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Inside the Australian book industry

Screenworthy stories

Each year Australian publishers, literary agents, and film and TV agents meet and mingle at the Melbourne International Film Festival’s Books at MIFF event. As well as attending one-on-one meetings, publishers are given the opportunity to pitch their most ‘screenworthy’ stories at a book-to-screen panel. This year’s titles (chosen by organisers) were: Ruby Moonlight (Ali Cobby Eckermann, Magabala), Dear Pakistan (Rosanne Hawke, Rhiza Edge), The Sunday Girl (Pip Drysdale, Simon & Schuster), Rapture (Jeremy Stanford, Tale Publishing), The Elephant (Peter Carnavas, University of Queensland Press) and Surrogate (Tracy Crisp, Wakefield Press).

The past month has also seen the announcement of a number of film and TV adaptation deals, most notably, the screen rights for Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty’s forthcoming Nine Perfect Strangers, but also for two popular crime-fiction and romantic-comedy debuts (see Rights sales and acquisitions).

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

Image. Advertisement: Coach Fitz

‘No More Boats’ to publish in the US

Sydney-based small press Giramondo has sold North American rights to Felicity Castagna’s Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel No More Boats to Europa Editions. Acquiring editor-in-chief Michael Reynolds said the novel—which tells the story of an Italian-Australian immigrant family set against the backdrop of the refugee crisis in Australia—explores issues that are more prominent in nonfiction than fiction around ‘immigration, xenophobia, protectionism, racism, media manipulation, unchecked urban property development, the precariousness of the working poor’. (For more on Giramondo, see the Profile.)

Allen & Unwin has sold UK, Europe and Commonwealth (excluding ANZ) rights to Sofie Laguna’s The Choke—about a child ‘caught up in the toxic world of bastardised masculinity’—to London-based Gallic Books.

Melbourne University Publishing has sold UK and Irish rights to Germaine Greer’s On Rape to Bloomsbury UK, with other international deals in negotiation. In her controversial essay, Greer writes that ‘centuries of writing and thinking about rape—as inflicted by men on women—have got us nowhere’.

Two Australian publishers have acquired books on the Thai cave rescue by Australian journalists. Allen & Unwin has acquired world rights to The Great Cave Rescue by James Massola, to be published in October; and HarperCollins Australia has acquired world rights to an as-yet-untitled book by Liam Cochrane, due in December.

HarperCollins has acquired world rights to two new books from commercial fiction author Rachael Treasure; while Penguin Random House Australia has acquired Oceania rights to a sequel to Joy Rhoades’ The Woolgrower’s Companion.


Book-to-screen rights sales

Nicole Kidman’s production company Blossom Films and Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories have purchased film and television rights to Liane Moriarty’s forthcoming novel Nine Perfect Strangers (Macmillan). Kidman will produce and star in the adaptation, which tells the story of nine strangers who meet at a health and wellness resort, with life-changing results.

Chris Hammer’s crime-fiction debut Scrublands (Allen & Unwin)—the subject of several auctions last year—has been optioned for television by Australian producers Ian Collie of Easy Tiger and Martha Coleman of RevLover.

Sally Thorne’s romantic comedy The Hating Game (Piatkus)—about the workplace rivalry between ‘nice girl’ Lucy and her nemesis Joshua—has been acquired for film, with The Simpsons producer David Mirkin attached.

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


Viskic wins top crime-fiction award

Emma Viskic’s And Fire Came Down (Echo Publishing) has been named best adult crime novel at this year’s Davitt Awards, which are presented to the best crime books by Australian women. Viskic, whose novels centre on a deaf detective, has also been shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Dagger Awards for her debut Resurrection Bay (Echo).

Other Davitt Award-winners included Gabriella Coslovich’s Whiteley on Trial (Melbourne University Publishing) for best nonfiction; Sarah Bailey’s The Dark Lake (Allen & Unwin) for best debut; and Jane Harper’s Force of Nature (Pan) for the readers’ choice award.

The Kibble and Dobbie Awards for Australian women writers of fiction and life writing have been presented to Fiona McFarlane for her short-story collection The High Places (Hamish Hamilton) and Sarah Krasnostein for her biography The Trauma Cleaner (Text).

The Enigmatic Mr Deakin by Judith Brett (Text), a biography of Australian prime minister Alfred Deakin, has won the National Biography Award.

Gold Ledger Awards for excellence in Australian comics and graphic novels have been presented to Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts (Craig Phillips, Allen & Unwin), a collection of myths and legends from around the world retold as comics; and the online true-crime comic Reported Missing (Eleri Harris,

Shortlists have also been announced for the Colin Roderick Award for Australian literary fiction and nonfiction; the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing; and the NSW Premier’s History Awards.


Introducing Giramondo

Sydney-based small press Giramondo has won most major literary awards in Australia with its list of ‘diverse, unusual and genre-defying’ fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Commissioning editor Nick Tapper spoke to Think Australian.

What makes Giramondo unique?

Giramondo has long been committed to publishing diverse, unusual and genre-defying work, in prose and poetry. We focus on developing the voices of authors who are somewhere outside the mainstream, with a commitment to a cosmopolitan mentality, publishing work from more experimental writers, and writers from migrant and Indigenous backgrounds. We’re proud to publish authors such as Alexis Wright, Gerald Murnane, Brian Castro and Ali Cobby Eckermann—all of whom have found success with Giramondo, even though their work was underappreciated at the time they began publishing with us, in part because it didn’t fit into recognised literary moulds. We’re committed to supporting such unusual voices—and committed to literary quality as the basis of what we do.

