Director of e-books
Humble Bundle, San Francisco
Allen is the only employee who deals with e-books at Humble Bundle, a popular, gaming dot-com that introduced book bundles (usually assembled around themes) in 2014. Three years later, Allen has grown the e-book business from $0 to $30 million. She has created more than 140 book promotions with over 50 book and comics publishers, including Dark Horse Comics, HarperCollins, IDW, Make, O’Reilly, SS, and Viz Media. The site attracts more than six million unique visits each month and has more than eight million customers and email subscribers.
Allen, along with the rest of the team at Humble Bundle, is unapologetically not humble about the $100 million the company has given to charity to date. Humble Bundle operates on an unusual business platform, allowing consumers to pay what they wish for bundles of DRM-free content with a portion of revenue allocated for charities. Among those that have benefited from the company’s strategy are the ACLU, Code for America, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Every Child a Reader, First Book, the Hero Initiative, Jane Goodall Foundation, Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America, and Traveling Stories.
Executive editor, Food Lifestyle
Chronicle Books, San Francisco
When Billingsley joined Chronicle in 2008 as an editorial assistant, she already had cred in the food business, notably having worked on the 75th anniversary edition of The Joy of Cooking. Her portfolio at Chronicle has only enhanced her stature in the cookbook world with books that include the Small Victories by Julia Turshen. “Sarah Billingsley is an author’s editor,” says Turshen. “I feel so supported by her and always appreciate that she prioritizes voice over rules.”
Upcoming on Billingsley’s list is Feed the Resistance, which was on PW’s list of the 10 most-anticipated cooking and food titles for the fall. Chronicle publisher Christine Carswell praises her eagerness to explore new directions and cites the expansion of Billingsley’s list to include this fall’s Cosmo’s Sexy Sutra, a collaboration with Cosmopolitan magazine. Billingsley has been on the other side too; she is the author of Disney Frozen, the movie tie-in cookbook of meals, snacks, desserts, and beverages, and the coauthor of Whoopi Pies, which sparked an international and baking phenomenon. Carswell notes that not only is Billingsley a rising star in her own right, but also, as mentor to her team, “she is cultivating a future constellation of stars.”
Stonesong, New York
Before joining Stonesong in 2015, Campoli had more than five years of experience as a nonfiction editor at Palgrave Macmillan, and was “primed to make waves as a nonfiction agent,” a colleague says. In just over two years, Campoli has secured 16 deals with top publishers. Her list includes such notable books as Elite Minds by Stan Beecham (McGraw-Hill), winner of a Benjamin Franklin Award; a literary cookbook, Eat This Poem by Nicole Gulotta (Roost), and False Dawn by Steven A. Cook (Oxford Univ.).
Campoli is lauded for creating proposals that will satisfy “the choosiest of acquisition teams,” says her colleague, “and then negotiates tooth and nail for the best possible outcome.” Her clients around the globe appreciate her dedication; in-house, she’s a team player, mentoring new agents and sharing her proposals and submission lists without a second thought.
Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga.
In 2005, when Capriola, a former school psychologist, opened Little Shop of Stories, the sum total of her retail experience was a brief stint at the Gap after graduating from college. But she has always believed that “children’s books will save the world.” At the same time, she believed that Decatur could support an independent bookstore for children and their families. After leaving psychology and being home with her three young children for several years, she was ready to re-enter the working world, and Little Shop of Stories was born with a staff of only Capriola and a part-timer. The staff has expanded 12-fold, and the shop added more physical space.
Following last year’s presidential election, Capriola and her team launched a new program, the Kindness Project, which grew out of concern over the impact the campaign’s negativity, intolerance, and divisiveness would have on children. Each month, the store focuses on a different topic, the refugee experience, for example, and provides book lists, workshops, and activities to encourage discussions about kindness, compassion, and empathy within the community.
Director of publicity, adult titles
Workman, New York
In 2012, after several years in publishing, Carlisle took a detour and became associate director of restaurant PR and marketing for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, a post that served her well upon her return to Workman in 2015.
Her “robust” publicity and marketing campaigns, as her manager dubs them, have routinely secured extensive national and regional media coverage across all platforms. Calling her the “queen of innovation, seamlessly merging traditional and new publicity and marketing techniques,” Carlisle’s manager credits her with the success of the IACP Award–winning Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini, Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey, and the bestseller Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton, among others.
