backlist hard. “Search knows its market inside out,” judges said. “It’s a really impressive company that has become the go-to in craft.”
SPCK enjoyed a very good year in the challenging Christian sector, with CEO Sam Richardson—Young Independent Publisher of the Year in 2016—continuing a reinvigoration of its brand and reputation. Responsive publishing, new series and apps and a wide range of partnerships contributed to record sales. “SPCK is an amazing turnaround story,” said the judges. “It’s taken the time to work out what its readers want and the best ways to get it to them.”
Nick Robinson Newcomer Award
Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing is shortlisted after quickly establishing itself as a top brand in its niche of agricultural science. It has already accumulated several hundred chapters of content and generated excellent feedback. “Burleigh Dodds has a very bright future,” said the judges, who also saw the value of its publishing in meeting the challenge of feeding a rising population. “It’s taking on some very important work, properly and seriously.”
Old Barn Books has broken into the competitive picture and novelty book market with sharply focused publishing and creative marketing. Highlights in 2017 included a place on the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist and a deal for an exclusive title with John Lewis, and it is becoming a popular brand among schools, libraries and independent bookshops. “It’s got a very well rounded approach to its publishing and really strong production values,” judges said.
Otter-Barry Books has used founder Janetta Otter-Barry’s extensive experience in children’s publishing to make an immediate impact in the sector. Its books have already secured acclaim from reviewers and awards, and it is pushing into international markets too. Judges also admired the company’s commitment to promoting diversity in children’s books. “It’s establishing itself with some beautiful books, and there’s lots more growth to be had.”
The Bookseller International Achievement Award
Kogan Page achieved eye-catching growth in international sales in its 50th anniversary year. There was brisk rights and exports trade across North America, South East Asia and the Middle East in particular, and e-book sales to the US soared. “Kogan Page has always been a smart, profitable business, but its international achievements in 2017 stood out. They’re the rewards of a very well thought through global strategy,” judges said.
Nosy Crow is shortlisted here for the sixth time in seven years after another stellar year of sales. Judges admired its strategic, rounded and well-invested approach to global business, which sees it secure world rights to content wherever possible and leverage them to the extent that more than half its revenue is earned beyond the UK. “International is integrated into everything Nosy Crow does—it’s so ingenious in the way it exploits its rights,” they said.
SPCK, last year’s Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year, continued its revitalisation in 2017 with best-ever revenue from exports and translation deals. A new distribution agreement in the US and smart partnerships in India and several African countries laid the foundations for more growth under an ambitious five-year plan. “This is a great example of a company with a clear sense of mission and purpose for its niche around the world,” judges said.
IPG Digital Publishing Award
Bloomsbury Publishing made big strides in developing its Bloomsbury Digital Resources division in 2017—a start-up-style unit to transform its academic and professional content. Technology is being deployed not just to serve Bloomsbury’s customers better, but to make it quicker and easier to develop content. “This is really impressive strategic thinking for the long-term—not just across one or two products but the whole range,” judges said.
Class Publishing is shortlisted for a bold change in the way it builds and sells its professional apps—from one-off purchases to subscriptions. As well as providing users with better and more up to date content, it has generated higher and more sustainable sales. “Very few companies have made the transition between sales models as successfully as this,” said the judges. It’s the rewards of a very strategic approach and a lot of bravery.”
Nosy Crow expanded its digital publishing in tandem with its print books in 2017, launching both a new programme of fiction audiobooks and book-related websites under a new partnership with the British Museum. It extended its range of apps too, and started to produce them for third parties. “Nosy Crow doesn’t seem to take a wrong step in its digital work, and it’s diversifying in some really interesting ways,” said the judges.
PG Online is an example of an independent publisher harnessing digital technology to evolve the way content is sold and used. Its worksheets and other resources have been used in more than 150,000 lessons in schools, and its entry showed they have been warmly welcomed by teachers. Judges commented: “PG Online is using digital to do something pretty unique, and their content is having a demonstrable impact on the people who use it.”
Nielsen Digital Marketing Award
How2Become is seeking to win this Award for a third year in a row. The large majority of its sales now come through its website, driven by focused email marketing, targeted paid-for click-throughs, a new CRM platform for social media and more than five million visits to its YouTube channel. “How2Become is so sophisticated in the way it approaches its digital marketing, and superb at analysing what's working and what’s not,” judges said.
