Book Buzz
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Cate Blake | Patrizia di Biase-Dyson | Ali Hammond | Lex Hirst | Shalini Kunahlan


The ABIA Rising Star of the Year Award 2018 Nominees

The ABIA Rising Star of the Year Award showcases the depth and breadth of talent in the Australian publishing industry. Launched in 2018, this new award will be presented to an innovative and talented individual whose record reflects ongoing excellence and growth in contribution to their profession, and who is currently working in the Australian publishing industry for less than 10 years. From 22 entries, the judges have chosen five outstanding candidates for this new award.


About the bookCATE BLAKE, Commissioning Editor, Penguin Random House

Nomination submitted by Ben Ball, Publishing Director, Penguin Random House Australia

Cate’s excellence and initiative is foremost demonstrated through the books that she publishes, and the commitment, energy and drive she puts behind them. She aims to publish and to edit the books on her list with confidence, vision and excitement. And that list is a credit to her commissioning and publishing skills, as well as her editorial vision, covering areas as diverse as literary fiction, memoir, politics, humour, true crime and pop culture.

She was highly commended in the 2014 Fellowship of Australian Writers Barbara Ramsden Award for Editing for her work on the acclaimed memoir The Feel-Good Hit of the Year by Liam Pieper.

Cate has always worked hard to strengthen her editorial and publishing skills, seeking out opportunities to develop these. In 2014 she was selected to attend the Residential Editorial Program run by the Australian Publishers Association, an intensive retreat for mid-career editors.

In that same year she received an Australia Council for the Arts Editorial Professional Development grant to attend the Yale University Leadership in Book Publishing Course in the USA. Outside of her role at Penguin Random House she’s a regular attendee and guest at festivals and publishing events around the country, and has spoken about Australian publishing at events in Indonesia, India and the USA. Since 2016 she’s been a board member of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, Australia’s premier festival for new and emerging writers.

Her commitment to assisting and encouraging emerging writers has seen her become a regular judge of creative writing competitions, including the City of Melbourne’s Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards and the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. She has also facilitated events alongside South Australian Writers’ Centre, Sisters in Crime, RMIT University and the Emerging Writers’ Festival.

Cate has discovered and nurtured some of our most exciting new voices, in literary and commercial areas, and has remarkable relations with the generation of writers and producers who are now stepping into the limelight, as creators, magazine editors and festival directors.


About the bookPATRIZIA DI BIASE-DYSON, Publicity Manager, Allen & Unwin 

Nomination submitted by Robert Gorman, Managing Director, Allen & Unwin

Passion for the job, the book, the author, the company and the industry is what drives Patti Di Biase-Dyson. She’s an ideas person, and one who can make them come to fruition. She’s also a people person. Her natural warmth and energy help her connect with her colleagues, the authors under her care, and the media who she pitches so successfully to, ensuring long relationships.

Over the years Patti has worked with many professional and hard-working authors. Regardless of their personalities and publicity requirements, all the authors that Patti works with respect her enormously. Some so much that they employed her when she was freelancing. Her art is that she makes them feel comfortable and at ease, a skill that shows a maturity beyond her years and is a huge compliment. As a junior publicist Patti devised Allen & Unwin’s very first multiple author tour—the Wordy Woman Tour—in response to having three mid-career authors, all writing in the same area and all in need of tour exposure. The result was all three books sold well, event attendances were well above expectations and Allen & Unwin had developed a new way for sales and marketing to take new books to market.

Patti is very resourceful; creating hugely successful campaigns without the need for a huge budget. This skill comes from her ability to develop relationships, negotiate good deals, to see the possibilities where others don’t and to understand where the true value lies. The changes she made on an administrative level within Murdoch regarding file management and distribution of content will continue to be appreciated. After seven short years in publishing Patti has earned an outstanding reputation as a highly effective, multi-faceted, omni-channel publicist, who is respected by her colleagues and consistently appreciated by the authors she works with.


About the bookALI HAMMOND, Category Manager, Dymocks Booksellers

Nomination submitted by Sophie Higgins, Head of Marketing and Merchandise, Dymocks

In her five-year career at Dymocks Ali has made an outstanding contribution not only to the business and the industry but to the Australian cultural landscape in general. Her inclusive, collaborative style make her an ideal colleague and her enthusiasm for helping a customer find their next great read is infectious. She helps form long-lasting connections between writers and readers and in doing so, helps inspire new generations of book lovers.

Ali is always aware of current trends and has proven to be ahead of the game many times. She has a wide and varied knowledge of pop culture and an intuitive ability to find the next big thing. She has helped create her own ‘rising stars’ within the industry by discovering and championing some wonderful debut talent who may not have had the opportunity to be published otherwise. In 2017 Ali identified Beau Taplin as a major new voice in short form prose and introduced him to HarperCollins who published his outstanding collection of poetry Worlds of You in November 2017. Worlds of You had the highest number of Dymocks pre-sales of any adult title in 2017, which is a remarkable achievement for a book of poetry.