Regan Arts, New York
In just five years, Ciccaglione has gone from being a summer intern at book packager Melcher Media, where she worked under Kurt Andrews, to associate publisher at Regan Arts. At Melcher she worked on projects that became bestsellers. including The 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss (New Harvest), and S.by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst (Mulholland). It was S. that revealed her artistic and creative side, says Andrews. Ciccaglione painstakingly hand-wrote the more than 50,000 words in the book’s margins and on the associated ephemera that formed part of the novel’s story, provided the calligraphy for half the book and created the Eotvos wheel, a complicated decoding device used in the book.
When Andrews moved to Regan Arts in 2014, he immediately hired Ciccaglione as managing editor; two years later she was appointed associate publisher. Beyond the usual tasks associated with that position—to keep production on schedule, she also edits her own books. Among her recent projects were the heavily illustrated Deceptive Desserts by Christine McConnell and The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop by Richard M. Isackes and Karen L. Maness. “At just 27 years old,” Andrews says, “Ciccaglione has established herself as a rival to any veteran in the industry.”
Director of publicity
Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C.
Those to whom she reports and those who report to Cordova rain accolades on her. A member of her publicity team says that she has not stopped learning since she began working under Cordova. She praises Cordova for being able to motivate colleagues without being overbearing, unfair, or weak; the team member calls Cordova “that stereotype of a perfect employee… first in the office and last to leave.” and adds that she is always available to answer questions. Others on her team credit her leadership with successfully launching such bestsellers as David Limbaugh’s True Jesus.
According to Cordova’s manager, “she always has her eyes on the prize—connecting writers to their readers.” He also lauds her for her articulate and meaningful contributions in publishing discussions, as well as her impressive ability to deal with difficult personnel issues, resolving them in a way that “leaves everyone feel whole and the team and program intact and stronger.”
Co-owner, general manager
Changing Hands, Phoenix and Tempe, Ariz.
Dach began her life in books at the Phoenix Public Library as an events manager. A grant enabled her to create an author series there that increased attendance and circulation. Armed with that success, she approached Changing Hands and proposed a simple idea: “Let me increase your author event series. Let’s see if I can help make this store more profitable.” And they let her. And she did.
She attributes her success to continually asking the question, “ ‘What if?’ What if we could get more books into the hands of our community. What if we could increase margins?” To that end Dach has launched a series of nontraditional programs at the store including a political discussion group, a crafting series, and “First Fiction,” which pairs debut authors with a casual bar setting. The most recent result of Dach’s “What If?” mantra is the opening of First Draft, a wine, beer, and coffee bar inside the Phoenix store. “Now,” she says, “they come for the beer and discover a great book.”
Random House Children’s Books, New York
In her 10 years at Random House, Eberly has earned the status of “Wonder Woman,” according to a colleague, and that’s not just because she is the editor of the DC Icons series launched last month. Her authors represent a list that must make competitors envious: Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sarah Maas, and Matt de la Peña.
Eberly has a particular penchant for female warriors and is a member of a Tamora Pierce–themed book club, so it is fitting that she has been entrusted with editing Pierce’s first new Tortall novel in seven years. Demonstrating her proactive attitude, Eberly was co-developer of the OMG Shakespeare series (Shakespeare retold on a smartphone), which has expanded into OMG Classics with its seventh book, Greek Gods #Squadgoals, publishing in November. Upcoming in the Eberly hit parade are the second book in Jessica Cluess’s fantasy trilogy, and The Cobalt Prince, the sequel to Mark Siegel’s 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior.
Senior manager, subsidiary rights
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York
Before she joined the foreign rights team at HMH, catering to the children’s market, nine years ago, Finn worked with Jon Baker at what was then the William Morris Agency. Recognizing her potential and business acumen early on, Baker followed her career with interest when he left the agency to become a foreign scout and has observed her become a firmly established, respected member of the foreign rights community.
He praises her for being a talented manager “who simultaneously grasps the international value of children’s titles, from classics like the Curious George series to contemporary young adult and picture books, while also knowing what individual markets in the still-burgeoning children’s section can bear.” Known for her adventurous spirit, Finn was one of the first U.S. publishers to visit China’s growing children’s market in 2015, a journey that resulted in an increase of 100 new deals in that market over the previous year.
