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Inside the Australian book industry

Australia's 'Next Chapter' in diverse publishing

What stops publishers publishing more diversely? The reported ‘trends’ at Bologna included a continuing focus on diverse voices in children’s literature, but what about in adult titles?

A new initiative in Australia aims to both foster diverse writers and encourage the publishers that sign them to undertake nontraditional and innovative approaches to promoting their books.

The Next Chapter is a partnership between literary organisation The Wheeler Centre and The Aesop Foundation, the philanthropic arm of skincare brand Aesop. It is designed to support ‘a new generation of writers, from all sorts of backgrounds’ through 10 grants of $15,000 to writers, and then by offering financial support to publishers that take on the work of those writers.

The Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams said the scheme would tackle the ‘brutal’ commercial realities of publishing by offering to matchon a case-by-case basisinventive and nontraditional promotional campaigns proposed by publishers.

‘There’s no lack of goodwill or the desire to [undertake riskier promotional activities] on the part of publishers, but the commercial reality of it makes it really hard,’ said Williams. ‘In the event that the writers find publishers, we will put it to those publishers that if they can come up with a proposal for a way to get the book in the hands of readers who might not otherwise find it—pushing the audience and readership beyond their traditional approaches—we will match them dollar for dollar in their promotion campaign.’

So if you have an eye out for diverse Australian voices, look out for news of the successful recipients—the list is due to be announced in late September.

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‘The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree’ sells in US and UK

Wild Dingo Press has sold North American and UK rights to Shokoofeh Azar’s Stella Prize-shortlisted The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. US and UK rights were sold to Europa Editions, in a deal negotiated by The Rights Hive’s Natasha Solomun, who acted as a sub-rights agent on behalf of The Newman Agency and Wild Dingo Press. The book tells the story of a family of five during one of the most turbulent times in Iran’s political history—the 1979 Islamic Revolution and its aftermath. Europa Editions editor-in-chief Michael Reynolds described it as ‘moving, beautifully imaginative, sincerely felt, and important’. ‘There is nothing that I enjoy more than publishing something that is important,’ said Reynolds. Owner and publisher of Wild Dingo Press Catherine Lewis said she was ‘thrilled’ to have helped launch Azar’s (pictured) debut novel into the English-language world. ‘We felt strongly compelled to take the publishing plunge with The Enlightenment despite having to invest in its translation,’ said Lewis. ‘It seemed mad for a small publisher to take on such an expensive project, but we were certain that it was a novel for the world, not just Australia, and that it was exceptional.’ Europa Editions will publish the book in the US and Canada in the US Fall of 2019.

Transit Lounge has acquired Amra Pajalic’s memoir, Things Nobody Knows But Me. Transit Lounge publisher Barry Scott told Think Australian the ‘beautifully written’ memoir was ‘a tender, funny and searingly honest story of a bond between mother and daughter, and of the toll that mental illness takes on an individual, a family and a community’. ‘In adolescence, Pajalic becomes her mother’s confidante and learns the extraordinary story of her life: when she was 15 years old she visited family friends only to find herself in an arranged marriage. At 16, she was a migrant, a mother, and a mental patient,’ said Scott. Pajalic’s debut novel, The Good Daughter (Text Publishing), won the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Civic Choice Award, and was also shortlisted in the Victorian Premier’s Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript by an Emerging Writer. She also co-edited the anthology Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia (Allen & Unwin), which was shortlisted for the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards. Excerpts of Pajalic’s memoir appear in Rebellious Daughters (Ventura Press), and Etchings (Ilura Press) and the forthcoming Meet Me at the Intersection (Fremantle Press). Things Nobody Knows But Me will be published in the first half of 2019.

Allen & Unwin has acquired The Yellow House by Brisbane writer Emily O’Grady through its annual Vogel Award for an unpublished manuscript by a writer under the age of 35. O’Grady’s novel is a story about ‘the legacies of violence and the possibilities of redemption’, set in semi-rural Queensland and centred around 10-year-old Cub, who lives with her parents and siblings on a ‘lonely property bordering an abandoned cattle farm and knackery’. The novel follows the family’s lives as they’ve become ostracised by the local community due to the notorious actions of Cub’s granddad Les, who died 12 years earlier. Judge Megan O’Brien said The Yellow House was ‘a visually delightful and compelling narrative with a terrific balance of tension, horror and beauty’ and called it ‘quintessentially Australian’. O’Grady receives $20,000 for the prize, which is one of Australia’s richest prizes for an unpublished manuscript. The winner was chosen from a shortlist of two, which also included Melbourne writer Samantha-Ellen Bound. Allen & Unwin published The Yellow House on 24 April.

