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Inside the Australian book industry

Uplit and practical climate change titles predicted for 2020

When Books+Publishing asked Australian publishers, booksellers and industry leaders to share their predictions for 2020, uplifting fiction and nonfiction were widely predicted, as well as titles that offer practical solutions to address the climate catastrophe—particularly in the wake of Australia’s devastating bushfires. Several respondents also referred to the recent growth in Indigenous-authored books—both in Australia and internationally—as well as the ongoing popularity of health and personal development titles. For younger readers, respondents also predicted a demand for practical titles on sustainable living, as well as stories that provided comfort and humour in these anxious times.

In our first Think Australian newsletter for 2020 you’ll find a range of these titles on display, from our latest rights sales and acquisitions, award-winners and bestsellers to our London Book Fair preview.

This year we’ve made a few changes to Think Australian. We’ve combined our adult and junior editions to bring you one comprehensive monthly newsletter.

We’ve also partnered with Publishers Weekly and BookBrunch to distribute four special editions ahead of the London Book Fair, Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair and Shanghai Children’s Book Fair to over 75,000 subscribers. Six further issues of the newsletter will focus on Australian exports in key categories, including books with romance; crime and thrillers; and health, self-help and wellbeing titles. If you’re a Publishers Weekly or BookBrunch subscriber and want to make sure you receive each monthly issue, please sign up here.

Finally, if any international friends would like to help the Australian book community in raising funds for bushfire relief, there are still several ongoing campaigns. Dymocks Childrens Charities is running a national Bushfires Appeal to fund new books for students, schools and communities affected by bushfires; and Scribble publisher Miriam Rosenbloom has set up Art for Wildlife, an online store selling open-edition prints by illustrators that will raise money to address the long-term ecological impact of the fires. These initiatives follow the extraordinary #AuthorsForFireys campaign, which raised around $500,000 for bushfire relief.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Lead titles for LBF from Australian publishers & agents

A number of Australian publishers and literary agents will be heading to this year’s London Book Fair in March, with some taking their own stands, others joining their parent company stands, and yet more roaming the halls as they travel between meetings.

Black Inc. publisher and international director Sophy Williams is heading to London with high hopes for a number of titles, including Australian author Dennis Glover’s novel Factory 19 (July)—which Williams says is attracting a lot of interest following the success of his previous novel The Last Man in Europe—and the latest novel from French novelist Hannelore Cayre, author of The Godmother. Black Inc. has world English-language rights to Cayre’s forthcoming Richesse Oblige, translated by Stephanie Smee.

In nonfiction, Williams will be presenting Jingjing Xue’s Shanghai Acrobat (August), ‘a major autobiography in the tradition of Mao’s Last Dancer’, which tells the story of an orphan boy who performed in Mao’s circus before escaping to Australia; and Linda Jaivin’s The Shortest History of China. ‘Given the international success of John Hirst’s The Shortest History of Europe—sold in twenty territories—we have high expectations for this one,’ says Williams.

Allen & Unwin rights manager Maggie Thompson is particularly excited about two nonfiction titles that she will be bringing to LBF. Stoic by Andrew Charlton and Brigid Delaney (September) will appeal to publishers looking for ‘smart self-help’. ‘Charlton and Delaney investigate and contemporise the ancient wisdom of the Stoics in this fresh look at an ideology invested in virtue, moderation and self-discipline,’ says Thompson. ‘These Greek and Roman philosophers, who spent their lives working out mindfulness techniques and ways to be happy, might well have been the Western world’s first wellness gurus.’

Read the full article here.

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Dunera Lives: Profiles

The story of the ‘Dunera Boys’ is an intrinsic part of the history of Australia in the Second World War and in its aftermath. The injustice these 2000 men suffered through British internment in camps at Hay, Tatura and Orange is well known. Less familiar is the tale of what happened to them afterwards. Following on from Dunera Lives: A Visual History (2018), Dunera Lives: Profiles continues the saga in life stories. 

This second volume presents the voices, faces, and lives of 20 people, who, together with other internees from Britain and Singapore, landed in Australia in 1940.

An important contribution to the history of Australia, to the history of migrants and migration, and to the history of human rights.