Martin Literary Management, Seattle
After earning her law degree at American University, Gore joined a New York firm, primarily representing indigent clients in federal criminal proceedings. When she joined Martin Literary Management in 2013, she brought the same tenacity, passion, and sensitivity that she exhibited as a lawyer to her new role as a literary agent in the children’s book world.
Among the authors she represents are Leah Henderson, author of the recently published One Shadow on the Wall, a middle grade novel about an orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal who must decide between doing what is right and what is easy, and Kory Merritt, the illustrator of the Poptropica series. Following the recent “Muslim ban,” Gore and another agent joined forces to create an open call for writers of Muslim heritage to query a long list of agents, opening an opportunity for voices of underrepresented ethnicities to be heard. Her bold endeavor garnered press attention that prompted more agents to jump on board.
Assistant art director
Penguin/Riverhead/Viking, New York
Taylor Grant has created the new normal in Creative Marketing Services at Penguin,” her colleague says, adding that she has transformed “what is possible to do in an industry eager to be part of our interconnected world.” Grant trained as an illustrator at Parsons School of Design, worked in graphic design for the restaurant industry, and designed apps before joining the ad/promo department at Putnam Riverhead, just as publishers were turning away from printed promotional materials. She combines an artist’s approach with innovative concepts to create standout visuals. She established the Penguin Hotline, which provides customized holiday book recommendations. One of her most recent projects is Riverhead HQ, a physical studio that allows Riverhead marketers and editors to take their own photos and create videos to showcase authors and books directly to the consumer.
Director of publicity
Other Press, New York
Greer’s outstanding track record in attracting major national publicity for the press’s titles is praised by both her authors and colleagues. Baz Dreisinger, author of Incarceration Nations, says that Greer “landed the book in more outlets than I ever could have expected with a topic that is vital and hugely relevant, but difficult to sell to the masses.” Gideon Rachman, author of Easternization, says that Greer is in a league of her own for her sheer energy and determination with which she pursues leads. The NBCC Award–winning At The Existential Café by Sarah Blakely is another title that benefited from Greer’s hand. It was named one of the top 10 books of 2016 by the New York Times Book Review. Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud’s novel, The Mersault Investigation, was praised by NPR’s Fresh Air as a “tour de force.” All that, and she oversees extensive author tours, many for international authors, and manages a department of four.
McIntosh Otis, New York
According to one of her authors, “Christa Heschke’s official job title may be literary agent, but it might as well be time traveler.” That’s because Heschke works to take advantage of new global opportunities for such modern classics as The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill, MC Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton, and Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key, as well as discovering fresh, contemporary voices.
Author Rebecca Caprara, whose forthcoming novel, Chance Seedling, is due next year from Lerner, says, “Christa is more than an agent, she’s a collaborator.” Another client, illustrator Vincent X. Kirsch, says of Heschke, “She is always there to encourage me and has some very clever tricks in her pocket. She has changed my work in that I do not feel I am creating in a vacuum.” Kirsch’s The Hole Story of the Doughnut was named one of 12 Junior Library elementary nonfiction selections for 2016, and Gingerbread for Liberty was a 2016 ALA Notable Children’s Book.
Founder and owner
Massive Goods, Brooklyn, N.Y.
According to an industry colleague, “Anne Ishii is super fly and can dance.” Nice! But that is not why she is a Star Watch honoree. She is an editor, translator, publisher, producer, and marketing professional who has been immersed in popular Japanese culture for more than 15 years. Since 2005 she has translated manga for Viz Media and other publishers and has earned an industrywide reputation in that role. She is also a freelance writer and critic of indie comics and manga, and wrote frequently on those topics for PW from 2007 to 2009.
In 2013, she and filmmaker Graham Kolbeins founded Massive Goods, a book publisher, fashion brand, apparel maker, and agency based on queer Japanese manga and art work. Along with Chip Kidd, the noted book designer and Pantheon’s graphic novel editor, Ishii is the co-editor and translator of Massive: Gay Japanese Manga and the Men Who Make It.
Knopf, New York
It is unlikely that a serious 624-page nonfiction book would inspire a book designer to reach for the stars, but the author of The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kael Weston, considers the book a joint venture with Kwon, one in which the form and look match the content. Among the challenges the book presented were arranging the nearly 100 photos that Weston took in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Soonyoung balanced images of the ugliest aspects of war alongside images of dramatic landscapes amid rubbled towns,” Weston says, “a construct that could easily have gone wrong in so many ways.”
