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Inside the Australian book industry

What do you think of when you ‘Think Australian’?

Penguin Random House Australia’s rights manager Nerrilee Weir said recently of Australian publishing: ‘It does feel like we have a strength in that area at the moment.’ She was talking about crime fiction and unsurprisingly the first name she cited was Jane Harper. Harper is among several crime novelists being recognised in international awards and her first book, The Dry, remains in this month’s Australian fiction top 10 more than two years after it was published.

Weir was speaking in response to a discussion of the crime/thriller genre at the recent Visiting International Publishers Program which took place in Sydney in May. The annual program brings international publishers to Australia for panels, networking and one-on-one meetings in a bid to create rights sales opportunities for Australian publishers—it seems to work: a report on the program recently found that for every dollar the Australia Council invests in the VIPs program, AU$5.45 is generated for the Australian publishing sector, a 445% return on investment.

Meanwhile, commissioning editor Daniel Davis Wood of UK publisher Splice claims: ‘Readers who have an ear to the ground already know that Australia is fertile territory for experimental literature at the moment.’ Davis Wood cites writers like Jack Cox, Jen Craig and Jane Rawson who ‘have managed to build small but dedicated audiences’ in the UK. He will be bringing Nicholas John Turner to that audience when Splice publishes Turner’s Hang Him, a book that was self-published here in Australia.

So, from award-winning crime fiction to self-published experimental, there’s lots to think about when you ‘think Australian’.

Matthia Dempsey
Think Australian

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PRH acquires 'No Spin' by Shane Warne

Penguin Random House (PRH) will publish Australian cricketer Shane Warne’s memoir No Spin in Australia and the UK. The publisher said the memoir will cover the bowler’s ‘extraordinary cricketing career and his life off the pitch’: ‘No Spin is the true story behind the headlines, in Warne’s own voice, and challenges some of the enduring myths and untruths that surround him.’ The memoir will be published in hardback by Ebury in Australia and the UK on 1 October.

Scribe Publications has acquired world rights to a biography of post-punk musician Rowland S Howard by Melbourne-based bookseller and writer Gerard Elson titled Something Flammable: Approaching the Ghost of Rowland S Howard. The biography will examine the life and career of the influential Australian musician, who was the guitarist for the band The Birthday Party. Scribe senior commissioning editor Marika Webb-Pullman, who acquired the rights, said: ‘Howard has attained cult status both here and internationally since his death, and I can’t imagine a person better placed to write about him than Gerard.’ Something Flammable will be published in late 2019, to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of Howard’s death.

Scribe has also acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to A Girl’s Guide to Personal Hygiene, a collection of true stories of women’s bodies by the UK artist Tallulah Pomeroy, which will be published in November 2018 in Australia and the UK.

Brisbane author Nicholas John Turner’s debut self-published novel Hang Him When He Is Not There has sold into the UK and Ireland to Birmingham-based small press Splice. UK and Irish rights were negotiated by Martin Shaw, literary agent at Alex Adsett Publishing Services, and acquired by Splice commissioning editor Daniel Davis Wood, who said it was ‘a genuine privilege to bring this dazzling, daring novel to readers on this side of the world’. Turner originally self-published the book in the Australian market in 2016, before approaching Shaw in late 2017 about a future writing project. ‘I replied that first off I really should look at his first book … and I was completely taken aback,’ said Shaw. ‘The intensity of reading experience that [Hang Him] affords is simply astonishing.’ The UK and Irish edition of Hang Him When He Is Not There will be a lightly revised version of the self-published text and will be released in the UK and Irish markets in October.

Melbourne-based independent publisher Transit Lounge has sold world English-language rights (ex-ANZ) to Jane Rawson’s 2017 novel From the Wreck. Picador UK associate publisher Ravi Mirchandani acquired rights to the literary speculative-fiction novel, which he described as ‘a remarkable feat of both writing and imagination’. Transit Lounge publisher Barry Scott thanked ‘those Australian writers that truly loved the book and helped to promote it to overseas publishers’. Scott also credited UK book blogger Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads for helping promote the book to a British audience: ‘Simon raved about the book and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t available overseas.’ From the Wreck is slated for an April 2019 release in the UK.

