2021 Publishing Rising Star shortlist announced

8 Apr 2021

Enthusiasm, reliability, integrity and leadership.

These are some of things that are considered when determining the ABIA Rising Star shortlist.

Today we announce the five industry professionals within ten years of starting their career in publishing who are deserving of accolades. Here is the emerging talent in contention for the 2021 ABIA Rising Star of the Year Award.

Bianca Jafari, Publicist/Product Development: Thames & Hudson Australia

Bianca is committed to working on books, games and puzzles that hero creativity. As well as promoting accessibility and diversity, Bianca is passionate about teaching children about native and endangered Australian animals. Bianca is within two years of entering the book publishing industry, with previous experience in ghost writing, copywriting and editing. She’s been able to take traditional book marketing outside the square bringing about 40% revenue growth in the product areas within her responsibility. Bianca works on innovative non-book, paper-based products that require promotion and partnerships beyond traditional media. Her marketing efforts with the Laurence King Publishing Bingo products, for example, have led to sales in excess of 112,000 copies across the series. Bianca developed and published a uniquely Australian game that went on to sell over 6000 copies through the Australian book trade and ultimately lead to the establishment of a gift product publishing division within the organisation that’s managed under Bianca’s leadership.

Isabelle O’Brien, Publicity Manager: Allen & Unwin

Even before COVID hit, Isabelle was working remotely — from regional NSW. Time and again she has proved to the wider industry that being based outside a capital city is no impediment to doing great work and running a stellar publicity campaign. Isabelle started out working as a recipe developer for some of Australia’s top food and lifestyle publications. She then studied Journalism and along came an opportunity with Murdoch Books, which is where her love affair with the book business began. Across her five years in the publicity scene she has worked with high profile authors such as Matt Moran, Manu Fieldel and Scott Cam at Murdoch books and with Allen & Unwin names such as Clare Bowditch, Bri Lee, Emily Maguire, Jessie Tu, Jessica Rowe, Rod Laver, Cameron Smith, Lynda La Plante, and even supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

Meg Whelan, Editor: Affirm Press

In 2017 Meg joined Affirm Press as a part-time Editorial Assistant, while maintaining a role as bookseller and children’s buyer at Hill of Content bookshop, Melbourne. She soon became an Assistant Editor and by 2019 Meg was made full-time Editor at Affirm Press. Meg has championed Affirm Press’s entry into genre middle grade and YA fiction since joining the team, and was the driving force behind The Grandest Bookshop in the World from debut author, Amelia Mellor. This was not only the bestselling, breakout local middle grade book of 2020, but has also set up what promises to be a brilliant career for Amelia. Meg is a superb collaborator, a mentor to staff and her bookseller insight is invaluable for all publishing decisions across Affirm Press.

Pooja Desai, Head of Design: Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing

Pooja contributes to the strategic direction of the Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing list from acquisitions to visual
identity, setting the bar for design across not only our list but the industry. Pooja manages and mentors the design team and is essential in the training and development of design skills in the editorial and production teams. Her design style is modern and bold – her work on books such as Tales from a Tall Forest, Welcome To Your Period, Our Home, Our Heartbeat and Day Break has broken new ground on children’s bookshelves, carving out a space for design-forward children’s books. Her design on Sophie Beer’s Love Makes a Family has been printed in six territories, on 125,000 books worldwide. Outside of the publishing industry, Pooja also runs a freelance business working with not-for-profit organisations such as Footscray Community Arts Centre, Road to Refuge, and Human Rights and Arts Film Festival, to help them reach a wider audience and further their cause through good design. Pooja is currently the Secretary for the Australian Book Designers Association.

Stef Italia, Sales Manager: Text Publishing

Stef began her publishing career at Taylor & Francis Group, where together with a small yet dynamic group of experienced publishing professionals she helped start the local sales and distribution arm for the group’s book business across Australia and New Zealand. Stef started at Text in 2016 as the Administrative Coordinator where she showed enthusiasm for more knowledge about the intricacies and logic of the publishing process. Through significant personal initiative, Stef has improved multiple systems for stock-keeping, submission of literary awards, forward schedule planning, and the balancing of editorial workloads. At the start of 2020, Stef moved to the Sales Manager role and was instrumental in overhauling a number of systems and processes to support the team in working remotely.

Congratulations to the Rising Star shortlist.

The judges said,

There was an exceptional calibre of candidates to consider and it was very difficult to choose the shortlist. The breadth of talent amongst publishing professionals in Australia is on display in the shortlist again this year. 

The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on 28 April 2021.

Follow Books + Publishing to read interviews with each of the Rising Star shortlist between now and the event.

Get your tickets here to be in the room when the winner of the Rising Star award is announced.