PW Star Watch 2023: Honorees

Sarah Arnold

Marketing and Communications Director

Parnassus Books, Nashville

Years in publishing: 9

First job: Intern at Parnassus

Favorite book read this year: Lucky Red by Claudia Cravens

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Find a mentor! Publishing and bookselling have led me to some of the greatest people I know, people who will be a big part of my life for the long haul. I’m incredibly lucky to work with the folks at Parnassus and to be able to consider them resources for bookselling and publishing knowledge. A special shout-out has to go to our owner, Ann Patchett. She has been there for me, for all things industry-related and just life in general, since I started at Parnassus nine years ago.”

Arnold was nominated by Lindsay Lynch, an adult book buyer at Parnassus Books, who describes the nominee as dedicated, creative, and indispensable. “Sarah Arnold has worked at Parnassus Books on and off since she was in high school—starting with a few shifts behind the registers on the weekends, then working as a bookseller during the summers when she was in college and becoming a full-time employee after she graduated,” Lynch says. “Sarah is now our marketing and communications director, and it’s been such a privilege to know her through so many stages of her life at this store. It feels inevitable that she would become the online voice of Parnassus, the person we’re all smiling at behind the camera, and an essential part of what makes Parnassus so special.”

Nissa Bagelman

Field Sales Representative

Como Sales Co.

Years in publishing: 12

Favorite book read this year: The Every by Dave Eggers

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Take any opportunity that comes your way, even if it’s not in the field or department you thought you were interested in pursuing. Most of us don’t understand all the colorful facets of the publishing industry until we’re working within it, and you can take that first opportunity and use it to pave the right path for yourself over time. There are unique obstacles and challenges we face in our industry, but try your best to stay positive and remember we are fighting the good fight!”

Bagelman was nominated by Lily Bartells, a book buyer at the Open Door Bookstore, who describes the nominee as knowledgeable, committed, and responsive. “I nominated Nissa because she is such an absolute standout in her job,” Bartells says. “Having been a book buyer for 37 years, I’ve encountered few reps who rise to her level of superior service and are simply terrific people as well. Nissa is extremely knowledgeable, well-informed, and savvy, and she brings a genuine enthusiasm to selling the books she reps, with an eye to what she knows our customers will respond to. Always professional, Nissa manifests great commitment to her role, is unfailingly responsive to our store’s needs, and—as a bonus—has an irresistible sense of humor!”

Katelyn Beaty

Editorial Director

Brazos Press

Years in publishing: 5

First job: Copy editor at Christianity Today

Favorite book read this year: A Secular Age by Charles Taylor

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Strong social media platforms don’t always translate to book sales, and sometimes an author with a smaller but more engaged micro audience—as through Substack, e.g.—is a better publishing bet than an author with a larger but disengaged social media following.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Seek to publish books that you yourself will want to read a decade from now.”

Beaty was nominated by Jim Kinney, executive v-p, academic publishing, at Baker Publishing Group, who describes the nominee as smart, savvy, and passionate. “Katelyn Beaty is an exceptionally talented editor,” Kinney says. “She has good instincts for identifying authors whose messages ought to be heard by a wider reading public. As the leader of Brazos Press, she has a clear editorial vision for building a program of enduring quality.”

Katie Boeckl

Bookstore Owner

Between the Covers, Gloucester City, N.J.

Years in publishing: 25

First job: Small-town newspaper delivery girl

Favorite book read this year: The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “This is more like a bit of advice for a new-to-owning-a-bookstore me: nobody knows your store better than you. This industry likes to expound the ways in which it is supportive of one another, but there is a lot of attention given to stores that operate how the trade organization imagines all stores must operate. Many of us exist on the fringes—we are in very small towns with seasonal populations, we have minuscule floor plans, we have only a few-person staff. We cannot and do not operate like the well-known bookstores. But that doesn’t mean that we are not serving our populations in the best ways we know how.”

Boeckl was nominated by Alison DeCamp, a bookseller at Between the Covers, who describes the nominee as determined, conscientious, and smart. “Katie is a rare breed—she’s young and took over this bookstore when she was 29 years old, but she’s incredibly insightful and a remarkable businesswoman,” DeCamp says. “In the time since she bought the store, she has gotten married, had three children, helped establish a book festival, and created a destination bookstore. I have worked for Katie since 2013. I’ve also seen publishing from the author side when I published a couple books with Crown. Not only is Katie a fair, ethical employer, she’s a real champion of writers and readers.”

