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Inside the Australian book industry

A closer look at First Nations publishing

In this London Book Fair preview edition of Think Australian we take a closer look at Australian First Nations publishing. While a handful of Australian publishers have been publishing Indigenous authors for many years, including Indigenous-owned publisher Magabala Books and this year’s ABIA Small Publisher of the Year winner UQP, more and more publishers are now seeking First Nations voices for their lists.

What’s gratifying to see is the outward signs of their success. In this newsletter alone we report on recent international rights sales for Julie Janson’s novel Benevolence (Magabala) and Tony Birch’s The White Girl (UQP); a screen rights deal for Tara June Winch’s Miles Franklin Award-winning novel The Yield (Penguin); multiple award wins for Ellen van Neervan’s ‘explosive’ poetry collection Throat (UQP); and the ongoing presence of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu (Magabala) in the Australian nonfiction bestseller charts.

In this newsletter we also profile three independent Australian publishers with a strong international focus: Spinifex Press, Big Sky Publishing—which recently launched its adult fiction list—and Exisle Publishing; and interview Natasha Solomun, founder of The Rights Hive, a literary rights agency that represents mostly independent Australian publishers. No doubt they would have been roaming the halls of the London Book Fair had it been possible.

As previously, this issue of Think Australian is being distributed by Publishers Weekly and BookBrunch. You can read our recent Bologna preview edition here. For more information on Think Australian and to sign up directly, click here.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Amplifying First Nations voices: Magabala, UQP and Thames & Hudson share their latest titles

From exciting new releases to major international rights sales, First Nations publishing in Australia continues to go from strength to strength.

Australian Indigenous publisher Magabala Books has had a stellar start to the year. After recently engaging local rights agency The Rights Hive to handle its international sales, the publisher has sold US and UK rights to Julie Janson’s 2020 novel Benevolence—a work of historical fiction that explores the colonial experience from an Indigenous perspective—to HarperCollins imprint HarperVia.

Benevolence transports readers back to 1800s Sydney and the Hawkesbury River, the home of the Darug people, where we witness the colonial experience through the eyes of Darug woman Muraging (Mary James). Born around 1813, Muraging is among the earliest Darug generations to experience the impact of British colonisation—a time of cataclysmic change and violence, but also of remarkable survival and resistance.

‘Julie Janson’s intensely visual prose interweaves historical events with detailed characterisation—she shatters stereotypes and gives voice to an Aboriginal experience of early settlement,’ said the publisher.

HarperVia has previously acquired novels from some of Australia’s leading Indigenous authors, including Miles Franklin–winners The Yield (Tara June Winch, Hamish Hamilton) and Too Much Lip (Melissa Lucashenko, UQP).

For Magabala publisher Rachel Bin Salleh, selling international rights to Magabala’s titles has important cultural and financial implications. ‘Magabala Books is committed to getting our creators to all ends of the earth, in as many languages as possible—including traditional Aboriginal languages—and exposing everyone to many unique and breathtaking ways of thinking,’ she says. ‘It would also be nice to make money for our creators, so that they may be on par with their peers in this industry. For too long we have been marginalised from being able to benefit fiscally from this space. Magabala Books would like to help change that narrative.’

UQP also has a long history of publishing First Nations authors. The winner of this year’s Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for Small Publisher of the Year, the publisher was praised by judges for its undertakings in support of diverse publishing, and its championing of titles by First Nations authors. Rights manager Kate McCormack is particularly excited to be pitching two award-winning authors’ latest novels.

Tony Birch’s 2020 novel The White Girl—which tells the story of Odette Brown and her granddaughter Sissy—‘shines a spotlight on the 1960s and the devastating government policy of taking Indigenous children from their families’. It has been steadily selling into overseas territories: HarperVia has acquired world English rights (ex ANZ), and Arabic and Danish rights have also been sold.

The other title is Larissa Behrendt’s After Story, a ‘unique and ground-breaking new novel that follows a bus tour to the classic English literary sites through the lens of an Indigenous Australian mother and daughter’. It’s due to be published in July 2021.

