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Inside the Australian book industry

Gearing up for a virtual Frankfurt

Earlier this year, Australian publishers, booksellers and industry leaders predicted that 2020 would see a growing demand for uplit and practical titles on climate change, as well as health and personal development titles. This has certainly been borne out in global rights sales and acquisitions over the past six months. As Allen & Unwin rights manager Maggie Thompson gears up for this year’s virtual Frankfurt Book Fair, she reports that ‘books that allow people to live better, less anxious and more fulfilling lives are among my top requests from editors and agents’.

But other trends are also emerging. When Black Inc. rights and contracts coordinator Erin Sandiford nominated the categories that she felt were most in-demand, she listed: ‘Literary translation. Big-picture nonfiction, especially optimistic deep dives into how we can fix the world’s social and environmental problems, and how we can connect with nature. More generally, writing by women and people of colour and writing that explores issues of gender, queerness and race, is starting to get the attention it deserves.’ This attention to marginalised voices is starting to come through in publishers’ lists, particularly in children’s and YA titles, where #ownvoices stories are becoming much more commonplace.

In this issue of Think Australian you can read about the latest Australian rights sales, acquisitions, award-winners and bestsellers, including a round-up of the titles that Australian publishers are most excited to be pitching in the coming months. You can also find an overview of the Australian book market here.

International publishers also have a new way of seeking out Australian stories. The Australian Publishers Association has launched its new Books from Australia website, which features a selection of titles from Australian publishers for rights managers to browse.

Once again, we’ve teamed up with Publishers Weekly and BookBrunch to distribute this issue of Think Australian to over 50,000 subscribers. However, if you’re a Publishers Weekly or BookBrunch subscriber and want to receive more frequent updates on the Australian rights market, please sign up here.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Publishing and the pandemic: The Australian book market in 2020

Despite the disruption that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the Australian book industry this year, overall sales figures are looking surprisingly healthy.

For the first eight months of 2020, adult fiction sales were up 12% in value compared to the same period in 2019, and children’s, YA and educational sales were up 7%, according to data from Nielsen BookScan. Only adult trade nonfiction was lagging slightly, with sales down 1%.

For context, the Australian book market recorded A$1.14 billion in sales in 2019, down 3% on the previous year and following five years of marginal growth. However, it’s important to note that these figures do not include ebooks and audiobooks, as their sales aren’t tracked in Australia in any reliable way.

The cost of Covid

‘In general, sales are well up on last year,’ reports the publishing team at Australia’s largest independent publisher, Allen & Unwin. ‘With so many people in lockdown, books have been an important escape, helping both to entertain people and providing a valuable release from the pressures of living with Covid. Since mid-May, book sales have been trending well above this same time last year, ranging from 5% to 34% higher across the Australian market.’

According to Nielsen BookScan, book sales in Australia surged in the week prior to Australia’s first lockdown in April, increasing by 35% in volume and 10% in value compared to the same period in 2019. While sales dropped to their lowest level for the year as the country entered lockdown, they began to pick up again several weeks later.

‘The good news is that Australians are reading more books so this has benefited the industry on the whole, but some have certainly fared better than others in terms of retail,’ says Hachette Australia and New Zealand CEO Louise Sherwin-Stark.

Sherwin-Stark reports that bookshops in major city centres and some shopping centres have struggled, particularly in Melbourne where a second lockdown was imposed in July, while sales for bookshops in suburban strips and regional towns tended to be up on last year. The major winners have been the online retailers and discount department stores.

The pandemic has also had an unequal impact on publishers. According to a Books+Publishing survey, the major publishers appear to have weathered the fallout from Covid-19 better than many of the smaller publishers, particularly those with titles doing well in discount department stores, chains and online retailers.

In contrast, many of the smaller publishers reported significant declines in sales during the country’s lockdown. A notable exception is Melbourne independent Affirm Press, which chose not to delay any of its titles and published Pip Williams’ debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words during Australia’s lockdown, to excellent results.

So what are Australians reading?

Escapist fiction, self-help and children’s books, particularly middle-grade.

‘Australians are turning to escapist fiction for a break from the terrible news cycle and re-engaged light readers are turning to well known and loved brands or books that were charting strongly before Covid,’ says Sherwin-Stark. ‘For example, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was well established in the charts from the beginning of the year and sales have grown over the year.’

Allen & Unwin’s publishing team reports that crime fiction (front and backlist) has been particularly popular over the past six months, along with new fiction from ‘well-loved local and international authors … as people are looking for something they know they will enjoy’.

In the absence of browsing opportunities, established brands, titles and authors were the clear winners. ‘Debut literary fiction has been more challenging,’ says Sherwin-Stark. ‘In normal times, our debut authors would be out and about meeting booksellers and readers on publication, and this has just not been possible.’

Read the full article here.