Alicia Clancy

Executive Editor

Amazon Publishing

Years in publishing: 11

Favorite books read this year: Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “I’d say that though the road ahead won’t always be easy, and there will be tears and frustration and unexpected challenges to come, at the end of the day, it will all be worthwhile if you can make even one author’s dream come true, or help open one reader’s mind to a new perspective, or provide comfort to one person experiencing a difficult period in their life—and you’ll be lucky enough to participate in all of those things, many times over.”

Clancy was nominated by Danielle Marshall, editorial director at Lake Union, who describes the nominee as creative, tenacious, and passionate. “Alicia has such a clear vision for every project she acquires, and she works hard to take each author’s career to the next level,” Marshall says. “She is in tireless pursuit of the best for them, and as a result establishes a high standard for editorial excellence across our team. In addition, she is a terrific mentor to newer team members and a true joy to work with.”

Nora Alice Demick

Director of Marketing

Riverhead Books

Years in publishing: 7

First job: Part-time bookseller at Barnes & Noble

Favorite book read this year: The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “I wish I had been more proactive in meeting folks from different departments—even different houses!—who held different skills and disciplines. The more you learn about the many indispensable steps, factors, features that move a book forward in its journey toward publication and beyond, the better you will be at crafting well-rounded, creative campaigns that consider how you might reach a reader from every angle. I now have an incredibly supportive community of publishing professionals and friends that extends far behind my wonderful, immediate teammates. Having the opinions and thoughts of all of them has been essential for my growth as both a marketer and a reader and has allowed me to regularly readjust and reconsider how I approach just about every book’s campaign.”

Demick was nominated by Jynne Dilling Martin, v-p and deputy publisher at Riverhead Books, who describes the nominee as creative, energetic, and industrious. “A formidable marketer and strategist, Nora Alice has skyrocketed through the ranks to become one of the youngest marketing directors in our industry,” Martin says. “She overflows with astonishing idea productivity and creativity: she is never short on resource, inspiration, or helpful suggestions for each and every member of our team. She brings high-level vision, curatorial details, and skillful project management to every title, and she somehow keeps every ball nimbly afloat, no matter how mind-bogglingly enormous or complex a campaign becomes, all with passion, humor, and collaborative zest.”

Jennifer Der

Associate Director, Consumer Insights

Penguin Random House

Years in publishing: 2

First job: Analyst at a market research firm

Favorite book read this year: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “My manager said it best—give at least a year to understand the industry. While it may feel like a lot to take in, publishing is filled with passionate people who care about bringing the best stories to readers. Set up coffee chats, ask questions, and own the unique perspective you bring!”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Publishing is unlike any other environment I’ve worked in. Everyone is dedicated to the same thing—fostering a love of reading—and if you have the opportunity to join, it’s as rewarding as it sounds. My advice is to find as many ways to add value in your role. If you don’t know where to start, befriend your insights team! As readers are changing constantly, it’s important to stay connected with the people who buy books to put their needs at the center of all decision-making.”

Der was nominated by Grant Griglak, senior director, consumer insights, at Penguin Random House, who describes the nominee as curious, thoughtful, and optimistic. “Jenn’s expertise as a researcher is expected of someone in her role, but her ability to bring compassion for both the reader and her colleagues continually impresses,” Griglak says. “Her passion for unearthing meaningful insights and telling the story of the reader is her North Star, and our team is so grateful to work alongside this rising star in her own right.”

Alyssa diPierro

Associate Marketing Manager

Simon & Schuster

Years in publishing: 5

Favorite book read this year: The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “The best part of this industry isn’t the books; it’s the people. When you work with a supportive team who are as passionate about books as you are, it makes every aspect of the job enjoyable. It takes hundreds of people to publish one title, which is an amazing fact to consider whenever you walk into a bookstore and see thousands of books on the shelves. It matters less what you’ll be doing. What matters most is who you’re working with.”

DiPierro was nominated by Stephen Bedford, v-p of marketing at Simon & Schuster, who describes the nominee as agile, graceful, and diligent. “There has proven to be no task too small nor too large that Alyssa has not met with creativity, efficiency, communication, and overall professionalism,” Bedford says. “Whether it’s filming and editing content that proves to be a TikTok creator’s most viral moment of the book launch, assisting a legendary journalist convert a sizable but dormant social media account into a formidable sales tool, or helping land an ascendant novelist upon the bestseller list for the first time, Alyssa approaches each situation with an end goal and detailed plan to get there.”

Jake Eldred

Associate Director, Managing Editorial

Random House Children’s Books

Years in publishing: 9

Favorite book read this year: Forgive Me Not by Jennifer Baker

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Because it’s possible to grow in so many different directions in the industry, I’m a huge advocate for checking in with yourself regularly, and honestly: What aspects of work make you happy? What is fulfilling? What is sustainable? I think asking those questions, early and frequently, can help you find a long-term home—particularly the question about what is sustainable. Loving books is a huge part of what motivates us all, but you need to love yourself as much you love the books you work on.”

