The Independent Publishing Awards

The Independent Publishers Guild is delighted to announce the 13 shortlists for this year’s Independent Publishing Awards. They are:

The Paperback Bookshop Trade Publisher of the Year

 Atlantic Books, Faber & Faber, Oneworld, Sandstone Press

Blackwell’s Children’s Publisher of the Year

Nosy Crow, Sweet Cherry Publishing, Walker Books, Wonderbly

PLS Academic and Professional Publisher of the Year

Bloomsbury Publishing, Bristol University Press, Edward Elgar Publishing, Emerald Publishing, Kogan Page

Westchester Education Services Education Publisher of the Year

Bloomsbury Publishing, Crown House Publishing, Jolly Learning

IPG Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year

How2Become, Search Press, SPCK, Uni Admissions Books

Nick Robinson Newcomer Award

Boldwood Books, Muswell Press, September Publishing

IPG International Achievement Award

Kogan Page, Nosy Crow, Walker Books

IPG Digital Publishing Award

Barefoot Books, Bloomsbury Publishing, How2Become, Kogan Page

IPG Marketing Award

Atlantic Books, Bristol University Press, Quarto, Usborne Publishing

Alison Morrison Diversity Award

Aurora Metro Books, Barefoot Books, Carcanet Press

IPG Sustainability Award

Cambridge University Press, Lonely Planet, Nosy Crow

The Bookseller Young Independent Publisher of the Year

Vicky Barker, bsmall publishing; Sarah Head, SPCK; Michela Pea, Nosy Crow

GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award

Compass Independent Publishing Services, Inpress, Suzanne Collier, Virtusales Publishing Solutions

The shortlists feature a total of 47 nominations—the most in the 14 years of the Awards—and showcase the work of 32 different companies and four individuals. They range right across the publishing spectrum and combine some of the UK’s longest established publishing names with some of the newest. Three publishers—Bloomsbury, Kogan Page and Nosy Crow—each have three places on the shortlists, while five more—Atlantic Books, Barefoot Books, Bristol University Press, How2Become and Walker Books—have two.

The winners of all the Awards will be revealed in a special online presentation on Tuesday 22 September 2020. One more Award, for the prestigious title of Ingram Content Group Independent Publisher of the Year, will be chosen from a shortlist made up of the winners of the five Publisher of the Year categories. That winner will follow Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Templar Publishing, Alastair Sawday Publishing, Earthscan, Continuum, Constable & Robinson, Bloomsbury Publishing’s Academic and Professional Division, Usborne Publishing, Search Press, Nosy Crow, Edward Elgar Publishing, Maths – No Problem! and Faber & Faber as the 14th champion independent publisher.

IPG chief executive Bridget Shine says: “It’s been a very challenging year for everyone in publishing, so it is wonderful to be able to pause to celebrate the outstanding achievements of the UK’s independent sector. These shortlists show the diversity and vibrancy of the IPG’s community, which is packed with resourceful, agile and ambitious businesses and individuals. While it’s sad to be unable to celebrate with them in person in 2020, we’re really looking forward to honouring their success in September.”

The IPG would like to thank the sponsors of the 2020 Independent Publishing Awards: Ingram Content Group, supporter of the overall Independent Publisher of the Year Award, Blackwell’s, GBSPublishers’ Licensing Services, The Bookseller, The Paperback Shop and Westchester Education Services.

The IPG is also grateful to all the judges of the Awards: Graham Bell, EDItEUR; Nick Clee, BookBrunch; Tim Davies, Westchester Education Services; Lewis Dawson, Bookspeed; Elise Dillsworth, Elise Dillsworth Agency; Vicky Ellis, Clays; Gareth Hardy, Blackwell’s; Carla Herbertson, Zebralution; Ruth Jones, Ingram Content Group; Ross Lewis, Department for International Trade; David Marlin, MetaComet Systems; Paula Owen, consultant; Steve Potter, World of Books; Miles Poynton, consultant; Oliver Rodney, Amazon; Christopher Saynor, EDItEUR; Caroline Summers, The Paperback Shop; and Karina Urquhart, BIC.

