When Time Magazine unveiled their annual list of the 100 most influential people across the board of professions, skills and fame, there were many raised eyebrows, as is expected every year. The danger in putting together a list like this is that one will undoubtedly forget key individuals or organisations, not to mention the difficulty in having to explain what counts as influence. We covered this briefly in an earlier post but decided that maybe we as connoisseurs of the literary world (or nerds, we’re good with either term) could put together our own list, covering everyone from the household name to the unsung hero.
Once again, this is not a definitive list. The only criteria needed to make it onto the list is to be someone who had a genuine impact on publishing in the past twelve months. As always, many will disagree with us and we’re sure we missed out more than a few big names (please tell us if we did). Make sure you share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!
John Green: Obviously. No writer working right now can command the loyalty that Green does, and all through sheer force of personality. Regardless of your opinion on his work, it’s hard to deny his influence. Between dominating the best-seller lists with basically his entire literary output and co-leading an online sensation that starts the conversations as well as leading them, Green can safely call himself influential. Just check out his mentions on Twitter or Tumblr to see the loyalty he commands, and all through some serious savvy. He knows how to talk to his demographic and appeal to them in ways that publishers can only dream of.
Veronica Roth: Another YA author who has the right to call herself a true publishing powerhouse, Roth has conquered the best-seller charts consistently since her debut Divergent was released in the aftermath of the still burning bright post-Hunger Games dystopian craze. A $50m opening weekend for the film adaptation ensured a sequel would indeed be made, an increasing rarity in the world of YA movies.
Jodi Reamer: From Stephenie Meyer to John Green and countless names in between, agent Reamer’s roster of clients is the envy of the entire industry. Her latest project, Arwen Elys Dayton’s Seeker, was sold for a hefty advance and Columbia Pictures quickly picked up the film rights. With an eye for a bestseller and the talent to nurture it to profit, Reamer’s one not to be underestimated. She’s also Bruce Campbell’s agent, so clearly she’s just amazing.
HM Ward: Ward’s placement here is partly representative of the self-publishing boom that changed the landscape dramatically over the past couple of years, but Ward herself is dominating a field many consider to be dying out. With her prolific output, loyal fans and publicity savvy, she’s spun success with apparent ease thanks to her romance-erotica serials which have readers begging for more with each instalment.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: She woke up like this! Even before Beyoncé sampled her barnstorming speech of feminism, Orange Prize winner Adichie was leading conversations about race, gender and privilege in both publishing and the world in general. With her latest novel Americanah picking up big award nominations left and right, her work has been an important introduction for many Westerners who before could only think of Heart of Darkness when questioned on African literature. The film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun didn’t quite set the box office alight but with rumours of an Americanah film coming (and possibly starring Lupita Nyong’o), Adichie’s not going anywhere.
The Book Smugglers: Ana and Thea are considered by many in the book blogging world (ourselves included) to be the benchmark for what can be accomplished with a website, some books and a whole lot of brains. The Hugo nominees are the perfect mix of irreverent and serious, with reviews that range from conversational to academic in approach. The pair are now branching out into publishing short stories, meaning their love of fiction and repeated championing of challenging and diverse work will cross over into another outlet. We eagerly await the results.
Sherman Alexie: Alexie has written one young adult novel – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianfrom 2007 – and it is a stone cold classic. It’s also one of the most regularly banned and challenged books in America, thanks to its unflinching portrayal of death, alcoholism, teen sexuality and good old fashioned swearing. Just last month, schools in Idaho pulled the book from their curriculum, a decision widely condemned by anyone with common sense. A poet, writer and film-maker as well as an outspoken advocate for several causes, Alexie’s sole YA effort represents the kind of power the category can possess at its heights and the fear it incites in the ignorant. It also represents one of a shockingly small pool of Native American depictions in young adult fiction.
Book Riot: The About section for Book Riot declares that they are “dedicated to the idea that writing about books and reading should be just as diverse as books and readers are”. We can safely say that they have achieved their objective, providing book blogging circles with some of the most interesting, thought provoking and entertaining discussions it’s had in a long time. They cover anything and everything, almost always bringing something fresh to the table, and they’re not afraid to go where others fear to tread.
Pamela Paul (NYT): The New York Times, the Grey Lady of the newspaper world, reigns supreme even as the media loses power to the internet, and the validity that comes with a glowing review or even coverage in the newspaper’s books section is something many authors and publishers would chew off their right arm for. As the editor of the Times’s Book Review, a position she’s had for less than a year, Paul has the power to make or break a book. Sometimes ignoring it altogether is more destructive than a damning review. Times editor Jill Abramson has been vocal in her praise of the changes Paul has made to the section, including a regular Q&A session with authors and the signing of writers like Martin Amis to review works. Outside of the day job, Paul is also an author and testified before congress on the subject of pornography and the effect it has on society.
Jennifer Weiner: A bestselling author in her own right and an avid tweeter of reality TV, Weiner’s placing here is a deliberate pairing with Paul. No writer has sparked the debate amongst the publishing world regarding the critical sneering directed at so-called “chick lit” quite like Weiner. Weiner has been relentless in her quest for literary respect, to the point where even the New Yorker stood up and took notice. Many have criticised her efforts yet she remains determined to take on the sexism embedded in the field. Besides, anyone that manages to irritate Jonathan Franzen is good in our book.
Liz Pelletier, Heather Howland & Entangled Publishing: Indie publishers have shown themselves to be leaps and bounds above the big six/five/four (whatever it’s at right now) when it comes to evolving with the times. Entangled really stand out in this regard, championing a business model that has been widely received by both readers and writers alike. Well priced books, a wide variety of formats and genres and strong use of social media make them a force to be reckoned with. We think some of the big houses should stand up and take notice because the future’s changing and Entangled are leading the fold.
David Levithan: An author and editor (and co-founder of Scholastic’s PUSH imprint), Levithan is a man with a foot in both fields and is succeeding wildly in all his efforts. On top of spearheading the multi-author form hopping 39 Clues for Scholastic, he edits YA big hitters such as Garth Nix, Maggie Stiefvater and someone you may have heard of called Suzanne Collins. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Levithan’s work as an author includes some of the most experimental work in mainstream publishing for young adults, both in form and content, and he continues to put LGBTQ protagonists front and centre.
Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon & Ellen Oh: One word, or rather hashtag: #WeNeedDiverseBooks. While some publications continue to assert that online activism, particularly that with its foundations in social media, is a folly with little results, Oh and the Twittersphere ignited some conversations that were much needed in the world of publishing. Many have been discussing the lack of diversity in literature for a long time but what Oh did cannot be looked over because it was thanks to her efforts that the conversation became as widely discussed as it did. You couldn’t ignore it and that was the point. If that hashtag made even one person seek out a book they wouldn’t have before, it did its job. Lo has been at the forefront of such discussions for a few years now, writing insightful and often hard hitting pieces on the subject for her website and as a co-founder of Diversity in YA with Pon. The site provides solid statistics to back up their work, which are stark reminders of how we’ve got a long way to go before we can even think of calling the category diverse.