Think Australian newsletter
Image. Advertisement: Scrublands by Chris Hammer
Inside the Australian book industry

Australians set sights on the US

Welcome back to the first issue of the Think Australian newsletter for 2018.

This year will see the Australia Council send a publishing delegation of six Australian rights sellers, literary agents and publishers to New York City for a five-day program of industry meetings, marketing briefings and networking opportunities.

Executive director of strategic development and advocacy at the Australia Council Wendy Were said she sees ‘great potential’ in North America when it comes to Australian literature, citing an increasing number of Australian authors who have been picked up by US publishers in recent years: Jane Harper, Emily Bitto, Charlotte Wood and last year’s Stella Prize winner Heather Rose (most recently, Allen & Unwin sold US rights to Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love to Algonquin).

The recent sale of North American rights to debut speculative-fiction novel Terra Nullius by Noongar writer Claire G Coleman (see below) suggests that even very Australian content can make it into that market. Hachette rights and publishing manager Sarah Brooks, who negotiated the sale, told us she is excited to have found a US publisher for a novel ‘so deeply rooted in Australian history’. ‘The US has always been a tricky market to place books into,’ she said. ‘Taking into account the profusion of home-grown US authors—not to mention the steady stream of books coming in from the UK—there’s never a lack of competition.’

Australian publishers will also have the chance to pitch to US publishers locally in May as part of the Australia Council’s annual Visiting International Publishers (VIPs) program, held alongside the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Kirsty Melville of Andrews McMeel Publishing and Daniella Wexler, editor at Atria Books, are among the 12 international publishers, editors, agents and scouts participating in this year’s program, which will mark the initiative’s 20th anniversary.

Since its inception, the VIPs program has welcomed 250 international guests to Australia, from 28 countries, with more than 300 Australian titles sold into overseas markets through the program. Click here for more details about this year’s participants, and for more information about the program, contact Karen Le Roy at

Matthia Dempsey
Think Australian

Image. Advertisement:

Controversial delayed China book finds publisher

Hardie Grant Books has acquired world rights to Clive Hamilton’s book on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) influence in Australia. Silent Invasion explores how CCP agencies have sought to extend Beijing’s influence in Australia for strategic and political gains, and will be published locally in March 2018. It was delayed by Allen & Unwin in November 2017, with the publisher citing the threat of legal action from the Chinese government. Hamilton (pictured), who requested the rights to the book be returned, has since rewritten the book to minimise the legal risk. ‘The reason three publishers refused to publish this book is the very reason the book needs to be published,’ said Hamilton.

Hachette Australia has sold US and Canadian rights to Claire G Coleman’s debut speculative-fiction novel Terra Nullius to US independent publisher Small Beer Press, whose publisher Gavin J Grant said it ‘deserves to be recognised as a classic of post-apocalyptic literature’. Terra Nullius reframes first contact between European and Indigenous Australians through a genre lens, and rights were negotiated by Hachette rights and publishing manager Sarah Brooks.

Hachette Australia has also acquired ANZ rights to writer J P (Joshua) Pomare’s October 2018 debut, In My Skull, in a six-publisher auction. Rights were acquired by Hachette Australia head of literary Robert Watkins and negotiated by Pippa Masson at Curtis Brown Australia. Masson said the novel’s story, ‘set in the wilds of coastal New Zealand’, has a ‘suffocating and pacey feel’. North American rights to Pomare’s thriller have already sold to Penguin Random House US imprint Putnam, and UK rights to Sphere.

HarperCollins Australia has acquired The Girl on the Page, an ‘industry insider’ novel by John Purcell, director of books at Australian online retailer Booktopia, to be published in October 2018. Described as ‘a smart, sexy, provocative and powerful novel of ambition, betrayal and redemption’, The Girl on the Page follows the story of ‘hard-drinking, bed-hopping, hot-shot young book editor’ Amy Winston ‘on a downward spiral’. Purcell is the author of the erotic trilogy The Secret Lives of Emma (Bantam) published under the pseudonym Natasha Walker.

Brio has acquired debut novel Sisters of No Mercy by Melbourne-based author Vincent Silk. The novel, to be published in August, follows the eponymous ‘sisters’, an underground network of women who ’[mete] out punishment for their deserving victims’. The novel was acquired by Brio associate publisher Alice Grundy, who said she has been following Silk’s career ‘for years’.