Eldred was nominated by Janet Foley, v-p and executive director, managing editorial and copyediting at Random House Children’s Books, who describes the nominee as collaborative, proactive, and dedicated. “I nominated Jake because his involvement in any task directly contributes to its success,” Foley says. “From Michelle Obama’s Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers to Christopher Paolini’s upcoming Murtagh, Jake masterfully manages high-pressure, high-profile projects with a commanding yet gentle hand. When Jake’s overseeing a project with countless moving parts and challenging logistics, folks can trust that he is thinking of all the things they may be forgetting and that he has meticulously planned for every possible scenario. His attention to detail is legendary at Random House Children’s Books—as is his reputation for going above and beyond for his co-workers and our books.”

Feather Flores


Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Years in publishing: 5

First job: Page at the local library

Favorite book read this year: Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Trust your taste and pay attention to your emotional reactions when you read. Your heart is how you connect to other people, to the world around you, and to stories—it’s how you listen for things that are true, and reflecting back what you hear is your greatest editorial superpower.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Publishing is a large and varied industry full of talented people with many different interests, so it’s always a good idea to explore the opportunities that you find exciting. You might not know right now how they’ll become relevant to your ultimate career path, and that’s okay. They always do—I promise—and it’s in making room for the unexpected that you’ll experience the most rewarding growth.”

Flores was nominated by Melissa Manlove, executive editor at Chronicle Books, who describes the nominee as passionate, honest, and kind. “If you know Feather, you know she just sparkles,” Manlove says. “She brings her whole self to the job, and that self is enormously openhearted and committed to the best practices of the craft of children’s books as well as the justice that they can affect in the world. Her creators and her colleagues adore her.”

Madison Furr

Senior Publicist

Random House Children’s Books

Years in publishing: 6

First job: Party coordinator at Sweet & Sassy, a children’s salon and spa

Favorite book read this year: Snowglobe by Soyoung Park

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Don’t be scared to share any ideas you have, no matter how silly and unattainable they may seem, or even if you think it might be something that’s been done before. You never know what might actually be possible, and sharing ideas might spark a thought from someone else that could lead to the golden ticket. Collaborative brainstorms have become some of my favorite meetings, and I love when people come to me for ideas. I wish I wasn’t so hesitant to share what came to mind for so long. There’s no telling what you can do as long as you don’t keep your ideas to yourself!”

Furr was nominated by Kathy Dunn, director of publicity at Random House Children’s Books, who describes the nominee as passionate, hardworking, and creative. “I nominated Madison Furr because she truly is a star in the making,” Dunn says. “Her passion and enthusiasm for books and authors, her creativity in developing new campaign ideas for projects and authors ranging from Dr. Seuss to Carl Hiaasen, and her easygoing nature and willingness to help her colleagues while juggling a busy workload of her own make her such a pivotal member of our team.”

Chloe Goodhart

Senior Publishing Manager

Penguin Young Readers

Years in publishing: 9

First job: Accounting assistant at New York Property Insurance

Favorite book read this year: Promises of Gold by José Olivarez

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues who interest and inspire you. A short coffee or video call is a great way to get to know your coworkers and to learn as much about every corner of this business as you can. And relax! Working in books is the most fulfilling and fun job I can imagine, and I get to do it with some of the nicest and smartest people in the business. Enjoy it!”

Goodhart was nominated by Anna Dobben, literary director of the San Antonio Book Festival. Answering for Dobben, Stephanie Sabol, v-p of brand and content development strategy at Penguin Young Readers, describes Goodhart as resourceful, strategic, and curious. “Chloe has an incredible wealth of knowledge of many different parts of the publishing process,” Sabold says. “She connects the dots between the creative and the business—a skill that not everyone can accomplish.”

Brett Gregory

Associate Director of Operations, Publicity

Two Dollar Radio

Years in publishing: 8

First job: Setting up and washing big tents for festivals at an event rental company

Favorite books read this year: Carnality by Lina Wolff, The Guest Lecture by Martin Riker

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Don’t take things too seriously.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Don’t take things too seriously.”

