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Inside the Australian book industry

Rising stars

Australian debut novelists Kirsten Alexander and Holly Ringland may not be familiar names in international publishing circles yet, but they soon will be. Alexander’s Half Moon Lake has just sold into the US and Canada ahead of its Australian publication in January next year; and Ringland’s The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart—which has now sold into more than 25 territories—is being adapted for television by one of the producers behind the TV adaptation of Big Little Lies (see book-to-screen news for more information). As Affirm Press publisher Martin Hughes recently wrote in a column for Books+Publishing, Australian debut novels—and not just crime fiction and thrillers—are hitting it out of the park.

Of course, Australian crime fiction and thrillers remain incredibly popular, and were among the most sought-after titles at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, along with ‘uplit’ and popular science, according to the Australian publishers who attended.

Looking ahead, a delegation of Australian publishers and literary festival programmers will tour India in January 2019 as part of Australia Fest; local and international authors will descend on Perth and Adelaide for their respective writers’ festivals in February and March; and the Melbourne City of Literature will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the end of this month.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Debut novel ‘Half Moon Lake’ sold to US, Canada

US and Canadian rights to Kirsten Alexander’s debut novel Half Moon Lake (Penguin Random House Australia, January 2019) have been sold to Hachette Book Group’s Grand Central imprint. The novel is inspired by the true story of four-year-old Bobby Dunbar, who went missing in the woods of Louisiana in the mid-1900s and, when found, was claimed by two mothers.

Allen & Unwin has sold UK rights to Heather Rose’s Stella Prize-winning novel The Museum of Modern Love to Weidenfeld & Nicolson. The novel—which is set against the backdrop of Marina Abramovic’s famous performance art piece The Artist is Present at New York’s MoMa—has already been sold in North America to Algonquin Books and in seven other translation territories.

Transit Lounge has acquired world rights to two new novels by acclaimed authors Angela Savage and Carmel Bird. Savage’s Mother of Pearl (July 2019), set in Thailand and Australia, explores a surrogacy arrangement; and Bird’s Field of Poppies (November 2019) centres on a gothic mansion in small-town Australia, and is pitched as ‘much more than the story of a tree change gone wrong’.

Simon & Schuster Australia has acquired world rights to a memoir by singer-songwriter Archie Roach (November 2019). Roach is a member of the Stolen Generations—he was forcibly removed from his family and made a ward of the state at age four—and a campaigner for the rights of First Nations People. He said he hoped his book ‘would be seen as a testament to overcoming enormous odds and to the enduring strength of the human spirit’.

Hardie Grant Books has acquired world rights to the nonfiction collection The Full Catastrophe (May 2019), in which contributors share ‘personal stories of when they were involved in a domestic drama, career cock-up or just a run-of-the-mill disaster, when events were so bad they became funny’. The collection is based on the popular podcast of the same name and edited by hosts Rebecca Huntley and Sarah MacDonald.



Australian producer Bruna Papandrea’s company Made Up Stories—best known for co-producing the TV adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies—has acquired screen rights to Holly Ringland’s bestselling debut novel The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (HarperCollins Australia), and will adapt it for television. Rights for the novel have now been sold into more than 25 territories.

Australian production company Lingo Pictures is adapting Michael Robotham’s thriller The Secrets She Keeps (Hachette Australia) into a six-part television miniseries. The novel has already been published in more than a dozen territories.

Tim Winton’s 1995 Booker Prize-shortlisted novel The Riders (Penguin Australia)—described by the author as his ‘most cinematic’—will be adapted into a feature film by director Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free. Meanwhile, filming has recently begun on the film adaptation of Winton’s 2002 novel Dirt Music (Penguin Australian), starring Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald.

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


Samuel Wagan Watson wins Patrick White Literary Award

Poet, essayist, scriptwriter and performer Samuel Wagan Watson has won the Patrick White Literary Award, which is traditionally presented to authors who ‘have made a significant but inadequately recognised contribution to Australian literature’. Watson is the second Indigenous writer to win the prize in its 45-year history. His most recent full-length collection is Love Poems and Death Threats (University of Queensland Press).

Jennifer Down’s short-story collection Pulse Points (Text Publishing) has won the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. The judges said: ‘These stories are set all around the world, with characters from all sorts of backgrounds, but every incident feels authentic.’ Pulse Points also won the short story category at the recent Queensland Literary Awards.

Jock Serong’s novel On the Java Ridge (Text Publishing)—which follows the intertwined fates of a group of Australian surf tourists and a boatload of asylum seekers—has won the Colin Roderick Award and the HT Priestley Medal. The judges said: ‘Serong brings together thriller, political critique, and adventure story in a way that might be reminiscent of James Bond, were it not that governments turn out to be the most evil of all.’

