Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Since college, when she was already beginning her career as an intern at literary agency McIntosh & Otis, Shivani Annirood was drawn to children’s publishing. Now a publicist at LBYR, she gets to put that enthusiasm to use. LBYR associate publicity director Cassie Malmo praises Annirood’s “poise, grace, professionalism, enthusiasm, and her out-of-the-box approach to crafting campaigns.”
Her dedication yields quantifiable results. For Belladonna, Adalyn Grace’s gothic romance, Annirood scored an interview and excerpt in Teen Vogue, a double-page spread in the
San Diego Union Tribune (Grace’s hometown newspaper), and a highly successful six-market in-person author tour. Seventeen chose the book for its quarterly book club. “This was a campaign I put my all into,” says Annirood. “It was a top priority for me, and I planned a very in-depth campaign. I am thrilled that it got so much press.” The book hit the bestseller lists immediately and stayed for weeks.
Another standout campaign was for Strong, a picture book memoir by Rob Kearney, the world’s only openly gay strongman, and Eric Rosswood, with illustrations by Nidhi Chanani. “I am driven by bringing representation and diversity to the page, so
that children can see themselves in the books they are reading,” Annirood says.
According to Skybound’s executive v-p and editor-in-chief Sean Mackiewicz, Alex Antone has transformed the press—and the lives of webcomics creators. After a brief stint in the video game world, Antone joined Skybound and from 2012 to 2020 became “an integral piece of DC Comics’ ambitious Rebirth initiative,” Mackiewicz says, with a focus on high-profile projects such as Aquaman, the GLAAD-nominated Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, the Eisner-nominated Deathstroke, and Teen Titans.
Antone’s desire to diversify the industry led him to create new characters that bring marginalized voices to the fore, and was a catalyst for establishing Skybound Comet, a young readers graphic novel imprint. “While many publishers are launching young reader graphic novel imprints to ride the unprecedented wave of interest,” Mackiewicz says, “Antone has been uniquely focused on finding genre projects created by marginalized voices that feature BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ characters and truly represent the nuanced world that today’s readers experience.”
Skybound Comet launched in June to critical acclaim with Tillie Walden’s Clementine, Book 1, the first title in a YA trilogy set in the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. It was followed this fall by the release of Everyday Hero Machine Boy, a middle grade adventure from debut authors Tri Vuong and Irma Kniivila, and Sea Serpent’s Heir, Book 1, the start of a fantasy trilogy by Mairghread Scott and Pablo Tunica.
To find the readers who he knew would welcome a wider range of voices, Antone turned to Kickstarter, where he has raised more than $1.3 million. This allowed him to bring to market graphic books from creators who were previously web only, including J.L. Westover (Mr. Lovenstein Presents: Failure) and Zach Stafford (Extra Fabulous).
These publications “transformed the lives of these creators,” Mackiewicz says. They have not only reached “new readers by bringing definitive print editions of their work to life for the first time but have also earned life-changing income at the height of a worldwide pandemic.”
Shira’s notable designs have had a lasting impact in the market and have been shared like a wildfire on social media, with hundreds of thousands of eyes on her work,” says Llewellyn digital publicist Leah Madson. She cites titles such as Mermaid Tarot by Leeza Robertson, Llewellyn’s Little Book of Moon Spells, and Baba Yaga’s Book of Witchcraft.
In college Atakpu aspired to work at a museum or be a gallery curator. But when she found herself working in a gallery in the D.C. area, she was bored talking about other people’s art. She enrolled in a graphic design program that “taught me the skills
I needed and opened doors for me,” she says.
When Atakpu saw a posting for a job as a cover designer at Llewellyn, she sent her portfolio, which included invitations that she’d made for her children’s birthday parties as a creative outlet. The invitations caught the attention of the folks hiring for the position, she says. After four years as a book cover designer, she became art director when her predecessor retired.
Atakpu couldn’t be happier with the collaborative and supportive environment of Llewellyn, and she is part of creating that. “The relationships that Shira has built with artists, editors, and specialists have truly created a groundbreaking positive atmosphere,” Madson says.
Programs and Marketing Manager
Two and a half years ago, Christine Bollow joined Loyalty Bookstores, which has locations in Washington, D.C., and Silver Springs, Md. It was founded about four years ago by Hannah Oliver Depp, a Black and queer bookseller with a mission to champion books by marginalized voices.
Bollow, who identifies as biracial, Filipina, and queer says, “Being somewhere where the values and commitment to social justice and inclusivity in the industry are paramount is really refreshing and aligns with my values as well.”
Bollow’s commitment to these principles as program and marketing manager is evident in the events she plans. Last year, she put together a virtual reading and fund-raiser in support of the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community. It featured 18 authors; attracted 300 attendees, some as far away as Ghana and the Philippines; and raised about $7,000. This year she arranged the Big Gay Fundraiser in support of queer and trans youth in Florida and Texas. Two hundred people attended virtually and the event raised more than $4,000.
An in-person event with Jasmine Guillory was held at a neighborhood wine bar to echo the title of Guillory’s latest book, Drunk on Love. A Black-owned winery donated the wine. “When it makes sense, we like to partner with businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations in our community,” Bollow says.
This fall, Bollow coordinated a sold-out in-person event with Celeste Ng for her newest novel, Our Missing Hearts, held at the MLK branch of the D.C. Public Library. Author Kali Fajardo-Anstine says that Bollow not only devotes herself to helping her customers find meaningful and moving books to read but also brings innovation to her many roles.
Mary Claire Cruz
Associate Art Director
Mary Claire Cruz was a senior designer at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt when, in fall 2020, she participated in a Children’s Book Council panel titled “How to Speak Like a Designer.” In the audience was Lynn Portnoff, senior art director at Penguin Workshop, who says that when Cruz spoke, “my ears perked up right away, and I was immediately inspired. She talked with enthusiasm about her unique book design process and the importance of collaboration. I knew right away that she would make a great art director.”
By the end of that year, Cruz was offered her current position at Penguin. Among the licenses she works on is the red-hot brand Bluey.