University of Queensland Press (UQP) has acquired world rights to Western Sydney poet Omar Sakr’s forthcoming poetry collection, The Lost Arabs, with publication scheduled for April 2019. Sakr, who is the poetry editor at the Lifted Brow magazine, said he was ‘looking forward to working with poetry editor Felicity Plunkett on the final stages of this manuscript to put forward the best possible version of it’. Sakr’s previous book These Wild Horses (Cordite Books), was shortlisted for the 2017 Queensland Literary Awards and the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Allen & Unwin (A&U) has sold world French rights to Karen Viggers’ forthcoming novel, The World Beneath the Trees, to publisher Les Escales, following the Melbourne author’s exceptional sales record in the French market. The French edition of Viggers’ The Lightkeeper’s Wife, also published by Les Escales, represent the majority of the author’s sales which, according to A&U rights and international sales associate Emma Dorph, was due to influential French bookseller and television book commentator Gérard Collard’s promotion of the book as one of the ‘books of the summer’ in 2016. Les Escales hopes to publish The World Beneath the Trees close to the local Australian release date of February 2019.

Read the full article here.


Aussie crime wave

No doubt you’ve heard of Jane Harper’s debut bestselling crime novel The Dry (Pan). It has added the accolade of crime and thriller ‘book of the year’ at the recent British Book Awards and also been nominated for the 2018 Anthony Awards. Of the British Book Awards win, Harper said, ‘It’s wonderful that the publishing industry in the UK has responded so enthusiastically to an Australian story and I’m delighted that my novel has reached so many readers overseas.’ Those readers might want to follow up their Australian crime run with Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay (Echo), which has been longlisted in two categories in the UK Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger awards. It is one of 10 books longlisted for the Gold Dagger award for the best crime novel of the year, and also garnered a longlisting for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger for the best crime novel by a first-time author. In Australia, the book won the 2016 Ned Kelly Award for best first novel, and also won in several categories at the 2016 Davitt Awards. Looking further ahead, keep an eye out for Sherryl Clark’s unpublished manuscript ‘Trust Me, I’m Dead’, which is among the works longlisted for the Debut Dagger award. It follows a 43-year-old woman who returns to Melbourne in the wake of the murder of her drug-addict brother, and is quickly entangled in the mystery surrounding his life and death. And speaking of crime from the Antipodes, the longlist for this year’s Ngaio Marsh award for New Zealand crime fiction has been announced.

In other awards news, the longlist for the 2018 Miles Franklin Literary Award, one of Australia’s most influential book prizes, was announced in May. Peter Carey’s A Long Way from Home (published under Penguin Random House’s Hamish Hamilton imprint) and Taboo by Kim Scott (published under Pan Macmillan’s Picador imprint) are the sole representatives of multinational publishers on the 11-title list. The remaining nine longlisted book are all from small and independent Australian publishers: No More Boats (Felicity Castagna, Giramondo), The Life to Come (Michelle de Kretser, A&U), The Crying Place (Lia Hills, A&U), The Last Garden (Eva Hornung, Text), Some Tests (Wayne Macauley, Text), Storyland (Catherine McKinnon, Fourth Estate), Border Districts (Gerald Murnane, Giramondo), From the Wreck (Jane Rawson, Transit Lounge), and The Restorer (Michael Sala, Text). The winning author, who will receive $60,000, will be announced in August.


Introducing MidnightSun Publishing

MidnightSun publisher Anna Solding tells Think Australian about her small South Australian press and her ‘amazing’ six-figure deal.

What makes your press unique?

We only publish books that we love. The writing has to sing on the page and we want to be inspired, outraged, intrigued and informed by what we read. We often publish books that bigger publishers would find difficult to market, either because they fall between genres or because the subject matter is unusual or controversial—or both. Sexuality, disability, human trafficking, landmines, intersex people and toxic masculinity are all topics that have appeared in our books. We work closely with the author all the way through the process, and designing beautiful covers is important to us.