Libby Angel has won the Barbara Jefferis Award for her debut novel The Trapeze Act (Text Publishing), described by the judges as ‘an audacious tale of a bad-ass mother, and the daughter who emerges from her daunting shadow’. The award is presented every two years for the ‘best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society’.

Bernadette Brennan has won the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences’ (CHASS) Australia Book Prize for her book A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work (Text Publishing), a ‘literary portrait’ of one of Australia’s most admired writers.

Andrew Leigh has won the Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing for ‘From bloodletting to placebo surgery’, an excerpt from his book Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Changed Our World (Black Inc.).

Also recently announced were the winners of the Queensland Literary Awards and the shortlists for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award and the Walkley Book Award for nonfiction.


Introducing Madeleine St John’s ‘The Women in Black’

Madeleine St John’s The Women in Black was in hot demand at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year after Text Publishing recently acquired translation rights. The coming-of-age story set in a department store in Sydney in 1959 has been adapted into a feature film called Ladies in Black. Think Australian spoke to Text Publishing rights and export coordinator Khadija Caffoor.

How would you pitch The Women in Black?

The Women in Black is the coming-of-age story of a young woman who takes a summer job on the fashion floor of a department store in Sydney in 1959. Readers fall in love with this book for its charm, wit and the sheer pleasure of reading it—Hilary Mantel has described it as the book she most often gives ‘to cheer people up’, and Jane Gardam, Helen Garner and Clive James are among its many other fans.

How has The Women in Black been received internationally? Have international rights been sold?

We had a huge response to the novel in Frankfurt, and the international bidding began immediately following the fair. We have sold it at auction in France to Albin Michel, at auction in Holland to Nijgh & Van Ditmar, and in a seven-way auction in Italy to Garzanti. We have also sold it to Tchelet in Israel, and are holding offers in Spain. The international deals so far have also included sales of Madeleine St John’s three other novels.

How has The Women in Black been received in Australia?

In Australia, we have sold 50,000 copies in all editions since we republished it in 2009, and it is now part of our Text Classics. The recent film adaptation, Ladies in Black, directed by Bruce Beresford, has done extremely well at the Australian box office.

The Women in Black was first published in 1993. What has led to this renewed interest?

The Women in Black is a funny, subtle examination of the female experience and a sharp commentary about a woman’s place that highlights female strength and friendship. It is about the everyday, about connection and love, and this resonates strongly today. As Hilary Mantel has said, this novel ‘shows how the ordinary can be transfigured’.

Why do you think this novel will appeal to international readers?

The Women in Black fits the trend for uplit, while dealing with universal ideas of feminism, immigration and intolerance. Its setting is one that is instantly recognisable and specific, with all the glamour of the 1950s and designer gowns, but it is also a story about all the hopefulness and promise of youth—an irresistible combination!

For rights enquiries contact Text Publishing rights and export coordinator Khadija Caffoor at


‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor for Families’ top Australian charts

Liane Moriarty’s latest novel Nine Perfect Strangers has debuted at number one in the Australian fiction bestsellers chart, while three of her previous titles—The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty—are back in the top 10. Also new in the chart are Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief; and The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham, best known for The Dressmaker.

Australian personal finance author Scott Pape has unseated his long-running number-one bestseller The Barefoot Investor with his follow-up, The Barefoot Investor for Families. The latter recently broke the record for first-week sales in Australian nonfiction. Other new entries in the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart include journalist Leigh Sales’ Any Ordinary Day, which explores how ordinary people endure unthinkable events; Clementine Ford’s Boys Will Be Boys, a book about toxic masculinity and misogyny from the author of Fight Like a Girl; and comedian and Instagram parody star Celeste Barber’s Challenge Accepted!.

Australian fiction bestsellers: October

  1. Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty, Macmillan)
  2. The Clockmaker’s Daughter (Kate Morton, Allen & Unwin)
  3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  4. Bridge of Clay (Markus Zusak, Picador)
  5. The Year of the Farmer (Rosalie Ham, Picador)
  6. The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  7. Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  8. Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  9. Ladies in Black (film tie-in) (Madeleine St John, Text Publishing)
  10. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: October

  1. The Barefoot Investor for Families (Scott Pape, HarperCollins)
  2. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  3. Any Ordinary Day (Leigh Sales, Hamish Hamilton)
  4. The CSIRO Healthy Gut Diet (Pennie Taylor, Michael Conlon & Tony Bird, Macmillan)
  5. Don’t Stop Believin’ (Olivia Newton-John, Viking)
  6. Boys Will be Boys (Clementine Ford, Allen & Unwin)
  7. Challenge Accepted! (Celeste Barber, HarperCollins)
  8. I Quit Sugar (Sarah Wilson, Macmillan)
  9. Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths (Eddie Woo, Macmillan)
  10. Working Class Boy (film tie-in) (Jimmy Barnes, HarperCollins)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 16 September to 13 October
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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