Beyond her directorial responsibilities, Cruz also designs high-profile and complex books on the Penguin Workshop list that have become bestsellers and been recognized in art and design shows. She designs books across ages and genres, including the picture books My Fade Is Fresh and Finding My Dance, and covers for middle grade titles including The Horrible Bag of Terrible Things, Lei and the Fire Goddess, and Tales to Keep You Up at Night. She also tackles complex design projects, working on epic graphic novels like Danger and Other Unknown Risks and Who HQ graphic novels about Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Frida Kahlo.
Karin DeHaven’s ability to blend trade and academic publicity techniques, in order to ensure each book reaches its target audience, has resulted in growth for the IVP Academic brand. This was illustrated in her campaign for Reading While Black, by New Testament scholar Esau McCauley, which won prizes from Christianity Today and Gospel Coalition, the Emerging Public Intellectual award, and a spot as a 2020 Goodreads Choice Award nominee for best nonfiction book of the year, thanks in large part to DeHaven spearheading a write-in campaign.
DeHaven gets coverage beyond Christian media in outlets such as the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and NPR. She says she “thinks of a reporter or media contact not just as someone who can help promote a book, but as someone with their own interests—a whole person.” Knowing this enables her to match IVP’s books with the right people.
The campaign for The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relation-
ships by Suzanne Stabile is another example of DeHaven’s deftness at crossing the divide between academic Christian and general trade books. In 2018 it was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for
best nonfiction book of the year and sold 100,000 copies.
DeHaven’s previous experience as an assistant in both the academic and trade publicity departments gave her the tools to capitalize on trending social issues. She is keen on bringing attention to IVP’s women authors. In planning for an upcoming company anniversary, she and others discovered that in 1940 IVP published a Bible study book written by a woman—a fact that will be used in publicity. DeHaven also expressed pride in working on The Samaritan Woman’s Story by Caryn Reed, which looks at the biblical figure with a new lens that values and honors women in Christianity.
Mensah Demary was one of Catapult’s first employees when he joined the publisher in 2015 as associate web editor. Two years later, he acquired his first book and was named an editor, splitting his time between the book and magazine teams. Demary turned some magazine articles into books, including Inter State by José Vadi and Black Card by Chris L. Terry.
In 2020, Demary was promoted to executive editor for the company’s three imprints: Catapult, Counterpoint, and Soft Skull. In this new role, Demary signed writers such as R.J. Young and Sofia Samatar. Due for publication this fall, Young’s Requiem for a Massacre and Samatar’s The White Mosque received stellar prepub reviews. Among other well-received titles published by Demary are Officer Clemmons: A Memoir by François S. Clemmons, who played the beloved policeman on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and hip-hop star Sophia Chang’s memoir The Baddest Bitch in the Room.
A writer himself, Demary recently collaborated with Common on his bestselling memoir, Let Love Have the Last Word. His work has also appeared in Lit Hub, Salon, Slate, Vice, and elsewhere.
In 2021, after years of wearing many hats, Demary decided to focus his energies on one imprint, becoming editor-in-chief at Soft Skull, where he has already put together what COO Alyson Forbes calls “an impressive roster of buzzy talent, including former Daily Show writer Kashana Cauley and National Book Award finalist Lillian-Yvonne Bertram.” Forbes credits Demary’s vision with making the 30-year-old press increasingly diverse by attracting authors from all over the world, “including but not limited to Black literary writers who are willing to take the risks to create literature outside of the mainstream.”
University of Toronto Press
Until the pandemic, the distribution end of publishing didn’t always get the attention it deserved. But Covid-19 changed that, and with distribution challenges continuing, the key role fulfillment plays in the publishing industry remains top of mind. In Canada in particular, explains University of Toronto Press president, publisher, and CEO Jessica Mosher, many distributors have abandoned the book industry. Enter Jason Farrell, who Mosher calls “an innovative, results-oriented, and critical-thinking manager, passionate about logistics, transportation, and manufacturing operations.”
Farrell has confronted distribution problems head-on, with a number of new initiatives including print-on-demand partnerships, consolidating shipments to remote locations, improving business partnerships with key carriers, investing in transportation selection technology, improving transit times through stronger carrier communication and processes, and using nontraditional sources of data and information to get ahead of potential snags.
Since Farrell came on board about a year and half ago, UTP’s distribution business has grown; it currently has more than 125 publishers and 230 imprints as clients. His distribution improvements and solutions are resonating through-
out the industry. He has presented his ideas at various industry panels, including sessions held by the Book Industry Study Group and the Frankfurt Book Fair. “His candor, generosity of spirit and creative thinking, combined with highly analytical and data-driven presentations, have received fantastic reviews,” Mosher says.
Emily Forney is moving quickly in her career at BookEnds: she has been promoted from associate literary agent to literary agent in under two years. Kadeen Griffiths, an industry colleague (and a fellow Star Watch honoree), calls her “a cheerful passionate, funny, and creative advocate for the book community, who is unafraid to go to bat for her clients.”
Forney looks for books that explore the messiness and awkwardness of adolescence. Slated for 2023 is A Ruinous Story by Kaylie Smith (Disney-Hyperion), in which every character is queer but the story doesn’t center on that—that’s just who the characters happen to be. The Wrong Kind of Weird by James Ramos (Inkyard) has a
t its core a group of quintessential awkward teenagers who form a United Geek Club. You, Me, and Our Heartstrings by Melissa See (Scholastic Press) gives an honest portrayal of disabled and neurodivergent teens’ experiences. These titles are not “ ‘inspiration porn’ where characters are tropes who are of grateful to be alive, or are inspirational because of their miraculous existence,” Forney explains.
Forney also runs the BookEnds Fellowship, which selects aspiring publishing professionals per year for free workshops about the industry and connects them to mentors.
Associate Marketing Manager
With only a few years’ experience, Maudee Genao is making a mark at Atria. Karlyn Hixson, director of marketing at Atria, says, “Her instincts and natural abilities to assess what will drive a reader to pick up a book she is working on are truly impressive. Ultimately, it’s her authenticity that really sets her apart—readers, authors, and colleagues alike trust her to make the best recommendation and execute on that strategy, in order to achieve the widest possible readership for each book she works on.”
Genao recently spearheaded the campaign for The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Genao knew that the stakes were high for this beloved author and approached the marketing with the mission of protecting his legacy, but also doing something new.