Judges’ comments about each of the 13 shortlists for the 2020 IPG Independent Publishing Awards follow.

The Paperback Bookshop Trade Publisher of the Year

Atlantic Books is shortlisted for this Award for the second year in a row after continuing its business turnaround in 2019. Its print and ebook sales both grew sharply, thanks in part to the phenomenal success of Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer, and it reinvigorated its fiction imprint. “Atlantic is a remarkable turnaround story and you can feel the enthusiasm right across the business,” said the judges.

Faber & Faber is seeking a second successive success at the Trade Publisher of the Year Award and had the best 12 months in its 90-year history in 2019. Its books won a wide range of Awards, and sister businesses like the Independent Alliance, Faber Academy and Faber Members all thrived. “It’s an incredibly impressive sales and profit performance… Faber never stands still,” said the judges.

Oneworld won this Award back in 2016, and had another superb year in 2019, winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction with Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage and launching a fourth imprint, Oneworld Academic. Judges said it had continued to raise its profile in the trade and taken risks with its publishing that had paid off. “Oneworld punched way above its weight in the trade again… and it did more great things on diversity,” judges said.

Sandstone Press is shortlisted for the first time at the Independent Publishing Awards, having received a huge boost in 2019 when it won the International Booker Prize with Jokha Alharth’s Celestial Bodies. The win helped it to grow the business internationally, and it signed some high-profile authors. “Sandstone has grown really well… for a company of its size the author acquisition and marketing are extremely impressive,” said the judges.

Blackwell’s Children’s Publisher of the Year

Nosy Crow has won this Award four times in just nine years of publishing, and it had another remarkable year of growth in 2019. The judges were impressed by its energetic marketing, international reach, dedication to new and longstanding children’s writers and illustrators and commitment to issues like diversity and sustainability. “It’s a consistently impressive businesses with a brilliant team of people across sales, rights and editorial,” they said.

Sweet Cherry Publishing is shortlisted for the second time in a row after its best ever year of sales in 2019. It expanded its publishing, acquiring rights to some major children’s TV properties, and from its Leicester base deepened its commitment to making books affordable and accessible to everyone. “Their publishing has been interesting and creative… it’s great to see a children’s publisher making its mark in the trade beyond London,” said the judges.

Walker Books had a good year domestically and a superb one internationally, with coedition and export sales both increasing sharply. Judges also liked the way Walker used its deep backlist of favourite children’s characters and long-established authors, while identifying future stars of writing and illustrating. “It’s been doing great things for a long time now, but you get the feeling that it’s still eager to try new things,” said the judges.

Wonderbly had another impressive year of growth in its niche of personalised books for children, adding new early learning and sticker books and journals to its range and carving out fresh international markets, including non-English speaking territories. “The personalised books market is pretty competitive now, but Wonderbly has made it its own… it’s a very impressive and ambitious company,” judges said.

PLS Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year

Bloomsbury Publishing’s Academic and Professional division has grown to a backlist of 30,000 titles, organically as well as through acquisition, but it retains an independent mindset. The judges liked its partnerships, in-depth market knowledge, engagement with Open Access and digital creativity. “Innovation within a big business like this isn’t easy, but Bloomsbury achieves it… it’s thinking about new sales and marketing opportunities all the time.”

Bristol University Press flies the flag for the UK’s university press sector on the shortlist. In a year that saw it achieve record sales and output, judges especially liked BUP’s clear strategies, OA engagement and brand promotion, including via a podcast. “There’s a lot of oomph to the publishing, sales and marketing… they’re not afraid to take a punt on things and they’re reaching trade channels too, which isn’t easy for an academic publisher to do.”

Edward Elgar Publishing, a previous Independent Publisher of the Year at these Awards, published a record number of titles in 2019 and grew sales in key markets including China and North America. The judges applauded its digital Elgaronline platform as well as its ethos and care of staff, authors and customers alike. “Edward Elgar run a very tight ship and present themselves professionally in everything they do,” they said.

