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Inside the Australian book industry

Publishing without borders

Australian publisher Hinkler Books and UK publisher Bookoli have announced they are launching a new mass-market publisher based in the UK. Curious Universe UK, a 50-50 joint venture between the two companies, will publish adult and children’s titles and stationery for the UK, Irish and co-edition markets when it launches this month. Hinkler Books CEO and publisher Stephen Ungar said the move was a ‘unique opportunity to attract the best of the best people in our industry and to construct a global entrepreneurial publishing powerhouse’.

Australian editor and consultant Philippa Donovan—who splits her time between the UK, the US and Australia—has been appointed literary scout for production and entertainment company FremantleMedia Australia. ‘The streaming market is very international right now, and there is a heavy focus on co-production, so literary scouts cannot be not curtailed by territory as they once were,’ said Donovan. ‘Book-to-film and TV is wide open. Who knows where the next big hit will come from!’

A number of international authors will be heading to Australia next month for the Melbourne Writers Festival, which runs from 24 August to 2 September. This year’s guests include US author, journalist and Black Panther comic book writer Ta-Nehisi Coates; UK writer and founder of the counter-extremism organisation Quilliam, Ed Husain; and US YA novelist Juno Dawson. The full program will be released on 17 July.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Photo of author Trent Dalton credit Lyndon Mechielsen

HarperCollins announces global deal for ‘Boy Swallows Universe’

HarperCollins Australia has announced a global deal for Trent Dalton’s debut novel Boy Swallows Universe that will see the book published through HarperCollins companies across major English and translation markets in 2019. HarperCollins Australia rights manager Libby O’Donnell negotiated the six-figure global deal, with translation rights for several other territories still in negotiation. Boy Swallows Universe is the coming-of-age tale of teenager Eli Bell, based partly on Dalton’s own life (pictured), set against the street-level drug trade in 1980s Brisbane.

Megan Goldin’s second novel The Escape Room (Michael Joseph) has sold into North America in a six-figure, two-book deal negotiated by David Gernert of the Gernert Agency on behalf of Penguin Random House Australia. North American rights were acquired by Jennifer Enderlin, publisher at St Martin’s Press. The psychological thriller follows four ruthless Wall Street high-flyers who are trapped in an escape room and must solve the puzzles to earn their freedom, as each of their darkest secrets comes to light.

Text Publishing has sold North American rights to Katherine Collette’s forthcoming debut The Helpline–a ‘sharp, witty, big-hearted comedy’—to Tara Parsons, editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone division in the US, in a deal negotiated by David Forrer at InkWell Management. UK rights have also sold to S&S UK fiction publishing director Jo Dickinson.

Text has also sold UK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ and Canada) to Robert Hillman’s The Bookshop of the Broken-Hearted to Faber editorial director Louisa Joyner, negotiated by Sarah Lutyens at Lutyens & Rubinstein. Text previously sold North American rights to Hillman’s novel to Putnam and Penguin Canada for ‘a significant sum’.

University of Queensland Press has sold UK and Irish rights to Sally Piper’s The Geography of Friendship and 2014 debut novel Grace’s Table to Legend Press in a two-book deal. Both books will be published in the UK in 2019.

University of Queensland Press has also acquired world (including translation) rights to author Tony Birch’s third novel The White Girl, which provides an insight into the ‘often-precarious state of Aboriginal people’ living under government control in post-war Australia.

UK publisher Lightning Books has acquired world English-language rights (ex ANZ) to Emily Maguire’s crime novel An Isolated Incident (Picador) from Charlie Viney at the Viney Shaw Agency. Lightning Books editor-at-large Scott Pack said Maguire’s novel ‘subverts the traditional crime novel by focusing on the aftermath of the crime, the effect on those left behind, rather than the murder itself’.

In nonfiction, NewSouth Publishing has sold world English-language rights (ex ANZ) to Joy McCann’s Wild Sea: A History of the Southern Ocean to the University of Chicago Press, which will publish Wild Sea in the US in 2019. UCP editor Scott Gast said McCann’s book ‘takes readers to one of the most remote regions on Earth and expands our appreciation of its mystery, power, and fragility’.

