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Inside the Australian book industry

Australians at Frankfurt report interest in climate change, MBS

Australian publishers who attended this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair have reported strong interest in books on climate change and Mind Body Spirit (MBS).

‘Climate change was the big theme of the fair,’ said Black Inc. publisher and international director Sophy Williams, citing the buzz around forthcoming books by Bill Gates and Erin Brockovich. ‘The trend is away from scary science and towards practical solutions for tackling the problem.’ UNSW Press chief executive Kathy Bail also observed an interest in books on the climate crisis, as well as ‘smart nonfiction’ in general—‘and there is plenty of that in the NewSouth rights catalogue,’ she added.

Allen & Unwin rights and international sales manager Maggie Thompson said she believed a return to MBS is ‘on the cards’, but with a ‘smart-thinking angle’, while Murdoch Books publishing director Lou Johnson also picked up on the MBS trend, noting an explosion in ‘alternative health, spirituality and narrative-driven personal development’, dubbed ‘stealth help’.

While fiction may have been less popular at this year’s fair, a local cli-fi title has been building buzz in Australia. Alice Robinson’s second novel The Glad Shout (Affirm Press)—which ‘raises urgent questions about how we will experience the near future of our climate crisis’—has won the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. The judges described the novel as ‘a work of climate emergency fiction that unfolds as a pacey disaster thriller’ and ‘a story of a mother and her daughter, and the limitless love that defines that relationship’.

Looking ahead to 2020, the first guests for the annual writers’ festivals in Perth (21–23 February) and Adelaide (19 February to 5 March) have been announced (side note for our northern hemisphere readers: this is a lovely time of year to enjoy the Australian sunshine). Bruce Pascoe, author of the bestselling, award-winning nonfiction book Dark Emu (Magabala Books)—which has been published in the UK and is currently being adapted for TV—will headline the Perth Festival’s Literature and Ideas weekend, along with UK fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. The festival is based around the themes of ‘land, money, power and sex’. Nigerian novelist Chigozie Obioma, Pakistani journalist Sanam Maher and Australian writer and academic Tyson Yunkaporta, whose book Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World (Text) sold to the US in a six-figure deal, will appear at the opening event for Adelaide Writers’ Week. The festival explores the theme of ‘Being human’.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Sara Foster’s suspense thrillers sold into US, UK

Curtis Brown Australia has sold North American and UK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ and Canada) to two novels by bestselling psychological suspense author Sara Foster—The Hidden Hours and her latest novel You Don’t Know Me (both Simon & Schuster Australia)—to Blackstone Publishing and Legend Press respectively. Blackstone Publishing also acquired the rights to an as yet untitled work. ‘Psychological suspense continues to be a favourite for readers in North America, and Sara is an outstanding voice in the genre,’ said Blackstone’s vice president of sales Anne Fonteneau. The Hidden Hours is currently under option with an Australian production company.

US and UK rights to J P Pomare’s forthcoming small-town thriller In the Clearing (Hachette) have been sold in a two-book deal to global Hachette imprints Mulholland Books US and Hodder UK.  Mulholland Books editor Emily Giglierano said: ‘It only took three words for me to pick up In the Clearing: “female cult leader”. But it was the flawless storytelling—the voices of the two narrators, and the inexorable ticking clock counting down to disaster—that compelled me to read it in one sitting.’

Allen & Unwin has sold North American and UK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ and Canada) to Australian journalist Gabrielle Jackson’s nonfiction book Pain and Prejudice—an exploration of how the medical profession treats the pain and suffering of women—to Greystone Books and Piatkus respectively. Jennifer Croll at Greystone Books described the book as an ‘essential, timely critique of how the medical system fails to take women’s health seriously’.

Thames & Hudson Australia has sold foreign-language rights to Chromatopia: An illustrated history of colour by David Coles to several publishers. They include: Hungarian-language rights to Corvina Könyvkiadó; German-language rights to Haupt Verlag; French-language rights to Eyrolles; Japanese-language rights to Graphic Sha; Korean-language rights to Youngjin; and simplified Chinese-language rights to Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press.

Murdoch Books has sold French- and Dutch-language rights to The Fit Foodie Meal Prep Plan—a ‘practical guide to food prepping for weeks of healthy meals’ by Sally O’Neil, aka The Fit Foodie—to Marabout Publishing and Forte Uitgevers respectively.


Hachette has acquired ANZ rights to Claire Thomas’ second novel The Performance in a five-way auction via Curtis Brown Australia. Weidenfeld & Nicolson also acquired UK rights as part of the deal. Set during a hot summer night in Melbourne, the novel follows three women as they ‘each grapple with their anxieties and loves, their truths and pretensions’ while watching a play in a theatre.

Picador has acquired ANZ rights in a ‘heated auction’ to a work of nonfiction by author Anna Spargo-Ryan, inspired by her prize-winning essay ‘The Suicide Gene’. The as yet untitled book will investigate intergenerational suicide and mental health through a blend of memoir and analysis. Spargo-Ryan’s novels The Paper House and The Gulf were also published by Picador.