Peter Andersen, Kwon’s boss, says that she “always allows the subject matter to determine where her designs go. In the case of The Mirror Test, she expanded our normal rules around the photo insert and reimagined what a photo insert can and should do.” Andersen also lauds her work on the cookbook Vegetarian India by Madhur Jaffrey, where she mastered the tricky task of combining highly stylized professional food shots with the author’s more casual photographs from India. Her solution was to “scotch-tape” the snapshots with what look like handwritten captions. “It is both so boldly and so subtly done that you are hardly aware of the artifice,” Andersen notes.
Andrea Brown Literary Agency, San Francisco
Laughran is both agent and bookseller, spending weekdays working remotely for the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and weekends at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, N.Y. She is lauded by coworkers from both worlds, and by her authors. A colleague at the agency says, “She has demonstrated herself as an unmatchable advocate for writers and illustrators, and she is a generous colleague to not only her fellow agents at ABLA but the larger community of agents, editors, and publishing professionals.”
Her fans appreciate her multifaceted online presence manifest in her “ask me anything” Tumblr platform; her blog, Literaticat; and her tweets. At Oblong, she is recognized for being a fierce hand-seller in the children’s and YA sections, with devoted customers who return time and again for “Jennifer’s picks.” Along with co-owner Suzanna Hermans (a Star Watch finalist), Laughran founded an author event series, the Hudson Valley YA Society, which to date has brought more than 100 authors to the area.
Owner and manager, Papercuts, and publisher, Cutlass Press
Papercuts J.P., Boston
Layte’s first job was at Borders, which had a profound effect on her; she has a strong belief in the transformative power of books. “Life is difficult, but I believe books can help,” she said in a TEDx talk last year. Later, she learned “the back end of the business,” as she describes it, in the customer service department at Hachette and then learned “how books got made” in the managing editorial department at Little, Brown. “All of it intrigued me, but I missed the alchemy of hand-selling books,” she adds. Thus, on Small Business Saturday in 2014, Layte opened Papercuts, which will be celebrating its third anniversary this fall.
Papercuts is the quintessential independent bookstore. “We sell books; we podcast; we publish,” Layte says. “We even have a store dog, Luna.” Cutlass Press is the publishing arm of Papercuts that has released three books with two more coming this fall. The store has received best-of-Boston awards from The Improper Bostonian and Boston magazine.
Random House, New York
It’s not only PW that is watching McKenna’s star rise—last year she was the winner of the 2016 Ashmead Award, which recognizes a promising young editor. This year her colleagues nominated her for Star Watch because of her “brilliant diagnostic abilities, infectious team spirit, and perhaps above all, a true love of books.”
When she joined the house five years ago, she worked under award-winning author and editor David Ebershoff and immediately stood out for her editorial contributions. Among the books that have benefited from her smarts are the bestseller Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt; Known and Strange Things, a collection of essays by Teju Cole; and a previously unpublished collection by acclaimed author Shirley Jackson. On the horizon for McKenna, who is praised by colleagues and supervisors alike for being “one of the fastest and smartest readers we know,” are the publication of several of her acquisitions, including The Tao of Bill Murray by Gavin Edwards; The Animators, a debut novel by Kayla Rae Whitaker; and Green by Sam Graham-Felsen.
Director of digital sales and social media
Kensington Publishing Group, New York
Nicolajsen is credited not only for advancing Kensington’s e-book sales and social media presence but, for a while, being the digital publishing program. She joined the company in 2008 as an executive assistant, but quickly moved to the marketing department, where she singlehandedly managed the nascent digital side of the company and spearheaded the launch of its digital-first program. She now oversees the Lyrical Press e-book imprint while leading digital marketing efforts across all imprints.
When Nicolajsen came onboard, Kensington’s social media platform was nonexistent. She quickly launched one, registering Kensington’s first accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al., and built them into indispensable sales tools. E-book sales have grown to 50 times what they were when she first joined the digital side of the company. Beyond sales, she distinguishes herself by building strong relationships with accounts, business partners, and authors.
Albert Whitman Co., Park Ridge, Ill.
