By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Book of the Year Has Its First Black WinnerAmiably clowning for the camera, “healthy vegan” authors Henry Firth and Ian Teasby set the tone for the British Book Awards‘ online presentation today (June 29). The authors of Bosh! Simple Recipes, Amazing Food, All Plants (HQ) were trouserless in their tuxes as they arrived to announce a couple of industry awards.
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the Nibbies streamed their first hour of awards focused on the industry—bookshops and publishers–and then a second hour focused on books, their authors, and illustrators.
This was all announced by Nigel Roby (presumably with his tux trousers on), CEO of The Bookseller, which owns and produces the awards.
Reminding viewers that the British Book Awards this year are closing their third decade, Roby said, “For a while this afternoon, we can step back from COVID turmoil and celebrate our brilliant writers, bookshops, and publishers.”
He conceded in his comments that “Switching from a Grosvenor House bash”—the annual awards’ usual venue in Mayfair—”to a virtual event has been a huge challenge. We couldn’t have done it without your support,” he said, referring to a broad base of sponsors and partners.
They also couldn’t have done it without a lot of editing.
The video in both hours was fast moving, expertly jumping from slides for shortlists, to presenters, and acceptance speeches–with applause tracks much like those of mid-century sitcoms.
The British industry has for years been making stylish, jazzy videos about its work and events, and its bar for such presentations is quite high. This effort met every criterion for this kind of program and incorporated a huge amount of raw video, not least because the Nibbies are a big program with many categories, shortlists, presenters, and winners to be given their moments.
The YouTube stream logged more than 2,100 views for each of the hours by evening’s end, and of course the program was racking up views on other platforms, as well.
British Book Award 2020 Books of the Year Winners
Except for illustrator Axel Scheffler, who won with his longtime co-creator Julia Donaldson, the program’s entire slate of authorial honors has gone to women this year.
In accepting the special “30 from 30” honor for the 30th anniversary of the British Book Awards–for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury)–JK Rowling said, “It’s particularly meaningful because the first award Harry ever won was a Nibbie.”
She was followed in the digital presentation by Bloomsbury CEO Nigel Newton, who thanked not only Rowling but also “booksellers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, printers, and distributors. They were terribly important in the huge logistical phenomenon that was Harry Potter.”
Another familiar face in the lineup of winners is that of Bernadine Evaristo, whose Girl, Woman, Other (Penguin Random House / Hamish Hamilton) has also won the Booker Prize (with Margaret Atwood for The Testaments) and has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Today, she has won the British Book Awards’ fiction prize.
Evaristo also won Author of the Year in today’s honors.
And of particular note, the author Candice Carty-Williams–who has won both the Debut Book of the Year and Overall Book of the Year awards for her Queenie from Orion Books’ Trapeze imprint–said in her comments on winning the overall honor that despite the Nibbies’ 30 years, “I’m the first black winner and the first black woman to win it.
“And I’m proud of myself, obviously, but I guess I’d like to be prouder of the publishing industry.”
Adding, “There’s a lot more work to be done and a lot more change and a lot more activism” ahead, Carty-Williams went on to say to the camera: “The last words in Queenie I wrote were ‘black lives matter.’ And it’s important for me to say that because I’m really proud of who I am and really proud of where I’ve come from. And against all the odds, I’ve managed to get to this place. I just hope that more people like me get to do that.”
More awards announced in the program today:
- Crime & Thriller: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)
- Children’s Fiction: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (Egmont)
- Children’s Illustrated and Nonfiction: The Smeds and the Smoos by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Scholastic UK)
- Nonfiction Lifestyle: Pinch of Nom by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone (Pan Macmillan)
- Nonfiction Narrative: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury)
- Audiobook: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Penguin Random House)
The Bookseller’s books editor Alice O’Keefe, commenting on the Carty-Williams win, said, ““Our Book of the Year needs to be something quite special and Queenie stood out from the very beginning.
“In her debut, Candice Carty-Williams introduces readers to a vibrant, fresh, unforgettable black heroine grappling with life, love, race, and family in contemporary London. By turns funny, wise, and heartbreaking, this is an exceptional first novel.
“Trapeze’s publishing strategy was also a masterclass in how to launch an author; from the now iconic jacket to the unmissable marketing and publicity campaigns that got everyone talking, and propelled Queenie into the bestseller lists.”
British Book Award 2020 Industry Winners
- Marketing Strategy: Pinch of Nom (Will Upcott and Alex Ellis, HarperCollins)
- Publicity Campaign: The Testaments (Chatto & Windus)
- Small Press: Jacaranda Books
- Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
- British Book Award for Export Above £10 million: Pan Macmillan
- British Book Award for Export Below £10 million: Nosy Crow
- Literary Agent: Karolina Sutton
- Rights Professional: Rebecca Folland
- Independent Bookshop: Book-ish, Crickhowell
- Imprint: Avon
- Editor: Carole Tonkinson
- Book Retailer: Waterstones
- Independent Publisher: Nosy Crow
- Children’s Publisher: Usborne
- Publisher: Pan Macmillan
In a comment on the win by Jacaranda Books for Small Press of the Year, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones says, “This has been a pivotal time for small presses, and this was reflected in the regional winners that made up this shortlist. But one press rose above the others in 2019, with an agenda-setting approach to its publishing that was loud and proud, and I was delighted that Jacaranda and Valerie [Brandes, founder and publisher] emerged as the winner at this important moment for diverse voices.
“This is a small press with big ideas and one that is going places.”
At this writing, the 6:33 a.m. ET update (1033 GMT) of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the UK is reporting 313,467 infections and 43,659 fatalities to the coronavirus COVID-19.
Highlights videos from the two parts of today’s awards show can be found on this page.
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