First she did a social media audit of his platform to see what was already working and what he could do better. Next was putting together a preorder campaign with a specially designed prize package. More than 80 indie bookstores signed on. The book was a Today show #ReadWithJenna pick and leapt immediately onto bestseller lists. “I call it ‘baby’s first landing,’ ” Genao says, because it was the first book she worked on to “grab a #1 slot.”
Genao’s diligence stems from her belief that “everyone in this business can invite more people in.” She says she leads with her heart. “I don’t do things to create success. I ask myself if I did what I came here to do.”
Tiffany Gonzalez began her publishing career in the behind-the-curtain world of production and made the transition to the very public-facing arena of marketing. Astra House publicity director Rachael Small says Gonzalez immediately proved her creativity, passion for marketing, and resourcefulness in how she runs preorder and marketing campaigns. She tailors each campaign to the book’s strengths. And, Small adds, she has mastered celebrity outreach, getting Astra books into the hands of Hollywood A-listers, musicians, authors, and public intellectuals.
Small pointed to Gonzalez’s campaign for The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah. The book collects intimate testimonials from women across the African diaspora about their experiences with sex, celebrating Black women’s sexual liberation. Gonzalez connected with a number of Black woman-owned businesses to craft a preorder campaign. One effort involved a partnership with Loyalty Books, where she assembled an offer that included spices from Essie Spice, a bath bomb from Bedroom Kandi, and exclusive discount coupons from AAKS and Love, Vera.
That campaign was complemented by very successful celebrity outreach for the book, which resulted in effusive Instagram posts reaching millions. Gonzalez “targeted the right influencers, got the books into their hands through their managers, and saw great sales bumps from their enthusiastic posts,” Small says.
Random House Publishing Group
In August, Kadeen Griffiths joined Penguin Random House after leaving HarperCollins, where she was marketing associate of operations. While at HC, “she kept the children’s department moving and devoted herself to the essential organizational tasks that other people don’t care to pay much attention to,” says literary agent Emily Forney. She was also a regular contributor to EpicReads, both when it was required of her and when it was not. As a Jamaican woman, Griffiths consciously reads books by marginalized authors and advocates for them.
In her new post at PRH, she works with an analyst to ensure that titles have the right keywords and copy “to catch the eye of the casual online shopper who may not even know they’re about to find their next favorite read,” Griffiths says. Once an analyst has parsed the data on search trends, Griffiths uses that knowledge to update the information about PRH’s titles that goes out to retailer sites.
She describes herself as someone who loves organization, data, and back-end work and thus has found her “dream job.” She’s particularly pleased to be learning myriad ways to further books’ discoverability beyond what a bricks-and-mortar store can do. “Our work may be silent,” Griffiths says, “but sometimes it can make a huge difference for authors and readers alike. And I got into publishing for that exact reason: connecting authors with the readers that need them most right when they need them most.”
Outside of work, Griffiths uses her own time and platforms to champion BIPOC authors and has cultivated a rich community. “She’s a massively respected figure in publishing,” Forney says. “So much so that it is nearly impossible to say her name in a space without someone saying, ‘Oh I love her.’ ”
Publishing and Brand Manager
Trafalgar Square Publishing/IPG
It’s hard to describe Pam Harcourt’s job for distributor IPG’s Trafalgar Square Publishing division. She calls it “super weird,” without parallels in the industry. IPG director of marketing Lauren Klouda says that Harcourt wears multiple hats, “serving as list advocate, publisher lifeline, and all-around invaluable resource” for all departments. “She’s whip-smart, a shrewd and astute judge of forthcoming titles, and a veritable encyclopedia of all titles that have ever comprised our TSP list.”
For each of Trafalgar’s three seasons, Harcourt looks at about 1,000 books—ahead of anyone in the company—primarily from
publishing houses in the U.K., Australia, and India, and selects
350–400 that will appear in the Trafalgar catalog to be sold to the trade. “I feel like I translate the whole list for the sales, publicity, and marketing teams and make sense of it,” she says. She’ll peruse 18 cookbooks and highlight the top three. “I really love getting to pick out those gems.”
Recently, Harcourt showcased My Shadow Is Pink by Scott Stuart, a picture book that touches on self-acceptance. “The whole team at IPG got behind it,” she says, and even more so when they learned of efforts by conservative groups to ban it.
On the day Harcourt heard the news about the attacks on the book, she was approached by the trade publication Booklist about advertising. She took a full-page back cover ad that exclusively featured children’s books with diverse and queer themes, she recounts.
Harcourt’s other favorite projects include Trafalgar’s partnership with the British Library, which mines its archives to create books
and reissue lost beloved classics. Among the themed series from the archives are tales of the weird from Lovecraft, Poe, and lesser-known writers, as well as what she describes as “really specific, weird anthologies on topics such as insects and train platforms.”
Shortly after Jarrod Harrison earned his MFA in writing from Columbia University, the pandemic hit, which drove him back home to North Carolina. He found work reading cases in North Carolina’s Capital Defender Office, planting a local greenhouse, and unloading trucks at a warehouse. “It was just me swimming my way through the pandemic,” he says.
Harrison applied to a number of publishers and got an interview at Broadleaf Books, the adult nonfiction imprint of 1517 Media. “I said that I was interested in acquiring books that could be categorized as human thriving—social justice, history, and self-help. Good nonfiction,” he recalls. “They bet on me, and I like to think they appreciated the books I’m pitching.”
One of Harrison’s early acquisitions was American Imam by Taymullah Abdur-Rahman, chaplain for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, founder of the social justice digital platform Spentem, and a doctoral candidate in transformational leadership at Boston University. Broadleaf publishing director Andrew DeYoung calls it “a smart and refreshing look at what in means to be Muslim in the U.S. in the 21st century.”
Harrison is also excited about Nothing More Sacred: Reclaiming Black Church Legacies of Faith, Food, and Freedom, the debut from Rev. Heber Brown III, founder of the Black Church Food Security Network. Both titles are due to be published in 2024.
