HarperCollins has been named Publisher of the Year at industry awards in both hemispheres. HarperCollins UK collected the honour at the British Book Awards (BBA) in London on 14 May and HarperCollins Australia won the same award at the Australian Book Industry Awards in Sydney on 3 May. Both accolades are a fitting way for the publisher to conclude its 200th anniversary which it marked in 2017.
At the BBA, which are the UK’s main industry awards and are run by the Bookseller, HarperCollins UK was praised for achieving 8% growth in a flat, total consumer market, as well as for the strides it has made in addressing diversity within its workforce.
The awards were held in Grosvenor House on London’s Park Lane and also saw the eponymous Madeleine Milburn named Agent of the Year, Faber take home Independent Publisher of the Year, Viking named Imprint of the Year and Bloomsbury Children’s Books named Children’s Publisher of the Year.
On the books side, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was named Book of the Year. It is published by HarperCollins – and the success of the publisher was further underlined when the publisher’s marketing team picked up the Marketing Strategy of the Year award for the same book. And to round it all off, Agent of the Year Madeline Milburn is Honeyman’s agent.
Philip Pullman, author of the much-loved His Dark Materials trilogy, was named Author of the Year and the UK’s historic bookseller, Blackwell’s, which was founded in 1879, was named Book Retailer of the Year. A special award for Outstanding Contribution to the Book Industry was given to Tim Hely Hutchinson who recently stepped down as Chief Executive of Hachette UK
The evening also contained one very memorable speech. When Axel Scheffler, co-creator of The Gruffalo with Julia Donaldson, was named Illustrator of the Year he used his acceptance speech to launch an impassioned attack on Brexit, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
He said that he accepted the award with “a heavy heart and maybe even a slightly bitter feeling…It’s just ten months until “Freedom Day” [21 March when the UK formally leaves the EU] and I – and my fellow EU citizens, many working in the UK book industry – are still living in uncertainty. We have, so far, no guarantee that we can still live and work here in the future. In a worst-case scenario, I might not be allowed to stay here by the time my next book with Julia Donaldson is launched”.
He said that the UK has been his home for 36 years and there would have been “no Gruffalo without the EU facilitating my study here…I know that my contribution is acknowledged here tonight, and, once again, I am grateful.
“But I would like to mention another person who came from Germany under completely different circumstances who is here tonight: my friend, Judith Kerr. Here, in this room, you have a refugee from the Nazis and a peace-time EU immigrant giving something for the families and the economy of the UK. But after the Brexit vote it feels, despite our contribution, as if this country is saying, “It was all a mistake! We don’t really want you after all.”…
“It makes me sad, and I worry when I think of a post-Brexit future for the UK families, especially the children, who are growing up with our books. What went wrong? What did they miss, the parents and grandparents who were reading Room on the Broom with its message of the importance of solidarity, partnership, friendship and kindness? The book wasn’t called No Room on the Broom….”
He received a standing ovation and lengthy applause.