Dunera Lives: Profiles
Ken Inglis, Bill Gammage, Seumas Spark and Jay Winter with Carol Bunyan
Publisher: Monash University Publishing
Rights held: World
LBF stall: 6A 109


The Fatal Lure of Politics: The Life and Thought of Vere Gordon Childe

A new and radically different biography of the Australian-born archaeologist and prehistorian, Vere Gordon Childe (1892-1957).

In Britain, with the publication of The Dawn of European Civilisation (1925), Childe began a career that would establish him as preeminent in his field and one of the most distinguished scholars of the mid-twentieth century. At the same time, his aim was to ‘democratise archaeology’, to involve people in its practice and to reveal to them What Happened in History (1942), the title of his most popular book. It sold 300,00 copies in its first 15 years. 

This is a book about the central place of socialist politics in his life, and his contribution to the theory of history that this politics entailed. 

The Fatal Lure of Politics: The Life and Thought of Vere Gordon Childe
Author: Terry Irving
Publisher: Monash University Publishing
Rights held: World
LBF stall: 6A 109


Oil Under Troubled Water

In May 2018 Bernard Collaery, a former Attorney-General of the Australian Capital Territory and long-term legal counsel to the government of East Timor, was charged by the Australian Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions with conspiracy to breach the Intelligence Services Act 2001. He was forbidden from talking about the charges against him, but under parliamentary privilege independent MP Andrew Wilkie revealed what has since been described as ‘Australian politics’ biggest scandal’.

Oil Under Troubled Water relates the sordid history of Australian government dealings with East Timor, and how the actions of both major political parties have enriched Australia and its corporate allies at the expense of its tiny neighbour and wartime ally, one of the poorest nations in the world.

Oil Under Troubled Water
Author: Bernard Collaery
Publisher: Melbourne University Press
Rights held: World


Popular Art and the Avant-Garde: Vincent van Gogh’s Collection of Newspaper and Magazine Prints

When Vincent van Gogh picked up his pencil and set out on his artistic career, it was not with the intention of becoming a leader of the avant-garde art world. Rather, his aims centred on earning a reasonable wage and living within the middle-class norms of his family. His hope was to become an illustrator of magazines and newspapers. He collected more than 2000 black-and-white prints, predominantly from English publications.

Vincent Alessi reveals for the first time how van Gogh’s collection acted for him as both inspiration and manual. These popular images are shown to have palpably shaped his art, throughout his career, and to discover new understandings of a life and body of work that continue to intrigue and inspire.

Popular Art and the Avant-Garde: Vincent van Gogh’s Collection of Newspaper and Magazine Prints
Author: Vincent Alessi
Publisher: Monash University Publishing
Rights held: World
LBF stall: 6A 109


The Powerbroker: Mark Leibler, an Australian Jewish Life

From the ashes of the darkest event in human history, Australian Jews built a thriving community, one with proportionally more Holocaust survivors than anywhere else in the world bar Israel. Mark Leibler grew up in this community, and in time became a leader of it. This book shows how he rose to a position of immense influence in Australian public life by skilfully entwining his roles as a Zionist leader and a tax lawyer.

This many-layered book is a portrait of Jewish life in Australia, of the interaction between private wealth and politics, and of a man whose energy, formidable work habits and forcefulness that often tips into pugnacity have made him a highly effective player in Australian affairs. 

The Powerbroker: Mark Leibler, an Australian Jewish Life
Author: Michael Gawenda
Publisher: Monash University Publishing
Rights held: World
LBF stall: 6A 109


Where is Claris in Paris!

A brand-new search-and-find series starring Claris, the chicest mouse in Paris!

With a quarter of a million Claris books in print, readers can’t get enough of this stylish little mouse! Now she’s back in a brand-new collection, ‘Where is Claris’—a search-and-find spin-off series that takes Claris through the famous landmarks of her favourite cities.

Her first stop is Paris, the city of lights! Can you find Claris and her fashionable animal friends in fabulous Parisian places such as the patisserie, the florist and the carousel? Young readers will be enchanted from beginning to end, with delightful surprises to seek out on every spread and beautiful homages to the French fashion capital woven throughout.

