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Inside the Australian book industry

Frankfurt underway; the unpublished manuscript award that has launched multiple bestsellers

The Frankfurt Book Fair is now well underway, and if you’re at the fair you should have received a copy of our print magazine Think Australian in the Wednesday edition of the Publishing Perspectives Show Daily. You can also find the PDF online here. It includes an overview of the Australian publishing market, information on the past year’s bestsellers and award-winners, a round-up of recent rights successes, and a feature on children’s rights sales. And don’t forget to check out the Australia stand at Hall 6.2 A60 (although many Australian publishers can also be found at the stands of their multinational parent companies).

In this issue of the Think Australian newsletter I wanted to draw attention to the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, which has launched the careers of bestselling authors such as Jane Harper (The Dry, Macmillan), Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project, Text Publishing) and Maxine Beneba Clarke (Foreign Soil, Hachette). Harper has just released her second crime novel Force of Nature, which is at the top of this month’s Australian fiction bestsellers chart; Simsion’s latest novel Two Steps Forward, co-written with his wife Anne Buist, has been sold into multiple territories and optioned for film; and Beneba Clarke has most recently collaborated on the award-winning picture book The Patchwork Bike. Affirm Press will publish the latest winner of the prize, Christian White’s The Nowhere Man, in July 2018. It has already been sold into nine overseas territories.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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‘Page-turning small-town mystery’ sold into nine territories

Affirm Press has sold the rights to Christian White’s ‘page-turning small-town mystery’ The Nowhere Child, previously called Decay Theory, into nine overseas territories. White’s novel won this year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript—an award that has launched the careers of bestselling Australian authors Jane Harper (The Dry) and Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project)—and will be published in Australia in July 2018. The nine territories to acquire The Nowhere Child are the UK (HarperCollins), the US (St Martin’s Press), Holland (Bruna), Germany (Goldmann), France (Denoel), Italy (Teseo), Denmark (Rosinante), Poland (Czarna Owca) and Israel (Korim Publishing House). The sales were facilitated by New York City-based agent Linda Kaplan.

US and Canadian rights to Elizabeth Tan’s debut novel Rubik (Brio) have been sold to Unnamed Press. The deal was negotiated by Rachel Crawford at New York agency Wolf Literary Services on behalf of Brio associate publisher Alice Grundy. Unnamed Press executive editor Olivia Taylor Smith said she sees Tan as ‘a voice American readers have been waiting for’. ‘Rubik is a daring exploration of the myriad ways technology alters our relationships and is perfectly of the moment. At a time when literary writers are daunted by the challenge, Tan embraces it with wit, insight, and a cast of eccentric and lovable characters.’

Text Publishing has acquired world rights to new books by award-winning authors Gail Jones and Craig Sherborne. Jones’ new novel, The Death of Noah Glass, is about a recently deceased art historian, Noah Glass, whose grieving children are shocked to discover he is a suspect in the case of a missing sculpture from a museum in Palermo. The novel explores ‘love and art’, ‘grief and happiness’ and ‘the mystery of time’, said Text publisher Michael Heyward. Sherborne’s Off the Record is a satire that ‘draws on the rich fictional potential of the grubby world of tabloid journalism’, taking inspiration from Sherborne’s own experiences as a journalist. Heyward said of Sherborne: ‘He’s a writer who invents the rules for each novel. The emotional range for each of his novels is so broad—from laugh-out-loud to painful and tender moments.’ Both novels will be published in Australia in 2018.

Hardie Grant Publishing has acquired world rights (excluding the US and Canada) to Australian historian Michael Pembroke’s ‘well-timed’ book on Korea, to be published next year. In Korea: Where the American Century Began, Pembroke traces the ‘tragedy of [Korea’s] American-inspired division in the twentieth century, the war that inexorably followed and the permanent conflict that has ensued’. Hardie Grant publisher Pam Brewster said the book is a ‘timely and absorbing account of America’s first modern war, and how it failed, leaving the world with what is now a festering legacy’.

