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Inside the Australian book industry

Australian publishers prepare for Frankfurt

Each year, Australian publishers big and small travel to the Frankfurt Book Fair to meet face to face with their international counterparts. To find out which Australian publishers will be at FBF this year and where, look out for our annual Think Australian magazine, which will be emailed to Think Australian newsletter subscribers in the coming weeks and distributed in print at the fair. You can also meet Australian publishers (in party mode!) by attending the Australia stand party on Thursday 12 October at 5.30pm at Hall 6.2 A60.

One Australian title that is sure to get plenty of attention at the fair is Josephine Wilson’s novel Extinctions, which was recently announced as the winner of Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award. According to the publisher, UWA Publishing, rights enquiries started arriving within hours of the announcement. Read all about the winning title here.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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S&S Australia selects ‘sweeping literary novel’ to launch Scribner Australia imprint

Simon & Schuster Australia will launch the literary imprint Scribner in Australia and New Zealand in 2018 with a new novel by Kristina Olsson (pictured), author of the award-winning Boy, Lost: A Family Memoir. Shell is ‘a sweeping literary novel set in 1960s Sydney against the backdrop of the building of Sydney Opera House and the Vietnam War’. S&S managing director Dan Ruffino said of the acquisition: ‘We have been waiting for exactly the right book to launch Scribner in Australia and I couldn’t be happier it’s Shell, a novel so special and exquisitely written, it feels like a dream it is ours to publish’. S&S Australia acquired world rights to the novel from literary agent Jane Novak and has already sold rights to Scribner in the UK and Atria Books in the US.

S&S Australia has also acquired world rights to the debut novel by Australian ‘book ninjas’ Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus, founders of the Books on the Rail initiative in Australia, which encourages people to circulate books on public transport. Their novel, The Book Ninja, is ‘a clever, funny and wryly observed story about finding love and discovering yourself in the process’.

Penguin Random House Australia has acquired ANZ rights to a new novel by multi-award-winning author Tim Winton from literary agency Jenny Darling, which has sold UK rights to Picador; US rights to Farrar, Straus and Giroux; and German rights to Luchterhand. The Shepherd’s Hut follows Jaxie, who flees his sleepy hometown and abusive father and heads north across ‘the vast, bare West Australian wheatbelt’. PRH publishing director Ben Ball said Winton’s novel ‘gives voice to the coarse, destructive poetry of a youth struggling with something he can’t contain but can only begin to express’.

Allen & Unwin has acquired children’s and YA author Jack Heath’s debut adult thriller Hangman, a ‘grisly crime novel about a cannibal detective in Houston, Texas’. ‘Think of the worst thing you can imagine, then go darker. And weirder,’ said Allen & Unwin publisher Jane Palfreyman of the novel. ‘Chuck Palahniuk rewrites Dexter with a god-almighty twist that will take your breath away.’ Hangman has already sold into five territories via Clare Forster at Curtis Brown Australia, including HarperCollins in North America, and publishers in Germany, France and Russia. Film and television rights have been optioned by ABC Signature Studios in the US.

Black Inc. has acquired a ‘unique, irreverent and timely book’ about mental health by psychiatrist and broadcaster Steve Ellen and comedian and writer Catherine Deveny. Mental: Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know about Mental Health is written for ‘people contending with depression, anxiety and more serious forms of mental illness and wanting a useful, approachable overview of diagnosis, seeking help and treatment’, as well as ‘family and friends who want to know how to proceed and offer support’. Rights have been sold to China Renmin University Press.

Giramondo has launched its ‘Southern Latitudes’ series, which focusses on ‘innovative fiction and nonfiction by writers of the southern hemisphere’, including Southern Africa, New Zealand, the South Pacific and South America, where there is ‘a common historical background in colonisation, an awareness of the complex relationship between our Indigenous and migrant populations, and a shared experience of living in southern latitudes, under southern skies, to the rhythm of southern seasons’. The first book in the series is All My Goodbyes by Argentinian writer Mariana Dimópulos (trans by Alice Whitmore).

Film and TV

Fox Searchlight has optioned the film rights to Two Steps Forward (Text Publishing)—a novel about romance and renewal on the Camino de Santiago by husband-and-wife writing team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Ellen DeGeneres and Jeff Kleeman will produce the film through their company A Very Good Production. Rights to the novel have already been sold in the US, UK and other territories.

Other recent rights sales of Australian titles include:


  • Allen & Unwin has sold rights to Sarah Bailey’s debut crime thriller The Dark Lake in the following territories: US rights to Grand Central Publishing; UK rights to Atlantic; simplified Chinese rights to Beijing White Horse Time and Culture; Italian rights to Edizioni Piemme; and German rights to C Bertelsmann.
  • Black Inc. has sold UK rights to Ryan O’Neill’s Miles Franklin Literary Award-shortlisted satirical novel Their Brilliant Careers to Eye Books.


  • NewSouth Books has sold world rights (ex ANZ) to Peter Monteath’s Escape Artist—the true story of World War II escape artist extraordinaire Johnny Peck—to Pen & Sword Books.

For the latest Australian rights sales and acquisitions news, click here.


‘Extinctions’ wins prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award

Josephine Wilson has won Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, for her novel Extinctions, published by Western Australia–based small press UWA Publishing. The judging panel described Extinctions as ‘compassionate and unapologetically intelligent’. ‘In Extinctions, Josephine Wilson explores ageing, adoption, grief and remorse, empathy and self-centredness. The novel is a meditation on survival: on what people carry, on how they cope, and on why they might, after so much putting their head in the sand, come to the decision to engage, and even change.’ UWA Publishing director Terri-ann White said ‘emails started an hour after the announcement from publishers known and unknown checking on available rights’.