Where is Claris in Paris!
Author: Megan Hess
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Rights held: World, excluding US/Canada/UK


Debut novel sold into multiple territories; children’s guide to changing the world snapped up

Fiction sales

International rights to Pip Williams’ forthcoming debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words (Affirm, April) have sold in multiple territories, including UK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ) to PRH imprint Chatto & Windus, US rights to PRH imprint Ballantine, German-language rights to PRH imprint Heyne Verlag and Italian-language rights to Garzanti, with international territories expected to publish in 2021. All deals were negotiated by Linda Kaplan of Kaplan DeFiore Agency. Based on historical events, Williams’ novel follows a curious girl collecting words dropped by her father and his team of lexicographers who are developing the very first Oxford English Dictionary.

North American rights to Genevieve Gannon’s recently published novel The Mothers (Allen & Unwin) have sold to HarperCollins imprint William Morrow via Jeanne Ryckmans from Cameron’s Management, with a TV option also snapped up. The Mothers takes its inspiration from a real-life IVF laboratory mix-up, and follows ‘the dilemma of two couples, one baby and an unimaginable choice’.

Ventura Press has sold UK rights to Katherine Johnson’s novel Paris Savages to independent publisher Allison and Busby, which will publish the novel in the UK in late 2020. Paris Savages is based on the true story of three Indigenous Australians who were taken to perform as part of ethnographic exhibitions in Europe in the 1800s. The sale was negotiated by Ben Fowler at Abner Stein.

Nonfiction sales

Independent publisher Black Inc. has sold international rights to a number of nonfiction titles in the past few months. These include: investigative journalist Jess Hill’s acclaimed study of domestic abuse, See What You Made Me Do—UK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ) to Hurst Publishers and North American rights to Sourcebooks (a TV series is also in the works); Andrew Wear’s Solved! How other countries have cracked the world’s biggest problems and we can tooworld rights (ex ANZ) to Oneworld UK; James Adonis’ The Motivation Hoax: A smart person’s guide to inspirational nonsenseUK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ) to The History Press; and a biography of the New Zealand PM, Jacinda Ardern: A new kind of leader (Madeleine Chapman)—UK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ and audio) to Aurora, North American rights to Skyhorse and Hungarian-language rights to Alexandra Kiadó via DS Budapest.

Read the full article here.


Hardie Grant, UQP acquire books from Indigenous experts

Nonfiction acquisitions

Hardie Grant Travel has acquired world rights to Fire Country, a memoir from Indigenous fire practitioner Victor Steffensen, and has fast-tracked publication for mid-February 2020. Steffensen said, ‘With the rise of climate change and devastating wildfires degrading our landscapes, this book is written in the hope that people will reconnect with the land and prevail against one of the world’s toughest environmental challenges in its history.’ Publisher Melissa Kayser said, ‘Once I understood how much of what’s happening across Australia is in fact avoidable, I felt it was necessary to bring this knowledge to a wider audience as soon as possible.’

The University of Queensland Press has acquired world rights to two books by leading Indigenous scholars: visual artist Fiona Foley’s Biting the Clouds (September 2020), which researches the historical practice of paying Indigenous people in opium; and public intellectual Chelsea Bond’s critical essay collection Another Day in the Colony (early 2021), which is named after a Twitter hashtag Bond created to highlight the everyday nature of colonial violence and structural racism in Australia, in particular, the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Murdoch Books has acquired world rights to a new cookbook from internationally renowned Australian restauranteur, food writer and ‘creator of avocado toast’ Bill Granger, and will publish Bill Granger Australian Food in October 2020 to mark the 20th anniversary of Granger’s first cookbook bills Sydney Food. ‘Bill Granger is an international superstar and his contribution to the world’s love affair with Australian food and the Australian way of life is nothing short of extraordinary,’ said Murdoch Books publishing director Lou Johnson.

Black Inc. has acquired world rights to The Unauthorised Biography of Lachlan Murdoch by author and journalist Paddy Manning (early 2021). The publisher said the book will investigate Murdoch—the eldest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch—and where he will take the family empire.

Fiction acquisitions

Brow Books has acquired ANZ rights to debut graphic novel Stone Fruit by Montreal-based Australian comics artist Lee Lai (early 2021). Alessandra Sternfeld at comics literary agency Am-Book was responsible for the deal, with North American rights also selling to Fantagraphics Books and French-language rights to Editions Sarbacane. Stone Fruit follows queer couple Bron and Ray who ‘enjoy their role as the weirdo aunties for Ray’s niece Nessie’.

