In association with the Frankfurt Book Fair, PW is pleased to present the third annual Star Watch program, which recognizes the mavericks, visionaries, thinkers, and dreamers who are poised to lead the industry to new and bright frontiers. This year we received more than 200 nominees, from which a team of judges from PW, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, and the Frankfurt Book Fair selected 40 honorees and five finalists, who represent every aspect of publishing—from production to editorial, from agents to publicists. One finalist will be named the “superstar” and will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, courtesy of the fair. The superstar will be announced on September 6 at a party in New York City to celebrate all of the honorees and finalists.
With e-books finding their place alongside print (rather than displacing it), with the uptick in audio, and with an independent bookstore renaissance underway, the doom and gloom of the past decade has been replaced with a let’s-take-it-to-the-next-level attitude exemplified by these rising stars. One trend that emerges is the use of digital platforms and technologies in myriad customized and creative ways to connect books, authors, and readers. Another characteristic among these standouts is their rejection of standard job delineations and boundaries: Ammi-Joan Paquette, an agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, is an author herself and is represented by her boss; Audible’s Nicole Op den Bosch launched the Audiobook Creation Exchange while acquiring content and shepherding authors through the audio publication process (and finishing her B.A. degree).
Production managers and art directors are pushing the limits of what a book can be. To capture the clandestine atmosphere of a speakeasy, Ten Speed Press’s Serena Sigona created a book with a hidden tray that holds a little cocktail book, and Knopf’s Soonyoung Kwon balanced ugly images of war alongside sweeping landscapes in The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan. More on these and all the other highly innovative honorees can be found on the following pages.
This year’s five finalists are Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books, who grew up in the bookstore (then owned by her father) and combines business savvy with a passion for community that allows the store to thrive; Daniel Loedel, associate editor at Scribner, who has demonstrated a remarkable ability to bring success to what he calls “dark and difficult” books; Andrea Montejo, owner of the Indent Literary Agency, which is dedicated to representing Latino writers in the U.S. and around the world; Gabriella Page-Fort, editorial director of AmazonCrossing, who has acquired and published 239 books in translation—in 19 different languages; and Colleen AF Venable, art director at Workman’s Children’s Book Group, who creates objects that blur the line between toy and book.
These 45 individuals are meeting the challenges of successful publishing and bookselling in today’s competitive, global marketplace. They are also facing, head-on, issues such as bringing more books in translation to the U.S. market, creating books that will be acknowledged as beautiful objects, and using social media to create sales. All this while being mindful that the book is the thing, that reading matters.