Kim Scott Walwyn Prize 2019 awarded to Knights Of’s Aimée Felone

Posted on June 4, 2019 in UK

The winner of the 2019 Kim Scott Walwyn Prize was tonight named as Aimée Felone, co-founder of independent inclusive publisher, Knights Of, in a ceremony that celebrated the dynamism of the independent sector and the power of entrepreneurism, with a keynote from Guilty Feminist podcast creator, comedian and author, Deborah Frances-White. 

Co-founder, and change-maker, Aimée, was celebrated by the judges as having made an astonishing contribution to the industry in just 5 years in publishing.

Knights Of, the publishing house she co-founded, has already established itself as a vibrant and inclusive independent publishing house, and in 2017 Aimée and her partners also launched a crowdfund campaign which raised £50,000 to open Brixton’s first permanent inclusive children’s bookshop.

In addition to the management and direction of the company, she contributes energetically beyond the walls of the publishing house, sitting on numerous boards and steering groups dedicated to the creation of a more representative workforce.

The 2019 panel of judges said:

‘Every year the standard of entries for the KSW prize is astonishingly high and 2019 was no exception.  The need for change with new business models within our industry was reflected in the many submissions and all the applicants demonstrated dynamism and entrepreneurship as well as continuous striving for greater inclusivity and diversity.  Our shortlist is an outstanding group of women and choosing a winner was hotly debated. 

Aimée Felone stood out as both an effective activist for change and creative business woman as well as an inspirational role model.  We applaud her success and look forward to seeing what she does next.’

Aimée says:

“I’m grateful to everyone that nominated me for the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize, and to everyone that has supported my growth so far.”

Aimée is passionate about great kids’ stories that reflect the real world that we live in – one that is home to different, diverse stories and voices. She says: I’m privileged to help publish and celebrate books that push the children’s genre to be even better than it already is.”

Inspired by Verna Wilkins, author and founder of Tamarind Books, Aimée says: “[she] is a constant source of inspiration for me. She sat with me late last year and offered so many words of wisdom on how to survive and thrive in an industry that can sometimes seem to be more interested in talking about its issues rather than solving them. She was one of the first Black women to take up space in children’s publishing and has surely paved the way for me to even exist and have a voice in it today.”

Sharmaine Lovegrove, publisher of Hachette’s Dialogue Books imprint, said in support of her application, Aimée is ‘an incredibly inspirational role model, a savvy and accomplished business woman and a creative, cultured activist’. And as Ruth Harrison, head of Spread the Word, of which Aimée is a trustee, told us: ‘Generosity, listening and collaboration are at the heart of Aimée’s approach, alongside an intelligent and insightful impatience that is positively and actively disrupting and challenging the publishing industry.’

Aimée is keen to challenge publishing’s ‘secret society’ attitudes and would love to see strict barriers to entry broken down. She is keen to see how publishing can make sure the conversations it’s having around diversity and inclusion lead to permanent change.

“I wholeheartedly believe that it’s our experiences – positive and negative – that make us who we are. There’s nothing I would necessarily go back and redo, I’d just encourage younger Aimée to believe in the power of her voice and let her know that it’s OK to not always have everything planned out”

The prize, founded in 2003 in honour of Kim Scott Walwyn, former Publishing Director of OUP, recognises the professional achievements and promise of women who have worked in the UK publishing industry for up to seven years.

The 2019 shortlist was a hugely competitive list of true change-makers.  Each of the shortlistees was notable for developing new business models and funding processes, with a clear awareness of nurturing new partnerships and widening diversity.

They demonstrate the changing roles in both the traditional and non-traditional publishing landscape and offer a huge range of talents and skills sets. They are opening up publishing to new voices, increasing representation of unheard and under-represented voices and prove that the most exciting businesses don’t have to be in London.

The 2019 Kim Scott Walwyn Prize shortlist was comprised of

AIMÉE FELONE, co-founder, KNIGHTS OF

AKI SCHILZ, Director, THE LITERARY CONSULTANCY

CRYSTAL MAHEY-MORGAN, co-founder, OWN IT!

HEATHER McDAID and LAURA JONES, co-founders of 404 INK
OLA GOTKOWSKA, Contracts Manager, NOSY CROW

Founded in 2003, the Prize honours the life and career of Kim Scott Walwyn, who was Publishing Director at Oxford University Press and who died in 2002 at the age of 45. The Prize is run in partnership with the Society of Young Publishers (SYP). The winner of the Prize receives £1000, sponsored by the SYP.

The judging panel comprised 2017 winner Alice Curry; Ain Deheb Bensenouci (2018 Chair of the Society of Young Publishers and Senior Academic Partnership Manager at Epigeum); and prize committee members Rukhsana Yasmin (Deputy Editor of Wasafiri Magazine and winner of the 2012 Prize), Julia Kingsford (Co-founder of Kingsford Campbell and The Good Agency); and Emma Paterson (Agent at Aitken Alexander Associates). The panel was co-chaired by Catherine Clarke, Agent and MD of Felicity Bryan Associates, and Denise Johnstone-Burt, Publisher at Walker Books.