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Inside the Australian book industry

Australian book industry celebrates

The red carpet was rolled out in Sydney last week for the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs), which celebrate the best in Australian writing, publishing and bookselling. Pan Macmillan Australia won publisher of the year while Affirm Press won small publisher of the year, with an honourable mention going to Indigenous publisher Magabala Books. Trent Dalton’s debut novel Boy Swallows Universe (Fourth Estate) was named book of the year.

The Sydney Writers’ Festival also wrapped up last week. Fifty-five international guests and over 350 Australian writers, academics and public figures participated in Australia’s largest writers’ festival, while 12 international publishers, literary agents and scouts travelled to Sydney to take part in the Australia Council’s popular Visiting International Publishers (VIPs) program, which brings together Australian and international publishers to promote rights sales.

Australian genre specialist Clan Destine Press made local publishing news last month when it announced it had acquired UK publisher Improbable Press. The two publishers share a desire to publish ‘adventure tales where the heroes are women, people of colour, and any part of LGBTQIA+’. ‘[For] too long these characters, and neurodivergent or differently-abled people, have been relegated to sidekicks or footnotes in a world of heteronormative, male-driven narratives,’ said Clan Destine publisher Lindy Cameron.

Later this month, a number of Australians will be travelling to the US for BookExpo and the New York Rights Fair. Among the Aussies heading abroad are Allen & Unwin rights manager Maggie Thompson, Scribe Publications rights manager Amanda Tokar and Rockpool Publishing owner Paul Dennett.

This issue of Think Australian is being sent to subscribers of Publishers Weekly ahead of BookExpo. If you were sent this newsletter as a PW subscriber and would like to continue receiving Think Australian and Think Australian Junior—free monthly newsletters about the Australian book industry aimed at international publishers, rights managers, literary agents, scouts, and film and TV agents—sign up here.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Pantera Press sells 10 books in ‘Rowland Sinclair Mysteries’ to the UK

Pantera Press has sold UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding ANZ and Canada) to the first 10 books in the award-winning ‘Rowland Sinclair Mysteries’ series by Sulari Gentill to independent UK publisher Oldcastle Books. ‘We’re sure UK readers will love the 1930s setting, wry humour and richly drawn characters and look forward to unleashing Rowly on the British market,’ said Oldcastle Books editorial and rights manager Clare Quinlivan. The series is already available in the US and Canada through Poisoned Pen Press, and on audio through Wavesound.

Text Publishing has sold North American rights to Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World by Tyson Yunkaporta to HarperCollins imprint HarperOne in a six-figure pre-empt. Sand Talk—named after the Aboriginal custom of drawing images on the ground to convey knowledge—explores how Indigenous thinking can ‘reimagine and reframe our understanding of concepts such as money, power, education, and especially sustainability’. It is due to be published in Australia in September.

St Martin’s Press has acquired North American and audio rights to Cilka’s Journey, the sequel to Heather Morris’ bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Cilka’s Journey will be published simultaneously in Australia by Echo and in the UK by Zaffre in October. The novel tells the story of one of the key characters from The Tattooist of Auschwitz who saved tattooist Lale Sokolov’s life.


HarperCollins Australia has acquired ANZ rights to three new books from crime writer Dervla McTiernan, author of The Rúin and The Scholar. The first book will centre on D S Carrie O’Halloran, who has appeared in McTiernan’s previous books. HarperCollins said that ‘broadening the scope of the series to include characters old and new will allow McTiernan to approach crimes from fresh perspectives—and keep the readers guessing’.

HarperCollins Australia has also acquired world rights to the commercial fiction debut by author and comedian Rosie Waterland in a two-book deal. Waterland’s yet-to-be-titled first novel tells the story of Olive Alexander, an advice columnist for a women’s website who is ‘smart, sardonic, socially awkward and upfront about the realities of being a woman—even the gross parts’.

Brow Books has acquired world rights to two novels by Jamie Marina Lau, whose debut Pink Mountain on Locust Island was shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Gunk Baby is set in an ear-cleaning and massage salon in a shopping centre, and ‘takes aim at orientalism and the Zen movement, violence, fashion, and middle-class boredom’. Fuji is a five-part interlinked book that revolves around ‘The Centre’, an ‘organisation responsible for recreational and therapeutic virtual reality’.