Hachette Australia has acquired world rights to Triptych by debut novelist Julie Keys. The novel was a finalist for the 2017 Richell Prize and traces two timelines from the perspectives of two headstrong women: Muriel Kemp, an unconventional artist known for the work she produced in Sydney’s bohemian 1920s, and Jane Cooper, her contemporary investigator. In a deal negotiated by Keys’ agent Sarah McKenzie at Hindsight Literary Agency, rights were acquired by Robert Watkins, head of literary and illustrated at Hachette, who said he was ‘completely swept away by the story of Muriel Kemp and her inquisitive neighbour Jane’, adding that he thought it was a book readers would ‘want to talk about the minute they’ve turned the last page’. Keys was one of five finalists for the 2017 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers, which was ultimately awarded to Adelaide-based writer Sam Coley for his novel State Highway One. Triptych will be published by Hachette in early 2019.

Prime Minister’s Literary Award-winner Ryan O’Neill has sold UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Australia and New Zealand) to his Henry Lawson-inspired short-story collection The Drover’s Wives to UK publisher Lightning Books. The book, which reimagines Lawson’s classic short story in 99 different ways, was acquired by Lightning Books editor-at-large Scott Pack, who also acquired O’Neill’s Prime Minister’s Literary Award-winning Their Brilliant Careers from publisher Black Inc. last year, calling it ‘one of the most inventive works of fiction I have ever read’. ‘The reaction from booksellers in advance of publication has been phenomenal, so signing this follow-up was a no-brainer,’ said Pack. Australian publisher Brio Books acquired local rights to The Drover’s Wives last year.

US production company New Regency has acquired film rights to Australian author Stephen Giles’ debut adult novel, The Boy at the Keyhole, which centres on a boy whose mother has been abruptly called away to America—and his growing suspicion that she may have, in fact, been murdered by the housekeeper who now cares for him. Penguin Australia pre-empted Australian rights to the novel and will publish the book on 1 October this year under its Michael Joseph imprint. North American rights were acquired by HarperCollins US imprint Hanover Square Press in a six-figure two-book deal, with the publisher planning to release the book as its lead title in October 2018. Film rights for the project were acquired from Hayley Steed at the UK-based Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency. The film adaptation will be produced by New Regency’s Arnon Milchan, whose production credits include LA ConfidentialThe Revenant and 12 Years a Slave. Giles is also the author of the ‘Anyone but Ivy Pocket’ children’s series (Bloomsbury) under the pen name Caleb Krisp.

Simon & Schuster (S&S) has sold German rights to The Book Ninja in a six-way auction to Blanvalet. The debut novel by Books on the Rail founders Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus was acquired in a six-figure two-book deal, and has also sold in the UK to Simon & Schuster UK. The book has also attracted further interest in Europe, with Italian rights sold to Garzanti Linguistica, Slovak and Czech rights to Fortuna Libri, and Spanish rights to Ediciones Urano. S&S acquired world rights to The Book Ninja in August 2017, describing it as a ‘clever, funny and wryly observed story about finding love and discovering yourself in the process’. The publisher has also contracted Berg and Kalus for a second book.

Other recent Australian rights sales and acquisitions include:


Allen & Unwin has sold Dutch rights to The Sisters’ Song (Louise Allan); Macedonian rights to The Mummy Bloggers (Holly Wainwright); German rights to The Dark Lake sequel Into the Night (Sarah Bailey); Romanian rights to The Lightkeeper’s Wife (Karen Viggers); and Bulgarian rights to The Passage of Love (Alex Miller).

Lyn Tranter at Australian Literary Management has sold world rights to The Lost Girls (Jennifer Spence) to Fiona Henderson at Simon & Schuster.

Text Publishing has sold German rights to Quota (Jock Serong) to Polar Verlag.

Pantera Press has acquired ANZ rights to book two in the ‘Heloise Chancey’ series, A Necessary Murder (Mirandi Riwoe) from Legend Press.

Transit Lounge has acquired world rights to the debut novel The Shining Wall (Melissa Ferguson).


Lyn Tranter at Australian Literary Management has sold world rights to Christopher Wilder: Predator and Serial Killer (Duncan McNab).

