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Inside the Australian book industry

‘Uplifting nonfiction’ in demand at LBF

Australian publishers attending the 2019 London Book Fair have reported an interest in ‘uplifting or inspiring nonfiction’.

Allen & Unwin rights manager Maggie Thompson said a big trend in narrative nonfiction was ‘books that uncover “hidden worlds”, but in a more practical sense than in previous times’. ‘Where readers were once fascinated by books on the secret worlds of nature, they are now interested in the lives of doctors, nurses, teachers and those who work in aspects of the judicial and corrections systems,’ said Thompson. (Perhaps trauma cleaners come under this category too!)

Thompson also noted an interest in popular science titles that involve ‘experts giving readers solutions to life’s problems’, as well as current affairs titles with a feminist slant—‘but the writer needs to be leading the discussion or sparking a new one for these books to be published in a big way’.

Lifestyle publisher Murdoch Books launched its rebrand at LBF ‘to a fabulous response’, according to publishing director Lou Johnson. You can read more about Murdoch Books here.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Get to know ... Murdoch Books

Think Australian interviewed publishing director Lou Johnson about Murdoch Books’ rebranding and forthcoming titles.

What makes Murdoch Books unique?

A whole combination of things. The fact that we have such a strong heritage and grew from a magazine background rather than traditional book publishing means we have an overarching narrative and category for our brand that enables us to operate in a way that most publishers aren’t able to. We also have such a clear purpose as a lifestyle brand to add value to people’s lives through ‘sharing new conversations and fresh ideas for living life well’ along with a very global sensibility and capability. We are focussed on our consumer audience and we mirror them as an editorial team—we know their pain points and the areas where we can make a positive difference to their lives—and we think about the books we publish for them and the way we market to them as part of an ongoing conversation about all the areas of their life where we can add value. We have an incredibly accomplished team and we all come to work each day absolutely fuelled by our purpose, which means we have a real clarity of vision for every book we publish.  We also really pride ourselves on our open and collaborative author relationships and other partnerships.

What has changed under the publisher’s recent rebrand?

Our rebrand is the visual reflection of all the work we’ve been doing behind the scenes over the last two years. I  like to say we’ve been rebranding from the inside out, by developing our vision and purpose and building our capability to deliver on that before launching our rebrand. For the past two years we have been reshaping our list and successfully diversifying our program by publishing into a broader range of formats and lifestyle categories, which now include at the table; healthy body, healthy mind; conversation starters; and new ways of living. Since launching the rebrand and showcasing our catalogue at London Book Fair, we have had hugely positive feedback that the list is really cohesive and our purpose and personality is now really clear and distinctive.

Are there any particular lifestyle trends that underpin the rebrand and/or Murdoch’s forthcoming list?

Being so closely connected with our audience gives us some unique insights, and we test our knowledge and instincts through trend forecasting analysis and other data. Clear trends we are currently seeing and are actively publishing into are intuitive eating, meal prep, flexitarianism, the next wave of sustainability subjects, topics reflecting our changing social fabric (i.e. the breaking down of traditional taboo subjects like dying and sexuality), the reframing of traditional paradigms (i.e. gender, workplace, relationships) and what we call new spirituality for a new generation searching for meaning in an increasingly secular world.

Which Murdoch Books titles have been most successful in Australia—and internationally?

Our most recent successes have been Fire Islands: Recipes from India (Eleanor Ford), Meat: The Ultimate Compendium, Low Tox Life (Alexx Stuart), Probiotic Drinks at Home (Felicity Evans), Ferment (Holly Davis), Jackfruit and Blue Ginger: Asian Favourites Made Vegan (Sasha Gill), along with our practical cookbooks like Whole Food Thermo Cooked (Tracey Pattison). We have also sold rights in multiple markets for our narrative ‘conversation starter’ books like The Art of Living Alone and Loving It (Jane Matthews) and Can You Die of a Broken Heart? (Nikki Stamp).

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

We currently have a lot of international interest in the following books:

  • Fit Foodie: Easy Meal Prep by Sally O’Neil (October 2019)
  • Vegan Style, one of the first books to come out on how to live a vegan life by Sascha Camilli (July 2019)
  • Venetian Republic, with recipes and stories from the shores of the Adriatic, the Dalmatian Coast and the Greek islands by Nino Zoccali (October 2019)
  • Home is Where You Make it, which features inspirational and practical styling hacks, design tips and DIY projects from influencer Geneva Vanderzeil.

As well as books in our conversation starters category, including A Good Death by Margaret Rice; On Eating Meat by food critic and farmer Matthew Evans, which explores commercial meat production and the dilemma of whether to eat it or not; The M Word, a friendly resource for menopause; an upcoming book from sex and relationships expert Tracey Cox about sexuality as we grow older; and Make it Happen: Manifest the Lie of Your Dreams.

Download the Murdoch Books catalogue here.


‘No Friend but the Mountains’ sells into nine territories

Writer, journalist and Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani’s award-winning memoir No Friend but the Mountains (Picador) has been sold in nine territories, including the US and the UK. Boochani, who is being detained on Manus Island as part of the Australian government’s offshore detention of asylum seekers, wrote the book in secret and sent it to translator Omid Tofighian via WhatsApp messages. Picador UK editor Kishani Widyaratna said of the acquisition: ‘This is a book that simply shouldn’t exist and yet it does, thanks to the determination of Behrouz Boochani and everyone involved to shine a light on this struggle.’