Gregory was nominated by Eric Obenauf, editorial director at Two Dollar Radio, who describes the nominee as reliable, personable, and innovative. “Brett has worked with us through thick and thin at Two Dollar Radio, originally starting as an intern in 2016; then as one of our first paid staff; then as a business-partner opening our bricks-and-mortar storefront in Columbus, Ohio; and now in his present role working on publicity and marketing,” Obenauf says. “He’s engaged, empathetic, and willing to put in the energy and hours to support Two Dollar Radio’s mission both as a publishing enterprise and as a member of our creative and literary community. A big part of that is figuring out creative ways to work with what you have, which as a small press isn’t always a lot, and employing that DIY ethic to championing our books and authors.”

Eric Harburn

Executive Editor

Boom! Studios

Years in publishing: 15

First job: Cleaning pots and pans in a hospital kitchen

Favorite book read this year: Night Fever by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Don’t pay attention to folks who say the sky is falling. Publishing—and comics!—will continue to be vital cultural institutions and arguably become more important than ever.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Read, be kind, read, work hard, read, speak up, read!”

Harburn was nominated by Matt Gagnon, editor-in-chief of Boom! Studios, who describes the nominee as brilliant, steadfast, and a virtuoso. “Eric Harburn is an elite generational talent,” Gagnon says. “Eric is at the very top of his field as an editor and has overseen some of the industry’s most commercially successful and critically acclaimed books, ranging anywhere from Brzrkr to Something Is Killing the Children to The Many Deaths of Laila Starr. He’s a master in the craft of comics, has an incredible eye for discovering new talent, and possesses rarefied skills as it relates to developing original comic book stories. Eric’s track record of consistent success over 10-plus years as an editor is one of the most exceptional and exciting runs in the modern age of comics.”

Katie Heit

Senior Editor


Years in publishing: 9

Favorite book read this year: When You Can Swim by Jack Wong

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you?: “Don’t be reluctant to try new things. When I first started in publishing, I thought I had a clear idea of exactly what I wanted to edit for my entire career. As I grew and had the opportunity to work on books for a variety of ages and on many different topics, my focus changed dramatically. I would tell my new-to-publishing self to explore every opportunity, because you never know when something will spark an unexpected interest and passion.”

Heit was nominated by Laura Demoreuille, publishing director at Make Believe Ideas, who describes the nominee as dynamic, thoughtful, and mission-driven. “Katie has edited a wide range of title across the ages 0–8 imprints with skill and is doing something really special and unique in the nonfiction space,” Demoreuille says. “She has a remarkable eye for pinpointing manuscripts that are fresh and distinctive in subject matter, while also accessible and engaging for the end reader—children…. She has a passion for exceptional nonfiction publishing and has already made a big impact on the Scholastic list in this space—creating books that will sit on bookshelves and delight librarians, booksellers, educators, and families for years to come. Plus, she is a team player, a leader, and a joy to work with!”

Sareena Kamath


Saga Press

Years in publishing: 6

First job: Cider donut seller at an orchard

Favorite book read this year: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Publishing is an opaque and challenging industry, especially when just starting out. It takes time to develop the specific skill set and lexicon needed to thrive in this unique environment. Don’t be so hard on yourself, take the time you need to learn, and trust that you’ll get where you want to go eventually.”

Kamath was nominated by Caolinn Douglas, associate editor at Zando, who describes the nominee as dedicated, generous, and intuitive. “I nominated Sareena because she is pure excellence, and so utterly committed to her work,” Douglas says. “She loves what she does; always offers the perfect comp; has brilliant editorial intuition, proven by the caliber of reviews that her titles receive; and as one of the first Zando employees, has been instrumental in bringing our model to life. She has been a star in my life since I first met her, and I’m now so glad to see her recognized in this way.”

Esther Kim

Director, Marketing


Years in publishing: 7

Favorite book read this year: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Always remember why you love comics and the people who make them. Also, remember that to enjoy your work, you also need to enjoy your life outside of it.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Read a little bit of everything from everyone making comics as much as possible. Digital and print. Graphic novels, comics, and zines. There are so many incredible and passionate people making comics worldwide, and we’re in an age where we can access and interact with so much of what the world has to offer, so take joy in finding comics that help you recognize your own story and comics that show you a story you could never have known otherwise.”

Kim was nominated by Holly Aitchison, director of sales, U.S. publishing, at Humanoids, who describes the nominee as passionate, sincere, and driven. “I’ve been lucky enough to work with Esther for several years now between two different companies, and watching her grow has been amazing, since she was already a force to be reckoned with when we met,” Aitchison says. “She’s incredibly hardworking and never lets a challenge knock her down. I find myself inspired by her regularly. On top of that, she’s an amazing friend, and someone I know I can rely on. That’s rare and amazing.”

