Get ready to break out the confetti, because the honorees and finalists for Publisher Weekly‘s inaugural “Star Watch 2015” were announced on September 11! A huge congratulations to Peter Conners at BOA editions and Kristen Radtke at Sarabande Books for making the honoree list, and to Ibrahim Ahmad at Akashic Books for being a finalist! The program “recognizes young publishing professionals who have distinguished themselves as future leaders of the industry.” Star Watch was created in collaboration with the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the 4o honorees—which includes four finalists and one “superstar”—were chosen from over 250 nominees and selected by a panel of judges from the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Association, the Frankfurt Book fair, and industry consultant Richard Nash. As Publishers Weekly boasts, the honorees and finalists “represent every part of the book ecosystem: booksellers, designers, digital specialists, editors, and publicists. They sell and publish a variety of formats across all categories and genres, from literary fiction to romance, picture books to academic tomes, and comics to classics.” Publishers Weekly briefly highlighted the achievements of each honoree and winner, including quotes from peers.
Star Watch noted Peter Conners‘ talent for nurturing great writers and his successful fundraising pursuits among other achievements. Melissa Hall, the development director at BOA Editions, said “Peter Conners’ star has been on a meteoric rise, and his success in all aspects of American publishing deserves to be celebrated.” BOA Editions is a nonprofit press that publishes poetry and other genres, as they “foster readership and appreciation of contemporary literature.”
Kristen Radtke, the managing editor at Sarabande Books, has elevated the press in terms of visibility and sales while also “revamping” the way they design and market their titles. Kristen Miller—director of operations and outreach at Sarabande Books—said of Radtke: “…when I hear fears about the end of books or the demise of the publishing industry, I know that as long as we have people like Kristen—with her limitless drive, her vision, her unyielding forward momentum, and lack of complacency—these fears are unfounded.” As Publishers Weekly said in their write-up, “Sarabande is a small house that is dedicated to underrepresented genres: poetry, short fiction, and essays,” and it is thanks to people like Radtke that Sarabande is so successful with these titles.
Ibrahim Ahmad of Akashic Books was named one of four finalists, because of his fearlessness in publishing innovative works and trying new things. Now the senior editor at Akashic, Ahmad started at the press as an intern. He was new in the publishing industry and relied on his instincts as a reader, a philosophy that has continued to serve him and the company well. Publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple said “equally comfortable championing everything from literary writers from the Middle East to hip-hop literature… Ahmad’s tastes wholly reflect the smart eclecticism that has come to define our list.” Temple sums it up, saying that Ahmad “has indelibly shaped Akashic Books into the thriving press it is today.”
Star Watch is a fresh program that celebrates the achievements of the tireless individuals behind important presses. The 40 honorees and finalists were honored in New York City at a party on September 16, and the “superstar” Helen Yentus—art director at New York City’s Riverhead Books—will be going on an all expenses paid trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Congratulations to all!