New in nonfiction

With Bruce Pascoe’s 2014 book Dark Emu (Magabala) still high in the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart, Thames & Hudson Australia has commissioned a series of nonfiction books that explore different areas of Indigenous expertise, including one co-authored by Pascoe.

The ‘First Knowledges’ series is a collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers and editors, edited by Margo Neale, senior Indigenous curator at the National Museum of Australia. Thames & Hudson Australia will be pitching the first three titles to international publishers this year.

Songlines (Margo Neale & Lynne Kelly, 2020) shows how knowledge can be embedded in song and performance, and how it can aid learning and memory; Design (Alison Page & Paul Memmott, May 2021) explores how design and architecture can build and support healthy communities; and Country (Bruce Pascoe and Bill Gammage, October 2021) reveals how respect of land will lead to environmental care and sustainability.

Thames & Hudson Australia believes these areas of expertise from the world’s longest continuing culture will have universal appeal. ‘These skills have ensured survival for millennia: for people and country, and all that live on it,’ said the publisher. ‘These knowledges have adapted but now, when it is clear the world needs to do things differently, it is contemporary application of these practices and ways of thinking that might offer solutions to urgent problems.’


Independent and international: Spinifex Press, Big Sky and Exisle on their latest titles and rights successes

Spinifex Press, Big Sky Publishing and Exisle Publishing are three Australian independents with a strong international focus.

Australian feminist publisher Spinifex Press has had a presence on the international scene—selling translation rights, publishing co-editions and translating books into English—since it first launched 30 years ago. It’s one of the many ways in which the small press has been ahead of the curve.

‘Our books contribute to the discussion of issues often long before they become mainstream,’ says co-founder Susan Hawthorne. ‘For example, diversity is a current buzz word, but few publishers actually do diversity. We have done so throughout our existence. We publish books that reflect the interests of multicultural, Indigenous, disabled, lesbian and multilingual readers.’

Spinifex currently releases around eight books a year. This year, Hawthorne will be busy pitching its 2020 and 2021 lists to international publishers—including its 30th birthday book, Not Dead Yet: Feminism, Passion and Women’s Liberation, edited by Hawthorne and her Spinifex co-founder Renate Klein. The 450-page tome collects contributions from legendary feminists—all aged over 70—from around the world. ‘We’d love to get translations, but at that length, we can only hope,’ says Hawthorne.

Fiction highlights from Spinifex’s recent lists include Carol Lefevre’s ‘exquisite novella’ Murmurations, which was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Prize; Sarah Brill’s Symphony for the Man, a novel about homelessness in Sydney for which film rights have already been optioned; and The Kindness of Birds, a series of interlocking stories set in Australia and the Philippines by the multi-award-winning author Merlinda Bobis.

Among the publisher’s recent rights sales are Surrogacy: A human rights violation by Klein; Bibliodiversity: A manifesto for independent publishing by Hawthorne; The End of Patriarchy by Robert Jensen; and Unity Dow’s novel The Screaming of the Innocent. ‘We have always been successful in selling rights,’ says Hawthorne. ‘We have eighty-two translations of thirty-nine titles into twenty languages.’

Introducing adult fiction

When Big Sky Publishing decided to branch into adult fiction last year, after publishing adult nonfiction and children’s books for the past 16 years, the company began with a selection of historical fiction titles—‘allowing some of our extremely talented nonfiction authors the ability to be creative,’ says owner Denny Neave. The move has paid off. The publisher has just recorded its best revenue results in its 16 years, while its highest selling title in 2020 was its fiction debut: Hitler’s Brothel by Steve Mathews.

Big Sky is also seeing the benefits of employing a dedicated rights manager. In the past 12 months, the publisher has sold international rights to multiple titles, including UK rights to its historical nonfiction titles Bombs and Barbed Wire by Jeff Steel (July 2021) and Tragedy at Evian by Tony Matthews; Hungarian, Czech and Italian rights to Hitler’s Brothel; and Korean rights to its picture book series ‘Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow’.