Rebecca Kuss

Senior Editor

Disney Hyperion

Years in publishing: 6

Favorite books read this year: The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “During one of my first New York City publishing interviews in 2017, I was told that my enthusiasm for books was off-putting, and that I should try and temper my excitement to succeed as an editor—which I did, for a long time. But now, I think that my enthusiasm, excitement, and passion for kids’ books is exactly what has brought me so far in this industry and has been what’s helped get me through some of the more difficult things I’ve faced in my career. If I could go back to a new-to-publishing me, I’d tell her: don’t hide your enthusiasm, ever!”

Kuss was nominated by Emily Forney, an agent at BookEnds Literary, who describes the nominee as wistful, driven, and curious. “Rebecca is genuinely the epitome of loving books fiercely,” Forney says. “She not only has a genuine passion for this industry as a whole and cares deeply for storytelling and creators but has such a sincere respect for readers and the legacies we leave. She’s worked tirelessly to make herself accessible to those coming up in the industry at a disadvantage, working hard to create spaces for marginalized communities, and is just wicked smart with how to build community. Her accolades speak for themselves with her many bestsellers, but more than that, she does the grunt work no one will ever know about but is integral to the systems she fights so hard to make better.”

Whitney Leopard

Senior Editor

Random House Graphic

Years in publishing: 13

Favorite book read this year: Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture by Virginia Sole-Smith

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Be patient with yourself and take your time. Don’t listen to people when they say publishing slows down, it never does, so you need to find a work/life balance that suits your schedules and needs. Figure out your boundaries early because bad habits are hard to break down the line.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? Look beyond what your immediate interests are. When I realized that I wanted to pursue editorial, I had wanted to work on adult stories, but my first break was in children’s, and I ended up falling in love with the challenges and nuance that you face when working with books for younger readers. Keep your mind open and if an opportunity arises take it, even if it isn’t what you think you want for yourself at the time. You might end up finding a calling you hadn’t realized was there.

Leopard was nominated by Kiara Valdez, editor at First Second, who describes the nominee as determined, supportive, and generous. “Whit is one of those few comics editors that now has a well-rounded big-picture view of the comics industry since she’s worked both in direct market and trade publishing,” Valdez says. “Considering how siloed the two different parts of the industry are, I think this is a terrific asset.”

Brenna Dominguez Licalzi

Sales and Marketing Director

Blue Star Press

Years in publishing: 8

First job: Recruiter for a healthcare company

Favorite book read this year: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Try to work with people who give more energy than they take from you. It will make for a more sustainable work environment. This applies to authors and coworkers alike. We adopted this mindset a few years after the company started, and it is a big reason for our success.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Working with creative authors in a multitude of categories and bringing their stories, vision, and creativity into book form is one of the most rewarding and fun jobs out there.”

Licalzi was nominated by Lindsay Wilkes-Edrington, editorial director at Blue Star Press, who describes the nominee as passionate, curious, and committed. “Brenna is an indispensable part of the Blue Star Press team,” Wilkes-Edrington says. “She’s highly motivated and excels at finding new ways for our company to expand and succeed. Her drive has been critical to Blue Star Press’s exponential growth since it started in 2015. The company wouldn’t be where it’s at today without her.”

Caitie McAneney

Associate Editorial Director

West 44 Books

Years in publishing: 11

First job: Photographer at a Sears portrait studio

Favorite book read this year: Happy Place by Emily Henry

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “I’d tell new-to-publishing me to speak up. Honor your ideas and creativity. You’re not an impostor. Embrace being an overenthusiastic book nerd who truly enjoys the work. The flip side of that: listen up. Everybody has a story, and new perspectives can lend so much to a book. Publishing a book is a team effort: authors, editors, copy editors, designers, production—the list goes on. It’s important to be a team player who is willing to lend a hand where it’s needed.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “My simple advice: be kind. Be kind to the people you’re working with. Be kind to authors who come to you with their dreams. Be understanding when authors feel nervous, stuck, or overwhelmed. Be sensitive to what is important to people.”

McAneney was nominated by Alana Pedalino, marketing manager at Rosen Publishing, who describes the nominee as helpful, friendly, and conscientious. “Caitie’s an excellent editor who’s committed to championing and amplifying diverse voices,” Pedalino says. “She’s got the ‘it’ factor: she’s warm, welcoming, and when you hand her a story, you feel like you can not only trust her with it but that she will help you get to where you need to be with your work and bring it to a higher level. You’re lucky if she’s your second pair of eyes!”

Penny Moore

Senior Literary Agent

Aevitas Creative Management

Years in publishing: 10

First job: Envelope stuffer

Favorite book read this year: Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

What advice would you give to a newto-publishing you? “It’s okay to play to your individual strengths and think outside of the box in such a traditional industry.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Find colleagues and community that you can relate to and lean on for support. Also, save as much money as possible, because it takes a very long time to earn a livable wage.”