DeYoung says that in less than a year at Broadleaf, Harrison has “already demonstrated his feel for the business of book publishing and his value to the team. What I’m most consistently impressed with is Jarrod’s understanding of how an author’s unique voice and platform
provide a way into thinking about the kind of book they should write, how it should be edited and shaped, and how that book should be packaged and brought into the world for maximum success.”
Director, Corporate Communications
Penguin Random House
When Alex Hill joined Penguin Random House’s corporate communications department as an assistant, she had little experience in publishing. Four years later, she is a director. In nominating her, Hill’s department credited her talent and skills with “benefiting our entire company, both here in North America and abroad. Alex is admired for remaining steadfast, calm, and uniquely efficient during challenging, time-sensitive projects, while always demonstrating a talent for contributions, collaborations, and innovation.”
Hill was part of the team that launched the company’s social impact website, which charts its actions on projects like providing books for children of essential workers and giving thanks to healthcare workers. She was also deeply involved in reporting the findings of PRH US’s publishing audit of the race and ethnicity of authors, illustrators, and other creators.
During the pandemic, Hill launched several initiatives to allow employees around the globe to stay connected and provide a sense of community. Among them was the Igloo Awards, which provided “colleagues with a moment of cathartic celebration, where they could be applauded for all they did to not only keep us afloat but succeed in the darkest of times,” as her team described it. Nominations were made by and for employees in categories such as Best Spirit-Lifter, Making Lemonade, and Best Bookshelf on Webex. Winners were celebrated in a virtual year-end event hosted by PRH US CEO Madeline McIntosh.
Hannah Hill joined Random House Children’s Books’s imprint Delacorte Press in 2020, after she had left New York City to escape the worst of the pandemic. Hill continues to work remotely from the Midwest, but that hasn’t stopped her from making a strong impression. “She’s been an editorial force, with excellent taste and outstanding acquisitions, and has managed to shine over Teams, Zoom, and Webex,” says Wendy Loggia, v-p and senior executive editor at Delacorte. “I feel like I’ve worked with her side by side, although, alas, it’s only been on screen.”
Hill, who was previously an editor at Disney Publishing Worldwide, edits a range of middle grade and young adult novels by authors in all stages of their careers, including Julie Buxbaum, Namina Forna, Kaitlyn Hill, Yoon Ha Lee, Tehlor Kay Mejia, and Zeba Shahnaz.
Loggia cites Hill’s acquisition and editorial management of Black Boy Joy, a middle grade anthology edited by Kwame Mbalia, as exemplary of her smarts. The project entailed bringing together 17 Black authors who celebrate the joy of Black boyhood—“just what we’re looking for in middle grade,” Loggia says. The book debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, Hill’s first hit on that list.
Hill is not the type of editor who waits for manuscripts to appear on her desk. In 2019, she read Gina Chen’s short story “Fools” in Foreshadow, “a serial YA anthology,” as described on its website. A year and a half later, Hill snagged Chen’s debut, Violet Made of Thorns, in a preempt. It was published this summer to great success, was named a Barnes & Noble YA book club pick and an Amazon best book of the month, and landed on many bestseller lists. Loggia credits Hill for its success: “None of this would have happened without Hannah at the helm as Gina’s editor,” she says.
Director, Publishing Marketing and Sales
When Sara Haskell was a student, she had a chance to be in a movie, and she took it. This sparked an interest in working in the entertainment industry. After college, she applied to “every entertainment company in the country,” she says, from NBCUniversal to Paramount and Warner Brothers. Warner hired her in the books department of its DC Comics subsidiary, where she rose through the ranks and was named marketing director in 2019. Two years later, the company restructured and she was laid off.
Haskell says her biggest regret about the layoff is that a pandemic-related project was collateral damage. Counting many teachers and librarians as friends, she knew that they had students who were struggling with remote learning. She conceived a DC Comics in the Classroom program, for which she teamed up with Dustin Hansen, the author and illustrator of My Video Game Ate My Homework. They created videos that would engage students through comic books, lesson plans, and additional resources for educators. When the restructuring took place—right when they were ready to launch in schools—everyone involved in the project was laid off. Nonetheless, Haskell sees it as a significant career accomplishment.
Now at Legendary, which she joined as director of publishing sales and marketing last year, Haskell is immersed in another inventive and all-hands-on-deck campaign for a new Enola Holmes graphic mystery, Mycroft’s Dangerous Game, which came out in September ahead of the new Enola Holmes Netflix feature release in November. Haskell and her team have created a scavenger hunt for bookstores that begins with a poster showing QR codes that send players to different sections of stores (YA, games,
mystery), where further clues are found. The last clue leads to where the Enola Holmes book is shelved. Players are encouraged to post on social media, where they can win prizes.
Haskell’s overriding mission is to help teachers, librarians, educators, and parents get books into kids’ hands. A lifelong avid reader who has been in a book club since fifth grade, she says she “strives to make every child a book lover.”
Farrar, Straus and Giroux and MCD
Six years ago, Jackson Howard joined FSG as an intern and has since brought the Macmillan imprint critically acclaimed books that have attracted a wide readership. In what he describes as a highly competitive acquisition, Howard cinched the deal for Jonathan Escoffery’s debut collection of interlinked stories, If I Survive You. Tracing the lives of a Jamaican family living in Miami, the book won rave reviews and was on the National Book Awards longlist for fiction. Maureen Corrigan of NPR’s Fresh Air said, “Not since Moby-Dick has the all-American ethos of ‘sink or swim on your own’ been dramatized to such devastating effect. If I Survive You is an extraordinary debut collection.”
Howard believes any attention he earns can help the house and the author. But “the public attention is not why we do this,” he says. For him it’s about the opportunity to bring the possibility of publishing books to marginalized people who often haven’t been listened to before. “I’m honored to do that. I take the responsibility of being a gatekeeper very seriously,” he adds.
Howard continues to identify emerging talent. He brought Brontez Purnell—punk musician, dancer, founder of the cult zine Fag School, and “king of the underworld,” as Howard describes him—to MCD. Howard was impressed by Purnell’s much-praised novel Since I Laid My Burden Down, published by the Feminist Press, and signed his 100 Boyfriends, which won a 2022 Lambda award for gay fiction and landed on numerous best books lists.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers
Not everyone likes their bosses, but those who work for Grace Kendall sure do. Cassie Gonzales, a designer who worked on many of Kendall’s titles from 2018 to 2021 (and is now at Penguin Random House), says, “Though I was very much her junior, I was always treated with the utmost respect. I always knew that Grace would give my ideas and concerns equal weight to those who were more experienced than I was.”