Scribe has acquired world rights to City on Fire, a book on the Hong Kong protest movement by Australian writer and lawyer Antony Dapiran, who has lived in Hong Kong for the past 20 years. Scribe publisher Henry Rosenbloom said, ‘Antony has unique credentials to write this important book, and City on Fire will provide an essential guide to understanding the current events and their context.’

Screen adaptations

Bruce Pascoe’s bestselling, award-winning nonfiction book Dark Emu (Magabala Books) is being adapted into a TV documentary series by Australian production company Blackfella Films. Screen Australia’s head of Indigenous Penny Smallacombe said the adaptation ‘promises to be one of the most important documentary series the Indigenous Department has funded’.

Filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta has optioned the film rights to Joshua Mostafa’s cli-fi thriller Offshore (Seizure). Set in a very near future Sydney, Offshore follows an academic who pays people smugglers to help him escape overseas when the city begins to collapse into chaos.

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


‘The Glad Shout’ wins Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction

Alice Robinson’s second novel The Glad Shout (Affirm Press)—‘an exhilarating novel that raises urgent questions about how we will experience the near future of our climate crisis’—has won the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. The judges said, ‘While the story is on face value a work of climate emergency fiction that unfolds as a pacey disaster thriller, at its core it is a story of a mother and her daughter, and the limitless love that defines that relationship.’

The winners of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, who each receive $80,000, have been announced. They include: The Death of Noah Glass (Gail Jones, Text) for fiction; Half the Perfect World: Writers, dreamers and drifters on Hydra, 1955–1964 (Paul Genoni & Tanya Dalziell, Monash University Publishing) for nonfiction; Sun Music: New and selected poems (Judith Beveridge, Giramondo) for poetry; and The Bible in Australia: A cultural history (Meredith Lake, NewSouth) for Australian history. Lake also recently won the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences’ (CHASS) Australia Book Prize for The Bible in Australia.

The winners of the Queensland Literary Awards have been announced. Among the winners are: Exploded View (Carrie Tiffany, Text) for fiction; An Unconventional Wife: The life of Julia Sorrell Arnold (Mary Hoban, Scribe) for nonfiction; Zebra: And other stories (Debra Adelaide, Picador) for short stories; and Too Much Lip (Melissa Lucashenko, UQP) for a work of state significance. Adani, Following Its Dirty Footsteps: A personal story (Lindsay Simpson, Spinifex) was the people’s choice winner.

Robert Drewe has won the Colin Roderick Literary Award for The True Colour of the Sea (Hamish Hamilton), a short-story collection that ‘encompasses Australian experiences past and present, portrayed in moments that are sad, serious, and poignant’.

Several Australians have won—or are in the running for—international book awards for their debut novels. Chris Hammer’s Scrublands (Allen & Unwin) was named best crime novel by a first-time author at the UK Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards; Dervla McTiernan won the Barry Award for best paperback original for her crime novel The Ruin (HarperCollins); and Angela Meyer’s novel A Superior Spectre (Peter Bishop) has been shortlisted for Scotland’s Saltire First Book of the Year Award.

Also announced in the past month were the shortlist for the Walkley Book Award for nonfiction, the shortlists for the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prizes and the longlist for the Voss Literary Prize.


‘Khaki Town’ and ‘488 Rules for Life’ top Australian charts

The Australian fiction and nonfiction bestsellers charts have two new chart-toppers: Judy Nunn’s WWII novel Khaki Town, set in northern Australia on the brink of Japanese invasion, and comedian Kitty Flanagan’s comic guide to modern behaviour, Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life. Khaki Town is one of eight new titles in the Australian fiction bestsellers chart for October. Also debuting in the top 10 are: Cilka’s Journey, the sequel to Heather Morris’ mega-bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz (also still in the top 10); new thrillers from Christian White (The Wife and the Widow) and Chris Hammer (Silver); new novels from two Stella Prize-winners Charlotte Wood (The Weekend) and Heather Rose (Bruny); and contemporary fiction from Di Morrissey (The Last Paradise) and Tricia Stringer (The Model Wife).

Australian fiction bestsellers: October

  1. Khaki Town (Judy Nunn, William Heinemann)
  2. Cilka’s Journey (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  3. The Wife and the Widow (Christian White, Affirm Press)
  4. The Last Paradise (Di Morrissey, Macmillan)
  5. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins)
  6. Silver (Chris Hammer, Allen & Unwin)
  7. The Weekend (Charlotte Wood, Allen & Unwin)
  8. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  9. Bruny (Heather Rose, Allen & Unwin)
  10. The Model Wife (Tricia Stringer, HQ Fiction)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: October

  1. Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life (Kitty Flanagan, Allen & Unwin)
  2. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  3. When All is Said & Done (Neale Daniher, Macmillan)
  4. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books)
  5. 4 Ingredients Keto (Kim McCosker, 4 Ingredients)
  6. Week Light (Donna Hay, Fourth Estate)
  7. The CSIRO Low-Carb Diet Quick & Easy (Grant Brinkworth & Penny Taylor, Macmillan)
  8. Dustin Martin (Dustin Martin, Hardie Grant Books)
  9. Easy Keto (Pete Evans, Plum)
  10. Your Own Kind of Girl (Clare Bowditch, Allen & Unwin)

© Nielsen BookScan 2019
Period covered: 6 October to 2 November 2019
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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