Black Inc. has sold film and TV rights to It’s Alive: Artificial Intelligence from the Logic Piano to Killer Robots (Toby Walsh) to Xyclo Media, and filming has commenced on a feature film adaptation of Erik Jensen’s biography of the late Australian painter Adam Cullen, Acute Misfortune (Black Inc.). The film tracks the volatile relationship between the prize-winning Cullen, who died at age 47, and his 19-year-old biographer, Jensen.

Other recent rights sales of Australian titles include:


  • Hachette Australia has sold UK and Commonwealth (ex ANZ) rights to four historical novels by Natasha Lester, including her forthcoming March 2018 title The Paris Seamstress, to UK publisher Sphere; and acquired ANZ rights to Hannah Richell’s new novel, The Peacock Summer, in a joint deal with Orion UK.


  • Allen & Unwin has sold world English-language (ex-ANZ) rights to Fight Like a Girl (Clementine Ford) to OneWorld Publications; and German and US English-language rights to Brooke McAlary’s guide to living a simpler and more fulfilled life, Slow, to Luebbe and Sourcebooks, respectively.
  • Text Publishing has sold UK and Commonwealth (ex ANZ and Canada) rights to Stuart Kells’ The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders to Duckworth Overlook.

‘The Trauma Cleaner’ wins multiple awards

Melbourne-based writer Sarah Krasnostein has won the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature for her first book, The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster (Text Publishing) at this year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards (VPLAs). The biography of trauma cleaner Sandra Pankhurst was also awarded the $25,000 nonfiction prize at the awards. Other winners at the VPLAs include: Melanie Cheng’s Australia Day (Text Publishing) for fiction, Bella Li’s Argosy (Vagabond Press) for poetry, Demet Divaroren’s Living on Hope Street (Allen & Unwin) for young adult fiction, Michele Lee’s Rice (Playlab) for drama, and Alison Evans’ Ida (Echo), which took out the people’s choice award.

Krasnostein is also shortlisted in the nonfiction category of the 2018 Indie Book Awards, voted on by independent booksellers from around Australia. Booksellers also voted for Jane Harper’s Force of Nature to make the fiction shortlist, alongside Sofie Laguna’s exploration of male power and violence, Choke (Allen & Unwin); Chris Womersley’s historical novel about 17th-century Paris on the cusp of the modern secular era, City of Crows (Picador); and Jock Serong’s political thriller, On the Java Ridge (Text Publishing). See the full Indie Book Awards shortlists here.

The Prime Minister’s Literary Award-winner for fiction, Ryan O’Neill’s Their Brilliant Careers (Black Inc.), has been sold to independent British publisher Eye Books for publication in the UK in April this year. The novel, which was also shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, is made up of 16 biographies of fictional Australian writers. O’Neill’s collection of 99 remixes and reinterpretations of Henry Lawson’s short story ‘The Drover’s Wife’, titled The Drovers Wives, has recently been acquired by Brio.


Introducing Sophy Williams

Sophy Williams is the international director for Melbourne publisher Black Inc., which specialises in ‘serious nonfiction books, including politics, current affairs, biography, memoir and history’. Alongside its core list, Black Inc. also publishes literary fiction, children’s and young adult (YA) titles, as well as the periodicals Quarterly Essay and Australian Foreign Affairs. Williams spoke to Think Australian about her acquisitions work.

What makes Black Inc. unique?

We turn 44 this year, which makes us the oldest independent publishing house in the country, having been on the scene under various imprints, starting with Outback Press. Our sister publications, The Monthly and The Saturday Paper, give our company a kind of newsroom energy, and the group as a whole has become something of a cultural hub. We acquire as a team, eschewing the traditional publishing hierarchy. We are nimble and bold and we have wonderful trade loyalty and support, particularly with the independent booksellers.

How many books does Black Inc. publish—and what kinds of books?

We publish between 70-80 books per year, including four issues of Quarterly Essay and three issues of Australian Foreign AffairsWe are the leading publisher of serious nonfiction books, including politics, current affairs, biography, memoir and history. Alongside this core list, we also publish commercial and literary fiction, young adult fiction of all stripes, sports books and poetry.

Have you sold international rights to any Black Inc. books?

Yes, we’ve been selling rights since about 2003. I attend the London and Frankfurt book fairs annually, both acquiring and selling rights for Black Inc.

Which titles have been most successful overseas?

John Hirst’s The Shortest History of Europe has sold in 15 territories and sales in China have exceeded 300,000 copies. Other rights successes include It’s Alive! Artificial Intelligence from the Logic Piano to Killer Robots by Toby Walsh, which has sold in seven territories; as well as High Voltage: The Life of Angus Young – ACDC’s Last Man Standing by Jeff Apter and Destination Simple by Brooke McAlary, which have both sold in five separate territories. The US edition of This Annoying Life, a satirical colouring book by Oslo Davis, was published by Chronicle Books and has become a bestseller.