Emerald Publishing continued its successful push into books as well as journals in 2019. Launches over the year included an EmeraldInsights platform for researchers and an Open Access platform called Emerald Open Research. Judges also liked its strategies to reach non-core customers. “There’s a great energy about Emerald, and you get a really good sense of what they want to achieve and how,” they said.

Kogan Page, last year’s winner of this Award, is shortlisted again after a fifth successive year of growth. High performing aspects of the business included ebooks, the US market and direct marketing, and it championed accessibility for readers through digital textbooks for visually impaired readers. “Kogan Page is a really solid business that is brilliant at what it does… and it’s great to see the important work it’s doing on accessibility,” said the judges.

Westchester Education Services Education Publisher of the Year

Bloomsbury Publishing’s Education division is seeking to win this Award for the second year in a row. Judges admired its growth in domestic sales, good translation and coedition deals, new audio and subscription models and smart marketing via educational conferences and other events. “Bloomsbury had a humdinger of a year in a tricky market… even considering the resources at their disposal, they progressed on all fronts,” judges said.

Crown House Publishing is shortlisted after a record year of sales and profits. It had a high hit rate for its frontlist publishing, and judges liked its pivot on marketing, which has seen it move away from social media and back towards direct targeting of schools and education events. “Crown House works so hard to get the results they do… on relatively limited resources it’s a pretty spectacular growth story,” they said.

Jolly Learning won this Award back in 2012 and continues to excel in its specialism of phonics publishing. The Award judges admired the way it continues to break into new markets, including via networks of distributors, trainers and other partners, with an outcome-driven approach to all it does. “Jolly are doing a lot of interesting stuff internationally… they consistently demonstrate a very focused business and publishing strategy,” they said.

IPG Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year

How2Become had another very strong year in its field of career advisory guides, achieving record turnover and publishing more books than ever before. The base of its success was its extensive work on YouTube, and around two thirds of its sales came direct from its own website. Judges said: “How2Become have really found their niche and gone for it at full speed… they know their customers and are as digitally astute as anyone.”

Search Press celebrates its 50th birthday in 2020 and continues to dominate many specialisms in the area of practical art and craft publishing. The judges admired their deep market knowledge, high quality publishing and production and digital innovation. “They’ve made themselves the go-to people for what they do—they know their subjects and their communities inside out and consistently deliver against their strategies.”

SPCK has won this Award for each of the past three years, and after a superb turnaround it became the UK’s biggest publisher in the Religion category in 2019. Judges liked its strategic planning and success in children’s books and digital areas in particular. “SPCK know what they want to achieve and are going for it with a laser focus. Considering where it came from, to become the number one religious publisher is an amazing achievement.”

Uni Admissions Books appears on the Independent Publishing Awards shortlists for the first time. It has achieved excellent sales and profitability in its specialist field of books for students applying for places at university, and judges liked its strategies for content creation and targeted marketing. “The business has a very clear and level-headed business proposition—their books are obviously meeting a need and they’re helping a lot of people,” they said.

Nick Robinson Newcomer Award

Boldwood Books has made an immediate impact in commercial fiction publishing since launching in early 2019. Judges admired its formula of releasing books in all formats simultaneously, its collaborative approach to authors and its international ambitions. “Boldwood has really hit the ground running… it is already showing amazing innovation and has found a huge variety of ways to kickstart its sales,” they said.

Muswell Press is shortlisted for this Award for the second year in a row, having continued to raise its profile in the trade. It has developed a good reputation for LGBTQ+ titles and city guides in particular, and its very professional publicity and marketing work belied its small size. “Kate and Sarah [Beal, co-founders] combine their experience of big publishers with a great independent mindset,” said the judges.

September Publishing has established a good reputation among retailers for interesting non-fiction, and it added children’s books to the mix last year. Judges liked its clear strategy for growth and its success in building a distinctive publishing brand in a short space of time. “It has achieved some very impressive sales, very quickly… the business has got a sharp idea of what it wants to do and how it’ll do it,” they said.

International Achievement Award

Kogan Page is the current holder of this Award and had more excellent growth in global markets in 2019, especially via ebook sales and translation rights. It launched Kogan Page Inc to cement its reputation in the US, and partnerships with academics and global institutions were effective. “Kogan Page has taken a very strategic and patient approach to international markets and it’s feeling the benefits in a lot of different areas now,” said the judges.

