Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Introducing Dirt Lane Press

Dirt Lane Press launched its first children’s book—a mash-up of several Norwegian folk tales—in 2017 and has since sold the rights to a UK publisher. Further books include a ‘fable about losing community’ and a ‘picture book for older readers that was inspired by the author grappling with her son’s ice addiction’. Publisher Margrete Lamond spoke to Think Australian.

What makes Dirt Lane Press’ list unique?

I think what may be most unique about Dirt Lane Press is that we are aiming to fill that part of the market that seems to be being slowly evacuated by mainstream publishing. That is, we unashamedly aim to publish so-called ‘literary’ picture books; books that fall outside the standard parameters and formats for younger readers; open-ended narratives; stories that are ‘quiet’ but with deeply resonant layers of meaning; ‘too-long’ picture-books; standalone hardback chapter-books; picture books for older readers; challenging themes and emotions; beautiful language and unusual illustration.

How many books does Dirt Lane publish each year—and what kinds of books?

As a very new publisher, we are only just starting to build our list. As a not-for-profit publisher that started with one dollar in the bank, we are also doing that building slowly. We started with a single title in 2017, are publishing two in 2018, and have three titles at various stages of pre-production for 2019. Our ultimate aim is to publish 10 titles a year … from traditional picture books to graphic novels to illustrated fiction for readers of all ages, but primarily books for readers aged around 6 to 16.

Have you sold international rights to your books?

We were somewhat thrilled to have sold rights of our first title The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear (Margrete Lamond, illus by Heather Vallance) to UK publisher Old Barn Books, which is a kind of kindred spirit in terms of the kinds of books they like to publish. Our international rights are handled by ALC, who have a great track record of placing books into all kinds of territories.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international titles in Australia? Would you be interested in acquiring international titles in the future?

This isn’t something we have actively pursued so far, but it is something we are very keen to pursue in the future. There are some breathtakingly innovative and transformational books being produced around the world, generally by small independent publishers, and we would love to make some of these titles available to Australian readers.

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

I’m confident all our current titles will find their audiences internationally. Leaf Stone Beetle by Ursula Dubosarsky (August 2018) is an elegant and deceptively simple fable about losing community that has already created ripples through refugee and asylum-seeker sectors of the community, as well as evoking powerful personal resonances with young readers. It is the kind of narrative that works on the surface as a simple tale, and that stirs memory and emotions on deeper levels.

The Dream Peddler by Irena Kobald and Christopher Nielsen (October 2018) is a picture book for older readers that was inspired by the author grappling with her son’s ice addiction. Once again, it is a poetic fable that can be read on many levels, both in text and image.

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

We are excited about Have You Seen Tomorrow by Kyle Mewburn and Jonathan Bentley (July 2019), which is a picture book exploring mindfulness and living in the present but with a whimsical playfulness that means it reads as a delightful story as well as a quiet reminder to seize the day.


Category: Think Australian Junior Profile