Lead titles from Australian publishers & agents

With the Frankfurt Book Fair now purely online, Australian publishers and literary agents are gearing up to pitch their titles via the fair’s—and their own—digital channels. Here are some of their highlights:

Adult fiction and nonfiction

The rights team at Penguin Random House Australia (PRH)—Nerrilee Weir, Jordan Meek and Alice Richardson—is excited to be pitching three new nonfiction books that tap into current trends around resilience and sustainability. They are: Jodi Richardson’s Anxious Mums (November), ‘a guide to how mothers can turn their anxieties into strengths’ (Richardson’s Anxious Kids has been licensed in China, Russia, Taiwan, Romania and Germany); Anita Vandyke’s A Zero Waste Family (December) (Vandyke’s A Zero Waste Life has been licensed in North America, China, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Poland and Russia); and The Proof is in the Plants, about adopting a plant-based diet, by popular podcaster and nutritionist Simon Hill.

In fiction, the PRH team’s highlights include two new works of historical fiction: bestselling author Fiona McIntosh’s latest novel The Champagne War (November), set in WWI France; and debut author Tania Farrelly’s The Eighth Wonder.

‘Books that allow people to live better, less anxious and more fulfilling lives are among my top requests from editors and agents,’ says Allen & Unwin rights manager Maggie Thompson. She will be pitching several books in this category, including Note to Self: The Secrets of Calm by Instagram influencer Rebekah Ballagh (November); and Gwendoline Smith’s guides to anxiety, The Book of Knowing and The Book of Overthinking, which are about to be published in the US and UK.

Thompson is also excited about several new novels: a thriller from a former French secret service operative, The Frenchman by Jack Beaumont (early 2021); The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald (early 2021), an ‘emotionally powerful’ novel from the creator of the TV series Offspring; Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna and Bluebird by Malcolm Knox, which ‘offer something for the upmarket fiction market that is doing so well overseas at the moment’; and Death in Daylesford (November), the next instalment in Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series, which has sold over one million copies around the world.

Text Publishing will be putting several new titles on the market for Frankfurt this year, says rights coordinator Lara Shprem. These include translation rights in a new work of nonfiction by Sarah Krasnostein, author of the bestselling The Trauma Cleaner. The Believer (early 2021) explores ‘the lives of people who put their trust in something extraordinary, whatever the odds’. The publisher will also be pitching German author Dirk Kurbjuweit’s new novel The Missing, the story of the notorious serial killer who terrorised Hanover during the Weimar Republic (Text holds world rights ex Germany). Kurbjuweit’s previous novel Fear sold into more than a dozen territories.

‘Big-picture nonfiction that speaks to a social or political moment continues to dominate the international market,’ says Black Inc. rights and contracts coordinator Erin Sandiford, who is excited to sell rights to Recovery: How to build back better after a crisis by Andrew Wear, ‘an optimistic investigation into how the Covid-19 crisis gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better’. She will also be pitching a ‘history-meets-true-crime book’ called Return to Uluru (Mark McKenna, early 2021), about the shooting of an Aboriginal man by a white police officer, which ‘speaks directly to the Black Lives Matter movement, truth-telling and reconciliation’.

Read the full article here.

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Me, Microbes & I

A guide to the viruses, bacteria and other weeny weirdies that share your world.

Find out what they look like, how they grow and what they do—and learn how to get the most out of the good microbes while guarding against microbes that can make you unwell.

Me, Microbes & I provides young readers with a simple and fun guide to how things like bacteria and viruses work in the body. It is packed with handy tips on how to stay healthy, from enjoying fermented foods to taking care of your immune system, and also provides information on how to stop the spread of nasty viruses—including how to cough like a vampire, and the best way to wash your hands.

Me, Microbes & I
Author: Philip Bunting
Publisher: Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing
Rights held: World
Contact: Joanna Anderson
Catalogue available here



‘Thrilling, eerie, fun, and psychologically compelling, Tussaud cleverly blurs the line between history and the fantastical to create a Gothic delight of mysterious mansions, grimy London streets, stage magicians, wax-work automatons, secrets and subterfuges. MARY SHELLEY WOULD BE PROUD.’—H.G. Parry, author of The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep

The reclusive Lord Willian Cavendish invites Marie Tussaud and Philidor to his rambling estate, Welbeck, where he suggests they take up residence, use his underground ballroom for a new show and in return make a human-sized wax automaton for him. In a novel with echoes of Shelley, Dickens, Du Maurier and Sarah Perry, Marie must fight for survival in a world dominated by male advantage and power.

Author: Belinda Lyons-Lee
Publisher: Transit Lounge
Rights held: World
Contact: Barry Scott


Eye of a Rook

In Victorian London, Arthur Rochdale’s wife, Emily, is struck down by a pain for which she can find no words. In desperation, Arthur seeks the aid of Isaac Baker Brown and contemplates the surgeon’s terrifying treatment for ‘hysterical’ women at his London Surgical Home. Almost 150 years later, writer and academic Alice Tennant explores the history of hysteria to make sense of her own mystifying and private pain. Circling ever closer to Arthur and Emily’s story, Alice begins to question her own life and marriage.

