Erik Hane and Laura Zats, founders of Headwater Literary Management

Author Megan Lynch says: Laura and Erik, the founders of Headwater Literary Management, have a podcast, Print Run, in which they discuss large-scale issues facing the publishing industry. They not only promote awareness of these issues, they propose solutions. The most exciting development this year has been the creation of their own agency, which is radically focused on changing the landscape of how authors are represented. It’s incredibly exciting for those of us in the community they’ve built around their ideas, and you can’t help but admire their courage.

Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction bookstore in Greenville, S.C.

MacKenzie Collier, senior marketing and publicity manager at University of South Carolina Press, says: Jill grew up in Greenville, S.C., and spent several years in New York City publishing before returning to her hometown to open Fiction Addiction bookstore in 2001. For almost 20 years, Jill has brought culture and literature to South Carolina. She actively promotes books, authors, and author events in Greenville, and often can be seen on local television in her signature purple Fiction Addiction T-shirt talking about books. Readers look for her recommendations in the local papers—a rarity in the local media landscape in 2019. She is both friend and adviser to readers, writers, and publishers.

Michael Mejias, director of the Writers House Intern Program and cofounder and president of literary nonprofit Inkluded

Agent Julia Kardon says: Michael Mejias has been running the internship program at Writers House for decades now, bringing in so many of the talented young people who start at entry level jobs throughout publishing. Last summer, he began running Inkluded Academy, which serves as a totally free, Saturdays-only educational opportunity for low-income and marginalized people looking for a foothold in the industry. The classes not only focused on the role of agents and editors, but brought in managing editorial, publicity, marketing, and sales professionals, as well as rights agents and scouts, to teach those in attendance about the business. Provided with a stipend for lunch and transit, the students learned more in their eight Saturdays of classes than many interns might, and to my mind surpassed the alumni of professional graduate publishing courses in terms of their thoroughness and performance in hands-on assignments. Of the graduating inaugural class of six, four already have jobs. He is a visionary, a mentor, and is doing real work to improve diversity in publishing— and is effecting genuine change while doing it.

Agent Mackenzie Brady Watson says: I have served on the Board of Directors of the publishing non-profit Inkluded alongside Michael Mejias for over two years now and have been continually impressed with his unwavering dedication to increasing, and retaining, the level of diversity in the publishing business. His efforts are essential and admirable, but so many people still don’t know of the good work he’s doing. Not only has he been leading the charge with our community events and fundraising, he also conceived of and spearheaded our first free publishing course, Inkluded Academy, which began this summer. 67% of our graduates have already been placed in entry levels jobs. Much of the success of this program can be attributed to Michael’s unwavering support for our students and his connections within the business.

Beth Phelan, agent at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency

Author A. Suiter Clarke says: Beth Phelan is a tireless advocate for increasing opportunities for marginalized writers and creators in publishing. She does this work both as an agent herself, but also by managing the #DVpit Twitter contest several times a year on Twitter. #DVpit has led to multiple massive success stories for diverse authors, launching their careers in young adult and adult literature. Beth consistently puts in the work and gets very little of the credit—a common experience for women of color, to be sure. She deserves recognition for all the work she does to make publishing a more inclusive place that represents the stories of readers from every background and identity.

Jessica Powers, author, publicist at Cinco Puntos Press, and publisher of Catalyst Press​

Susannah Lawrence, director of publicity and social media at Akashic Books, says: Between her 10+ years working as publicist for Cinco Puntos Press, her many published works for children and young adults, and her recent endeavor as publisher and editor of Catalyst Press, Jessica Powers has proved to be one of the most indefatigable publishing citizens around. Since she first entered the publishing business, Jessica has dedicated herself to elevating voices and stories outside the traditional mainstream. I am most impressed by Jessica’s decision to strike out on her own as publisher/editor of Catalyst Press which has invigorated the U.S. publishing landscape through its emphasis on books emerging from the African continent. Catalyst’s partnership with South Africa’s Jive Media Africa on their joint imprint, Story Press Africa, has produced a phenomenal African Graphic Novel Series, increasing the visibility of essentially African works while also ensuring these works are created in partnership rather than from a purely Western perspective. This attitude of partnership and innovation to engender a broader literary landscape is a perfect distillation of how Jessica approaches her work and her role in the publishing industry.

Megan Reid, Director of Literary Scouting and Development at FX Networks​

Agent Wendy Gu says: As a development and literary executive at FX Networks, Megan is involved in developing books to screen, including some of the highest profile projects FX announced in 2019, such as adaptations of Deepti Kapoor’s The Age of Vice and Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble. She has scouted roughly 1,600 books on her own since she started at FX in 2017, and is the first reader for a wide-ranging slate: other rights acquisitions that have been announced include Freshwater by Akweke Emezi and the Cartel trilogy by Don Winslow. On top of her day job, she is the author of four forthcoming books in her own right—one humorous how-to book for adults with William Morrow, next year, and three children’s books­—two to be published by Balzer + Bray in 2020 and 2021 and one by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers in 2020—that share the stories of little-known heroes and aim to inspire young girls, especially of young girls of color, to achieve the unexpected. Finally, Megan is an overflowing source of information and support, always on the ground connecting people to the right projects on her own time. What’s more, she is constantly “sending the elevator down” so that those less senior than her can access the people and resources that will help them stay in the industry to do more good."