Nosy Crow, winner of this Award in 2014 and 2015, further enhanced its digital marketing to readers, retailers, reviewers, authors and overseas publishers alike in 2017. It launched an Instagram platform, expanded its YouTube presence and grew direct-to-consumer sales, and still found time to blog every day. Judges said: “Nosy Crow ticks every box in digital marketing. For what is still a relatively small company, it achieves an amazing amount.”
Pluto Press used astute digital marketing to capture the interest of a fresh generation of left-wing political activists. A new podcast series and viral video content have been effective, but the real game-changer has been a responsive ecommerce website that has drastically increased direct sales. “Pluto has worked out what kind of marketing resonates with its readers, and hit on exactly the right media for it—all on a shoestring budget,” judges said.
Alison Morrison Diversity Award
Carcanet Press, winner of this Award in 2016, continues its staunch commitment to promoting diverse voices in poetry. Its list includes work from 50 nations and 37 languages, and its authors in 2017 included Chinese exiles, LGBT poets and dual-heritage writers. “Diversity has been a big thing in publishing recently, but Carcanet has been promoting it for a very long time,” the judges said. “It’s not added on to the business—it’s fundamental.”
Cassava Republic Press had its first full year in the UK in 2017, but has already established itself as a leading source of writers of African descent. It has quickly picked up media coverage and several awards, and takes its work out into BAME communities and festivals. “It’s been great to see Cassava hit the ground running in the UK,” commented the judges. “It’s achieved a lot in a short space of time and is doing some valuable outreach work.”
Otter-Barry Books was founded by Janetta Otter-Barry of Frances Lincoln, winner of the first ever Diversity Award in 2008. She has continued the mission of culturally diverse and inclusive children’s publishing at her start-up, with picture books challenging prejudices about race and gender and several stories imported from other cultures. “It’s producing some beautiful books and a great variety of publishing, with diversity right at the heart,” judges said.
IPG Young Independent Publisher of the Year
Ola Gotkowska of Nosy Crow, shortlisted for this Award for a fourth time, helped Nosy Crow to another sharp increase in both foreign rights and co-edition sales in 2017. She found dozens of new rights customers, and combines sales and negotiation skills with superlative organisation. “She does her job terrifically well in a part of the industry that is usually unsung—but which is clearly a major reason for Nosy Crow’s success,” said the judges.
Sam Hutchinson of b small publishing shows how the rising stars of the sector are often superb multi-taskers. Working with co-owner Cath Bruzzone, he does everything from stuffing envelopes and accounts to commissioning and creating new websites, and he increased b small’s sales and profitability in 2017. Judges said: “He’s forward-thinking and focused and has got to grips with the whole business. Like a true independent publisher, he does it all.”
Emma Milman of Class Publishing has had a similarly wide-ranging impact on her business. As editorial manager she has launched, commissioned and edited numerous complex projects, and set up co-publishing partnerships in the UK and overseas. Her testimonial called her “a credit to the publishing industry,” and judges agreed. “Emma’s obviously an incredibly sharp editor and publisher who has been a big part of Class’ success lately,” they said.
GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award
Suzanne Collier is known to many people in independent publishing as a dependable source of support. As founder of Bookcareers.com she provides expert careers guidance, coaching and clinics, and has helped hundreds of people experiencing redundancy or seeking new work. She is a vocal champion of publishing as a career too. “The support and advice Suzanne provides is invaluable to any publishing job seeker,” said one testimonial.
Inpress is a staunch supporter of independent publishing, providing sales, marketing and distribution services to several dozen small companies. It grew its sales and team in 2017, and has been an important contributor to diversity in the industry. “The Inpress team really go the extra mile for their publishers,” said one member. “They offer a professional service to very small publishers who on their own would be too small to be seen on the radar of the trade.”
The Independent Alliance coordinated by Faber & Faber has grown into a major force in UK publishing and a significant contributor to the success of many IPG members. With an energetic team of 30 and close ties with independent booksellers in particular, it generates sales that make it the fifth biggest ‘group’ in the country, according to Nielsen Book’s TCM data. Its collective strength drives strong sales for its members internationally too.
Lynette Owen is nominated for her help to countless independent publishers in the challenging field of rights. As rights consultant to the IPG she has advised dozens of members, and her books on rights and contracts are indispensable. “Lynette is peerless in her field,” said one member. “She is the leading authority on rights and brings every ounce of her experience to her work with the IPG. Independent publishers are lucky to have her.”
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