Nivia Evans, editor at Orbit Books, was named PW Star Watch Superstar at a virtual celebration cohosted by Publishers Weekly and Frankfurter Buchmesse over Zoom on October 13 and attended by more than 250 people. The award was announced by 2019 Superstar Jennifer N. Baker, managing editor at Random House Children’s Books and founder of the Minorities in Publishing podcast.
"Many of us, like the writers we publish, work in our own silos independently and with esteemed team members. As we know the world is unpredictable and our focus can be everywhere at once, so we may not always take time to recognize our work along with those we collaborate with," Baker said in introducing Evans. "Taking the time to nominate, salute, and honor our colleagues can mean the world to them for myriad reasons—-reasons that may be more profound than we know. The work that you do is valued."
Evans edits science fiction and fantasy at Orbit, a Hachette Book Group imprint, and is one of a small number of Black editors working at the Big Five publishing houses—and an even smaller number editing science fiction and fantasy. In that role, she is working to bring "more books that are unapologetically Black to readers" in "a genre that pushed BIPOC people to the fringes for a long time," as she previously told PW.
"When I started my career in publishing about 6 years ago, I never would have dreamed I’d be among so many people I’ve come to admire accepting such an honor," Evans said upon accepting the award. "This moment feels surreal, especially when I look back on the time I spent striving to make editing my career. I can remember several difficult conversations and tough rejections where it seemed simply getting a start in the industry was going to remain a pipe dream—let alone becoming a science fiction and fantasy editor. But for every moment I felt unwelcome, there were people who offered advice, who shared an opportunity, who made sure I felt supported enough to persevere so I could achieve my goal."
Evans continued: "Too often, I think we claim we’re lucky when people ask how we got started in publishing. But it’s not luck. Someone gave us a chance. Someone supported our goals, and then we kicked ass in our roles. That’s how we make lasting change in our industry." She added: "I hope to bring readers more spaceships and dragons, epic quests and magical doors for many years to come, and to remind people that science fiction and fantasy can amplify everyone’s voice, just as it has for me."
As part of winning the award, Evans will be honored at the virtual Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020, running this week October 14-18, and will travel to the fair in Germany next October. The trip to the fair is underwritten by Frankfurter Buchmesse, partners with PW in the Star Watch program.
“Nivia Evans is a model PW Star Watch Superstar, bringing a fresh voice and vision to the world of science fiction and fantasy,” Jim Milliot, editorial director of Publishers Weekly, said in a statement. Erin Cox, head of U.S. public relations for Frankfurter Buchmesse, added: “We are so happy to honor Nivia and all of her efforts to bring fresh perspectives and new voices to the world. At a time when we need to inspire people with powerful stories, her work is more important than ever. We look forward to meeting her in Frankfurt next fall.”
This year's Star Watch program was unique in that a charitable component was added to the awards, which will benefit the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation, which provides financial support to booksellers, helping them to replace income lost due to Covid-19 closures and furloughs. “This has been a year of unprecedented challenges, but also of unprecedented generosity. Thanks to the remarkable support of the industry represented here today, along with the comic community, Binc was able to raise $2.7 million and quickly turn these funds over to 1,625 stores and more than 520 individuals in just eight weeks,” Pam French, executive director of Binc, said in a statement. “The support received from PW and their sponsors will go straight to work helping families like those who need a safe place to escape the recent West Coast wildfires. Thank you all for ensuring booksellers have a place to turn when they need help. We are humbled by your generosity.”