Film and TV

Hopscotch Features has optioned the film and TV rights to Sarah Bailey’s crime thriller The Dark Lake, published in Australia by Allen & Unwin, via Lyn Tranter of Australian Literary Management. The Dark Lake follows small-town detective sergeant Gemma Woodstock as she investigates the murder of a young teacher while concealing the fact she knew the murdered woman in high school. Producer Troy Lum said Woodstock is ‘a brilliant character—complex and driven, with secrets of her own—and will be a magnificent role for a great actress’. ‘With buzz about the book now reaching all over the world, this is great opportunity to create a series with huge international potential,’ said Lum. Publishing rights to The Dark Lake have been sold into the US, UK, China, Italy and Germany.

Other recent rights sales of Australian titles include:



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


Arnold Zable wins literature fellowship for ‘outstanding, established artists’

Arnold Zable has been awarded the prestigious Australia Council Fellowship for literature, which is presented to ‘outstanding, established artists’ to support creative activity and professional development. Zable is the author of several memoirs, short story collections and novels, including Café Scheherazade, The Fig Tree, Sea of Many Returns, Violin Lessons and The Fighter (all Text Publishing).

Melissa Ashley’s novel The Birdman’s Wife (Affirm Press), a reimagining of the life of British artist Elizabeth Gould, and Cathy McLennan’s Saltwater (University of Queensland Press), the true story of a young lawyer’s fight for justice in the tropics, have won Queensland Literary Awards for fiction and nonfiction, respectively.

Elizabeth Tynan’s Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story (NewSouth Books) has won the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences’ (CHASS) Australia Book Prize, which aims to draw international attention to Australia’s achievements in the humanities, arts and social sciences. Tynan’s book is a comprehensive account of the secretive British atomic weapons testing in South Australia in the 1950s, which wreaked havoc on Indigenous communities and turned the area into a radioactive wasteland. The other titles shortlisted for the award were The Art of Time Travel: Historians and their Craft (Tom Griffiths, Black Inc.); From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories (Mark McKenna, Melbourne University Publishing); and Evatt: A Life (John Murphy, NewSouth Books).


Introducing Spinifex Press

Founded in 1991, Melbourne-based Spinifex Press publishes innovative and controversial feminist books and ebooks with an optimistic edge. Spinifex Press was also one of the first small publishers in Australia to export its books. Co-founders Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein spoke to Think Australian:

What makes your press unique?

We are always ahead of the cultural curve and our books contribute to the discussion of issues often long before they become mainstream. 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. Our fiction and poetry is inventive and we take a lot of risks. We also do a lot of selling of rights internationally both in translation, as well as doing co-editions with other independent presses.

How many books do you publish each year—and what kinds of books?

This changes every year. In 2016 we published just three because we had a series of events for our 25-year anniversary and there are only so many hours. In 2017, we’ve published 10 books. 2018 looks as though it will be between these, probably six.

Have you sold international rights to your books?

Yes, we are frequently selling rights to many of our books. In the weeks before Frankfurt we sold Italian-language rights to Judy Foster’s Invisible Women of Prehistory and Czech-language rights to Susan Hawthorne’s Bibliodiversity: A Manifesto for Independent Publishing  We expect Frankfurt will see more sales. The range of languages is constantly increasing. For example, we have recently sold into Arabic, Vietnamese, Turkish as well as Spanish for the Latin American markets. Lara Fergus’ debut prize-winning novel My Sister Chaos will be published in Tamil in 2018; we also sold Macedonian rights on her novel.

Which titles have been most successful overseas?

The book with the most languages is Betty McLellan’s Help! I’m Living with a Man Boy with 16 languages so far. Bibliodiversity has sold into more than 20 territories. Our recent book The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men by Robert Jensen has sold very well in the US and Canadian markets. This is not a rights sale, rather we originated this book with world rights, printed in the US and it is distributed by IPG. Melinda Tankard Reist’s books such as Defiant Birth, Getting Real, Big Porn Inc and Prostitution Narratives are always good sellers, both in Australia and overseas. There are many ways to sell books overseas. By exporting books into North America and the UK, Spinifex has developed a strong brand name in both these markets.

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

In nonfiction, Judy Atkinson, whose book Trauma Trails, Recreating Song Lines: The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia is well recognised in courses overseas, but has not sold rights into other languages. It is a book which is insightful for any group suffering transgenerational trauma. She recently did a fabulous TEDX talk in Sydney.

