Last night was just the third time Nosy Crow has attended the Independent Publishers Guild Awards. And, amazingly, for the third time we came away with prizes. Having been shortlisted for four awards this year, and with both Ola and Tom shortlisted for the IPG Young Independent Publisher of the Year Award, we won the 2014 Digital Marketing Award, sponsored by Nielsen, and the 2014 International Achievement Award, sponsored by the London Book Fair.
Tom, Ola and me with our awards at the IPG award dinner last night
We were very surprised. It really did seemed far, far too much to hope for to think that lightning would strike three times. We won three awards in 2012 and two awards last year, after all, so to think we might get any more just felt plain greedy. But I was incredibly pleased that Nosy Crow won these particular prizes: Tom and Ola were with me at the awards ceremony, and Tom put in most of the work that won us the 2014 Digital Marketing Award, while Ola put in most of the work that won us the 2014 International Achievement Award.
Nosy Crow’s awards shelves
We were one of two multiple award winners on the night. The other, I am really delighted to say, was another children’s publisher: it was Usborne, a company that, with pretty much everyone else in children’s books, I think, I hugely admire. Usborne celebrated its 40th year of independent publishing last year. In an email from Bridget Shine to all Independent Publishers Guild Members, she says that Usborne pipped Nosy Crow to the post to win Children’s Publisher of the Year (nice to know that we were serious contenders for that prize again!), but they also won the overall Independent Publisher of the Year Prize, which the children’s, trade, educational, specialist and academic and professional prizewinners all go on to contend for. Peter Usborne, who is what is described as “an industry veteran”, got a standing ovation when he picked up the overall Independent Publisher of the Year Award, and many of us in the room felt a little bit lumpy-throaty as he went up to the podium to pick up his prize. I think that it’s such a great thing for children’s publishing in general that a children’s publisher has won the overall award – the second time it’s happened in the eight-year history of the prizes. And, frankly, if you are going to lose to someone, who wouldn’t 100% prefer it to be Usborne after their 40th year than anyone else?
The compere for the evening, Rosie Goldsmith, did a good job of keeping things upbeat and on track, but I did feel a tiny bit that, in her opening remarks, her friendly jokes about the nature of independent publishers – poor, bearded, uncommercial – didn’t reflect the community of IPG members that I’ve come to know. They certainly don’t reflect how I want to be seen, so it was kind of nice to have the opportunity – in an OK way: you had to be there! – to take issue with what she said when I went up to collect our first prize. I said that I didn’t want to be poor, was whisker-free, and that Nosy Crow was proud to be commercial. Yes, as she’d said, independent publishers like Nosy Crow publish with passion and conviction, and yes, we are free and happy, to publish into the niche markets, some tiny, that reflect our passions and convictions. But publishing with your heart doesn’t mean that you don’t also publish with your head. To be independent is not – or not necessarily, at least – to be charmingly eccentric or amateur or lofty or dreamy or romantic or a bit bonkers. I want Nosy Crow to be at least as professional, effective and business-like as any corporate publisher – for ourselves, for our customers, for our readers and their parents/teachers/librarians, for our authors and illustrators. It’s been said before by people cleverer than me, but the internet flattens the playing field between small and large players, in publishing and in other industries, and an advantage that independent publishers have is that they don’t have to ventriloquise a corporate voice. Instead, they can turn their scale, their individuality and their focus into an advantage. I’d like to think that it was, in part, Nosy Crow’s distinctive voice – not something we “put on”, but, instead, just a reflection of our personalities – in things like this blog and on social media that won us the Digital Marketing Award, and we love the opportunities that the internet gives us to have proper conversations with readers, parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, bookshops, authors and illustrators that we otherwise might not have.
This is what the judges said:
“Nosy Crow…wins for another strong year of online brand building and customer engagement. Across social media, mailing lists, websites, blogs, events and an ambassador programme, Nosy Crow tirelessly pursued every marketing avenue. Nosy Crow has a very impressive sense of community in all its digital worlds. It’s very cost efficient too, which is important for all independent publishers.”
What won us the International Achievement Award, as well as Ola’s hard work, selling skills and meticulous organisation, was the support of the publishers outside the UK with whom we work closely, including Candlewick Press, Allen and Unwin, Gallimard Jeunesse, Carlsen Germany and Gottmer. Christine Baker, Editorial Director of Gallimard Jeunesse, was kind enough to provide a testimonial as part of our entry for this award. This is what she said:
“The tightly-knit and enthusiastic Nosy Crow team performs with ever-increasing energy, professionalism, dedication and creativity. They never rest on their laurels and keep thinking out of the box. Their speed of reaction and responsiveness is equal to their sound expertise of books and children, and we enjoy with Nosy Crow a model of fruitful and efficient collaboration in a relationship which is always enjoyable, trusting and constructive. The quality of the books and customer satisfaction are paramount for Nosy Crow, who are partners in every sense, far beyond editorial exchanges and punctual delivery of the books they produce for us. We also emulate and are inspired by their dynamic marketing and communication innovations, always helpfully shared. Nosy Crow has provided us with several of our best-selling picture and novelty books for young children of 2013. This success extends to fiction: the Nosy Crow debut, The Secret Hen House Theatre, is shortlisted for the prestigious Prix Sorcières.”
This is what the judges said:
“Nosy Crow scoops this award for the second year in a row, winning from what judges considered to be a strikingly strong shortlist. Nosy Crow again grew its rights, export and international app business substantially in 2013, adding new territories and pulling in more trade and consumer supporters through digital campaigns and tireless work at fairs and worldwide. Nosy Crow is fast becoming a powerhouse not just here but around the world. The international story is incredibly impressive.”
Both Peter and I spoke in our short acceptance speeches (short and garbled in my case: to prepare a speech is to jinx the prize) about the remarkable ability that UK children’s publishers have to select and make books that sell well right round the world. For a children’s publisher to win this prize for the second year running helps to bring a bit of attention to the professional skills and global sensibilities of our sector of the book business.
Here’s the full list of prizes and winners:
Nielsen Digital Marketing Award
The London Book Fair International Achievement Award
IPG Children’s Publisher of the Year
IPG Independent Publisher of the Year
IPG Trade Publisher of the Year
Frankfurt Book Fair Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year
Edward Elgar Publishing
Librios Education Publisher of the Year
Crown House Publishing
PrintOnDemand Worldwide Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year
Ingram Content Group Digital Publishing Award
Faber & Faber
The Nick Robinson Newcomer Award
IPG Diversity Award
IPG Young Independent Publisher of the Year
David Henderson, Top That! Publishing
GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award
Compass Independent Publishing Services
After the party was over
So, just slightly the worse for wear after a long-ish evening of celebration, we’ll pack up our prizes and get back to work later today: the Bologna Book Fair is just around the corner, and we’ve lots to do.