Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Introducing Transit Lounge

Transit Lounge was founded ‘with the express purpose of publishing Australian writing that engages with other cultures’, says publisher Barry Scott. The small press’ titles include the 2016 Miles Franklin Award-winning Black Rock White City. He spoke to Think Australian.

What makes Transit Lounge unique?

The desire to bring writers and readers together is why we publish at Transit Lounge. We need to fall in love with a manuscript and then work out how to spread our own enthusiasm. In 2005 Transit Lounge was established by myself and Tess Rice, fellow librarians at that time, with the express purpose of publishing Australian writing that engages with other cultures. This was and is a way of reflecting Australian diversity and giving voice to new writers or helping audiences to rediscover writers who had become overlooked. Although our books are often uniquely Australian, and often now exclusively Australian in setting, they do go in search of the outsider, the marginalised, the immigrant, the different or the disappearing. We are always searching for what seems beautiful, unique, true, and isn’t afraid to push beyond the current zeitgeist in terms of themes or genre tweaking.

How many books does Transit Lounge publish each year—and what kinds of books?

Transit Lounge publishes about 12 to 13 books per year. We publish both fiction and nonfiction, and find that fiction is becoming our major area of enterprise. Australia is blessed with so many great fiction authors. Our books, for example, include the Miles Franklin Award-winning Black Rock White City by A S Patrić, Tracy Ryan’s We Are Not Most People, global musician Hugo Race’s Road Series and playwright Michele Lee’s Banana Girl.

So a diverse mix of memoir, fiction and occasionally travel narrative.

Have you sold international rights to your books? Which titles have been the most successful overseas?

Books we have sold overseas include Patrick Holland’s The Mary Smokes Boys, Aaron Smith’s Shanti Bloody Shanti, Tracy Ryan’s Claustrophobia, Peter Barry’s I Hate Martin Amis et al, Alec Patrić’s Black Rock White City and most recently Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck. Countries we have sold titles into include North America, the UK, Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam and Slovenia. In terms of the most success it would likely be Black Rock White City but we hold out great hopes for From the Wreck, which will be published by Picador UK in 2019.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international titles in Australia? Which titles have been the most successful?

To date we have acquired titles from India, North America and New Zealand. These include Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere by Poe Ballantine, Diane Williams’ Vicky Swanky is a Beauty and Ritu Menon’s Loitering with Intent. We are interested in acquiring great books from anywhere, but the ability of the writer to be able to tour here or attract interest from Australian festivals seems a key factor in leveraging profile. Poe Ballantine was a guest of Byron Writers Festival, which helped make it the most successful of our acquisitions.

Which title or author on your list do you believe deserves bigger recognition overseas?

It’s so hard to pick out books from the many we have published as we love them all. But I find it hard to believe that the following haven’t fallen yet: Lois Murphy’s award-winning Soon (a novel that has been compared to Jane Harper’s The Dry); Justine Ettler’s novel of booze and brilliance, Bohemia Beach; Roger Averill’s tender take on being the son of Australia’s first Booker Prize-winning writer in Relatively Famous; Catherine de Saint Phalle’s Stella Prize-shortlisted memoir Poum and Alexandre, A S Patrić’s masterful Atlantic Black and Mick McCoy’s heart-rending story of family in What the Light Reveals.

Which title on your list would you like to see adapted for film or television?

I can’t separate two: Soon by Lois Murphy (the story of haunted town) and Black Rock White City (the story of an immigrant couple terrorised by the past and a real-life killer).

What will you publish next (that may appeal to international publishers)?

Jan Golembiewski’s Magic (October 2018) is the author’s true story of an amazing journey in which he ends up in a Nigerian prison and is sold as a slave. It has been compared to The Alchemist and Shantaram.

Sallie Muirden’s Wedding Puzzle (2019) is a funny, delightful and tense tale of a wedding that seems destined to go off the rails.

Sydney-based S L Lim’s debut novel Real Differences (2019) is a brilliant drama of young Asian-Australians searching for values, meaning and relationships beyond career and familial expectations. Definitely an author to watch. We have already signed her second novel.



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