University of Queensland Press has sold UK and US rights for Charles Massy’s exploration of sustainable farming Call of the Reed Warbler to Chelsea Green, with publication scheduled for September 2018. Chelsea Green editor Brianne Goodspeed said the publisher ‘has every expectation that Call of the Reed Warbler will cross over strongly into the US and UK markets’. ‘It’s relevant for anyone who eats, who cares about their health and the health of their family, and who cares about the planet,’ she said.

Hardie Grant Travel has acquired world rights to a travel guide book by Indigenous writer Bruce Pascoe. The as-yet-untitled book will look at places in Australia ‘where evidence of Indigenous history has not been highlighted’. ‘When you consider how much tourism is enjoyed by historic sites like Stonehenge and Machu Picchu, it’s curious that we don’t celebrate places in our own country that are evidence of the oldest civilisation in the world,’ said publisher Melissa Kayser. Hardie Grant’s recent Indigenous travel guide, Marcia Langton: Welcome to Country, has been one of the top 10 Australian nonfiction bestsellers in the last two months.

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

(Photo credit: Lyndon Mechielsen.)


Miles Franklin Award shortlist announced

The shortlist has been announced for the Miles Franklin Literary Award—one of Australia’s most influential literary prizes. The judges have described the shortlist as ‘diverse and intelligent’.

Alexis Wright’s biography of Aboriginal leader, thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth (Tracker, Giramondo) has won the biennial Magarey Medal for Biography. The book also won this year’s Stella Prize.

Two Australian poetry collections have recently picked up awards: Shastra Deo’s debut collection The Agonist (UQP) has won the Australian Literature Society (ALS) Gold Medal, beating out several former Miles Franklin winners and shortlistees in the process; and Quinn Eades’ Rallying (UWA Publishing) has won the Mary Gilmore Award.

The shortlist for the Australian Christian Book of the Year has also been announced.

Among international awards, an anthology by Australian speculative-fiction publisher Twelfth Planet Press has won a Locus Award for science-fiction and fantasy. Luminescent Threads (ed by Alexandra Pierce & Mimi Mondal) is a collection of tributes to science-fiction author Octavia E Butler.


Introducing Transit Lounge

Transit Lounge was founded ‘with the express purpose of publishing Australian writing that engages with other cultures’, says publisher Barry Scott. The small press’ titles include the 2016 Miles Franklin Award-winning Black Rock White City. He spoke to Think Australian.

What makes Transit Lounge unique?

The desire to bring writers and readers together is why we publish at Transit Lounge. We need to fall in love with a manuscript and then work out how to spread our own enthusiasm. In 2005 Transit Lounge was established by myself and Tess Rice, fellow librarians at that time, with the express purpose of publishing Australian writing that engages with other cultures. This was and is a way of reflecting Australian diversity and giving voice to new writers or helping audiences to rediscover writers who had become overlooked. Although our books are often uniquely Australian, and often now exclusively Australian in setting, they do go in search of the outsider, the marginalised, the immigrant, the different or the disappearing. We are always searching for what seems beautiful, unique, true, and isn’t afraid to push beyond the current zeitgeist in terms of themes or genre tweaking.

How many books does Transit Lounge publish each year—and what kinds of books?

Transit Lounge publishes about 12 to 13 books per year. We publish both fiction and nonfiction, and find that fiction is becoming our major area of enterprise. Australia is blessed with so many great fiction authors. Our books, for example, include the Miles Franklin Award-winning Black Rock White City by A S Patrić, Tracy Ryan’s We Are Not Most People, global musician Hugo Race’s Road Series and playwright Michele Lee’s Banana Girl.

So a diverse mix of memoir, fiction and occasionally travel narrative.

Have you sold international rights to your books? Which titles have been the most successful overseas?

Books we have sold overseas include Patrick Holland’s The Mary Smokes Boys, Aaron Smith’s Shanti Bloody Shanti, Tracy Ryan’s Claustrophobia, Peter Barry’s I Hate Martin Amis et al, Alec Patrić’s Black Rock White City and most recently Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck. Countries we have sold titles into include North America, the UK, Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam and Slovenia. In terms of the most success it would likely be Black Rock White City but we hold out great hopes for From the Wreck, which will be published by Picador UK in 2019.