Penguin Random House has sold French-language rights to Everyday Thermo Cooking (Alyce Alexandra); German-language rights to The Art of Simple (Eleanor Ozich); Portuguese-language rights to Happy Go Paleo (Irena Macri); and simplified Chinese language rights to The Bush (Don Watson).

Allen & Unwin has sold Nepali rights to The Barefoot Surgeon (Ali Gripper & Sanduk Ruit); and Korean rights to Girls at the Piano (Virginia Lloyd).

Rockpool has sold South African rights to The Mindful Body (Noa Belling) to Random House South Africa.

Hardie Grant has acquired world rights (ex audio) to Brutally Honest (Mel Brown, aka Mel B) from Charlie Brotherstone at Brotherstone Creative Management.

Audio, film and television

Allen & Unwin has sold the film and television option to nonfiction title Danger Music (Eddie Ayres).

Pantera Press has sold the television option to Just Another Week in Suburbia (Les Zig) to Truce Films.

Fremantle Press has sold the film option to the ‘Detective Stevie Hooper’ series (An Easeful DeathHarum Scarum and Take Out, all Felicity Young) to Factor 30 Films; and audio rights to City of Light, Before it Breaks and Clear to the Horizon (Dave Warner) to Wavesound.


‘Taboo’ and ‘The Book of Dirt’ dominate NSW Premier’s Literary Awards

Two works of fiction that draw on and draw attention to horrifying historical events events have dominated Australia’s New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, announced on 30 April. Book of the year Taboo by award-winning author Kim Scott (Picador) tells the story of a group of Noongar people from Western Australia who revisit, for the first time in many decades, the site of a massacre. Taboo was awarded the $30,000 Indigenous Writers’ Prize as well as the $10,000 Book of the Year award. Bram Presser’s The Book of Dirt (Text Publishing) is part fiction, part family history, and tells the story of Presser’s grandparents Jakub Rand and Dasa Roubickova, who lived in Prague during Nazi occupation. The book won the $40,000 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the $5000 Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and the People’s Choice Award.

The full list of adult fiction and nonfiction winners is:

Book of the Year ($10,000)

  • Taboo (Kim Scott, Picador)

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)

  • The Book of Dirt (Bram Presser, Text)

Douglas Stewart Prize for Nonfiction ($40,000)

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)

  • Argosy (Bella Li, Vagabond Press)

Indigenous Writers’ Prize ($30,000, offered biennially)

  • Taboo (Kim Scott, Picador)

Multicultural NSW Award ($20,000)

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5000)

  • The Book of Dirt (Bram Presser, Text)

People’s Choice Award

  • The Book of Dirt (Bram Presser, Text)

In other awards news Mile Franklin winner Alexis Wright has won the 2018 Stella Prize, worth $50,000, for her ‘collective memoir’ Tracker (Giramondo), a biography of Aboriginal leader, thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth that incorporates interviews with family, friends, foes and Tilmouth himself. Judging panel chair Fiona Stager called it an ‘extraordinary, majestic book’. ‘It is one man’s story told by many voices, almost operatic in scale. With a tight narrative structure, compelling real-life characters, the book sings with insight and Tracker’s characteristic humour. Wright has crafted an epic that is a truly rewarding read.’ The Stella Prize is presented for the best work of fiction or nonfiction by an Australian woman published in the previous calendar year and was inspired by the UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The Australian Book Industry Awards were also announced recently with Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (Lothian) taking out book of the year. See the full list of publisher and book winners here. 


Introducing Wild Dingo Press

Wild Dingo Press launched its list with a commissioned biography by a refugee from Afghanistan, which went on to become an Australian bestseller. Last year the press took a chance on a novel by Iranian refugee Shokoofeh Azar, translating it to English from Farsi, and the book went on to be shortlisted for Australia’s Stella Prize. Rights to the novel recently sold to the US and UK. Founder Catherine Lewis spoke to Think Australian.

What makes your press unique?

Wild Dingo Press grew out of my outrage over the way asylum seekers were being treated by the Australian government at the time, believing as I did (and still do) that if Australians could know the stories of asylum seekers it would change hearts and therefore minds.

When we launched, the media was increasingly being muzzled or misled, funding of investigative journalism was being slashed, and the government was increasingly restricting access to information and to refugees in detention. We found Najaf Mazari, who was prepared to tell his story, and immediately commissioned author Robert Hillman to put pen to paper. The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif  became a bestseller (40,000 copies so far), is still in print 10 years later, and readers frequently tell us how profoundly it changed their opinions.