This year, Big Sky is embarking on its biggest publishing program yet, with its list growing from 50 to 85 titles. In nonfiction, its focus remains on its traditional areas of expertise: general history, military history, Australiana, true crime, self-help and biography; while in fiction, the publisher is expanding its list to include its first action/thriller series ‘Matra-6’ by former SAS officer Russel Hutchings.

Neave is particularly excited to be pitching Big Sky’s budding fiction list to international publishers. Forthcoming highlights include the second book in Steve Matthews’ historical fiction trilogy, Hitler’s Assassins (October 2021), which re-imagines Hitler and his inner circle through the eyes of his personal cook; Tony Matthews historical novel Entombed (September 2021), inspired by the true story of a group of German soldiers who were trapped for six years in a storage bunker in Poland at the end of the Second World War; and The Overthinkers by Lisa Portolan and Ben Cheong (August 2021), a contemporary coming-of-age story that ‘depicts the embarrassments and excitements, horrors and humiliations, glories and defeats of a group of twenty something-year-olds’.

The self-help specialist

Like Spinifex, Exisle Publishing has been active in international markets for many years. Best known for its self-help, psychology and health titles, Exisle publishes under its own name in all English-language markets and sells translation rights and co-editions ‘as a major part of its business’, says foreign rights manager Lucy Wawrzyniak. It currently publishes around 35 new titles annually, including titles from its children’s imprint EK Books.

This year, Wawrzyniak is looking forward to pitching a ‘thoroughly updated 2nd edition of The Reality Slap by Dr Russ Harris’—one of the publisher’s biggest rights successes in recent years, along with Harris’ other book The Happiness Trap; Dr Toni Lindsay’s The Cancer Companion—‘a book that I think can really help patients and their families,’ says Wawrzyniak; and Karen Fisher’s cookbook The Healthy Skin Kitchen. Her children’s pick is the nonfiction book Tree Beings by Raymond Huber and Sandra Severgnini, an ‘adventure through the secret world of trees’, with a foreword from Dr Jane Goodall.


All About Yves – Notes from a Transition

Was I always trans, part boy beneath my skin, or was it that I landed in a place where ‘girl’ was a container so small it could break your bones?
I learn that a ready smile and sympathetic ear are the only props required to impersonate a woman. The performance becomes so familiar I almost forget that it’s staged.
It’s strange how easy it is to be erased by grammar, how a single pronoun can stomp my green shoots back into the dirt.

What happens when, aged 30, you understand you’re transgender?

This was the question that confronted Yves Rees, a historian whose life was upended by gender transition in 2018. Then known as a woman called Anne, Yves was forced to grapple with the sudden knowledge that they were not, in fact, female at all.

But when you’ve lived a lie for so long, how do you discover who you really are? And how do you re-learn to live in the world as a different gender?

All About Yves tells their moving journey of re-becoming, at the same time laying bare the messiness of bodies, gender and identity. It shares the challenges and joys of being transgender, and reveals how trans experiences like Yves’ can teach all of us about what it means to be man or woman.

All About Yves – Notes from a Transition
Author: Yves Rees
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Rights held: World (ex ANZ)
Contact: Jacinta DiMase
Catalogue available here.


The Happiness Jar

Losing her battle with cystic fibrosis, Rachel administers a dose of her notorious wanderlust. She asks her family for one last request: a journey to the exotic and the unknown.

Brian, her Vietnam veteran father is missing. Matt dreams of finding a hero’s path like his father, as Beth’s religious fervour propagates parental disappointment.

The Happiness Jar is a story about tightly held beliefs, and what can endure when we release the burdens we place on ourselves and each other.

Set against the red dust of the Australian Kimberley desert, and the smoky backdrop of the holy River Ganges in India, this is a novel that reminds us that we continue to live in the memories we leave behind.