Read the full article here.


Marchetta’s Printz-winning YA novel to be adapted for TV

Melina Marchetta’s 2006 YA novel On the Jellicoe Road (Penguin Australia)—which was published in the US by HarperCollins and awarded a Printz Award for excellence in YA literature—is being adapted for TV. The project is a co-production with the US’s Wild Sheep Content, Germany’s ZDF Enterprises and Australia’s Werner Film Productions. The story follows teenager Taylor Markham, who leads a boarding school underground community amid a territory war between the boarders, the locals and the cadets who train in the area.

Emily Bitto’s Stella Prize-winning novel The Strays (Affirm) will be adapted into a six-part drama series by producers See Pictures (Australia/US) and Apogee Pictures (UK). Inspired by a community of Australian modernist artists in Melbourne in the 1930s, The Strays explores what happens when a violent act in the past is linked to the death of a young woman in the present.

Australian production company Aquarius Films has acquired film rights to comedian Matt Okine’s debut novel Being Black ‘N Chicken, & Chips (Hachette Australia), about a teenager growing up while dealing with his mother dying. Principal producer Angie Fielder said the novel has ‘all the great makings of a family film—a coming-of-age, rite-of-passage story that will appeal to teenagers and also parents’.

Read the full article here.


Christos Tsiolkas’ ‘Damascus’ wins best fiction at VPLAs

The winners of the prestigious Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced. Christos Tsiolkas’ Damascus (Allen & Unwin) picked up the prize for fiction, Sea People: The puzzle of Polynesia (Christina Thompson, HarperCollins Australia) for nonfiction, Nganajungu Yagu (Charmaine Papertalk Green, Cordite Books) for poetry and How It Feels to Float (Helena Fox, Pan Macmillan Australia) for YA.

Ilka Tampke’s historical fantasy Songwoman (Text) has won the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award (MUBA), which is designed to uncover ‘hidden gems’. The judges described Songwoman—set in Britain during Roman occupation—as a ‘wonderfully escapist epic, bound to draw in lovers of historical fiction and fantasy—with an engaging narrative and a relatable hero’.

Read the full article here.


‘Boy Swallows Universe’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top 2019 Australian charts

Trent Dalton’s multi-award-winning debut novel Boy Swallows Universe and Scott Pape’s 2016 guide to household finance The Barefoot Investor have topped the Australian fiction and nonfiction charts for 2019—the third year running for Pape’s bestseller. Historical fiction continues to perform well for Australian authors, with Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey both making it into the Oz fiction top 10, along with Judy Nunn’s Khaki Town and Fiona McIntosh’s The Diamond Hunter. Crime thrillers were also represented by two bestselling debuts: Jane Harper’s 2016 novel The Dry and Christian White’s The Nowhere Child. In nonfiction, Bruce Pascoe’s 2014 book Dark Emu—which reexamines colonial myths around Aboriginal Australians—has found a huge audience several years after it was first published, while comedian Kitty Flanagan’s comic guide to life, Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life, was a 2019 Christmas bestseller.

Australian fiction bestsellers 2019

  1. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins)
  2. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  3. Khaki Town (Judy Nunn, William Heinemann)
  4. Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty, Pan)
  5. Cilka’s Journey (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  6. The Last Paradise (Di Morrissey, Macmillan)
  7. The Diamond Hunter (Fiona McIntosh, Michael Joseph)
  8. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  9. The Rosie Result (Graeme Simsion, Text Publishing)
  10. The Nowhere Child (Christian White, Affirm Press)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers 2019

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books)
  3. Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life (Kitty Flanagan, Allen & Unwin)
  4. Easy Keto (Pete Evans, Plum)
  5. When All is Said and Done (Neale Daniher, Macmillan)
  6. 4 Ingredients Keto (Kim McCosker, 4 Ingredients)
  7. The Barefoot Investor for Families (Scott Pape, HarperCollins)
  8. James Cook (Peter FitzSimons, Hachette)
  9. Any Ordinary Day (Leigh Sales, Hamish Hamilton)
  10. Against All Odds (Craig Challen & Richard Harris, Penguin)

© Nielsen BookScan 2020
Period covered: 30 December 2018 to 28 December 2019
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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