From that one publication, we felt there was a critical need for a publishing house dedicated to disempowered voices, to the minority and the marginalised, whether it be through their own stories or through fiction or poetry. We don’t depend on literary agents to send us manuscripts—they do, but we are always open to direct contact from the author, as many may not even know how to go about finding an agent.

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

This is the first year we will be releasing 10 books. We built Wild Dingo Press quite slowly as it was not my full-time job for the first few years—I was still running another publishing company. That number will no doubt keep growing, and we have no shortage of manuscripts coming to us from many different sources.

We thought to publish only nonfiction: memoir, narrative nonfiction and investigative journalistic nonfiction. But fiction came our way that fulfilled our brief, shot through with social, cultural and political themes to challenge and enrich the reader: Choose Somebody Else is a collection of stories by Yvonne Fein, set in several countries, that tackles the big human issues of our time; and Nagaland is a novel by Guardian reporter and foreign correspondent Ben Doherty that came out of his friendship with a Naga man who asked Ben write to his story and that of the Naga people.

Have you sold international rights to your books?

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree (Shokoofeh Azar) is the third book we have sold international rights to. The others were Blood on My Hands: A Surgeon at War by Craig Jurisevic, and The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman. 

Which titles have been most successful overseas?

The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman. 

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

The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif. While it has been in the ANZ market for 10 years, it is even more important now in its representation of the 21st-century refugee story, which continues to be played out across national and international borders. And The Power of Good People (Para Paheer & Alison Corke), a memoir of growing up as a Tamil in Sri Lanka during the 26-year-long civil war. It provides incredible insight into life in that country for many, and the push factors that have led to thousands of Tamils fleeing for their lives; but it’s also a personal study of an inspirational, humble human being.

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

We haven’t gone looking to date, but this is in our plans for 2018-19.

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

Tears for Tarshiha is the big one for this year that we believe will appeal to international publishers. A raw account of life in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon by veteran international campaigner for Palestinian rights Olfat Mahmoud. Eye-opening and moving, it will draw controversy wherever it is published. But we believe it is our duty to put stories of suffering and oppression into the public space, and we hope that there are publishers overseas who will feel similarly about this one.


‘The Shepherd’s Hut’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top Australian charts

There’s no change at the top of the bestseller lists this month, with Scott Pape continuing his seemingly endless barefoot reign in the nonfiction category and Tim Winton’s new novel The Shepherd’s Hut again topping the fiction chart. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart has shot up the fiction bestsellers list from 10th place last month to second spot this time around. This debut novel by Holly Ringland has sold into 19 territories and counting.

Diet and health titles are performing well in the Australian market this month, and nutrition scientist Grant Brinkworth and dietitian Pennie Taylor have two books in the April top 10: CSIRO Low-Carb Every Day and last year’s The CSIRO Low-Carb Diet. They are joined by a diet book for ‘busy mums’ and a new healthy lunch cookbook from Australian television chef Pete Evans. The power of television has also helped propel ‘Real Housewife of Melbourne’ Chyka Keebaugh’s illustrated manual for ‘homemaking, entertaining, styling and crafting’, Chyka Home, into the top 10.

Australian fiction bestsellers: April

  1. The Shepherd’s Hut (Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton)
  2. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Holly Ringland, HarperCollins)
  3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  4. The Paris Seamstress (Natasha Lester, Hachette)
  5. Making Peace (Fiona McCallum, HQ Fiction)
  6. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  7. Captive (Tony Park, Macmillan)
  8. The Ruin (Dervla McTiernan, HarperCollins)
  9. Fool’s Gold (Fleur McDonald, Allen & Unwin)
  10. Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: April

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. CSIRO Low-Carb Every Day (Grant Brinkworth & Pennie Taylor, Macmillan)
  3. Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies (Kitty Flanagan, Allen & Unwin)
  4. The CSIRO Low-Carb Diet (Grant Brinkworth & Pennie Taylor, Macmillan)
  5. Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia (Clive Hamilton, Hardie Grant)
  6. Monash’s Masterpiece (Peter FitzSimons, Hachette)
  7. The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss (Rhian Allen, Plum)
  8. Shannon’s Kitchen (Shannon Kelly White, Penguin)
  9. Chyka Home: Seasonal Inspiration for a Life of Style (Chyka Keebaugh, Hardie Grant)
  10. Lunch Box (Pete Evans, Plum)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 1 April to 28 April 2018
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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