We’re fortunate to have had awards success with many of our authors, winning most major literary awards in the country and developing an international profile for publishing adventurous and rewarding work. We’re a very small team, and stay small to be able to publish work whose appeal might not immediately be evident, but we believe strongly in the work of all the authors we publish, including those who take time to find a readership—so it’s affirming to see it recognised, whether through literary awards, sales or international recognition. We’re fortunate in this to have support from the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University, both for its institutional backing and its links to innovative writers.

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

Our list has grown in recent years. We aim to publish about a dozen books a year, though 2017 was Giramondo’s biggest to date, with 18 books published in all; this year we’ll publish 12 titles. Our list is very much at the literary end of the spectrum—we publish in fiction and nonfiction, and about half our list is poetry. Currently we’re also developing a small young adult list, and making inroads into illustrated literary publishing. And we’re committed to publishing works in translation, from our region and from the southern hemisphere.

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

We’ve had a fair amount of success selling international rights around the world. Most striking recently has been the growing international prominence of Gerald Murnane, who has turned from a cult figure into a small international sensation. His work has sold widely and been the subject of much media attention in the United States, as well as selling into Spanish, German and Arabic. Alexis Wright’s books have been widely published and translated, in the US, UK, China and France. We were pleased recently to sell Felicity Castagna’s first adult novel, the Miles Franklin Literary Award-shortlisted No More Boats, to Europa Editions in North America and the UK. Other authors who’ve been published overseas include Evelyn Juers, Mireille Juchau, Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Emma Lew, Brian Castro, David Walker and Tom Cho.

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

We acquire a small number of international titles, and we’re primarily active in acquiring translations rights for fiction and nonfiction—recently we’ve translated works from Argentina and China, and we’re working on books from Chile, Spain and China at the moment. We’re particularly interested in acquiring books (in English language and translation) from South America, New Zealand, southern Africa and Indonesia, for our Southern Latitudes series, which focuses on literature of the southern hemisphere.

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

Beverley Farmer, whose final book This Water we published in 2017, and who passed away earlier this year, was a writer of remarkable formal agility and an extraordinary prose stylist. She wasn’t a prolific author, especially in her later years, but her work in both fiction and in hybrid essay-fiction-memoir forms stands equal to her peers internationally, and is an important precursor to some of the experimental and genre-crossing work being written at the moment.

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

Felicity Castagna’s No More Boats, about an Italian-Australian family’s encounter with Australia’s refugee crisis, is vivid, visual and topical, and would translate very well to screen. I also think Felicity’s first young adult novel, The Incredible Here and Now, which won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and was recently adapted for the stage, has great potential for adaptation.

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

Tom Lee’s debut novel Coach Fitz I think will have international appeal—a novel about running, landscape and obsessiveness. It’s comic and philosophical at once, with echoes of Ben Lerner, Haruki Murakami and Joseph O’Neill.

Fiona Wright’s second essay collection The World Was Whole will be published in October, and we have strong hopes for it internationally. The book is Fiona’s follow-up to the award-winning Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger, expanding from that book’s discussion of disordered eating to look at our experience of homeliness, urban space and the ordinary. We think it will be of interest for readers of Leslie Jamison and Helen Garner.

In 2019 we’re looking forward to two remarkable works of nonfiction: philosopher Chris Fleming’s acute and often very funny memoir about drug addiction that explores a wide range of obsessions; and a fragmentary, philosophical essay-memoir by Anwen Crawford that in form recalls the work of Eula Biss and Claudia Rankine.


‘The Other Wife’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top Australian charts

Australian fiction bestsellers: July

Mega-selling author Michael Robotham’s latest crime-thriller The Other Wife has debuted at the top of the Australian fiction bestsellers chart for July. It’s joined in the top 10 by three other June releases: Christian’s White’s debut thriller The Nowhere Child; Liz Byrski’s A Month of Sundays, about an online book club whose members meet face-to-face for the first time; and Trent Dalton’s debut novel Boy Swallows Universe, a coming-of-age story set against the street-level drug trade in 1980s Brisbane. The two debut novels have attracted significant international buzz, with The Nowhere Child selling into numerous territories prior to publication and Boy Swallows Universe securing a global publishing deal with HarperCollins.

  1. The Other Wife (Michael Robotham, Hachette)
  2. The Nowhere Child (Christian White, Affirm Press)
  3. A Month of Sundays (Liz Byrski, Macmillan)
  4. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  5. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins)
  6. The Shepherd’s Hut (Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton)
  7. Force of Nature (Jane Harper, Pan)
  8. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  9. Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  10. The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty, Pan)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: July

A new edition of Bruce Pascoe’s multi-award-winning nonfiction book Dark Emu has entered the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart for July. Dark Emu argues against the ‘hunter-gather’ history of Aboriginal Australians with evidence that Aboriginal people across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing. Pascoe, who was awarded the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature earlier this year, is currently writing an Indigenous travel guide book for Hardie Grant Travel.

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Teacher (Gabbie Stroud, Allen & Unwin)
  3. Monash’s Masterpiece (Peter FitzSimons, Hachette)
  4. The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss (Rhian Allen, Plum)
  5. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books)
  6. Am I Doing This Right? (Tanya Hennessy, Allen & Unwin)
  7. Winging It (Emma Isaacs, Macmillan)
  8. The Nourishing Cook (Leah Itsines, Macmillan)
  9. Eggshell Skull (Bri Lee, Allen & Unwin)
  10. CSIRO Low-Carb Every Day (Grant Brinkworth & Pennie Taylor, Macmillan)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 24 June to 21 July 2018
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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