Ali’s foresight, planning and enthusiasm have also helped strengthen the success of established authors thus securing longevity of sales and their relevance with Australian readers.

She has reinvigorated the Dymocks Book of the Month promotion, even starring in the Book of the Month videos. She provides monthly recommendations connecting Australians to their next great read through a regular ‘talking books’ segment on radio and other media interviews.

Ali is incredibly well-regarded within the industry for her natural ability to relate to customers, colleagues, authors and suppliers at every level. She has an ability to turn a great book into an outstanding success by finding fresh opportunities to grow readership and sales. Ali’s remarkable achievements in her short time at Dymocks illustrate her dedication, hard work, and immense talent. Her motivation is her love for the written word, her determination to raise awareness of Australia’s wonderful literary talents and her passion for connecting readers with brilliant stories.


About the bookLEX HIRST, Commissioning Editor, Penguin Random House

Nomination submitted by Nikki Christer, Group Publishing Director, Penguin Random House Australia

Lex has a deep respect for Australian arts and culture, and her desire to discover exciting voices and share them with new audiences is unparalleled. She also has a huge respect for the capacity of readers to extend their thinking and ideas, and their desire to do so if given the opportunity. As one of the newest commissioning editors in a team of publishers, Lex has had to look beyond agents and other traditional outlets for books to acquire and she has done this with aplomb. She is someone who always endeavours to look beyond the obvious.

Lex has achieved much in her short time as a commissioning editor, with several award-winning titles to her repertoire, and, no doubt, many more to come. Lex is committed to publishing fantastic books and being part of the literary circuit in Australia, as well as supporting new and emerging writers via the National Young Writers’ Festival, co-directing from 2014-15, curating 80 events with more than 100 of Australia’s best young writers.

Lex is also a freelance producer of arts and ideas events, and can often be found on the program for Sydney Writers’ Festival as a chairperson. She is on the committee of Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group representing literature, alongside directors and managers from peak Australian arts organisations. Lex continually attends industry conferences and seminars to ensure she stays at the forefront of industry information, attending NSW Writers’ Centre events, Emerging Writers’ Festival at Macquarie University and Sydney Writers’ Festival.

The enthusiasm and commitment Lex has shown to bringing new voices to Australian literature is admirable. Each day she reminds her colleagues to encourage new and younger readers to engage with ideas and words by providing a progressive range of titles. Readers are at the heart of all she pursues.


About the bookSHALINI KUNAHLAN, Marketing Manager, Text Publishing

Nomination submitted by Kirsty Wilson, Sales Director, Text Publishing

Shalini Kunahlan isn’t just a rising star—she’s an indie publishing powerhouse in the making, with her energy and influence extending not just to Text Publishing’s marketing but to authors, colleagues, booksellers, other publishers, unpublished writers and community groups.

Shalini’s marketing expertise is comprehensive and deeply impressive, and her digital advertising and engagement skills are particularly strong. Despite having worked in trade publishing for only five years, Shalini has established a strong and broad network of contacts with bookshops, trade organisations and writers’ centres. Authors love her for her friendliness and her open approach to sharing marketing insights, and for the fact that her efforts have so obviously changed the fortunes of their books.

Marketing aside, Shalini’s grand passion is diversity in the publishing list and the desire to see Text publish writers from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in particular. She initiated a session featuring an assortment of new writers at last year’s Leading Edge conference called ‘Not Another Diversity Panel’ and she literally embodies the desire to make publishing a more diverse industry. She is a vocal critic in Text’s editorial and design conversations, which tend to be dominated by white voices, and her good-humoured but searching analysis has had an impact on acquisitions such as Melanie Cheng’s Australia Day and on the design of covers, most recently on Sisonke Msimang’s memoir Always Another Country. Shalini has attended numerous forums on diversity and has recently been working with the NSW Writers’ Centre to develop a mentorship promoting the work of emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers.

In-house, Shalini is a mentor to new staff members and an encouraging and supportive manager of marketing staff. She networks effortlessly between different departments (even organising lunches to bring less social members of the team together) and has initiated a new series of meetings that bring together different stakeholders to make sure books get the publicity and marketing campaigns they deserve. On a personal level Shalini is an incredibly impressive person. She completed her Masters while working full time at Text and regularly attends conferences in Australia and the US to upskill to ensure her marketing knowledge is at the cutting edge of industry endeavours.

The Rising Star of the Year Award will be presented at the ABIAs held at the International Convention Centre Sydney on Thursday, 3 May.





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