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Inside the Australian book industry

New voices attracting interest at Frankfurt

Australian publishers who attended this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair have reported interest across a broad range of titles, from literary debuts to ‘women’s commercial fiction’ to political memoirs. Interestingly, the rights team from Allen & Unwin noted that ‘all publishers had some slots for new voices’. Those publishers might be interested in some of the promising Australian debuts highlighted in this month’s ‘rights sales and acquisitions’ and ‘award-winners’ sections.

Our annual survey of Australian rights managers and literary agents also reveals a healthy market for rights sales, with the majority of rights managers and literary agents reporting an increase in income from overseas rights deals in the past year, with the strongest sales coming from the US, UK, Germany and China.

There’s no doubt that there is currently a lot of international buzz around Australian books, from Hollywood’s love affair with Liane Moriarty’s backlist to Jane Harper’s Gold Dagger-winning crime novel The Dry to Jessica Townsend’s highly feted children’s fantasy Nevermoor. Publishers Weekly recently published a story on ‘Australia: The Big Not-So-New Thing’ here.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Small press scores big rights sale

The recently launched small press Brow Books has sold world rights to Shaun Prescott’s (pictured) debut novel The Town to Faber, which will publish the novel in the UK in August 2018. The Town follows an unnamed narrator’s efforts to complete a book about disappeared towns in regional Australia, and is set in a town ‘teetering on the edge of oblivion’. Faber is selling rights to other territories.

UWA Publishing has sold UK and North American rights to Josephine Wilson’s Miles Franklin Award-winning novel Extinctions. UK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ and Canada) were sold to Serpent’s Tail, and US and Canadian rights to Tin House, with Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management negotiating both deals. Serpent’s Tail publisher Hannah Westland has described Extinctions as ‘a rich, complex family story replete with comedy and tragedy that is also full of unexpected detail about modernist design and extinct and endangered species’.

Allen & Unwin has acquired Australian journalist Chris Hammer’s crime-fiction debut Scrublands for publication in August 2018, with rights already sold to the US (Simon & Schuster), UK (Headline), Germany and Russia after ‘hotly contested auctions’. Scrublands is set in a country town at the height of Australia’s millennium drought, and follows a journalist’s investigation into why a priest shot down five of his congregation. Rights were acquired via Grace Heifetz at Curtis Brown.

Bonnier Publishing Australia’s Echo imprint has acquired Guardian Australia journalist Bridie Jabour’s debut novel The Way Things Should Be for publication in May 2018. The novel centres on four adult siblings in the lead-up to a wedding in a country town, and explores ‘what it means to be a millennial, the complex relationships between parents and adult children, what we expect and what life gives us, and how our relationships evolve with our siblings, friends, and ourselves’. Rights were acquired via Jeanne Ryckmans at The Cameron Creswell Agency.

Other recently acquired debut novels include playwright and radio dramatist D M Cameron’s Beneath the Mother Tree (MidnightSun), a fast-paced mystery and love story set in an Australian town, which draws on Indigenous and Irish mythology; and Echo Publishing commissioning editor Angela Meyer’s A Superior Spectre (Peter Bishop Books), which takes place in the near future and the 19th century, and follows a dying man who holes himself up in the Scottish Highlands and takes ‘trips’ into the mind of a young woman.

Text Publishing has acquired world rights to Australian scientist and bestselling author Tim Flannery’s Land at the Crossroads: An Ecological History of Europe for publication in Australia in August 2018. Text publisher Michael Heyward described the book as ‘an ambitious undertaking’ that began with Flannery’s ecological histories of Australasia (The Future Eaters) and North America (The Eternal Frontier). ‘Now Tim has turned his attention to Europe. It’s an incredible story that begins 100 million years ago, and it’s a very surprising history,’ said Heyward, who added that the book is attracting ‘considerable’ international interest.

Other recent rights sales of Australian titles include:


  • HarperCollins has sold North American rights and simplified Chinese-language rights to Jesse Blackadder’s ‘haunting, redemptive’ novel Sixty Seconds to St Martin’s Press and Xiron Publishing, respectively. Sixty Seconds tells the story of a tragedy that befalls a family following their sea change, and their recovery.


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


‘The Windy Season’ wins prize for ‘exciting and exceptional’ Australian fiction

The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction—which recognises ‘exciting and exceptional new contributions to local literature’—has gone to Sam Carmody’s debut novel, The Windy Season (Allen & Unwin), about a young man who travels to a fishing village in Western Australia in search of his missing brother. Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap and one of the judges for the award, praised the novel’s ‘dissection of masculinity’ and ‘understanding of the layers of caste and history that dominate outback life’.

Jane Harper has become the third Australian (after Peter Temple and Michael Robotham) to win the UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Gold Dagger for her debut novel, The Dry (Pan). Judges described the novel as a ‘perfectly paced page-turner’ with ‘razor-sharp characterisation’.

Josephine Wilson’s Miles Franklin Award-winning novel Extinctions (UWA Publishing) has picked up another prize—the Colin Roderick Award for the ‘best original book’ published in Australia in the previous calendar year that deals with ‘any aspect of Australian life’.

The shortlists have been also announced for the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award, which celebrates ‘hidden gems across all genres that deserve to reach a wider audience’; and the Voss Literary Prize, which this year includes four debuts.


