London’s FutureBook Announces ‘Lockdown’ Shortlists Ahead of Five-Day Conference

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The FutureBook program in London—taking place as a paid-admission online conference this year—announces shortlists in five ‘Best of Lockdown’ categories of awards.

Molly Flatt speaks at the 2019 FutureBook program at Bishopsgate, London. Image: The Bookseller

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Jones: ‘An Exceptional Period of Change and Renewal’
Twenty-seven candidates have been announced this morning (October 29) for the UK’s FutureBook Awards. Those awards are part of the annual FutureBook conference.

Normally a one-day event at London’s Bishopsgate complex, this year’s FutureBook conference is a convoy of five daily digital installments.

  • The dates of the conference are November 16 to 20.
  • Conference sessions on each day start at 10 a.m. London time (GMT) and run to 5 p.m.
  • There are two generous pauses each day during which the digital viewers can attend to work and life.
  • Effectively, then, there are four hours of programming daily, for a week’s total of some 40 hours of content.
  • The awards are announced in the very last hour of the week, in the 4 p.m. slot on November 20.

All of this may sound somewhat taxing—just for perspective, there were some 70 hours of content built into Frankfurter Buchmesse’s conference programming earlier this month. But one advantage that weary Zoomers will spot quickly is the fact that in most cases, the FutureBook program thoughtfully offers just one event at a time in its program structure.

Philip Jones

On most days, there’s one side event in part of the first hour and one in the last hour. In some cases, those side sessions relate to the awards, with shortlisted award candidates presenting their projects for online Q&A from users. Those attendees will also vote for their favorite candidate in each category, although the judges will have the upper hand in selecting the winners.

Having turned out a strong video delivery of the British Book Awards this year—and having been sold to Stage Media in August by longtime owner Nigel Roby—it’s been an eventful year for The Bookseller, which produces the FutureBook program. The show each year is heavily focused on the British industry, of course, matching the brief for the UK industry’s trade magazine of record.

And for the most part, Philip Jones, Emma Lowe and their associates at The Bookseller have managed to resist the urge to stack events atop each other. That should make it possible for attendees to sort out what they want to see with fewer coin tosses. Much of the world publishing industry, in setting up its digital events this year, seems to be learning that even in the digital space, less is still more.

Emma Lowe

Perhaps the most closely watched aspect of FutureBook, however, will involve its tickets. As with the physical event each year, FutureBook-digital will be seen by paid admission.

  • In earliest bookings (the first 100 registrations), Bookseller subscribers will pay £145 (US$187) and non-subscribers will pay £175 (US$226)
  • After the first 100 tickets are gone, then subscribers will pay £185 (US$235) and non-subscribers will pay £205 (US$265)
  • In an update on Friday (October 30), the company tells us that 500 tickets have been sold

Needless to say, there’s nothing wrong with charging, but the norm in most cases of physical-gone-digital events of this kind has been a free-to-users model, leveraging sponsorship, fundraising, and/or advertising to cover costs. There are sponsors, still, for FutureBook, which should help ease the impact of expenses on sustaining a five-day show.

FutureBook 2020 ‘Lockdown’ Awards Shortlists

In a prepared statement today, Jones is quoted, saying, “‘The 150 submissions” for the awards program “showed the sector at its best, and I am only sorry that we could not shortlist them all. It’s been an exceptional period of change and renewal, with the reader, as always, at the heart.”

The FutureBook organizers have decided to put their awards this year into “Best of Lockdown” categories. How well that terminology might wear if new lockdowns do indeed come into play is something everyone can hope doesn’t have to be discovered.

As Reuters’ Kate Holton and Madeline Chambers are reporting today, there is some pressure on the Boris Johnson government to consider a second nationwide lockdown, especially with Emmanuel Macron announcing a new lockdown for November in France and Germany’s Angela Merkel looking at new restrictions to try to handle new surges of the coronavirus COVID-19 pathogen. As yet, the UK has stuck with its tiered program of staged local measures.

A new Imperial College study, write Holton and Chambers, sees Britain as the country with “the largest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe, showing cases in England doubling every nine days.”

The award categories are:

  • Book
  • Campaign
  • Event
  • Retail
  • Startup

Additionally, there are awards for Person of the Year and Team of the Year. Those are to be announced ahead of the conference.

Shortlisted Books

  • Coronavirus: A Book for Children About COVID-19, by Elizabeth Jenner, Nia Roberts, Kate Wilson and Axel Scheffler (Nosy Crow)
  • Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, edited by Adam Kay (Orion)
  • Edinburgh Unlocked: Over 20 Comedy Acts From the Fringe That Never Was (Penguin Random House)
  • Andy Serkis Reads ‘The Hobbit,’ JRR Tolkien (HarperCollins)
  • We Love Romance (Mills & Boon)

Shortlisted Campaigns

  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, Georgina Moore, director of books & publishing (Midas)
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, Alice Shortland, deputy head of marketing; Vicki Watson, head of marketing; and Alan Trotter, digital content editor (Canongate)
  • The Kingsbridge Festival, Sarah Arratoon, head of marketing, Pan Division (Pan Macmillan)
  • Oxford Owl for Home: Learning Anywhere, Hannah Penny, senior marketing manager (Oxford University Press)
  • Skincare: The Ultimate No-Nonsense Guide by Caroline Hirons, Joanna Rose, marketing director, HQ; Janet Aspey, marketing manager, HQ; and Jen Callahan-Packer, director of brand, insight and planning (HarperCollins)
  • Exciting Time by Naoise Dolan, Francesca Pearce, head of publicity (Orion)

Shortlisted Events

  • The Stay-at-Home Literary Festival
  • #DrawWithRob
  • Borderless Book Club
  • ImagineNation
  • Virtual Noir at the Bar
  • Cheltenham Literature Festival

Shortlisted Retailers

  • Bear Hunt Books
  • Ulverscroft
  • Blackwell’s Oxford Book Bike
  • Bluemoose Books
  • Mr. B’s Emporium

Shortlisted Startups

  • Onwe
  • Perlego
  • Proofcheck
  • StoryPack
  • StortyTerrace

More from Publishing Perspectives on The FutureBook and its conference is here, more from us on The Bookseller is here, more on the UK market is here, and more on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.