Moore was nominated by Jon Michael Darga, an agent at Aevitas Creative Management, who describes the nominee as dedicated and brilliant. “I have watched Penny support her clients in a way that most authors only dream of from their agents, even when she’s ill,” Darga says. “It doesn’t matter how much is on her plate—I know that if I have a question about anything, she will respond within minutes and offer to help me out. Penny is the type of colleague, friend, and agent that most only dream of: she sees the flaws of the publishing industry and, rather than just complain about it, puts in the work to make it a more accepting, supportive, and diverse workplace for authors and industry workers alike. I am constantly and consistently in awe of Penny and the work that she does.”

Leah Morse

Senior Publicist

Harlequin Trade Publishing

Years in publishing: 7

First job: Paralegal

Favorite book read this year: Cassandra in Reverse by Holly Smale

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Take every opportunity to attend meetings. You’ll learn so much just by sitting in the corner and listening to discussions, whether they’re about cover designs, acquisitions, author tours, or planning. Work-life balance matters. Buy bitcoin.”

Morse was nominated by Grace Towery, associate editor at HarperCollins, who describes the nominee as tireless, attentive, and compassionate. Morse “pitches her books passionately, never defaults to the bare minimum but always hand-tailors her campaigns in little ways that make a big difference,” Towery says. “Leah bends over backward to make sure her authors feel totally safe through all the unpredictable and scary parts of the publication process. Her author care is unmatched—and any author who works with her will feel assured their work is meaningful and their voice celebrated.”

Marie Pantojan

Senior Editor

Random House

Years in publishing: 8

Favorite book read this year: Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Connect with people both inside and outside of your specific imprint who share your values and who can be transparent with you about things like salaries, job opportunities, office cultures, etc. so that you can walk into or away from jobs with as much information as possible. Basically, friends make this job way easier and more pleasant.”

Pantojan was nominated by Ben Greenberg, v-p and editor-in-chief of Random House, who describes the nominee as smart, collaborative, and kind. “Marie is an incredibly smart and astute reader and editor,” Greenberg says. “She possesses a remarkable clarity of thought and is able to bring that to her authors in many ways, through editing, positioning, problem-solving, and brainstorming. Her broad interests also allow her to work across genres—science, journalism, literary fiction, sports, etc.—in an organic and authentic way. She is a wonderful champion for her authors and a kind and collaborative colleague to her fellow editors.”

Caro Perny

Senior Publicity Manager

Tor Publishing Group

Years in publishing: 11

Favorite book read this year: The Serpent and the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Don’t wear jeans to a job interview! I had no sense of what a professional office was like, and that was a steep learning curve. I think I’d tell past-Caro to learn to temper her enthusiasm with a healthy dose of strategy. Publicity may seem like a combination of arcane magic and throwing spaghetti at a wall, but books get the best attention when you know what exactly you want to achieve, and why.”

Perny was nominated by Ruoxi Chen, editor at Tor Publishing Group, who describes the nominee as fierce, insightful, and passionate. “I’ve been lucky enough to work together with Caro on multiple award-winning and bestselling books at Tor; she’s not only a brilliant publicist but someone who brings rare nuance, kindness, and strategy to each book and relationship,” Chen says. “You can count on her for both dynamite publicity campaigns and the kind of generosity, leadership, and mentorship that holds a team together. Caro is a powerful witch who uses chaos for good, and there’s no one else I’d rather have at my back, in publishing or in battle.”

Mark Podesta

Associate Editor

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Years in publishing: 6

First job: Busser at an Italian restaurant

Favorite books read this year: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Dedicate time to what you love because the passions you follow in your personal life will find their way into your work, and the work will be all the better for it. Oh, and read Kevin Henkes’s Waiting right now.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Trust your gut. Have courage in your convictions. Read criticism. Be a critic! Find work that blows the mind and fills the heart.”

Podesta was nominated by Kate Farrell, executive editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, who describes the nominee as creative, openhearted, and innovative. “I nominated Mark because fighting to bring untold stories to the page and unheard voices to our bookshelves feels more important now than ever, in the face of so much suppression and fear,” Farrell says. “Mark is doing that work and doing it brilliantly. And he brings his capacity for wonder and delight, and his sensitivity to beauty, to all of his work. He shares that with his colleagues, with the creators he works with, and through the books, I hope sparks of that spirit go out into the world and ignite other sparks.”