Introducing Pantera Press’ millennial imprint

Sydney-based publisher Pantera Press recently launched a new imprint called Lost the Plot that is aimed at the next generation of readers. Founders Martin Green and Alison Green spoke to Think Australian:

What makes Pantera and Lost the Plot unique?

Pantera Press was created to invest in Australian writing culture by finding and nurturing the next generation of both readers and writers. As a social purpose business, Pantera Press aims to find wonderful Australian authors who will appeal to a global audience, using the revenue to not only reinvest in new authors and development programs for the wider writing community, but also partner with charities and not-for-profits to help close the literacy gap in Australia and encourage a joy of reading.

Lost the Plot is an imprint of Pantera Press, and an evolution of the philosophy of Pantera Press. Lost the Plot is aimed at the next generation of readers. It is a list of stimulating, entertaining and inspiring content aimed to excite the next generation of readers and leaders. This millennial list is very visual, partnering with established and up-and-coming artists and designers to pair beautiful imagery with up-to-the-minute information. We’re trying to get ideas out there that can change lives and look damn good doing it. We might save the world.

How many books does Lost the Plot publish—and what kinds of books?

We’ve launched with four titles this Christmas, and are planning to increase the list to 10 next year and 20 the year after that. These are slick, cool and powerful books for the young, hot and hip—tackling the big issues that our generation is facing in an easily digestible format that cuts through the bullshit while being delightful on the eyes. We’re focusing on climate change, mental health and empowerment—but we’re not above going for gross, crude and funny, too.

Have you sold international rights to any Lost the Plot books?

This list very much targets the global millennial demographic, who are not territory specific but who ‘live in the internet’. As such, for English-language markets our approach has very much been around curating consistent marketing messages to audiences who are fuelled by unique perspectives on important, inspiring and exciting topics. To have that control, we’re distributing the books to those markets rather than selling the rights. We do see many of these titles resonating in foreign-language markets, too, so selling their translation rights was a big push for us at Frankfurt this year.

Which titles have been most successful overseas?

We see Space is Cool as Fuck as the most immediately relevant. It’s an amazing and beautiful book, co-written by Kate Howells, a Canadian with ties to the international space community and featuring an interview with American television celebrity scientist Bill Nye, the Science Guy. It’s filled to the brim with information on everything you ever wanted to know about space, like—what are black holes? Or, what the hell is everything made of? The book contains more than 100 original works by 35 young international artists that need to be seen to be believed. Like space itself, this book is everything.

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

The Quit Smoking Colouring Book taps into a real need, in a funny and practical while unique way. Sure, the colouring books craze is not thriving—but this is a great new twist, and is very much content driven with beautiful packaging—large format, bulky with copper foil. It’s the perfect gift for the smoker that just can’t let it go, and at 20 bucks for a huge and lovely book, it is the Christmas bargain of the year.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international titles in Australia?

We are actively seeking clever, thoughtful, out-there content from international publishers to complement our local list.

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

Our list next year focuses on the big issues that define this generation—climate change, mental health, empowerment and equality, work. We also have a spiritual sequel to Space is Cool as Fuck that will rock coffee tables the world over.


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

Australian fiction bestsellers: October

Force of Nature, the follow-up to Jane Harper’s bestselling, award-winning crime-fiction debut The Dry, is at the top of the Australian fiction bestsellers chart for a second consecutive month, while The Dry sits close behind in third place. Among the new entries are Judy Nunn’s contemporary drama Sanctuary, which follows a group of strangers shipwrecked on an isolated island in Australia; Booker Prize-winning author Richard Flanagan’s First Person, the story of a ghost writer and his con-man subject; Tony Park’s Africa-set action-adventure The Cull; and Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist’s novel about a mid-life romance on the Camino de Santiago, Two Steps Forward.

  1. Force of Nature (Jane Harper, Macmillan)
  2. Sanctuary (Judy Nunn, William Heinemann)
  3. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  4. First Person (Richard Flanagan, Knopf)
  5. Big Little Lies regular and TV tie-in editions (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  6. Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  7. The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  8. The Cull (Tony Park, Macmillan)
  9. Extinctions (Josephine Wilson, UWA Publishing)
  10. Two Steps Forward (Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist, Text Publishing)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: October

The second instalment in Australian rockstar Jimmy Barnes’ award-winning memoir, Working Class Man, has debuted in the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart in October in second place, while the first instalment, Working Class Boy, sits in fifth place. Several new health and wellbeing titles have also entered the charts this month, led by Maggie’s Recipe for Life, a collaboration between much-loved Australian cook, restaurateur and food writer Maggie Beer and Alzheimer’s researcher Ralph Martins.

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Working Class Man (Jimmy Barnes, HarperCollins)
  3. Maggie’s Recipe for Life (Maggie Beer & Ralph Martins, Simon & Schuster)
  4. Low Carb, Healthy Fat (Pete Evans, Plum)
  5. Working Class Boy (Jimmy Barnes, HarperCollins)
  6. Keeping it Off (Michelle Bridges, Macmillan)
  7. The Things That Make Us (Nick Riewoldt, Allen & Unwin)
  8. Climbing the Mountain (Allan Moffat, Allen & Unwin)
  9. Super Green Simple and Lean (Maha Koraiem & Sally Obermeder, Allen & Unwin)
  10. Billy Slater: Autobiography (Billy Slater, Ebury)

© Nielsen BookScan 2017
Period covered: 1 to 28 October 2017
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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