When Nybo entered publishing as an intern only six years ago, she hit the ground running. As an editorial assistant at HMH’s Clarion books, Nybo acquired five books. Next stop on her speedy upward journey was SS’s Margaret K. McElderry Books, where she was an integral part of the Cassandra Clare publishing program. Nybo also edited her own projects at SS, including Catherynne M. Valente’s forthcoming novel, The Glass Town Game.
She is fearless in developing projects whether through in-house intellectual property or tracking down top talent, particularly from the video game community. After only six months at Whitman, she recently acquired Feeder, a debut YA title from Dragon Age lead writer Patrick Weekes.
Nybo also has served as the v-p of community engagement for the CBC’s Early Career Committee, where she organized volunteer opportunities.
Nation Books, New York
O’Donnell takes books that seem to have little potential and turns them into successes. She was the only one in town to make an offer on the scholar Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. She edited multiple drafts and encouraged Kendi to pitch op-eds and do events, The book ended up winning the 2016 National Book Award for nonfiction.
She worked the same magic with Mychal Denzel Smith’s Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching. The painfully personal nature of the story caused Smith to struggle, but O’Donnell literally brought him into the office and helped talk him through the entire book. “It’s rare to find an editor who doesn’t just care about the book underway,” says editorial director Alessandra Bastagli, “but who takes an interest in each individual author’s career as a whole.”
Beehive Books, Philadelphia
When Philadelphia’s Locust Moon Comics Shop, cofounded by O’Neill, closed in 2015, there was a silver lining; its small press arm, Locust Press, lived on. O’Neill mastered the art of crowdfunding to continue to publish such titles as Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, an oversize hardcover anthology of full-color comics based on Winsor McCay’s classic comic strip, Little Nemo. In 2015, he partnered with the Philadelphia Museum of Art to publish Prometheus Bound, used by the museum to explore and promote a major exhibition of works by Rubens, Titian. and Michelangelo. Last year, O’Neill partnered with artist and designer Maëlle Doliveux to found Beehive, a comics and graphic design publishing house and design firm. Recently, Beehive raised more than $169,000 on Kickstarter to publish hardcover reprints of classic novels illustrated by comics artist. The press coverage, his lectures at the Library of Congress, and his curated exhibitions have earned O’Neill the reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative minds in independent comics and graphic novel publishing today.
Nicole Op den Bosch
Senior manager, editorial operations
Audible, Newark, N.J.
When Op den Bosch began at Audible in 2009 in the customer care department, she was armed with nothing but her own smarts. She had yet to earn an associate degree in graphic design, which she accomplished in 2012 while working full-time. Now, still working full-time, but much further up the ladder, she is on track to earn a B.A. in Spanish from Rutgers next year. She moved over to the content team in 2011 and became a “rights evangelist,” says her supervisor.
Op den Bosch was part of the launch team for ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange), a marketplace where authors, literary agents, publishers, and other rights holders can connect with narrators, engineers, recording studios, and others to produce a finished audiobook. Among the hundreds of authors that she has shepherded are Bella Andre, Tim Ferriss, Hugh Howey, and Jasinda Wilder. She also acquires content specifically for business customers, Kindle Singles, and other short fiction for Audible Channels customers, and has acquired Spanish-language works for listeners in North America and English-language content for listeners in Japan.
Erin Murphy Literary Agency
In an unusual arrangement, Erin Murphy is both Paquette’s literary agent and boss. Both Murphy and a colleague at the agency express amazement at Paquette’s ability to seamlessly integrate the dual role. “Her writing informs her representation and vice versa,” says Murphy. “She shifts easily from brainstorming about her own work to thinking through knotty issues that have come up on the agent side.
The first deal Paquette made eight years ago, at auction, was for Jennifer Nielsen, who has done 16 books with her and hit the bestsellers lists multiple times. “If I heard that in her spare time, Joan also spins straw into gold, I’d only doubt it a little bit,” says Nielsen. After eight years with the agency, Paquette has matched or exceeded her boss’s achievements in number of deals (182), top-selling clients for the agency, and books produced for film or television (Nerve on the big screen, The Royals on the small).
Scholastic/Graphix, New York
By the time she graduated from Spelman College, Pelham had already attracted the attention of the folks at Scholastic; for three years in a row she won a Scholastic/Children’s Defense Fund Fellowship. As a fellow, she traveled to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to develop a plan for Scholastic to restore books to schools and libraries. Immediately after graduation, she joined Scholastic, where a position was waiting for her.