Nosy Crow is seeking to win this Award for a fourth time. Its tireless team achieved more stellar international rights growth last year, with the US and China among the best performers. Export sales grew too, after it brought management of them in-house for the first time. “Nosy Crow’s achievements in rights and coeditions are extraordinary… it’s an international powerhouse and getting even better,” said the judges.

Walker Books had record sales across rights, coeditions and exports—the result of some excellent targeting of markets and a lot of sales trips. Judges liked the way it used its powerful brand, backlist and database to grow sales, with China and Latin America performing especially well. “It’s a very strong all-round performance—Walker knows how to find the niches in markets and capitalise quickly on any interest in its books,” they said.

IPG Digital Publishing Award

Barefoot Books makes this shortlist for the reinvigoration of its World Atlas app for children. Judges liked its fusion of written, audio, video and animated content, and thought it struck the right balance between educational and entertainment for children. “What Barefoot Books have done is really creative… it’s a gorgeous product that has created a whole new property around their content,” said the judges.

Bloomsbury Publishing is shortlisted for its Medieval Studies platform for researchers and librarians. With careful market research, excellent functionality and flexible payment models, it generated good sales immediately after launching in late 2019. The judges said: “This is a great product that has been curated with a clear understanding of what its users want, and that fills a gap in the market.”

How2Become had a record year in 2019, using its website and YouTube channel to promote and sell its career guides. It reached a quarter of a million YouTube subscribers and capitalized on international interest with a new website, and judges liked the way it had monetized its digital publishing content in modern ways. “How2Become may be relatively small but they’re very focused on what people want and great at what they do,” they said.

Kogan Page is shortlisted for its Accessible Ebook Programme, which opens up textbooks to visually impaired students. Having reengineered its workflows, consulted widely and refined interactive features, the programme has been warmly received by those campaigning for better accessibility in publishing—and future-proofed the business’ tech as well. “This is important work… Kogan Page’s commitment to accessibility is to be applauded,” judges said.

IPG Marketing Award

Atlantic Books is shortlisted for its work on Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer. It was a coherent, persuasive campaign that captured the interest of both the trade and consumers and helped to make the book one of the most prominent debuts of 2019. Judges said: “This is a great example of independent publishers’ ability to get an entire company behind a book and give it their all… there was a real team spirit and the results were amazing.”

Bristol University Press makes the shortlist for its work on The Class Ceiling by Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison, published by its Policy Press imprint. Promotion, including a big launch event, achieved widespread media and review coverage while contributing to big conversations about social mobility. “This campaign pushed all the right buttons for the book… it had a measurable impact on sales and got an important message out,” judges said.

Quarto is nominated for the marketing of Zoe Tucker’s Greta and the Giants. It launched the book about Greta Thunberg with a promise to plant a tree for each pre-order and has acted on its own book’s messages by finding ways to reduce the environmental impacts of its production processes in the future. “The marketing of the book was right in line with its values… it was a cohesive strategy and an innovative approach to promotion,” judges said.

Usborne Publishing completes this shortlist for its marketing of Sophie Anderson’s The Girl Who Speaks Bear. Its campaign drew on the imaginative folkloric storytelling and design of the books, and used proof copies, competitions, point of sale material and great engagement with retailers and librarians to set up high sales. “Usborne really thought this campaign through… it created a big buzz step by step,” said the judges.

Alison Morrison Diversity Award

Aurora Metro Books has been celebrating diverse fiction, non-fiction and drama writing for around 30 years. As well as more translations of previously unheard voices, it published important and acclaimed books on LGBTQ+ and refugee issues in 2019. “Aurora Metro has been committed to diversity in publishing for a long time… It’s dedicated itself to bringing in books that we wouldn’t otherwise see,” said the judges.

Barefoot Books won this Award in 2012 and has since extended its superb track record for celebrating diversity in all its forms across children’s books. Judges applauded publishing that showcases other cultures, as well as global literacy initiatives and collaborations with BookTrust and Books for Africa. “Barefoot don’t have to work hard at inclusivity or make a big deal of it—it’s just part and parcel of the way they work and what they publish,” they said.