Jane Harper’s bestselling debut The Dry (Macmillan) has been honoured at the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing and the Davitt Awards for crime books by Australian women. The judges of the Ned Kelly Awards described The Dry as ‘reminiscent of Wake in Fright’s claustrophobic atmosphere, deftly plotted, pacey and compulsively readable’. Among the other winners was Irish-Australian author Adrian McKinty’s Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (Serpent’s Tail), the sixth book in the author’s ‘Sean Duffy’ series; and Cath Ferla’s debut novel Ghost Girls (Echo).

Avril Tremayne’s romance novel Escaping Mr Right (Random House) has taken out the top prize at the Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year awards.

Finally, Australian bookseller Readings has announced the shortlist for its New Australian Fiction Award, which recognises ‘exciting and exceptional new contributions to local literature’.


Introducing Henry Rosenbloom

Henry Rosenbloom is the founder and publisher of Melbourne’s Scribe Publications, which specialises in ‘narrative and literary nonfiction on important topics, and the best of local, international and translated fiction’. Rosenbloom spoke to Think Australian about his acquisitions work.

What percentage of Scribe’s list is international titles—and what percentage is English language vs translated titles?

This fluctuates all the time, but at the moment our international titles represent just under 60% of our list, and translated titles comprise around one-quarter of that list.

How do you find out about new international titles and go about acquiring the rights?

In every possible way. I’ve been going to the London and Frankfurt book fairs every year for many years, so we hear about many titles before, during and after those fairs. We have a UK publishing company, so we receive submissions through them all through the year from UK and European agents, and we also receive submissions directly from overseas agents and publishers. We have US scouts, so we hear about projects likely to interest us from them, and we also receive submissions directly from North American agents (and sometimes their UK sub-agents) and publishers. And sometimes we just hear about something, and are lucky enough to have the right contacts.

What types of books do you typically acquire?

Books that matter.

What are some of your recent international acquisitions?

Revolution by Emmanuel Macron [nonfiction, France]; Rocket Men by Robert Kurson [nonfiction, US]; Duterte Harry by Jonathan Miller [nonfiction, UK]; At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong [fiction, Korea via UK]; and Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green [nonfiction, US].

What types of books are you looking for in the future?

More books that matter.

What have been your most successful international acquisitions? Why do you think they took off in Australia?

The most successful by far have been two popular-science/popular-health titles: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (over 200,000 print copies sold since 2008) and Gut by Giulia Enders (over 75,000 print copies sold in its first two years). I think they have both sold so well because they were extremely well-written seminal works about subjects that matter to a lot of people. We also promoted them and their authors extensively.

Are there any international authors who you think deserve a bigger profile in Australia?

There’s a superb Dutch literary novelist called Tommy Wieringa we publish, who is a superstar in Holland; he certainly deserves a bigger readership than he’s acquired so far in Australia. I also think that Nadia Dalbuono from the UK and Italy, and Christoffer Carlsson from Sweden—two crime novelists we publish—are world class.

Are there any international publishers that you particularly admire?

There are many—especially among the independents. It’s invidious to single any out, but I’m very impressed by the UK’s Profile Books, run by Andrew Franklin; the US’s Melville House, run by husband-and-wife team Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians; and Cossee, a Dutch house run by husband-and-wife team Eva Cossee and Christoph Buchwald.


‘Colombiano’, ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top the Australian charts

Australian fiction bestsellers: August

Topping the Australian fiction bestsellers chart for August is the novel Colombiano—‘a heart-thumping journey into the violent and unpredictable world of post-Escobar Colombia’—from the author of the bestselling nonfiction book Marching Powder. Other new entries in the top 10 are Tony Jones’ political thriller The Twentieth Man; and Sophie Green’s historical drama The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

  1. Colombiano (Rusty Young, Bantam)
  2. The Trip of a Lifetime (Monica McInerney, Michael Joseph)
  3. The Secrets She Keeps (Michael Robotham, Hachette)
  4. Big Little Lies regular and TV tie-in editions (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  5. Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  6. The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  7. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  8. The Twentieth Man (Tony Jones, Allen & Unwin)
  9. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club (Sophie Green, Hachette)
  10. The Last Anniversary (Liane Moriarty, Pan)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: August

Among the new entries with international appeal in the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart are Taming Toxic People, a practical guide to restraining difficult people in your life from the bestselling author David Gillespie; Australian rock star Jimmy Barnes’ award-winning memoir Working Class Boy, which has recently been released in paperback in Australia; and Luke Hines’ cookbook Healthy Made Easy.

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Last King of the Cross (John Ibrahim, Macmillan)
  3. Taming Toxic People (David Gillespie, Macmillan)
  4. Autobiography (Billy Slater, Ebury)
  5. Live Lead Learn (Gail Kelly, Viking)
  6. Working Class Boy (Jimmy Barnes, HarperCollins)
  7. A Long Way from Wyandra (Peter Moody & Trevor Marshallsea, Allen & Unwin)
  8. Healthy Made Easy (Luke Hines, Plum)
  9. Halliday Wine Companion 2018 (James Halliday, Hardie Grant)
  10. Here It Is (Paul Roos, Viking)

© Nielsen BookScan 2017
Period covered: 30 July to 2 September 2017
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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