Lauren Shade

Senior Marketing Manager

Hachette Book Group

Years in publishing: 4

Favorite book read this year: Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Never be afraid to advocate for your work and growth. It’s always difficult to find your place in a new position, harder still to find your voice, but no one is going to champion your work as thoroughly as you. Write down your accomplishments—even if they seem small—because they matter and they are what add up to the ‘big picture.’ ”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Through networking and publishing-focused communities like POC in Publishing and We Need Diverse Books, I was able to get my foot in the door despite being located outside of the ‘hub’ of publishing. Whether it’s trying to get that first internship or applying as a full-time employee, there are so many resources out there for you. Don’t give up on your passion!”

Shade was nominated by Saimah Haque, director of consumer marketing at Hachette Book Group, who describes the nominee as collaborative, dedicated, and enthusiastic. “Lauren is passionate about her work,” Haque says. “She is always thinking of ways to expand Novel Suspects and enhance what we can offer to our community.”

Shannon Spann

Manager, Digital Marketing

Penguin Young Readers

Years in publishing: 5

Favorite book read this year: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Be ready to pivot, pivot, and then pivot again. The landscape of social media is always rapidly changing. What was performing today might not perform tomorrow. What’s trendy today might be cringe next week. The content calendar I planned out a few years ago full of polished book photos for Instagram looks nothing like the tedious hours of crafting clever Instagram graphics and carousels that fill my schedule now.”

Spann was nominated by Lauren Festa, associate director, digital marketing, at Penguin Young Readers, who describes the nominee as energetic, creative, and dedicated. “Shannon is special because she’s an incredible team player and dedicated marketer,” Festa says. “She goes out of her way to coach authors across our division” and “provide insights to teams throughout the company.”

Katie Stutz

Assistant Marketing Manager

Bloom Books and Casablanca

Years in publishing: 6

First job: Independent bookseller

Favorite book read this year: Things We Left Behind by Lucy Score

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you?: “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there for new opportunities. It will be scary at first. The best way to build confidence is to acquire knowledge. Stay curious and keep asking questions. People are rooting for you even when you don’t realize it.”

Stutz was nominated by Tiffany Schultz, marketing manager for the retail marketing and creative services team at Sourcebooks, who describes the nominee as strategic, enthusiastic, and hardworking. “Katie is the embodiment of growth mindset,” Schultz says, “and brings her enthusiasm and insight to all situations; you know when Katie is involved with a project, it’s going to get done, and get done well.”

Grace Towery

Associate Editor

Hanover Square Press

Years in publishing: 5

First job: Receptionist for a real estate agency

Favorite book read this year: Babel by R.F. Kuang

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Don’t rush everything. Don’t get so caught up in the little things that you forget to have fun with the books you’re working on and the people you’re publishing them with. Ask dumb questions and try to be cc’d on all the emails you can from your bosses. Also, no one ever remembers all the embarrassing assistant faux pas except for the assistant.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people, no matter what their jobs are. Read the market, but also read books you genuinely want to read that sound interesting to you, not just the bestseller lists. Find a friend who is also trying to get into publishing and stick together!”

Towery was nominated by Eden Railsback, editorial assistant at HarperCollins, who describes the nominee as sharp, revolutionary, and driven. “It is without a doubt that Grace embodies everything I want to be as an editor,” Railsback says. “Her talent for the page is unmatched—she weaves together narratives with mastery, elevates lines and structure with ease, and is overall one of the most insightful, razor-sharp editors in the game. What really strikes me, however, is her dedication to uplifting and empowering underrepresented communities in publishing. Grace is not only a rare, ambitious mind with a keen knowledge of the industry, she is also a beloved friend to many and provides support to just about anybody that asks.”

Michon Vanderpoel

Head of Sales and Partnerships

Rebel Girls

Years in publishing: 11

Favorite book read this year: Dear Rebel by Rebel Girls

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “ ‘Industry standard’ is just what the publishing industry has accepted to date. It doesn’t mean that it’s the best for the industry moving forward or that you have to follow it. Be creative!”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “There are many different ways to approach publishing and to approach media in general. Stay curious and look to be a part of the innovation.”

Vanderpoel was nominated by Amy Pfister, head of communications at Rebel Girls. Answering for Pfister, Jes Wolfe, Rebel Girls CEO, describes the nominee as a leader who is creative, tenacious, and passionate. Vanderpoel’s “vision and enthusiasm for building our business and our community has translated to a robust publishing business with 75-plus book licensing partners, a growing consumer products division, and a plethora of content and brand partnerships,” Wolfe says. “In addition to Michon’s brilliance in setting up revenue and distribution partnerships, she has shaped our culture, publishing program, ethos, and creative. She is a Rebel Girl and is relentless in her and our pursuit to inspire and instill confidence in girls.”