The University of Queensland Press has acquired world rights to a new novel from Chris Flynn, author of The Glass Kingdom and A Tiger in Eden, in a two-book deal. Mammoth is narrated by the fossil of an American mastodon as it recounts its life, death and afterlife over 13,000 years, and explores a period of history in which ideas about science and religion underwent massive change.

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


‘Boy Swallows Universe’ wins book of the year at ABIAs

Trent Dalton’s multi-award-winning debut novel Boy Swallows Universe (Fourth Estate) has been named Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs). Dalton’s coming-of-age tale, set against the street-level drug trade in 1980s Brisbane, attracted a global publishing deal from HarperCollins last year. Holly Ringland’s The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Fourth Estate), Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (Picador) and Bri Lee’s Eggshell Skull (Allen & Unwin) were also among the winners. See the full list of winners here.

Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia by historian Billy Griffiths (Black Inc.) has won Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, as well as the Ernest Scott Prize for history. Judges said Deep Time Dreaming was ‘a revelation, showing that the influence of archaeology on the Australian consciousness has been far greater than anyone could have guessed’. Awards were also presented to Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come (Allen & Unwin), Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe (Fourth Estate) and Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay and Disaster (Text), among others.

Geoff Lemon’s Steve Smith’s Men (Hardie Grant)—an on-the-ground account of the Test cricket cheating scandal by the Australian men’s team in 2018—has won the Wisden Book of the Year award and the Cricket Society and MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) Book of the Year award.

David Cohen’s The Hunter and Other Stories of Men (Transit Lounge) has won the Russell Prize for humour writing. Shortlists have also been announced for the Australian Literature Society (ALS) Gold Medal, the Ashurst Business Literature Prize and the Norma K Hemming Award for speculative fiction that explores the themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability.

Finally, Tom Lee (Coach Fitz, Giramondo), Robbie Arnott (Flames, Text), Jamie Marina Lau (Pink Mountain on Locust Island, Brow Books) and Ruby J Murray (The Biographer’s Lover, Black Inc.) have been named the Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists—an award that recognises emerging writing talent among authors aged 35 or younger.


‘Boy Swallows Universe’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top Australian charts

A new paperback edition of Trent Dalton’s multi-award-winning novel Boy Swallows Universe is at the top of the Australian fiction bestsellers chart for April. Three new releases have also debuted in the top 10: Natasha Lester’s The French Photographer, inspired by the true story of a Vogue model who became one of the first female war photojournalists; Tricia Stringer’s Something in the Wine, a rural romance set among the vineyards of Western Australia’s Margaret River; and Without a Doubt, a new crime novel from Fleur McDonald.

Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s Stella Prize win has sent her memoir The Erratics into the Australian nonfiction bestsellers chart for the first time. Other new entries include Three Birds Renovations, with tips from home renovating and styling trio Bonnie Hindmarsh, Erin Cayless and Lana Taylor; and Teen Brain by David Gillespie, which explores the effects of technology on teens and sets out rules to help parents manage screen time.

Australian fiction bestsellers: April

  1. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, Fourth Estate)
  2. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  3. Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty, Macmillan)
  4. The French Photographer (Natasha Lester, Hachette)
  5. Something in the Wine (Tricia Stringer, Mira)
  6. The Rosie Result (Graeme Simsion, Text Publishing)
  7. Without a Doubt (Fleur McDonald, Allen & Unwin)
  8. The Shepherd’s Hut (Tim Winton, Penguin)
  9. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  10. The Scholar (Dervla McTiernan, HarperCollins)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: April

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Easy Keto (Pete Evans, Plum)
  3. The Erratics (Vicki Laveau-Harvie, Fourth Estate)
  4. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books)
  5. Three Birds Renovations (Bonnie Hindmarsh, Erin Cayless & Lana Taylor, Murdoch Books)
  6. Any Ordinary Day (Leigh Sales, Hamish Hamilton)
  7. Teen Brain (David Gillespie, Macmillan)
  8. The Barefoot Investor for Families (Scott Pape, HarperCollins)
  9. Diary of a Crap Housewife (Jessica Rowe, Allen & Unwin)
  10. Kochie’s 11-Step Money Plan for a Better Life (David Koch, Macmillan)

© Nielsen BookScan 2019
Period covered: 7 April to 4 May 2019
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide

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