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Inside the Australian book industry

Small presses dominate Stella Prize shortlist

The shortlist for the Stella Prize for Australian women’s writing was announced on International Women’s Day last week. Four of the six titles are published by small, independent presses—Jamie Marina Lau’s Pink Mountain on Locust Island and Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic from Brow Books, Enza Gandolfo’s The Bridge from Scribe and Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip from the University of Queensland Press—while Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s memoir The Erratics was originally published by small press Finch Publishing before it was acquired by HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate (see rights news). The sixth shortlisted title, Little Gods by Jenny Ackland, is from Australian independent Allen & Unwin.

Inspired by the UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Stella Prize has a significant impact on book sales in Australia—and overseas rights buyers are starting to take notice. The 2017 winner, Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love (Allen & Unwin), sold into the US, UK and numerous translation territories following its win.

In other news, the Australia Council for the Arts has announced the 12 publishers, editors and literary agents who will be attending this year’s Visiting International Publishers program. The popular VIPs program, which is held during the Sydney Writers’ Festival, brings together international and Australian publishers to promote rights sales.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Oz crime debut sold to UK publisher in two-book deal

Australian crime-fiction continues its globetrotting ways. UK publisher Verve Books has recently acquired world rights to the Debut Dagger-shortlisted crime novel Trust Me, I’m Dead and a second novel by Australian author Sherryl Clark via the Authors’ Agent. The novel follows ‘gutsy, unapologetic protagonist’ Judi Westerholme as she tries to piece together the clues that her estranged brother left behind before he was murdered.

North American rights to S A Jones’ novel The Fortress (Echo Publishing) have been sold to new US spec-fiction publisher Erewhon Books. The Fortress tells the story of a misogynistic businessman who, in order to save his marriage, enters a self-sustaining, utopian city-state that is occupied by all women.

HarperCollins has sold Japanese-language rights to Kylie Chan’s White Tiger (Voyager)—a fantasy novel with elements of Chinese Taoist philosophy and martial art—to Babel Press.

US publisher Catapult has acquired North American rights to journalist and academic Ruby Hamad’s forthcoming nonfiction book White Tears/Brown Scars (Melbourne University Publishing). Hamad’s book, which grew out of an opinion piece in the Guardian that went viral, examines Black, Indigenous and Arab feminisms to show how white distress has been weaponised against women of colour.

UWA Publishing has sold Arabic-language rights to On Happiness: New Ideas for the Twenty-First Century (ed by Camilla Nelson, Deborah Pike and Georgina Ledvinka) to That Al Salasil.


Scribe has acquired world rights to Laura Jean McKay’s debut literary spec-fiction The Animals in That Country, which imagines a world in which humans and animals understand each other. Associate publisher Marika Webb-Pullman said McKay has ‘captured a darkly funny, twisted, and fraught animal world that is both captivating and feels entirely possible’.

Fremantle Press has acquired ANZ rights to two debut books from authors shortlisted for its T A G Hungerford Award. Julie Sprigg’s memoir Chewing Porridge shares her experiences as a physiotherapist in the slums of Ethiopia, while Yuot A Alaak’s book Father of the Lost Boys tells the story of how the author’s father led almost 20,000 unaccompanied minors, including himself, out of danger during Africa’s longest civil war.

HarperCollins has acquired ANZ rights to Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s memoir The Erratics—‘a ferocious, sharp, darkly funny and wholly compelling memoir of families’—which has been shortlisted for the Stella Prize for Australian women’s writing. The Erratics was published by Finch Publishing shortly before the closure of the publishing house in 2018.

HarperCollins has also acquired ANZ rights to former Harper’s Bazaar editor Alexandra Joel’s debut novel The Paris Model in a three-book deal. Inspired by a true story, it follows protagonist Grace Woods as she leaves her sheep station home in Australia to travel to postwar France, where she works as a mannequin for Christian Dior and mixes with socialites, royalty, famous authors, artists, diplomats and politicians.

Allen & Unwin has acquired world rights to a book by investigative journalist and broadcaster Lucie Morris-Marr, who broke the story that Cardinal George Pell was being investigated by police. Fallen includes as yet unreported details from the court proceedings, and also details the author’s own journey as she investigated the biggest story of her career.