Charlotte Wood’s forthcoming novel The Weekend (Allen & Unwin)—her first since her Stella Prize-winning The Natural Way of Things—has been sold to Riverhead in the US and Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK. The novel follows three elderly friends who gather at a house by the ocean to farewell a friend who has passed away. However, disaster strikes and secrets are revealed. W&N commissioning editor Federico Andornino said: ‘The Weekend is literary fiction with huge appeal, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies as written by Alice Munro.’

Zeitgeist Agency has sold Dutch- and German-language rights to Australian-born, Oxford-based author Sophie Hardcastle’s forthcoming novel Below Deck—which explores the ‘vagaries of consent’—to Uitgeverij Prometheus and Kein & Aber respectively. Allen & Unwin recently acquired Australian and New Zealand rights to the book at auction for a six-figure sum.

Black Inc. has sold North American rights to On Shirley Hazzard: Writers on Writers by Michelle de Kretser to Catapult (USA/Canada), which has ‘put a spotlight’ on the Black Inc.’s ‘Writers on Writers’ series, according to Black Inc. international publishing director Sophy Williams.

Exisle Publishing has sold Korean-language rights to Stop Talking, Start Influencing by Jared Cooney Horvath, which ‘draws on the author’s 15 years of experience in neuroscience and education to outline 12 principles of how people learn’.


Penguin Random House has acquired Australia and New Zealand rights to a new novel by internationally bestselling author Monica McInerney, called The Godmothers. The novel is pitched as a ‘heartfelt story about strong women and fractured families’.

HarperCollins Australia has acquired world rights to the first book in eight years by author Diane Armstrong. Titled The Collaborator and based on a true story set in WWII Hungary, the novel explores ‘the moral complexities and human cost of a daring act’, after a Jewish businessman rescues thousands of Budapest Jews from concentration camps. Armstrong is a child Holocaust survivor who arrived in Australia in 1948.

Hachette Australia and Hodder & Stoughton have jointly acquired British Commonwealth rights to a new ‘high-concept, cross-genre’ novel by author Max Barry. Hodder & Stoughton associate publisher Oliver Johnson said the book ‘combines pulse-pounding action with profound questions about where the hell our species is going, and what it means to give up so much autonomy to algorithms we barely understand’.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards unpublished manuscript prize has a reputation for unearthing critical and commercial successes. A shortlisted manuscript and another highly commended manuscript for this year’s prize have recently been acquired for publication. Affirm Press has acquired world rights to Wayne Marshall’s debut short story collection, called Shirl, which comprises a range of what-if scenarios involving themes of Australiana, which are ‘taken to fabulist and comedic extremes’. Scribe has acquired world rights to Luke Horton’s debut novel The Fogging, set in Bali, which offers a ‘compelling tale of the slow disintegration of a relationship and the unravelling of a man’.

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


‘The Erratics’ wins Stella Prize

Vicki Laveau-Harvie has won Australia’s prestigious Stella Prize for women writers for her memoir The Erratics (Fourth Estate), which tells the story of an estranged daughter who journeys home to Canada to care for her mother who suffers from an undiagnosed mental illness. Judging panel chair Louise Swinn said The Erratics ‘mines the psychological damage wrought on a nuclear family by a monstrous personality’ with ‘constant wit’ and an ability to ‘see all viewpoints’.

Trent Dalton’s debut novel Boy Swallows Universe (HarperCollins) has been named Book of the Year at the independent bookseller-voted Indie Book Awards. Other Indie Book Award-winners include Markus Zusak’s novel Bridge of Clay (Picador) and Chloe Hooper’s nonfiction book The Arsonist (Hamish Hamilton).

Several Australian books are in the running for UK awards. Sarah Krasnostein’s multi-award-winning biography of trauma cleaner Sandra Pankhurst, The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay and Disaster (Text), has been shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize; and Peter Carey’s novel A Long Way from Home (Penguin) has been shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.


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

New paperback editions have propelled Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers to the top of the Australian fiction bestsellers chart in March and Tim Winton’s The Shepherd’s Hut into sixth place. Also debuting in the chart this month are Nicole Alexander’s historical novel Stone Country, Minnie Darke’s romantic comedy Star-crossed and Fiona McIntosh’s re-released crime novel Beautiful Death.

In the nonfiction bestsellers chart, new entries include Going Back by internationally acclaimed surgeon and former refugee Munjed Al Muderis, a follow-up to his bestselling memoir Walking Free; and Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths by Australia’s ‘most famous maths teacher’, Eddie Woo.

Australian fiction bestsellers: March

  1. Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty, Macmillan)
  2. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  3. The Rosie Result (Graeme Simsion, Text Publishing)
  4. The Scholar (Dervla McTiernan, HarperCollins)
  5. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins)
  6. The Shepherd’s Hut (Tim Winton, Penguin)
  7. Stone Country (Nicole Alexander, Bantam)
  8. Star-crossed (Minnie Darke, Bantam)
  9. The Lost Man (Jane Harper, Macmillan)
  10. Beautiful Death (Fiona McIntosh, Michael Joseph)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: March

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Easy Keto (Pete Evans, Plum)
  3. The Busy Mum’s Guide to Weight Loss on a Budget (Rhian Allen, Plum)
  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. Going Back (Munjed Al Muderis & Patrick Weaver, Allen & Unwin)
  8. The Land before Avocado (Richard Glover, ABC Books)
  9. LOVE! (Zoe Foster Blake, Michael Joseph)
  10. Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths (Eddie Woo, Macmillan)

© Nielsen BookScan 2019

Period covered: 3 to 30 March 2019

Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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