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

We have had some success placing Alice Pung’s books, but I would love to see translation territories waking up to her particular genius. Laurinda has sold in the UK (Legend) and USA (Knopf). Dennis Glover also needs translations. The Last Man in Europe, his novel about George Orwell and the writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four, is a wonderful read and an important book. We have sold it in the USA (Overlook) and we are looking for other territories.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international titles in Australia? What have been the most successful?

We have licensed books from the USA, Canada, UK, France and Germany. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben, is an Australian bestseller and continues to backlist. Continuing the ‘tree’ theme, David Haskell’s poetic The Songs of Trees has also been successful. Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road was very strong commercially, supported by a great author tour.

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

We’re very excited about a debut novel by Moreno Giovannoni, The Fireflies of Autumn. It has echoes of early stories by Italo Calvino. The writing has also been compared to Elena Ferrante and Colm Tóibín. Erik Jensen’s masterful Acute Misfortune is being made into a major feature film and we hope the tie-in edition will sell globally. Other highlights I will be talking up in London are an exciting feminist young adult series—The Chess Raven Chroniclesand Toby Walsh’s forthcoming 2062, which forecasts the future of AI.


‘The Dry’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top Australian charts

Australian fiction bestsellers: January

Jane Harper’s Force of Nature (Macmillan) has finally ceded top spot on the fiction chart—to Jane Harper’s The Dry (Pan), the debut crime novel that started off the author’s impressive career.

Harper is joined by women writers Liane Moriarty (with three titles in the top 10), Judy Nunn, Di Morrissey, Fiona McIntosh and Loretta Hill—a happy coincidence as the longlist for Australia’s award for women’s writing, The Stella Prize, will be announced tonight Australian time. Jack Heath is the sole male writer in this month’s fiction top 10, and his first novel for adults, Hangman, stars a civilian FBI consultant, who also happens to be a cannibal. The appetite is there for Heath’s grisly thriller, as rights have already sold into five territories.

  1. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  2. Force of Nature (Jane Harper, Macmillan)
  3. Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  4. Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  5. The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  6. Sanctuary (Judy Nunn, William Heinemann)
  7. Hangman (Jack Heath, Allen & Unwin)
  8. The Red Coast (Di Morrissey, Macmillan)
  9. The Tea Gardens (Fiona McIntosh, Michael Joseph)
  10. The Secret Vineyard (Loretta Hill, Bantam)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: January

The Barefoot Investor author Scott Pape continues his reign over the nonfiction chart in January, with The Bikini Body Motivation and Habits Guide (Kayla Itsines, Macmillan) sitting—perhaps not surprisingly during the height of the Australian summer—at number two. Australian rocker and Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes holds spots three and eight with his autobiographies Working Class Man and Working Class Boy, respectively, while Unbreakable by Jess Halloran and former world number 4 tennis champion Jelena Dokic (Ebury) has received a boost in January—the month Melbourne hosts the Australian Open grand slam tennis championships.

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. The Bikini Body Motivation and Habits Guide (Kayla Itsines, Macmillan)
  3. Working Class Man (Jimmy Barnes, HarperCollins)
  4. Unbreakable (Jess Halloran and Jelena Dokic, Ebury)
  5. Super Green Simple and Lean (Sally Obermeder and Maha Koraiem, Allen & Unwin)
  6. Basics to Brilliance Kids (Donna Hay, HarperCollins)
  7. The CSIRO Low-Carb Diet (Grant Brinkworth and Dr Pennie Taylor, Macmillan)
  8. Working Class Boy (Jimmy Barnes, HarperCollins)
  9. Maggie’s Recipe for Life (Maggie Beer and Ralph Martins, Simon & Schuster)
  10. First, We Make the Beast Beautiful (Sarah Wilson, Macmillan)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 31 December to 27 January 2018
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




Contact us


Kelsey Oldham

Digital editor
Brad Jefferies

Acting editor, Daily
Matthia Dempsey

Editorial assistant
Anthea Yang

Classifieds, jobs and notices

Display advertising

Select newsletters

Select which newsletters you’d like to receive here.
Unsubscribe from individual newsletters here.
Or unsubscribe from all newsletters here.

View articles

Purchase a subscription to Books+Publishing to view all articles on the website.

If you need help with your subscription, please email the Subscriptions team.