Carcanet Press celebrated 50 years in poetry publishing in 2019—half a century of commitment to championing diverse voices from different cultures and languages. Its backlist of more than 1,000 books also includes many from LGBTQ+ and non-binary poets, and it promoted energetically via events and social media in 2019. “Carcanet was pushing diversity for a long time before it became a concern for many others in the industry,” said the judges.

IPG Sustainability Award

Cambridge University Press is an influential contributor to sustainability through its publishing, which has included important academic research and trade books like Mike Berners-Lee’s There Is No Planet B. Judges also saw internal commitment, via projects like a new solar panel roof and ISO standards accreditation. “CUP have brought a lot of visibility to the subject of sustainability and are making big changes themselves,” said the judges.

Lonely Planet is shortlisted for its honest approach to the climate crisis, promoting best practice through its guidebooks and its own policies, including FSC paper usage. “Travel is always at the middle of debates about people’s environmental impacts, so it’s impressive that Lonely Planet engages honestly with the issue,” said the judges. (Note: Lonely Planet closed its London office in April 2020, after the end of the qualifying period for these Awards.)

 Nosy Crow makes this shortlist for its commitment to reducing environmental impacts including its use of paper, plastics and packaging, office energy consumption and involvement in industry action groups. Judges also liked its wider work on ethical and social responsibility. “They’re obviously mindful of carbon emissions in everything they do, and you can see their engagement—their heart is really in it,” they said.

The Bookseller Young Independent Publisher of the Year

Vicky Barker at bsmall publishing has made a big impression in an important aspect of publishing that is often overlooked: art. As well as improving bsmall’s design and illustration, she has contributed to many more parts of the small business, especially rights, acquisitions and new business development. “Vicky’s got a great awareness of what people want from her and generated a lot of interest in the projects she’s worked on,” judges said.

Sarah Head at SPCK has been integral to the revival of sales and marketing at what has become the UK’s largest religious publisher. As senior marketing executive she has led projects on some of SPCK’s biggest selling titles ever, and improved its customer segmentation, partnerships and digital marketing activity, as well as influencing acquisitions. “Sarah really understands where her customers are, what they want and how to reach them,” said the judges.

Michela Pea at Nosy Crow has made a huge impact on her company since joining in May 2016. Initially as rights assistant and now as senior rights manager, she has kept Nosy Crow’s international sales growing fast, excelling in rights and coeditions and in the Chinese market in particular. “Considering she’s only a few years into publishing she’s achieved an outstanding amount. She is obviously right at the heart of the business already,” said the judges.

GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award

Compass Independent Publishing Services has been instrumental in the sales growth of many IPG members for many years. Its hard working team is particularly valued for raising small publishers’ profiles among retailers and carving out new sales channels. In its 21st anniversary year Compass reconfigured its sales force, pushed books into more non-traditional retailers, launched a new website and welcomed several more clients.

Inpress has maximised sales for some of the UK’s most ambitious literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry publishers for nearly 20 years now. Its representation and website give exposure to books that might not otherwise be discovered, and it is a valued partner on marketing too. “Their service record, care and efficiency for publishers and authors of minority books is exemplary,” said one grateful client.

Suzanne Collier has been a source of crucial support to many people at different stages of their publishing careers. As founder of she provides careers guidance, coaching and redundancy support, and has long been an enthusiastic supporter and champion of the industry as a place to work. “Suzanne always goes the extra mile to help and advise her clients, and is a real force for good in the books world,” said one of her clients.

Virtusales Publishing Solutions supports many medium and large sized independent publishers with their publishing management via its Biblio suite of software. Its clients pay tribute to the way Biblio simplifies workflows and saves countless hours of labour, all backed up by superb customer service. “Virtusales are dream partners… I wish all suppliers and software solutions could be as effective and intelligent as Biblio,” said one client.


For any further information about the 2020 IPG Independent Publishing Awards, please contact Bridget Shine, IPG chief executive

Tel 01437 563335 Email