The Happiness Jar
Author: Samantha Tidy
Publisher: Storytorch Press
Rights held: World
Contact: Natasha Solomun


Music Maker of Auschwitz IV

The inspirational true story of an Allied POW appointed Kapellmeister (man in charge of music) to the Nazis in Auschwitz.

In May 1940, he was captured at Dunkirk and interned in several German forced labour camps throughout Poland. Two years later he was transferred to Auschwitz IV, part of the notorious concentration camp where it is not widely known Allied POWs were held.

When his captors appointed Jackson their ‘Kapellmeister’ (man in charge of music), he seized the opportunity to provide entertainment for his fellow prisoners at rehearsals, and cover for escapees during concerts.

Finally liberated in May 1945, malnourished and gravely ill, Jackson carried his secret war diary—an incredible exposé on five years of life and death in Nazi concentration camps.

Based on Jackson’s diary and written by his granddaughter, this is a thrilling testament to the resilience one man found in the darkest of times through his two greatest loves—music and the woman who waited for him.

Music Maker of Auschwitz IV
Author: Jaci Byrne
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Rights held: World
Contact: Emily Randle
Catalogue available here.


Ocean Warriors: The Rise of Robo-Shark 

Being sent to a submarine to help restore extinct sea creatures for summer camp is not exactly Kai’s idea of fun.

Then he discovers a cyborg great white shark in the ocean, but no one believes it could be real. After all, the last shark vanished years ago. Now he must prove the shark exists and save the species. Except not everyone likes the idea of bringing the great white back from the brink.

WARNING: contains sea cucumbers, slime eels and a bum-breathing turtle.

Join the Ocean Warriors on this environmental middle-grade fiction adventure (series), written by Candice Lemon-Scott, award-winning author of Eco Rangers.

Ocean Warriors: The Rise of Robo-Shark 
Author: Candice Lemon-Scott
Publisher: Storytorch Press
Rights held: World
Contact: Natasha Solomun



The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor

When their parents opt for a tree-change, 150-year-old Tanglewood Manor becomes Sam and Harry’s ‘new’ home in the country. As their parents set about renovating the ruin, the brothers cautiously explore its many wonders. Discovering an old riddle book in the library, they open it and read out a riddle. Suddenly, it’s not 2020 anymore. It’s 1919 and the house is full of the dead people from the portraits on the walls. Only now—they are very much alive.

The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor is a fast-paced and adventurous middle-grade fiction (series) written by former police detective, Tracey Hawkins. It will keep readers enthralled all the way through until the riddle-solving ending.

The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor
Author: Tracey Hawkins
Publisher: Storytorch Press
Rights held: World
Contact: Natasha Solomun


Secrets and Showgirls

Everyone is being watched, and some of Le Prix’s colourful performers are hiding dangerous secrets.

Monsieur Maurice manages Le Prix d’Amour, a successful Parisian cabaret, which boasts glitzy performers and sassy showgirls. But with the German occupation in June 1940, Maurice treads a fine line between his German patrons, the French police and the Gestapo as he hides the dark secrets of his performers. Two of his lively showgirls, Lily and Poppy, soon join Maurice in the hunt for an informer who threatens to betray them. With the Allied landings, the tension builds and Maurice is pushed to his limits as his performers finally take the fight to the invader in their own flamboyant way.

Secrets and Showgirls portrays an occupied Paris in which exotic cabarets existed uneasily under the heel of the invader. It follows the antics of Maurice, Lily and a glittering array of characters, but never loses sight of the battle to survive that characterised the life of the everyday Parisian.

Secrets and Showgirls
Author: Catherine McCullagh
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Rights held: World
Contact: Emily Randle
Catalogue available here.

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‘The Yield’ among numerous novels optioned for screen

Tara June Winch’s 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award-winning novel The Yield (Penguin) has been optioned for the screen.

The Yield centres on Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi and his granddaughter August, who has been living on the other side of the world for 10 years when she learns of his death. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that her family’s land is to be repossessed by a mining company.