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

To date we have acquired titles from India, North America and New Zealand. These include Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere by Poe Ballantine, Diane Williams’ Vicky Swanky is a Beauty and Ritu Menon’s Loitering with Intent. We are interested in acquiring great books from anywhere, but the ability of the writer to be able to tour here or attract interest from Australian festivals seems a key factor in leveraging profile. Poe Ballantine was a guest of Byron Writers Festival, which helped make it the most successful of our acquisitions.

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

It’s so hard to pick out books from the many we have published as we love them all. But I find it hard to believe that the following haven’t fallen yet: Lois Murphy’s award-winning Soon (a novel that has been compared to Jane Harper’s The Dry); Justine Ettler’s novel of booze and brilliance, Bohemia Beach; Roger Averill’s tender take on being the son of Australia’s first Booker Prize-winning writer in Relatively Famous; Catherine de Saint Phalle’s Stella Prize-shortlisted memoir Poum and Alexandre, A S Patrić’s masterful Atlantic Black and Mick McCoy’s heart-rending story of family in What the Light Reveals.

Which title on your list would you like to see adapted for film or television?

I can’t separate two: Soon by Lois Murphy (the story of haunted town) and Black Rock White City (the story of an immigrant couple terrorised by the past and a real-life killer).

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

Jan Golembiewski’s Magic (October 2018) is the author’s true story of an amazing journey in which he ends up in a Nigerian prison and is sold as a slave. It has been compared to The Alchemist and Shantaram.

Sallie Muirden’s Wedding Puzzle (2019) is a funny, delightful and tense tale of a wedding that seems destined to go off the rails.

Sydney-based S L Lim’s debut novel Real Differences (2019) is a brilliant drama of young Asian-Australians searching for values, meaning and relationships beyond career and familial expectations. Definitely an author to watch. We have already signed her second novel.


‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top Australian charts

Australian fiction bestsellers: June

Heather Morris’ novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz—based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, who met his future wife while working as a tattooist at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau—has returned to the top of the Australian fiction bestsellers chart in June. Another World War II-set story has also entered this month’s bestsellers in third spot: James Moloney’s The Love That I Have tells the story of a young German girl working in the mailroom of Sachsenhausen concentration camp, who begins to read and rescue the prisoners’ letters she has been ordered to burn.

  1. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  2. The Shepherd’s Hut (Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton)
  3. The Love That I Have (James Moloney, HarperCollins)
  4. Force of Nature (Jane Harper, Pan)
  5. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Holly Ringland, HarperCollins)
  6. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  7. Into the Night (Sarah Bailey, Allen & Unwin)
  8. Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  9. The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  10. Breath (Tim Winton, Penguin)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: June

Rising star writer Bri Lee’s nonfiction book Eggshell Skull is one of the newcomers in this month’s Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart. Lee’s book explores the Australian legal system through the prism of her own experiences as the daughter of a policeman, a law student, a judge’s associate and finally as a complainant in her own case. Another new entrant in the chart is Australian entertainer and radio presenter Tanya Hennessy’s ‘A-Z guide to adulting’ Am I Doing This Right?

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Raising Boys in the Twenty-First Century (Steve Biddulph, Finch Publishing)
  3. The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss (Rhian Allen, Plum)
  4. Am I Doing This Right? (Tanya Hennessy, Allen & Unwin)
  5. Monash’s Masterpiece (Peter FitzSimons, Hachette)
  6. Eggshell Skull (Bri Lee, Allen & Unwin)
  7. CSIRO Low-Carb Every Day (Grant Brinkworth & Pennie Taylor, Macmillan)
  8. Marcia Langton: Welcome to Country (Marcia Langton, Hardie Grant Travel)
  9. Slow Cooker Central Kids (Paulene Christie, ABC Books)
  10. The Low Carb Kitchen (Herron Books)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 27 May to 23 June 2018
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide

  Boy Swallows Universe cover 



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