In the decade since, Pelham has been a part of major critical and commercial successes such as Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series and Jeff Smith’s Bone. But the foremost example of Pelham’s talent is the partnership she has forged with Raina Telgemeier to adapt the Babysitter’s Club series for the graphic novel format. That success led to Telgemeier’s own franchise of graphic novels that have earned two Eisner Awards, a Stonewall Honor, and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor. Telgemeier’s Smile has spent more than 200 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
An advocate for both the graphic novel form and diversity initiatives, Pelham has been called by more than one colleague “an editor of books that young readers want and need—books that also resonate with parents, teachers, and librarians.”
Associate digital marketing manager
Simon Schuster, New York
In only four years, Perez has accomplished impressive feats. She started as an assistant to marketing director Chrissy Noh and rose to associate digital marketing manager. She grew the nascent Riveted, SS’s online YA community, to a site that attracts thousands of teen and YA readers on a daily basis. Perez has also forged partnerships with such outside brands and organizations as Wattpad and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), free online writing communities, which consistently draw new readers into the Riveted community.
Perez is the force behind SS’s presence at teen festivals including Yallwest, Yallfest, and BookCon. She creates the booth programming and swag that attracts hundreds of teens, and manages it all seamlessly.
While she was busy rising through the ranks of the marketing department, she also found time to earn her Masters in Publishing from Pace University. Perez graduated with a 4.0 GPA and earned the program’s Award for Excellence.
Director of operations
Books Inc., San Francisco
Seven years ago, after working as an intern for a local congressman, Perham realized politics wasn’t for him. So he took a part-time job as a bookseller at Books Inc. while he figured out what was next. Instead, he fell in love with bookselling, taking on a full-time position and then becoming store manager. Now he is running operations for Books Inc.’s 11 bookstores.
Books Inc. is the West’s oldest independent bookseller, operating since 1851, and Perham is proud to be part of its recent growth. He has planned and overseen the opening of new stores in Berkeley, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and in Terminal 3 at San Francisco International Airport. Next year, another store will open in Campbell. Perham believes that many hundreds of communities in this country that don’t have a bookstore could support one—or more. He takes pride in making his belief a reality by dotting the Bay Area with several new stores.
Senior editor and Lego publishing manager
Scholastic, New York
Petranek is the editor of several successful original fiction series based on licensed properties, including Star Wars: Jedi Academy; DC Comics: Secret Hero Society, and Assassin’s Creed: Last Descendants. He is also editor of the pop-up book, Lego Pop by paper engineer Matthew Reinhart. His colleagues and authors consider him an “editorial rock star” and are deeply impressed by his personal and professional passion for pop, kids culture, and video games.
His boss praises him for his skill in the difficult job of spinning a fresh new story from someone else’s intellectual property. Jarrett Krosoczka, author of books in the Jedi Academy series, calls Petranek “a brilliant editor who helps you get your story to where it needs to be without inserting his own mandates.” Lego’s creative director, Mikkel Lee, cites his ability to “always access the eight-year-old version of himself.” Ben Harper, editor of various series, praises Petranek’s “creative solutions to the challenges we sometimes face in licensing.”
Sales director, mass merchandise, national accounts
Penguin Random House, New York
Right out of college, Rein joined PRH as a sales assistant, where he immediately stood out for his curiosity and creativity, frequently asking a follow-up question (or three) that signaled he was thinking big. Rein is known for being relentlessly driven to find larger audiences for the house’s content. His supervisor, Tom Cox, says that he “possesses an uncanny ability to size up a reading audience and find creative ways to connect these readers to the books that will interest them.”
In less than a decade, Rein has made a quick ascent from his entry-level position to become a sales director with “a knack for team building,” adds Cox. He has garnered respect and built strong relationships across departments within the company and with his customers built on his work ethic, problem-solving abilities, and his fresh approach to marketing and merchandising.
Penguin Books, New York
In just three years at Penguin, Schwoeri has accumulated an impressive list of books that have been both commercial and critical successes. In February, she published the acclaimed Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag, one of very few books to be translated from the Indian language Kannada into English. March saw the publication of the bestseller Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker.