‘We feel very privileged that Tara June Winch has trusted us with this important and powerful story of language, culture and survival,’ said producer Tony Briggs. ‘This layered story is a homage to Aboriginal language in a way that we haven’t seen before.’

Rights to The Yield have previously been licensed in North America, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany and China. Winch is represented by Melanie Ostell Literary with the screen option and purchase negotiated by Penguin Random House Australia.

Amazon Prime Video has commissioned a seven-part series adaptation of Holly Ringland’s 2018 novel The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Fourth Estate), to be produced by Amazon Studios, Endeavor Content and Bruna Papandrea of Made Up Stories. The series, set against Australia’s natural landscape, follows nine-year-old Alice as she is taken in by her estranged grandmother after a family tragedy, and spans decades as Alice grows into a woman. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart has been sold into over 24 territories internationally.

Screen adaptation rights to the ‘feel good’ crime novel The Nancys by Melbourne-based New Zealand author R W R McDonald (Allen & Unwin) have been optioned by Hoodlum Entertainment, via Grace Heifetz of Left Bank Literary. The Nancys, which won the best first novel award at the 2020 New Zealand Ngaio Marsh awards for crime writing, follows a trio of amateur detectives: 11-year-old Tippy Chan, her uncle and babysitter Pike and Uncle Pike’s boyfriend Devon. A sequel to the novel, Nancy Business, has just been released by Allen & Unwin.

Amanda Bridgeman’s 2018 sci-fi novel The Subjugate (Watkins) is being adapted into a dystopian crime thriller series by independent production companies Aquarius Films and Anonymous Content, in a deal brokered by Alex Adsett Publishing Services. The novel is set in 2040, when a series of murders sends shockwaves through a religious community that has turned its back on technology and the modern world. Aquarius Films said: ‘The Subjugate explores topical themes of rehabilitation, recidivism and advancing technology in a captivating near-future science fiction thriller and is perfect raw material for a compelling TV series.’


Two debut novels picked up in US, UK

Two debut novels—Ella Baxter’s New Animal and Peter Papathanasiou’s forthcoming crime fiction The Stoning—have recently been acquired by publishers in the US and UK.

US rights to Ella Baxter’s New Animal (Allen & Unwin) have been sold to Two Dollar Radio by The Book Group on behalf of Grace Heifetz at Left Bank Literary, while UK rights have been sold to Picador via John Ash at PEW Literary. New Animal follows a young woman who works as a cosmetician in her family’s mortuary and falls in with a regional BDSM community after experiencing tragedy. Television rights have also been optioned by Lingo Pictures.

Transit Lounge has sold world English-language rights (ex North America/ANZ) to Papathanasiou’s debut The Stoning to MacLehose Press/Quercus, in a deal brokered by Martin Shaw at Shaw Literary. The novel introduces Greek–Australian detective George Manolis as he investigates a crime in a small Australian outback town, with suspicions falling on the inmates of a nearby detention centre and the local Aboriginal community. ‘Pete’s beautifully achieved, issues-driven crime novel has an international relevance that immediately appealed,’ said MacLehose Press associate publisher Katharina Bielenberg. The Australian and UK editions will be published simultaneously in October 2021.

In nonfiction, Pan Macmillan Australia has sold US and UK rights to the debut nonfiction title Heartsick by writer and podcaster Jessie Stephens after ‘a highly contested auction’. US rights were sold to Henry Holt in a deal negotiated by Dan Lazar at Writers House and UK rights were sold to Macmillan UK, which is also representing translation rights. A work of narrative nonfiction, Heartsick weaves together ‘three stories of the ways that love can bruise, break and build us’ and is based on extensive interviews conducted by Stephens after her own relationship break-up.