Rebecca Waterman


Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt.

Years in publishing: 1

First job: Prep cook

Favorite book read this year: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Focus on nurturing a profound love for books and a sincere interest in readers’ preferences. Stay updated on current literary trends, make use of available advanced reader’s and listener’s copies to excel in connecting readers with their next favorite book. Building strong relationships within the community of authors, colleagues, and customers is essential.”

Waterman was nominated by Susie Albert, sales manager in New England for Penguin Random House Publisher Services, who describes the nominee as interesting/interested, personable, and smart. “Rebecca, aka Bex, and I met just this year when I was calling on Bear Pond to sell them our fall list,” Albert says. “We got to chatting, and I was just so impressed with her enthusiasm, passion for reading and talking about books, excitement about the industry, and love of the gorgeous place she now calls home in Vermont. I was very excited about a book from one of my little indie publishers and she promised to read it. Not only did she read it, but she let me know two days later how much she enjoyed it and that she planned to handsell the heck out of it for the rest of the season!”

Christian Westermann

Senior Marketing Manager

Overlook Press and Abrams Press

Years in publishing: 8

Favorite book read this year: Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama, trans. by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Do not ever sell yourself short. I got into a habit of this as a newcomer to publishing, but I am here to say loudly in hindsight: do not! Things remain status quo when people underestimate the value of the input they bring, and publishing without any difference of opinions or discussion is the worst kind of publishing. Books are, inherently, a conversation. Do not ever be afraid to involve yourself in that conversation. You will only enrich it.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Find the people who fight for you and do the same for them—people who believe in your ideas, have your best interests at heart, innovate, and challenge you to grow. More importantly, they value your friendship in addition to your working relationship. It is from these amazing people that the opportunities will come and ultimately help you achieve the career you wish to have in book publishing.”

Westermann was nominated by Kevin Callahan, former senior director of marketing at Abrams, who describes the nominee as independent, innovative, and passionate. “Christian is the rare marketer who is forward-thinking, incorporating new marketing tools in his work, while not forgetting the importance of the grassroots outreach and buzz that only independent booksellers can provide,” Callahan says. “His enthusiasm for books and authors is palpable and infectious. His recommendation means something, because he sees each bookseller as a reader and an influencer and ensures each book gets into the right hands.”

Michaela Whatnall

Literary Agent and Film Rights Coordinator

Dystel, Goderich & Bourret

Years in publishing: 7

Favorite book read this year: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Keep pursuing every opportunity that pops up. Even if you can’t see how the path ahead will lead to your ideal career as an agent right at this moment, your eagerness to learn about every part of the industry will end up leading you exactly where you want to go.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the industry today? “Get involved in the publishing community and say yes to opportunities that come up, because they will allow you to learn about the industry and grow your skill set. You never know where volunteer roles, internships, professional relationships, or even jobs might end up leading you, and the skills and knowledge you gain will only help you as you grow in your career.”

Whatnall was nominated by Michael W. Bourret, partner and agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, who describes the nominee as collaborative, inquisitive, and diligent. “I nominated Michaela for Star Watch because I wanted more people to be able to get to know them,” Bourret says. “Their time at the agency began just before Covid hit, and it’s meant fewer opportunities to meet others in the industry. Many things make Michaela special, but what’s most impressed me is how they’ve come into an agency where many of us have known one another for 10 years or more and quickly become indispensable. They’ve developed relationships within and without the agency, made some impressive dramatic rights sales, and built their own stellar list. We are thrilled for them.”

Maria Whelan

Assistant Promotions Director

Princeton University Press

Years in publishing: 9

Favorite book read this year: Juno Loves Legs by Karl Geary

What advice would you give to a new-to-publishing you? “Confidence is such an integral part of your work; build it by asking questions, working early hours in the morning when you are at your best, and devoting time to develop close connections with colleagues and other young publishing professionals.”

Whelan was nominated by Julia Haav, director of promotions and institutional communications at Princeton University Press, who describes the nominee as dynamic, tenacious, and compassionate. “Maria is an incredible advocate for books, authors, and her peers,” Haav says. “A savvy and attentive publicist, she infuses her campaigns with energy, excitement, focus, and care, working adeptly to find just the right angle for engaging authors in public conversations through interviews and op-eds. Maria is also an exceptionally generous, supportive colleague and mentor, a champion for her coworkers who fosters a culture of teamwork and creative exchange.”

Return to the main feature.

A version of this article appeared in the 10/09/2023 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: PW Star Watch 2023

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.