Last year, Schwoeri published four paperback originals: the novels Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra; 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad; Flynn Berry’s Edgar Award–winning Under the Harrow; and a memoir, Where Am I Now?, by Mary Wilson. All have been reprinted numerous times. Penguin president and publisher Kathryn Court attributes Schwoeri’s success to having a range of interests along with “a real sense of what needs to be done, to make her books a success.”
Assistant director, digital campaigns and media planning
Random House, New York
After successfully kick-starting Random House’s self-serve Amazon campaigns and launching a partnership with the digital creative agency 24G, Seyfried’s superiors created a position for her tailored to maximize her value to the publishing group. She leads a team tasked with implementing new ways to drive measurable sales via digital campaigns that includes partnering with vendors to ensure their advertising is optimized and relevant to the consumer. For Lena Dunham’s national bestseller, Not That Kind of Girl, she applied her savvy about consumer habits and celebrity culture to create qa sessions for Dunham that had a big impact on sales.
For Creativity, Inc. by Pixar founder Ed Catmull, Seyfried spearheaded a marketing campaign that was as innovative and dynamic as the book’s content, says a colleague. Those who work with her—colleagues, agents, vendors, and marketing partners—tout her inexhaustible social media prowess, her creativity and enthusiasm in implementing campaigns, and her tireless nurturing of authors.
Senior production manager
Ten Speed Press, Emeryville, Calif.
Sigona makes books that are exciting to read, beautiful to look at, and delightful to hold,” says her supervisor, Derek Gullino. And, he adds, “she has an absolute command of manufacturing and prepress.” Two examples of Sigona’s contributions to a press that prides itself on luxurious, illustrated books with high production values are The NoMad Cookbook and House Industries.
For the former, the authors wanted to capture the idea of a speakeasy. To realize that vision, Sigona developed a book in which the back part is a tray, its edges molded to look like book pages. Tucked inside the tray is a small cocktail book, whose recipes complement the recipes in the main pages. After a false start—the trays couldn’t withstand the weight of cartons when they were palletized—Sigona re-engineered the product and overcame the problem.
House Industries features four different kinds of paper and, multiple color inks, including a varnish that creates a unique pattern on every page. But it’s the behind-the-scenes production work, when Sigona fixes unexpected snafus, that Gullino says sets her apart.
Manager, publishing development and author platforms
Penguin Random House, New York
As the author of the popular YA podcast, UpvoteYA, Stamper-Halpin brings an author-focused perspective to his role in managing communications with authors and PRH’s Author Portal. After joining the company in 2015, Stamper-Halpin added key tools to the portal that streamlined the otherwise daunting experience for authors, agents, and publishers. Last year, he led the Author Questionnaire Project, which merged all existing questionnaires across all divisions and imprints in the U.S. and Canada into one global form. Working with designers, developers, marketers, and editors, he succeeded in implementing a program that allows frictionless collaboration between authors and marketing/publicity teams. Stamper-Halpin is passionate about giving authors the tools and resources they need to market themselves: to build their readership, increase their online presence, and increase sales.
Forest Avenue Press, Portland, Ore.
Just over three years ago, Stanfill launched Forest Avenue Press, a publisher dedicated to showcasing Oregon talent on their own turf. Its inaugural release, Brave on the Page, a collection of essays from some of the Pacific Northwest’s top writers, immediately landed on Powell’s bookstore staff’s top five list and was named Book of the Year by the bookseller as well. Each of Stanfill’s subsequent four books landed on regional bestseller lists. Yet until recently, the press relied on print-on-demand via Espresso Book Machine.
When Stanfill acquired Landfall by Ellen Urbani, the author envisioned more than a regional reach for her book. At the same time Stanfill wanted to expand her business on the national stage. Their goals aligned to the benefit of both. Stanfill signed a contract with Legato, a division of PGW/Perseus and pressed it to have galleys ready just ahead of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—Aug. 29, 2015—the setting of the novel. The goal was handily achieved.
Director of publicity
HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York
The list of authors Sun has worked with as a publicist and now as a publicity director is a veritable who’s who of leading stars of children’s literature. Among them are Mac Barnett, Drew Daywalt, Neil Gaiman, Kevin Henkes, Jon Klassen, Thanhha Lai, Patricia McCormick, Patrick Ness, Lauren Oliver, and Sara Pennypacker. She has been instrumental in building careers, as well as furthering the legacies of such literary giants as Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, and Margaret Wise Brown.