Black Inc. has sold world English-language rights (ex ANZ) to Return to Uluru by Mark McKenna to Stephen Morrow at Dutton, Penguin USA. McKenna’s history–true crime hybrid addresses the actions of Bill McKinnon, a Northern Territory police officer who shot and killed unarmed Indigenous man Yokununna at Uluru in 1934, and the resultant trial. Black Inc. rights and contracts manager Erin Sandiford told Think Australian: ‘In rights, you often hear that a book is “too Australian” to work overseas. So the fact that Stephen Morrow and his team at Dutton, Penguin US are able to see that this unequivocally Australian story has the power to shed light on all paths to truth-telling, justice and reconciliation around the world feels like an important step for Australia’s truth-telling canon.’ The US edition will publish in 2022.

North American rights to Anwen Crawford’s nonfiction book No Document (Giramondo) have sold to US publisher Transit Books. No Document is ‘an urgent, groundbreaking book-length essay that reimagines the boundaries that divide us—as people, nations and species—and asks how we can create forms of solidarity that endure’. Transit will publish the book in 2022. Remaining rights are held by Giramondo, represented by Alexandra Christie at Wylie Agency.

Black Inc. has sold UK/Commonwealth audio rights to Linda Jaivin’s The Shortest History of China to Tantor. The book—pitched as a ‘pacy history of China that can be read in an afternoon, but will transform your perspective for a lifetime’—has previously sold to North America (The Experiment), Japan (Tokyo Shoseki Co), Portugal (Dom Quixote), Greece (Metaichmio), Bulgaria (Prozoretz), Italy (Giunti) and UK/Commonwealth ex ANZ (Old Street Publishing).

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Diverse voices among recent fiction acquisitions

Penguin Random House Australia (PRH) has acquired ANZ rights to The Matchmaker (2023), a romantic comedy from debut Pakistani–Australian author Saman Shad, via Tara Wynne at Curtis Brown. The novel follows Saima, a matchmaker who is 33, single and ‘well past the use-by date’ according to her community, who falls for one of the men she has been hired to find a match for. ‘[The Matchmaker] hits the familiar beats of the best romantic comedies; but inside this gem is the real lived experience of South Asians in modern Sydney that centres the desi community,’ says PRH commissioning editor Radhiah Chowdhury.

Ultimo Press has acquired ANZ rights to Shankari Chandran’s third novel Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens (2022) via Tara Wynne at Curtis Brown. Set in a Sydney nursing home, the novel explores the colourful histories, secrets, triumphs and failings of its residents, as well as the prejudices they face. Ultimo publishing director Robert Watkins said Chandran was ‘unafraid to tackle big themes and real contemporary issues through the eyes of rich, interesting characters’.

UQP has acquired world rights to Losing Face by debut author George Haddad (2022), which interweaves the stories of Joey, who has recently finished school and is drifting somewhat aimlessly, and his grandmother Elaine, a proud Lebanese immigrant. When Joey is implicated in the sexual assault of a young woman, everything starts to unravel and long-held family secrets are uncovered. UQP says Haddad’s ‘compelling and thought-provoking novel deals with issues of migrant identity, sexuality and consent’.

A new acquisition from MidnightSun Publishing also tackles the experience of growing up different in Australia. Michael Burge’s debut novel Tank Water (2021) ‘delves into themes that don’t often appear in our national literature’, says publisher Anna Solding. ‘Through the taut and haunting narrative spanning two decades, Michael articulates what it can be like to grow up gay in the country and how prejudice and hate crimes are an extension of people’s fear of difference.’

Transit Lounge has acquired world rights to Brendan Colley’s debut novel The Signal Line (2022), which won an unpublished manuscript prize in his home state of Tasmania, via Martin Shaw at Shaw Literary. Publisher Barry Scott said he ‘immediately fell in love with’ Colley’s ‘quirky, fantastical, utterly absorbing’ debut, which follows two adult brothers whose relationship is tested after their parents pass away. ‘The Signal Line is a warm-hearted novel about what we are all searching for, even when our personal dreams and aspirations have collapsed. Love and acceptance,’ says Scott.