Elizabeth Lee, also now at PRH, calls Kendall “a pillar of empathy and wisdom” and says, “As one of the few Asian American assistants in publishing, I often came up against micro- and macroaggressions in the workplace. Grace tirelessly advocated for me and for many other junior staff members.”
Lee says Kendall has also “championed marginalized stories—not because they might be trendy or because white audiences might want to read about sensationalized trauma, but because she genuinely cares about uplifting everyday stories by and about marginalized people.” Kendall published All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, which has been banned by many schools because of its representations of queer Black joy, she reports.
Many of Kendall’s titles are award winners. Among her early acquisitions was You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins, a story about three Indian teen girls exploring sisterhood, first love, and friendship, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. Mama Africa! by Kathryn Erskine and Charly Palmer was a Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award winner, A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley received a Schneider Family Book Award, and A Place Inside of Me by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Noa Denmon, garnered a Caldecott Honor.
Ruby Rose Lee
As a reader, Ruby Lee, an Asian American woman raised in Oakland, Calif., always sought stories from diverse voices but could never find enough. So she set her sights on changing that. While in college, she interned at Flatiron Books, Hearst Magazines, Hachette, and Gallery Books. Six years ago, she joined Holt as an editorial assistant and rose to the position of editor. She built a list of literary fiction and narrative nonfiction that represents the type of stories she always wanted to read.
Among her titles are Kimberly Garza’s novel-in-stories The Last Karankawas, which follows a community of Mexican and Filipino families on the Texas coast and was an Indie Next pick for August 2022, and Isabel Kaplan’s debut novel NSFW, which was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Forthcoming titles include Cecile Pin’s debut novel Wandering Souls, which is an Indies Introduce pick for Winter/Spring 2023; Jenny Fran Davis’s debut novel Dykette; and culture writer Giaae Kwon’s memoir-in-essays I’ll Love You Forever: Notes from a K-pop Fan.
Lee also served as cochair of Asian Americans of Macmillan, where she advocated for a broader range of Asian American representation in publishing. Recently, Lee left Holt to strike out on her own as a freelance editor.
Kristina Sutton Lennon
In 2018, Kristina Sutton Lennon cofounded Focused Artists, a film and television talent agency. When the pandemic shut production down, clients came to Lennon with scripts, children’s books, and memoirs. She offered general advice on structure, story, and editing. Word spread, and clients came to her looking for literary representation. She made it official, growing her agency to include literary management.
In just a few years, Lennon has inked some impressive deals for big names. She signed Bonnie-Jill Laflin, the NBA’s first and only female talent scout, for A League of Her Own: Celebrating Female Firsts in the World of Sports (Rowman & Littlefield, 2024). It features the
stories of women in sports from the field to the front office, including track and field star Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Jayne Kennedy, a former Miss Ohio turned sports broadcaster.
Just published this fall is voiceover star Candy Milo’s comedic memoir Surviving the Odd, from New Haven Publishing. Milo grew up with four siblings in California in a halfway house for emotionally and mentally disabled people run by her father, Tony Milo, a stand-up comedian.
Of Ecuadorian heritage, Lennon is a member of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers and seeks to elevate Latinx representation onscreen and on the page. “I’m focused on multi-hyphenates,” she says. “I want to be part of the change to elevate women and spread equity and inclusion throughout industries.”
Gary Lovely is an enthusiastic, tireless advocate for literature in the nation’s bookselling and publishing community, as well as within our community in central Ohio,” says Eric Obenauer, publisher of Two Dollar Radio. About a year ago, Lovely moved from his position as event director at the Book Loft of German Village—one of the largest indies in the country and the biggest in Columbus—to Prologue, nine miles north.
In his new post as manager of the much smaller bookshop, Lovely is thinking big. To overcome the limited square footage, he has forged important relationships with the local NPR station, Two Dollar Radio, and other community organizations.
This fall, Prologue hosted the launch of Saeed Jones’s new poetry collection, Alive at the End of the World. To accommodate the large audience, the event was held at Two Dollar Radio’s offices. Upcoming is an already-sold-out event for Nina West, the Midwest’s legendary drag performer who has an upcoming children’s book. This time Lovely collaborated with WSOU, the local NPR station, which is housed in a brand-new building on the Ohio State University campus.
As a buyer, a responsibility he shares with the owner, Lovely works mainly with indie and micropublishers to bring in books “that you will not find anywhere else in Columbus,” he says. One such title is The Luminous History of the Palm, published by Subliminary Editions. Prologue has sold nearly 50 copies of what he calls “a fantastic little book.” He also has a penchant for books in translation. “We are very small,” he says, “so it’s important that we are very curated.”
Lovely is on the board of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and wants to be on the ABA board, which “will give me a bigger voice,” he says.
Marketing Manager, Backlist
Penguin Publishing Group
When an entry-level publishing job description includes the requirement “must be able to lift a 40-pound box,” many disabled workers are shut out—even if, as Erin Madison points out, that requirement is only 5% of the job. Virtual events that don’t have captions exclude many disabled people. Madison, who has Stickler syndrome, wants to change this to make publishing more accessible.
Inspired by People of Color in Publishing and Latinx in Publishing, Madison has founded Disability in Publishing to focus on disability and health inclusivity. The mission of the organization, which has grown from only Madison to its current roster of nine members who are expanding the reach to other publishers, is to “create community, provide resources, and increase accessibility across the industry in order to increase disability visibility and retain the talent of disabled publishing professionals,” as stated on its website.
Madison, who is marketing manager for the backlist at Penguin Publishing Group, is pleased with how the company has responded, ensuring that Disability in Publishing’s launch received media coverage and that disabled people’s voices are part of PRH’s DEI program.
When she’s not growing the industry’s inclusivity, Madison is moving the backlist to the forefront. Working across all Penguin imprints, she looks for ways to increase the longevity of titles and mine the backlist for titles that have become especially relevant again. She examines what was done to promote a book previously and looks for ways to do things differently. For some titles, social media didn’t exist when they were originally published, so she uses different platforms to bring fresh attention to a title.
