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Inside the Australian book industry

Award-winning novel ‘dissects the way Australians see ourselves’

One of Australia’s most prestigious literary awards was announced last month. The winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award was Michelle de Kretser for her fifth novel The Life to Come (Allen & Unwin). Impressively, she also won the award in 2013 for her previous novel Questions of Travel.

Among their praise, the judges noted the skill with which de Kretser ‘dissects the way Australians see ourselves, and reflects on the ways other parts of the world see us’. You can find an excellent review of The Life to Come, which explores some of these themes, in the Sydney Review of Books.

In this month’s rights news, we report on a comedy show turned Netflix special that is being developed into a memoir, and a play—inspired by a classic Australian short story—that is being adapted into a novel and feature film. Both are examples of compelling Australian stories that are finding success in multiple mediums.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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More love for Nanette

International rights are being snapped up for Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby’s forthcoming memoir Ten Steps to Nanette (Allen & Unwin) after the Netflix special based on Gadsby’s stand-up comedy show went viral. Allen & Unwin has recently acquired UK rights, in addition to ANZ rights acquired last year. Rights have also been sold to the US, Brazil, Catalonia, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

In acquisitions news, the University of Queensland Press has acquired world rights to Meg Mundell’s The Trespassers, ‘a literary page-turner set in the near future on an emigrant ship’. ‘This is a novel for our times—dealing as it does with emigration, asylum seeking, and global displacement due to climate change,’ said acquiring publisher Aviva Tuffield.

Penguin Random House Australia has acquired world rights to Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson, a novel based on Purcell’s multi-award-winning play of the same name, which reimagines Australian colonial author Henry Lawson’s famous short story. Purcell is also working on a feature film based on the play.

Penguin Random House Australia has also acquired rights to a nonfiction book by writer, commentator and journalist Jane Gilmore, called Fixed It: One Woman’s Movement Against the Real Fake News. In 2015, Gilmore founded the #FixedIt movement, in which she re-writes news headlines to remove the blame from victims and focus on the perpetrators of violence.



Australian production company Carver Films and US production company Anonymous Content have acquired screen rights to Christian White’s debut thriller The Nowhere Child (Affirm Press). White’s novel, which recently broke the record for the fastest selling Australian debut novel, will soon be published in 15 countries.

Emily O’Grady’s debut crime novel The Yellow House (Allen & Unwin)—which tells the story of a family living in the shadow of their serial killer relative—has been optioned for film by Australian producers Lucy Hayes and John Tummino. The publisher has also recently sold German-language rights to the novel.

Clementine Ford’s forthcoming Boys Will Be Boys: An Exploration of Power, Patriarchy and the Toxic Bonds of Mateship (Allen & Unwin) has been optioned for television by Australian production company Metamorflix, which is planning to develop it into a documentary series for the ABC in Australia and Netflix globally. Ford’s first book Fight Like a Girl was released in the US and UK this year.

Five historical novels in Blanche d’Alpuget’s ‘Birth of the Plantagenets’ series (Ventura Press) have also been optioned for television/film by Australian production company Ironbark Media.

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


De Kretser wins second Miles Franklin Award

Michelle de Kretser has won Australia’s prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award for the second time for her novel The Life to Come (Allen & Unwin) after previously winning in 2013 for Questions of Travel. The judges described The Life to Come as ‘a powerful novel that effortlessly blends sharp satire of the literary world with deeply compassionate portraits of lonely people and their strategies for survival’.

At the Ned Kelly Awards, Sulari Gentill won Best Crime Novel for Crossing the Lines (Pantera Press), a meta-narrative in which two crime authors write each other’s story. Sarah Bailey’s The Dark Lake (Allen & Unwin) was named Best First Crime Novel.

Jodi Perry has won the Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year Award for her novel Nineteen Letters (Hachette).

Shortlists have also been announced for the Queensland Literary Awards and Readings’ New Australian Fiction Award.


Introducing Peggy Frew’s ‘Islands’

In March 2019, Allen & Unwin will publish award-winning Australian author Peggy Frew’s third novel Islands, the story of the disintegration of a marriage and its tragic aftermath. The publisher recently acquired world rights to Islands and will take the book to the Frankfurt Book Fair this year. Think Australian spoke to Allen & Unwin’s rights and international sales associate Emma Dorph about the novel’s rights sales potential.

What is your pitch for Islands?

Islands follows the disintegration of a marriage and the subsequent tragic events that reverberate through the entire family.

Helen falls out of love with husband John, leaves, finds someone else and then a series of others, not paying enough attention to her daughters Junie and Anna along the way. John is consumed by jealousy and hopelessness. and in his self-absorption also fails to notice signs that all is not well with the girls. Junie grows up brittle and defensive, Anna difficult and rebellious.

When 15-year-old Anna fails to come home one night, her mother is unconcerned at first. Anna’s done this before and always returned, so it takes three days for Helen to report her disappearance. But this time Anna doesn’t come back …

In the tradition of the novels of Helen Garner, Georgia Blain and Ashley Hay, Islands is a riveting portrait of a family coping with loss.

Who will Islands appeal to?

It will appeal to readers of brilliantly written family dramas and literary fiction with scope for commercial sales. With her remarkable insight into human nature, love and loss, Peggy’s writing is sure to get the prize-winning recognition it deserves.

How have Frew’s previous novels been received?

Her previous work Hope Farm (Scribe Publications) was shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Award and the 2016 Stella Prize, longlisted for the 2016 Indie Book Awards and the 2016 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) General Fiction Book of the Year, and was the winner of the 2016 Barbara Jefferis Award. Her debut novel, House of Sticks (Scribe Publications), was the winner of the unpublished manuscript award at the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

Has Frew been published internationally?

Hope Farm was published in the UK by Scribe.

Do you see any potential for film/TV adaptations?

I’d say there’s certainly strong potential for film/TV, with family dramas performing very well and still generating a lot of interest among producers.


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

Australian fiction bestsellers: August

Chris Hammer’s crime-fiction debut Scrublands—which has been sold into numerous overseas territories and optioned for television—has debuted in first place in the Australian fiction bestsellers chart for August. Scrublands is set in a drought-ridden regional town in Australia and follows a journalist’s investigation into why a priest shot down five of his congregation a year earlier. The other new entry in the fiction bestsellers chart is Kayte Nunn’s historical novel The Botanist’s Daughter.

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

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: August

Local health and wellbeing titles are frequently in the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart. Selling strongly in August are Luke Hines’ recipe book Smart Carbs, which attempts to demystify different approaches to carbohydrates and dieting; and The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss from the Healthy Mummy website founder Rhian Allen.

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Leather Soul (Bob Murphy, Nero)
  3. Winx (Trevor Marshallsea, ABC Books)
  4. Teacher (Gabbie Stroud, Allen & Unwin)
  5. Smart Carbs (Luke Hines, Plum)
  6. Tries, Lies and Meat Pies (Sam Thaiday, Ebury)
  7. The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss (Rhian Allen, Plum)
  8. Winging It (Emma Isaacs, Macmillan)
  9. God is Good for You (Greg Sheridan, Allen & Unwin)
  10. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018 (Period covered: 22 July to 18 August)
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide

   Cover of Sam Twyford-Moore's book, The Rapids



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