Brio Books has sold the film option to Elizabeth Tan’s debut novel Rubik to Australian production company Photoplay (rights to Rubik have already been sold to the US and Canada).

A feature film adaptation of Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive’s nonfiction book Penguin Bloom (ABC Books) has received production funding from Screen Australia. Naomi Watts will star in the film adaptation, which tells the true story of the young Bloom family struggling to come to terms with their mother’s life-changing injury, when an injured magpie chick enters their lives.

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


NewSouth Books’ newest rights opportunities

New and upcoming titles from NewSouth include The Thinking Woman, in which Julienne van Loon engages with the work of six leading contemporary thinkers and writers to discover what it means to live a good life; Amal Awad’s journey to discover the origins and continued practice of New Age beliefs in My Dragon’s Name is Cleo: A Survivor’s Guide to Navigating the New Age; and Sex on the Brain: How Your Brain Controls Your Sex Life, a unique and scientific insight into the sexiest part of us—our brain—by Amee Baird.

In recent sales, NewSouth sold rights to Eleanor Gordon-Smith’s debut nonfiction Stop Being Reasonable to Scribe (UK) and Public Affairs (US), Wild Sea: A History of the Southern Ocean by Joy McCann to University of Chicago Press, Dr Space Junk vs the Universe by Alice Gorman to MIT Press, Cosmic Addiction by Fred Watson to Wydawnictwo Poznańskie (Polish language rights) and Columbia University Press, and A New History of the Irish in Australia by Dianne Hall and Elizabeth Malcolm to Cork University Press.

The full rights catalogue is available here.


Helen Garner wins Lifetime Achievement award

Helen Garner has won the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature. Garner is the author of more than 14 books of fiction and nonfiction, including Monkey Grip, The Children’s Bach, Cosmo Cosmolino, The Spare Room and This House of Grief (all Text Publishing).

Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe (Fourth Estate) has won the MUD Literary Prize for debut novels.

Kylie Scott has been named Australia’s favourite romance author at the Australian Romance Readers Awards. Scott’s novel Chaser (Macmillan) won in the contemporary romance category.

Also announced in recent weeks were: the shortlists for the Stella Prize for Australian women’s writing and the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards; the longlists for the Australian Book Industry Awards; and the finalists for the Aurealis Awards for science-fiction, fantasy and horror writing.


‘The Rosie Result’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top Australian charts

Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Result—the final instalment in the internationally bestselling Rosie trilogy—has debuted at the top of the Australian fiction bestsellers chart for February. Other new entries in the fiction bestsellers chart are Dervla McTiernan’s The Scholar, the follow-up to her bestselling crime-thriller The Ruin; and Sally Hepworth’s domestic suspense novel The Mother-in-Law.

In the nonfiction bestsellers chart, new entries include writer and influencer Zoe Foster Blake’s guide to relationships, Love!; diet books 16:8 Intermittent Fasting by Jaime Rose Chambers and The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss on a Budget by Rhian Allen; and Jane Caro’s Accidental Feminists, which explores the feminist experience for a generation of women now aged over 55.

Australian fiction bestsellers: February

  1. The Rosie Result (Graeme Simsion, Text Publishing)
  2. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  3. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins)
  4. The Lost Man (Jane Harper, Macmillan)
  5. The Scholar (Dervla McTiernan, HarperCollins)
  6. Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty, Macmillan)
  7. Bridge of Clay (Markus Zusak, Picador)
  8. The Mother-in-Law (Sally Hepworth, Macmillan)
  9. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  10. Gone by Midnight (Candice Fox, Bantam)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: February

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Easy Keto (Pete Evans, Plum)
  3. LOVE! (Zoe Foster Blake, Michael Joseph)
  4. The Barefoot Investor for Families (Scott Pape, HarperCollins)
  5. Any Ordinary Day (Leigh Sales, Hamish Hamilton)
  6. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books)
  7. 16:8 Intermittent Fasting (Jaime Rose Chambers, Macmillan)
  8. The Land before Avocado (Richard Glover, ABC Books)
  9. The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss on a Budget (Rhian Allen, Plum)
  10. Accidental Feminists (Jane Caro, Melbourne University Press)

© Nielsen BookScan 2019
Period covered: 3 February to 2 March 2019
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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