Booki Vivat, a former colleague and now the author-illustrator of Frazzled, says that Sun had a monumental impact on the success of her novel. “Sun embodies the idea of a rising star; she is a force.” Vivat also cites her advocacy for diversity. Sun was a founding member of CBC Diversity, and this past year, along with Andrew Harwell (last year’s PW Superstar), established a diversity working group for the children’s division of HarperCollins.
Little, Brown, New York
In his less than three years at Little Brown, Szczerban has had a significant impact. “He has impressed us all with his business sense, his keen eye for valuable projects, his terrific expertise with illustrated books and cookbooks, and his all-around excellence as a reader, editor, and colleague,” says Reagan Arthur, LB senior v-p and publisher. To be fair, Szczerban did get a bit of a head start in the business: while still a student at Carnegie Mellon, he was an assistant editor at the university’s press. From there, degree in hand, he went to Simon Schuster, where he helped launch the TED imprint. In 2012, Szczerban received the industry’s Larry Ashmead Award for young book editors.
Among Szczerban’s projects are Sarah Knight’s highly popular Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and Get Your Sh*t Together; the upcoming Milk Street Kitchen from cooking legend Christopher Kimball, and White House photographer Pete Souza’s Obama: An Intimate Portrait.
Quirk Books, Philadelphia
When Thornburgh joined the press five years ago, she immediately noticed a dearth of titles that connected to female readers. She set out to change that with a crop of women-focused books, including Wonder Woman and Basic Witches. With the publication of the bestseller Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, she anticipated the cultural conversation around women in geekdom. She also has built a reputation for shaping popular internet content into books—Our Perfect Marriage developed from the couple behind the @WeFoughtAbout Twitter account—as well as developing in-house properties such as Crafting with Feminism and the forthcoming Geekarella.
And that’s just her day job. Thornburgh is the author of Who’s That Girl, her debut YA novel published in July by HarperTeen. Her second YA novel is due from the same publisher in 2018, and Atheneum will soon publish her debut picture book. In addition, Thornburgh is completing an M.F.A. in Writing for Children from Hamline University, where she has won two scholarships. Literary agent Eric Smith, who earlier worked with her at Quirk, says, “She does amazing work… and is a force to be reckoned with.”
Associate art director
Penguin Publishing Group, New York
Tucker’s first job in publishing was in the ad/promo department at Penguin for Putnam and Tarcher titles. She liked to say then that she designed “everything but the book,” from taxi-top advertisements to corporate catalogues. But she was determined to some day design books and sought out mentors to learn everything she could about book design. Now, as the four-color cookbook editor for Penguin’s Avery and Pam Krauss lines, Tucker proudly describes her work as “designing everything about the book, cover to cover.”
Megan Newman, v-p and publisher of Avery Books, cites the tremendous impact Tucker has had on defining a sense of style for the imprints’ cookbooks. Newman also praises her ability to work with authors “to enhance and refine their vision while also being mindful of their individual aesthetic.” Another colleague, Claire Vaccaro, cites her ability to juggle several books, but approach each project with a unique vision.
Upcoming projects that Vaccaro promises will showcase Tucker’s outstanding talent are Cedella Marley’s Cooking with Herb, the former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses’s The Sweet Spot, and Valentina Solfrini’s Naturally Vegetarian.
Simon Schuster Children’s Books, New York
After seven years as a children’s book editor, Wolfe, along with colleague Joe Monti, built Saga Press, a science fiction and fantasy imprint, from the ground up. It quickly became a major player in the SFF world, publishing several critically acclaimed books, such as Nebula Award finalist Borderline by Mishell Baker and titles by Cassandra Rose Clark, Frederick S. Durbin, Theodora Goss, Kay Kenyon, Rachel Neumeier, and others. This year, Wolfe was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Editor, Long Form and the Locus Award for Best Editor.
Wolfe has also made her mark editing anthologies including The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, which she edited with Dominik Parisien and was called “the best original fantasy anthology of the year” by Locus magazine. Wolfe and Parisien’s next anthology, Robots vs. Fairies, is due in January.
Wolfe says that she “loves books with characters that steal your heart and never give it back; stories that linger in your heart, get under your skin, and make us question the status quo.”