In fiction, Merlinda Bobis, whose novel Locust Girl: A Lovesong won the Christina Stead NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction in 2016 has sold into her native Philippines and, like her other books, won other awards too. The subject of Locust Girl is the coming climate change crisis written in the most imaginative prose that you are likely to encounter. Her earlier novel, Fish-Hair Woman was published in Spanish in 2017.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international titles in Australia? What are some of the standouts?

Our hard-hitting books such as Kathleen Barry’s Unmaking War, Remaking Men, Rachel Moran’s Paid For: A Journey through Prostitution, Pornland by Gail Dines and the anthology Not For Sale edited by Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant have all sold well in Australia.

In 2018 we have acquired world rights and are originating the latest book by the internationally known poet and feminist activist, Robin Morgan. Her collection, Dark Matter: New Poems, is an amazing book full of this poet’s extraordinary insight and wit. She writes about art, Parkinson’s, death, activism and aging. Robin’s first poetry collection, Monster, sold well over 50,000 copies and her other poetry titles are still in print after more than two decades. Her TEDX reading of the poems in Dark Matter has already attracted a million views. We are thrilled to be publishing her newest book.

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

Given the success of our ‘Spinifex Shorts’ series we are expanding this list. In 2017 we published Helen Lobato’s Gardasil, which has received reviews internationally, and we have just released Renate Klein’s Surrogacy, which has already drawn international responses and we expect interest in this title at Frankfurt Book Fair.

In 2018 we will publish another book in this series on Adani by prize-winning journalist Lindsay Simpson. It is as yet unnamed, but it promises to be a hard-hitting exposure of the proposed Adani mine in Queensland and its impact on Indigenous communities, the environment and the Great Barrier Reef.

All the titles in this series deal with issues affecting people internationally.

In fiction, the recent novel Dark Matters by Susan Hawthorne has international agents already requesting PDFs.

Photo credit: The Victorian Women’s Trust


‘Force of Nature’, ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top the Australian charts

Australian fiction bestsellers: September

Force of Nature, the follow-up to Jane Harper’s bestselling crime-fiction debut The Dry, is at the top of the Australian fiction bestsellers chart for September. Its release has also propelled The Dry into second place. Among the other new entries in the chart are Josephine Wilson’s Miles Franklin Award-winning literary novel Extinctions; Chris Womersley’s historical literary fiction City of Crows; Fiona Palmer’s contemporary romance Secrets between Friends; and Tania Blanchard’s wartime drama The Girl from Munich.

  1. Force of Nature (Jane Harper, Macmillan)
  2. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  3. Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  4. Extinctions (Josephine Wilson, UWA Publishing)
  5. The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  6. Big Little Lies regular and TV tie-in editions (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  7. City of Crows (Chris Womersley, Picador)
  8. Secrets between Friends (Fiona Palmer, Hachette)
  9. The Girl from Munich (Tania Blanchard, Simon & Schuster)
  10. The Trip of a Lifetime (Monica McInerney, Michael Joseph)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: September

Several health and wellbeing titles are among the new entries on the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart in September: celebrity chef Pete Evans’ cookbook Low Carb, Healthy Fat; obesity researcher Nick Fuller’s Interval Weight Loss; and The Mystery Gut, a guide to improving gut health by medical professionals Kerryn Phelps, Claudia Lee and Jamie Rose Chambers. Also making it into the chart is a new paperback edition of radio presenter Richard Fidler’s Ghost Empire, an ‘ode to a lost civilisation, and a warmly observed father-son adventure’ centred around the extraordinary history of Constantinople.

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Last King of the Cross (John Ibrahim, Macmillan)
  3. Autobiography (Billy Slater, Ebury)
  4. Taming Toxic People (David Gillespie, Macmillan)
  5. Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal: Quarterly Essay (Benjamin Law, Black Inc.)
  6. Low Carb, Healthy Fat (Pete Evans, Plum)
  7. Interval Weight Loss (Nick Fuller, Ebury)
  8. The Mystery Gut (Kerryn Phelps, Claudia Lee & Jamie Rose Chambers, Macmillan)
  9. Here It Is (Paul Roos, Viking)
  10. Ghost Empire (Richard Fidler, ABC Books)

© Nielsen BookScan 2017
Period covered: 3 to 30 September 2017
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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