Pictured: Saman Shad


‘Body inclusive wellbeing guide’ among nonfiction acquisitions

Simon & Schuster Australia has acquired world rights to a body inclusive wellbeing guide by Shreen El Masry, a non-diet, body inclusive personal trainer and the owner of the Sydney-based Be You Be Free fitness and wellbeing community. According to the publisher Be You Be Free (2022) will present a 12-week guide ‘that will show readers how to find food freedom, body peace and joyful exercise as well as help them create their own version of wellbeing on their terms’.

Simon & Schuster Australia has also acquired world rights to a memoir by writer and podcaster Cathrine Mahoney. Currently Between Husbands (2022) is a humorous true story about surviving divorce, dating again, changing careers and turning 40. Mahoney says she wanted to write a book that ‘brings hope, honesty, and humour to anyone going through something similar’. ‘Think Bridget Jones meets Eat, Pray, Love—but with less yoga, way more vodka and much bigger undies.’

Ultimo Press has acquired world rights to Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s memoir, in a joint venture with James Erskine at Sports & Entertainment Ltd. Australian–British academic Moore-Gilbert was imprisoned for 804 days in Iran on charges of espionage, which the Australian government described as baseless and politically motivated. Her memoir will detail her harrowing ordeal and extraordinary fight for survival after being arrested in September 2018 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, convicted of spying on no evidence and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Ultimo Press will publish Moore-Gilbert’s memoir in Australia and the UK in 2022.

Pictured: Shreen El Masry


‘Explosive’ poetry collection scoops major lit awards

Throat, the second poetry collection by First Nations writer Ellen van Neerven (UQP), has been named book of the year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, also picking up prizes for poetry and multicultural writing. Van Neerven’s ‘explosive’ collection ‘shines a light on Australia’s unreconciled past and precarious present with humour and heart’.

Other major award-winners in recent months include Julia Baird’s nonfiction book Phosphorescence (Fourth Estate), which was judged the overall winner at this year’s Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs); Pip Williams’s debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words (Affirm), which was named book of the year at the Indie Book Awards; and Evie Wyld’s third novel The Bass Rock (Vintage), which won the Stella Prize for women’s writing.

The longlist for the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award was announced in May, and includes several first-time novelists.

The Sydney Morning Herald has also selected three debut novelists for its annual Best Young Australian Novelists list.


Meet literary agent Natasha Solomun

Natasha Solomun worked as a rights executive at Penguin Random House Australia and Five Mile Press before launching The Rights Hive, a literary rights agency that represents mostly independent Australian publishers. She spoke toThink Australian.

How did you become a rights agent?

I started out as an assistant in the business development department at Penguin (long before the merger with Random House). Within a year I had moved over to the rights department as a rights assistant working on the children’s list. A year later, I was promoted to rights executive. I got to work on some amazing titles by wonderful authors, including Sonya Hartnett, Melina Marchetta, Morris Gleitzman, Leigh Hobbs, Pamela Allen and Ursula Dubosarsky, just to name a few. It was a wonderful experience but after almost eight years in the role, I felt it was time for a change.

I went on to work at Five Mile Press (then owned by Swedish media giant Bonnier). This was quite a different and challenging role as it mainly focused on co-editions of board books and novelty books. I was responsible for Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Netherlands. I got a lot of experience working on co-editions, something I hadn’t done much of at Penguin.

After a couple of years at Five Mile I took some time off to have my daughter. I started doing some freelance work and was getting more and more independent publishers interested in rights representation, so in 2017 I set up The Rights Hive, a literary rights agency that represents mostly independent Australian publishers for both adult and children’s titles. We work with about 16 foreign language sub-agents and literary scouts across the globe and I work directly with US and UK publishers. We also work on film and audio rights. Last year we optioned Magabala’s award-winning title Ruby Moonlight by Ali Cobby Eckerman to Arena Media, the production company behind The Dry.

What do you love most about your job?