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

MidnightSun publishes about five to seven books per year. Because we are a small publisher, we spend time making each book exquisite in its own right. We publish everything from children’s picture books to adult novels, as well as middle-grade and YA books, but we generally stick with fiction because we really love a great story. And we like making stuff up.

Have you sold international rights to your books?

We sold rights to the fantastic An Ordinary Epidemic (published overseas as Before This is Over) by Amanda Hickie to Little, Brown in the US and Headline in the UK in a six-figure deal, which was an amazing experience for a new publisher. We’ve also sold Swedish rights to the heart-warming story A Cardboard Palace by Allayne L Webster, and the Spanish and simplified Chinese rights to One Step at a Time by Jane Jolly and Sally Heinrich.

Which titles have been most successful overseas?

A Cardboard Palace has just come out in Sweden as Kartongslottet, so it’s still early days, but so far it’s done very well, including being picked as the book of the month for a book club. An Ordinary Epidemic has obviously been wonderfully successful.

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

We still believe that An Ordinary Epidemic with its domestic noir feel, about a family stuck in their house while an epidemic rages outside, will appeal to a broader audience around the world and we hope to option the film/TV rights soon. Wild Gestures by Lucy Durneen has already done incredibly well. It won the Saboteur Award for best short story collection in the UK last year and is currently longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize. We would love for a UK and/or US publisher to publish this talented writer. One day in the future, when Durneen wins the Man Booker (yes, she’s that good!), you’ll be able to say you took a chance on her.

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

Not yet but we are currently looking at Swedish children’s books. Because I am Swedish, I have the advantage of being able to read the books in the original language.

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

We have a title coming in August that has generated a lot of buzz as well as international interest and we think it will appeal to a wide general readership, in the way that Liane Moriarty and Kate Morton’s books do. Beneath the Mother Tree is author D M Cameron’s first novel and it’s a thrilling mystery with Irish mythology and Indigenous history entwined with a love story.

Next year we are publishing River Stone, the first instalment in Rachel Hennessy’s YA dystopian trilogy, ‘The Burning Days’. It has echoes of The Hunger Games and the ‘Divergent’ trilogy but with a more fallible female lead. We love it, and are sure the rest of the world will too!


'The Shepherd's Hut' and 'The Barefoot Investor' top charts

Australian fiction bestsellers: May

Much-loved Australian novelist Tim Winton tops the fiction charts this month with The Shepherd’s Hut, but his 2008 novel Breath is back in the top 10 at number six, thanks to a film adaptation of the novel that is currently screening in Australian cinemas.

  1. The Shepherd’s Hut (Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton)
  2. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo)
  3. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Holly Ringland, HarperCollins)
  4. Someone Like You (Karly Lane, A&U)
  5. The Jade Lily (Kirsty Manning, A&U)
  6. Breath (Tim Winton, Penguin)
  7. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  8. A Country Mile (Mandy Magro, Mira)
  9. The Paris Seamstress (Natasha Lester, Hachette)
  10. Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers

Books for parents never go out of fashion, and the nonfiction top 10 this month features several: a diet book for busy mums; a guide to ‘taking care of your bump, your baby and yourself’ by Bec Judd, the wife of a well-known Australian Rules footballer; an updated edition of Steve Biddulph’s bestselling Raising Boys; and The Motherhood, a collection of letters from many high-profile mothers to their earlier selves on the topic of motherhood.

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss (Rhian Allen, Plum)
  3. Monash’s Masterpiece (Peter FitzSimons, Hachette)
  4. CSIRO Low-Carb Every Day (Grant Brinkworth & Pennie Taylor, Macmillan)
  5. Life Force (Barry du Bois & Miguel Maestre, Echo)
  6. Raising Boys in the Twenty-first Century (Steve Biddulph, Finch)
  7. Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies (Kitty Flanagan, A&U)
  8. Marcia Langton: Welcome to Country (Marcia Langton, Hardie Grant Travel)
  9. The Baby Bible (Bec Judd, A&U)
  10. The Motherhood (Jamila Rizvi, Viking)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 29 April to 26 May 2018
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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