After all, Madison says, “you never know what people are into these days.”
Senior Marketing Specialist
In her role as senior marketing specialist, Jenna Nelson optimizes the metadata across all three 1517 Media imprints (Beaming Books, Broadleaf Books, and Fortress Press), manages the library marketing program and trade advertising, and coordinates the publisher’s presence at trade shows. Since she joined the religious book publisher in late 2018, “she has become a key player,” says her supervisor, Alison Vandenberg. “Strategic thinking leads everything Jenna does. She is always looking for ways to improve the way we work, while also performing her role in the most efficient way possible.”
Nelson is adept at pivoting from in-person events to virtual-only and back. This fall, she managed multiple in-person shows across the 1517 Media imprints—“a tremendous act of juggling details, managing costs, shipping books and supplies to arrive on time, and managing author expectations,” Vandenberg says.
Nelson digs into the micro work as well. She manages database consistency and industry best-practice optimization around core book information metadata points such as SEO keywords, secures print and digital advertising plans for key trade industry outlets, tracks departmental budget spending, and resolves issues with the finance team.
As the business changes and grows, Vandenberg says Nelson is very relationship-oriented and is quick to help others. She welcomes new staff whole-heartedly, training them and searching out ways to help them navigate systems and tools. She has a unique ability to form partnerships that create synergies between internal teams and with external trade business partners. “She has a unique ability to form partnerships that create synergies between internal teams and with external trade business partners,” Vandenberg adds.
Vandenberg also credits Nelson with being committed to growing her career, actively pursuing additional education, and staying on top of best practices in the industry. “She is an asset to our team and we intend to continue to help her grow,” Vandenberg notes.
Senior Marketing and Social Media Associate
In the two and half years since Madison Nervankis graduated from Indiana University, she has gone from an intern at literary agency Dystel, Goderich & Bourret to Sourcebooks, hired first as a marketing and social media associate and quickly promoted to her current position, in which she handles social media for the publisher and is the lead marketer for Sourcebook Fire.
She’s also involved in acquisitions and design, which is unusual for a marketer. “I am like an octopus,” she says. “I have hands in many different things. The interplay between editorial, marketing, publicity, and design is very important, because at the end of the day, it’s how the consumer is going to view the book.”
Nervankis has been a social media influencer in the publishing industry since 2018, which has brought tremendous results. She says she grew the Sourcebooks Fire TikTok account from 2,000 followers to 11,000 in under six months, for example. Several of her social media campaigns for backlist titles have gone viral: her TikTok post for The Obsession by Jesse Q. Sutanto reached more than one million views. For The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther, her posts reached more than 150,000 views and increased sales significantly. Both were backlist titles, but Nervankis saw opportunities to give these books a second chance. “I
utilize the virality and movement over social media to go back to promote them on mass channels such as Amazon or Target,” she explains.
On the frontlist, Nervankis designed the top-to-bottom marketing strategy for The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl, which she says resulted in 400 preorders, 16,000 copies sold in the first 30 days of publication, and a spot on major bestseller lists.
“Madison Nervankis is passionate, has deep industry knowledge, is always seeking out new ways to connect our books with readers, and is a true star to watch,” says her colleague Cana Clark.
Director of Membership and Affinity Partnerships
American Booksellers Association
In the five years that Daniel O’Brien has been with the ABA, he has influenced seemingly every aspect of the organization. He joined in 2017 as member relations manager for CALIBA, PNBA, MPIBA, and SIBA; was promoted to senior membership manager in 2019; and was then promoted again to director in 2021.
During his time at ABA, O’Brien has instituted a host of programs and initiatives, but his success is most evident in the fact that ABA membership has increased 20% during his tenure, even as Covid-19 posed an existential threat to all retailers, including independent bookstores.
To keep communication among booksellers flowing during the pandemic, O’Brien oversaw the formation of ABA’s Coffee Break, which later morphed into ABA’s ShopTalk program. It helped booksellers crowdsource information around pandemic-related business concerns—everything from mask policies and curbside service to PPP loans and virtual programming. Coffee Break was a catalyst for two other meetups. One is ABA’s affinity program, which brings together LGBTQ-, BIPOC-, and disability-focused booksellers and
creates access to ABA’s leadership through four quarterly forums. The other is ABA’s New Member Series, a set of two virtual events: an introduction to bookselling and ABA resources and an introduction to being a store owner.
Coming from a poetry background, O’Brien
has created a larger poetry presence at ABA events and in its programming. He also has been developing resources for emerging booksellers and has been instrumental in integrating new store models into the ABA ecosystem, says ABA COO Joy Dallanegra-Sanger. As pop-up, mobile, and other hybrid and inventive bookselling businesses have proliferated, O’Brien has worked to adapt resources to meet their needs. Often spearheaded by marginalized people, these alternative models previously lacked access to membership and resources of the ABA. O’Brien has worked to change that, Dallanegra-Sanger adds.
One of O’Brien’s current projects is helping the ABA better serve multicultural and Spanish-language bookstores.
Marketing and Publicity Associate
Stephanie Pando joined Candlewick seven years ago and “is one of the hardest-working and most passionate publicists in our industry,” says Tracy Miracle, her manager. Pando crafts innovative campaigns and works with authors in unique ways.
Pando worked with Chaz Hayden for the September release of his YA debut, The First Thing About You, a novel that stars a 15-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy, which the author has too. It was important for Pando to “get Hayden out there, but travel for him isn’t always possible.”
That didn’t stop either of them. Knowing that Hayden is a podcaster and is comfortable in front of a camera, Pando worked with him to make videos, one of which was a guest post on Nerdy Book Club, a blog with a large audience of teachers and librarians.
For All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline Donoghue, a ghostly YA tale about a student whose tarot readings at her Catholic school become sinister, Pando arranged mini tarot readings for media people. When she discovered that Donoghue had written the book while listening to lo-fi music, she created a lo-fi playlist of what she describes as “witchy, spooky music” for YouTube, and she produced segments for Instagram Live.
