International Young Publisher of the Year Award

Posted on October 25, 2005 in Uncategorized

This year, members of the SYP working in publishing were fortunate enough to be invited to The British Council on Friday 11 March for the International Young Publisher of the Year pre-award drinks party.  It was a great opportunity to find out more about the finalists and their extensive profiles, speak to them in person, and to meet those at the British Council who were involved with the award.  The finalists were all aged between 25 and 35 and were estimated to be ‘potential leaders in the publishing sector in their country, through their character, drive and abilities.’  It was clear to all of us that the finalists had made significant contributions to the publishing industries of their respective countries, and together they formed a fantastic mix of cultures, backgrounds and viewpoints.  There was also a reading by Ruth Padel from her book Whom Gods Destroy, which is currently being published in Mexico by Eduardo Rabasa, the 2004 award winner, as part of his IYPY prize fund.  It was a charged atmosphere and a great prelude to the awards ceremony held at London Book Fair.

The SYP would like to thank Claire De Braekeleer and all those at the British Council who invited us to this event.

The tension mounts as everyone is asked to take their seats. The ten finalists nervously giggle and chatter in the front row and the panel of judges looks proudly on and wishes them all the best of luck.

This action took place in the grand Pillar Hall at the London Book Fair on 15th March, and the ceremony was to announce the winner of the British Council ‘International Young Publisher of the Year’ 2005 award.

The ten finalists have come a long way since they applied to the British Council in their home countries last year. They were all competing against one another for the specially-designed trophy, a stand at the London Book Fair 2006 and prize money of £7,500 (to be spent on a publishing project that builds links between the UK and their country). However, there was an obvious sense of camaraderie between the group and a closeness that has grown through the experience they have shared over the last ten days, as they travelled around the UK together. 

As Rod Pryde, Assistant Director General of the British Council, detailed in his welcome speech, they represent the very best of what Argentina, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lebanon, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey have to offer to the global publishing industry. This award celebrates their entrepreneurial abilities, as well as their existing contribution to the development of, and their potential as a leader of, the publishing industry both in their home country and on a global scale. The British Council is planning a series of ten awards throughout the creative industries – including design, music and fashion – that celebrate such entrepreneurial flair.

Kate Mosse, the Chair of the jury (and writer, broadcaster and founder of the Orange Prize for Fiction), then spoke eloquently and fondly of the time that she and the other judges had spent with the finalists. She was joined on the panel by Bridget Shine, Chief Executive of the Independent Publishers Guild, David Godwin, Director of literary agency David Godwin Associates, Eduardo Rabasa, Director of Foreign Rights at Editorial Sexto Piso in Mexico (and the winner of the International Young Publisher of the Year Award 2004), and Joanna Burke of the British Council.  She praised the candidates’ presentations to the jury – which focussed on their work in ten often extremely challenging national publishing industries – and mentioned that publishers and agents should next year be given the opportunity to listen to these presentations, in order to increase understanding of, and trade with, the countries involved. As she read the citation for each finalist, it became apparent that the main things the jury were looking for were market knowledge in micro and macro terms, supported by business acumen and analytical skills, and the vision, drive, energy and passion that is so vital to entrepreneurial success.

Lord Heseltine, Chairman of the Haymarket Group, who was there to present the award, said that entrepreneurial flair is necessary for any industry to flourish, but that the returns for such vision in industries such as publishing often come in the form of intangible creative satisfaction rather than the monetary, a fact of which we are all quite aware! He also commended the strong female representation amongst the finalists, seven out of whom were female. He told the finalists that they were all winners but, life being essentially unfair, only one could take home the trophy. That person was Maria Deskur, Founder and Editing Director of Muchomor publishing house in Poland.

Maria’s citation read, ‘Maria is a highly professional, entrepreneurial publisher, a team player, who has a clear sense of determination, opportunity and business planning.   The judges were impressed by her quiet confidence, leadership abilities and ambition for her company.  A sound business plan, based on research and analysis of the market, reveals clear goals to be achieved and targets to be met.  This is married with passion and complete belief in the importance of publishing high quality work for children.’ 

Maria seemed shocked, but thrilled: ‘Meeting the other finalists was a great experience. Each one of them had interesting things to say about publishing in their own countries. Also, the way the programme was organised and the way we were introduced to the key organisations in UK publishing was great. It was particularly interesting to learn about UK distribution. The financial support and stand at LBF 2006 provides my company with a big opportunity – London Book Fair is such a big international event.’ When Maria had got over the surprise, I spoke to her and she said she would like to express her thanks to the British Council for the opportunity to be involved in the IYPY, as she had learnt so much in her time in the UK, and in particular to Claire de Braekeleer for her fantastic coordination of the event.

For Maria now, she follows in the footsteps of Eduardo Rabasa of Mexico, who has spent some of the prize money from 2004 buying rights for several contemporary UK authors, the first being Ruth Padel with Whom Gods Destroy. We wish Maria every success in the coming year in what, as Pinyo Trisuriyatamma, the finalist from Thailand said, ‘is often a heartbreaking business’.