Rights selling really is all about relationships. It’s imperative to have good relationships with international publishers, to have a good understanding of what they publish, what they’re looking for in new projects, what’s working in their market. Those publishers value my experience and knowledge of their lists and they know that if I’m sending them something, it will be something of quality and something they would be happy to consider. I really love being part of the international publishing community so matching the right book to the right publisher overseas is just the best thing of all!

What titles are you currently pitching? 

I’m always working on multiple submissions at once. One of the key titles I’m currently working on is a novel from Karyn Sepulveda called The Women’s Circle, published by Ventura Press, about a woman in the present day who has just been released from prison after eight years. Feeling isolated and deeply lonely, she joins an alternative women’s support group called The Women’s Circle. When she touches an ancient crystal, she connects to a woman from 1770s England, where a brutal regime is tormenting a small village, which is determined to keep its women apart. It’s a bit The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Natural Way of Things. I’m really excited about it.

I’m also working on a delightful picture book from Windy Hollow Books called All Dogs Bark by Catherine Meatheringham, with gorgeous illustrations by Deb Hudson, all about the different ways dogs say ‘woof, woof’ in different languages around the world.

On the nonfiction side, I’m working on The A–Z of Feelings, published by Bad Apple Press. The author Andrew Fuller, one of Australia’s best-loved psychologists, examines the most common array of emotions and explains what they are, how they work and how you can use them for your own personal good, rather than letting them rule your life. Definitely a book for our times.

Read the full article here.


Williams, Pape top Australian fiction, nonfiction charts YTD

Pip Williams’s lockdown bestseller The Dictionary of Lost Words—which was number six on the Australian fiction bestsellers chart in 2020—has risen to number one in the chart for the year-to-date. Meanwhile, Jane Harper has an impressive five titles in the Australian fiction top 10, with a film adaptation of her debut crime novel The Dry drawing new readers to her work.

After four consecutive years at the top of the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart, Scott Pape’s guide to household finance, The Barefoot Investor, remains the title to beat, leading the nonfiction top 10 for the year-to-date. It’s followed by 100-year-old Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku’s memoir The Happiest Man on Earth, and Kim McCosker’s The Easiest Air Fryer Book Ever!—one of two cookbooks on air frying in the nonfiction top 10.

Australian fiction bestsellers YTD

  1. The Dictionary of Lost Words (Pip Williams, Affirm Press) 35,017 copies
  2. The Dry (film tie-in) (Jane Harper, Pan Australia) 33,199 copies
  3. The Survivors (Jane Harper, Pan Australia) 30,789 copies
  4. Honeybee (Craig Silvey, Allen & Unwin) 25,041 copies
  5. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins) 24,927 copies
  6. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan Australia) 23,089 copies
  7. All Our Shimmering Skies (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins) 22,655 copies
  8. The Lost Man (Jane Harper, Pan Australia) 15,448 copies
  9. Force of Nature (Jane Harper, Pan Australia) 12,665 copies
  10. The Chase (Candice Fox, Penguin Books Australia) 10,706 copies

Australian nonfiction bestsellers YTD

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley) 40,891 copies
  2. The Happiest Man on Earth (Eddie Jaku, Macmillan Australia) 38,930 copies
  3. The Easiest Air Fryer Book Ever! (Kim McCosker, 4 Ingredients) 30,743 copies
  4. Phosphorescence (Julia Baird, HarperCollins) 19,700 copies
  5. Air Fryer Express (George Georgievski, Plum) 14,987 copies
  6. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books) 12,073 copies
  7. The Resilience Project (Hugh van Cuylenburg, Penguin Books Australia) 11,807 copies
  8. Un-cook Yourself (Nat’s What I Reckon, Penguin Books Australia) 10,024 copies
  9. Emotional Female (Yumiko Kadota, Viking Australia) 9199 copies
  10. Sam Bloom: Heartache & Birdsong (Cameron Bloom & Samantha Bloom, ABC Books) 8366 copies

© Nielsen BookScan 2021
Period covered: 3 January 2021 to 1 May 2021
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1500 retailers nationwide




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