“Stephanie has quickly become an indispensable resource on all things YA,” Miracle says. “There is a common refrain here, and it is, ‘Ask Steph!’ ”
When she was in ninth grade, Bria Ragin told her English teacher that she was going to be an editor. What she didn’t know then was that her future boss, Wendy Loggia, v-p, senior executive editor at Random House Children’s Group, would call her a total star.
In January 2021, Ragin joined Delacorte as an editor and as an acquiring editor for Joy Revolution, a new imprint in the children’s division led by bestselling authors Nicola and David Yoon. The list, which is set to release its first titles in winter 2023, will publish young adult romance novels written by people of color and featuring lead characters of color. Loggia lauds Ragin for “teaming up creatively with the Yoons, connecting with countless agents, reading hundreds of manuscripts, and shaping an incredible debut list.”
Joy Revolution kicks off with the release of Talia Hibbert’s YA romance debut, Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute, “one of the most highly anticipated rom-coms of 2023,” according to Loggia. Ragin is a longtime fan of Hibbert’s and had a strong sense that she could write for, and be successful in, the YA arena. She proactively went after Hibbert and got the deal done.
Another highlight of Ragin’s upcoming list for Joy Revolution is House Party, edited by Justin A. Reynolds. The book brings together 10 well-known authors to deliver interconnected stories that follow a group of teens over the course of a few wild, transformative hours at an epic house party, as the publisher’s website describes it. It’s one of the first of its kind for the imprint and Ragin’s first foray with a collection like this.
Director of Brand, Editorial
Growing up in Toronto, Arune Singh saw himself pursuing a career in public service and got an early start: he earned two youth human rights awards from then–Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney for his work advocating for equality. His commitment to equality never waned.
Singh has been an impactful spokesman for Asian American and Pacific Islander voices in the comics industry. Approximately 80% of his hires are from BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, according to Skybound executive v-p and editor-in-chief Sean Mackiewicz, and he has forged partnerships with organizations like GLAAD. Mackiewicz adds, “Singh has worked relentlessly to ensure that the comic book industry is truly a place for everyone, both on the page and behind the scenes.”
Singh joined Skybound in 2021 to launch Skybound Comet, the company’s young readers imprint focused on genre storytelling. On the list are books from award-winning authors such as Tillie Walden (Clementine), webcomics superstars like Michelle Fus (Ava’s Demon), and new voices such as Irma Kniivila and Tri Vuong, the team behind Everyday Hero Machine Boy.
Mackiewicz credits Singh with Skybound’s growth in the librarian and educator market; he has put the imprint’s books and authors in the spotlight at all the major book shows. He’s also overseen ambitious author tours, bringing nationwide attention to Comet’s authors and brand.
Senior Acquisitions Editor
For two consecutive years, PW has identified Ulysses Press as one of the fastest-growing independent publishing houses. Contributing to that growth is Claire Sielaff, who recently launched Bloom Books for Young Readers, a children’s imprint at the press. Like the adult division, it uses a data-driven approach to target underserved, niche readers.
Sielaff joined Ulysses in 2017 as a part-time editorial assistant and “quickly became indispensable to every department, taking on tasks beyond her editorial duties in production, marketing, and design,” says Cassie Vogel, one of her authors.
Sielaff’s list for Bloom includes books that offer practical advice for young readers. One such title is The Self-Regulation Workbook for Kids by Jenna Berman, which has been a steady seller since its release in August 2021, selling more than 200 copies
per week. Coming in May is One Hundred Percent Me by Renee Rutledge, illustrated
by Anita Pradas—a story about the joys of multicultural families and being mixed-race.
Set for release in March 2023 is ABCs of Asian American History by Renee Macalino Rutledge and Lauren Akazawa Mendez, a picture book for readers ages five and up. Scheduled for summer is Yes Means Yes by Elaine Tai, illustrated by Kai Kwong, which shows children how to respect each other’s comfort zones.
Sielaff’s list includes books that “are gorgeous with important messages,” Vogel says, noting that she is always in tune with pop culture, as exemplified by the fact that she published The Unofficial Hogwarts for the Holidays Cookbook, which has sold more than 80,000 copies.
Kendall Storey’s publishing career had an auspicious start. After graduating from Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at the New School in New York City, Storey was an editorial intern at New Directions and then a publicity intern at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She was hired as an associate editor and publicist at Archipelago Books in 2013 and instantly made her mark in the industry. She was part of the team that helped make then-little-known Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård into an international literary superstar.
Storey joined Catapult in 2018 as foreign rights manager, but “we quickly realized she was a natural-born editor,” says Alyson Forbes, her manager.
In Storey’s editorial role, sparks have flown. She acquired and edited the bestsellers Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler and High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann, which was a National Book Award finalist.
Storey is gaining a reputation for being a champion of translated literature, publishing voices from all over the world. Among her titles are Mexican writer Brenda Lozano’s well-reviewed Witches, Maria Gainza’s Portrait of an Unknown Lady from Argentina, and Bosnian writer Semezdin Mehmedinovic´’s semiautobiographical novel My Heart.
Forbes says that in Storey’s position as Catapult’s editor-in-chief, a post she has held since June, she “continues to establish Catapult as a flourishing literary press whose accolades grow by the year. She is an extraordinary editor, mentor, and champion of voices.”
Associate Acquisitions Editor
Rowman & Littlefield
Though people in publishing have an array of academic degrees, in everything from English to business, Michael Tan’s are among the most unusual: he holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in classical piano performance. He continues to perform, but after getting his masters from NYU in 2017, he interned at Oxford University Press, then became an editorial assistant at Rowman & Littlefield, eventually working his way up to associate acquisitions editor.
Tan has developed and published important titles that his predecessor acquired, including Prince and the Parade and Sign o’ the Times Era Studio Sessions: 1985 and 1986 by Duane Tudahl; Daniels’ Orchestral Music (sixth edition) by David Daniels, David W. Oertel, and David A. Rahbee; and Weird Al: Seriously (expanded edition) by Lily E. Hirsch.
Tan is developing his own impressive lists from key figures across the spectrum of music. They include Classical Crossroads: The Path Forward for Music in the 21st Century by Leonard Slatkin, a Grammy-winning conductor; So You Want to Be a Country Music Star? Making It in the Music Industry by Rich Redmond (the drummer for country music superstar Jason Aldean), with Jennifer Della’Zanna, and Scoring the Screen: The Secret Language of Music for Film and Visual Media (second edition) by Andy Hill, the v-p of music production for Walt Disney Pictures from 1987 to 1996.
In June, Tan signed a copublication agreement with the National Association of Teachers of Singing. The partnership will produce books for singers, students of singing, and singing teachers. Charles Harmon, R&L’s senior executive editor, says that the deal “is most impressive for a young editor and demonstrates Michael’s initiative and business acumen.”
Walker Books US/Candlewick
Maya Tatsukawa is the most talented and thoughtful designer I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” says Maria Middleton, her manager. A designer for both Candlewick and its imprint Walker Books US, Tatsukawa designs and art-directs numerous titles in a variety of formats, from graphic novels and picture books to illustrated middle grade and nonfiction. “She concepts strong covers, finds and hires amazing illustrators, supports the editorial staff, and keeps our team attentive to deadlines,” Middleton adds.
Tatsukawa is also a picture book author and illustrator. Her debut, The Bear in My Family, received a Geisel Honor in 2021. Among her other books are Sunday Pancakes and Give This Book Away.
Middleton says that despite all her achievements, “Maya shies away from the spotlight, preferring to shine through her craft.”
Tatsukawa echoes that sentiment: “I don’t see my role as a designer as one that’s supposed to stand out or lead to the success of
a book. My hope is that I’m able to provide
the illustrator support, clarity, and comfort throughout the process and that everyone is happy with the outcome.” She considers a design a success if it isn’t noticed by the reader because it’s “just right.”
Among Tatsukawa’s recent projects are Carlie Sorosiak’s middle grade book Always Clementine, illustrated by Vivienne To, and Sally Nicholl’s The Silent Stars Go By, a YA novel illustrated by Elena Garnu. Tatsukawa credits To and Garnu with being “lifesavers while working under tight deadlines.”
Recently published is Will Mabbitt’s Destiny Calling (the second installment in the middle grade series Embassy of the Dead), illustrated by Taryn Knight. “It was both Knight’s and my first time working on an illustrated novel,” Tatsukawa says, “so I feel like we learned and grew together.”
Director of Publicity
When she was a teen, growing up as the daughter of two novelists, Chloe Texier-Rose thought that “publishing was the last thing I wanted to do,” she says. After college she stumbled into a job at Rubenstein Public Relations, where she enjoyed the writing aspect of her job, but not much else, and quit to figure out her next step.
That turned out to be a temporary job at HarperCollins. “Right from the get-go,” Texier-Rose says, “I felt, oh, I’m home now, because I totally understood authors’ temperaments, having grown up with them.”
A year ago, Texier-Rose joined Zando. She handled the publicity for You Are Not Alone, by National Alliance on Mental Illness chief medical officer Ken Duckworth. Texier-Rose started the campaign off with a bang, securing an author appearance on publication day on CBS Mornings. Her campaign for The Butcher and the Wren, a novel by Alaina Urquhart, helped net 60,000 units sold in its first week, according to the publisher, making it an instant bestseller.
She credits some of her success to her excellent relationships with authors, which she takes pride in. But she also says, “What makes Zando special is the we’re small and scrappy, a publishing start-up with a lot to prove, so everyone is working toward the same goal.”
Quill Tree Books
As a teen, Jennifer Ung fell in love with contemporary, realistic YA fiction. “I learned so much about my relationship with the world and how to navigate relationships with others,” she says. Yet, as the daughter of Cambodian immigrants, she felt a sense of isolation when cultural references popped up (e.g., meatloaf) that she didn’t understand.
After getting her start at Scholastic as an assistant editor in 2011, Ung joined Simon & Schuster’s Pulse imprint and began developing a list that would welcome readers like her. Her first acquisition there, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, is about an Indian American teen who gets tangled in an unexpected romance. The book became a bestseller, was named an NPR best book of 2017 and a Time Best YA Book of All Time, and was the basis for Netflix’s Mismatched.
On her first list at Quill Tree, which Ung joined in 2021, is Kween by Cambodian American playwright Vichet Chum. Ung calls it “devastating” and “a culmination of everything I’ve wanted to do in my career.” It tells the story of a young woman whose father is deported, but it’s also, she adds, about “this girl who is finding her way as an artist and falling in love for the first time. She’s doing all these regular things.”
Rosemary Brosnan, who leads the team at Quill Tree, says, “I have been tremendously impressed by Jen’s dedication to publishing marginalized voices and advocating for authors. Jen’s contributions to the Quill Tree list cannot be overstated.”
Andrews McMeel Publishing
In the three years since Charlie Upchurch joined Andrews McMeel Publishing as its first audiobook editor, after a career in radio broadcasting, she has grown its audio list from 10 titles to more than 130. “With no previous publishing experience,” says Susan Johnson, AM Universal’s chief people and communications officer, “Charlie seized the opportunity with passion and a commitment to excellence.”
Many of the books on Upchurch’s list have won awards, including 2019 Independent Audiobook Awards for Kintsugi by Céline Santini and The Ghost Network: Activate by I.I. Davidson; 2022 IPPY Awards for Call Me Athena by Colby Smith and Space Is Cool by Kate Howells; and a 2022 Audie Award finalist slot for Vulnerable AF by Tarriona Ball.
Kristen Minter, director of digital publishing at AM Universal and Upchurch’s manager, says that “although some of our content doesn’t translate easily into audio, Charlie embraces this challenge and creatively adapts our wide variety of genres into immersive and original narratives, applying new and innovative ideas to each project.”
She’s also praised for making contributions to AMP’s DEI efforts by incorporating diverse narrators and stories into the audio frontlist. She is also a mentor for the Audio Publishers Association Diversity Mentorship Program.
Upchurch manages every stage of the acquisition and production process for AMP audiobooks, from list selection and narrator casting to studio bookings and quality control. Her multimedia talents help boost AMP’s profitability: she produces most AMP titles in-house and acts as an audio and music engineer on many author-narrated titles.
Correction: This article has been updated to amend various misspellings of names.