This wonderful historical novel is what Lee Kofman calls ‘bold and intellectually tough, and intensely lyrical’. Donna Mazza says Eye of a Rook is ‘raw and intelligent’ while Susan Midalia says it’s ‘courageous and enthralling’.

Eye of a Rook
Author: Josephine Taylor
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Rights held: World
Contact: Jane Fraser
Catalogue available here


Night Blue

Potent, haunting and lyrical, Night Blue is a debut novel like no other, a narrative largely told in the voice of the painting Blue Poles. It is a truly original and absorbing approach to revisiting Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner as artists and people. It is also the story of Alyssa, and a contemporary relationship, in which Angela O’Keeffe immerses us in the essential power of art to change our personal lives and, by turns, a nation. Moving between New York and Australia with fluid ease—the prose carrying us like a leaf on a drifting creek—Night Blue is intimate and tender, yet surprisingly dramatic. It is a glorious exploration of how art must never be undervalued.

Night Blue
Author: Angela O’Keeffe
Publisher: Transit Lounge
Rights held: World
Contact: Barry Scott


Nikolai the Perfect

While post-communist Moscow deals with political transition, Vassili is descending into despair at his wife Anna’s chronic infertility. Following his father Sergey’s footsteps, he travels to Melbourne to teach Russian at a prestigious university. Accompanying him is a wrapped parcel to be delivered to a Helen Dalrymple of Mount Evelyn; a task that proves to be anything but straightforward.

Miscast and adrift in his new home, Vassili awaits Anna’s arrival. Bringing with her devastating news, it is not long until old resentments surface. At an idyllic guesthouse in the Dandenong Hills, the scene is set for a reckoning that will crack the secrets of the parcel Vassili’s father gave him, and blow the family apart.

Nikolai the Perfect
Author: Jim McIntyre
Publisher: Journeys to Words Publishing
Rights held: World



A mesmerising new story about Wolfred, an endearing elevator operator, from the beloved author of the best-selling ‘Very Cranky Bear’ books.

Fancy Pants Tower is the biggest, shiniest building in the city. And Wolfred operates the lift.

Each day he silently observes the extraordinary things he sees as he passes between the floors of the tower. To his boss, Wolfred isn’t important enough to notice. But Wolfred notices everything—big or small, normal or very, very strange …

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel meets Oxenbury’s The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig in this hilariously oddball tale of Wolfred, an endearing elevator operator and writer, and the strange building he works in.

Author: Nick Bland
Publisher: Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing
Rights held: World excluding Korea
Contact: Joanna Anderson
Catalogue available here


The Place Between

Sarah used to know who she was—a doctor, a wife, a mother—but as she prepares for the birth of her second child, she feels set adrift from the life she had planned. When her mother, Beryl, announces she’s coming to Sydney from Perth, Sarah has to contend with more than her own insecurities. She hasn’t told Beryl she’s pregnant. She isn’t sure why not. Sarah’s secretive betrayal could be the final blow in her already fragile relationship with her mother.

On her first day of maternity leave, a mishap at the supermarket leads Sarah to experience her mother’s past firsthand. Her understanding shifts, memory ceases to be reliable and Beryl’s experiences lead Sarah into a tangled web of lost realities and grief.

There are some lies to be untangled.

The reader is taken on a journey spanning three generations as Sarah travels along and across the tendrils of time to get to the truth.

This absorbing read will have you on the edge of your seat, turning the page, looking for the clarity Sarah craves.

The Place Between
Author: Suzanne Moore
Publisher: Journeys to Words Publishing
Rights held: World


Australian children’s, YA titles headed for screen

After a decade in print, Sally Rippin’s bestselling Billie B Brown junior fiction series (Hardie Grant Egmont) is finally heading to the screen. Global production company Fremantle and development partner 720 Creative have acquired screen rights to the children’s book character Billie B Brown, describing the brand as having ‘enormous potential for an international screen audience’. The series, which has sold over five million copies in 14 languages around the world, is just one of many Australian junior fiction and YA adaptations in the pipeline.

Screen rights have also recently been sold for the ‘Real Pigeons’ junior fiction series by Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood (Hardie Grant Egmont), in addition to a number of international rights deals. The books—about a secret squad of crime-fighting pigeons—will be developed by the host of The Late Late Show James Corden into an animated movie and TV series for Nickelodeon.

In YA, recent screen options include a verse novel, a queer coming-of-age story, a psychological thriller and a supernatural trilogy.

Ali Cobby Eckermann’s verse novel Ruby Moonlight (Magabala Books), which explores the impact of colonisation in Australia, has been picked up by production company Arenamedia via Natasha Solomun at The Rights Hive. Arenamedia’s head of development Louise Gough said she was ‘blown away by [the novel’s] form, narrative power, themes and artistic fortitude’.

Holden Sheppard’s award-winning YA novel Invisible Boys, which follows three queer young men in regional Australia, has been optioned for film and television by Australian director Nicholas Verso and producer Tania Chambers via Haylee Nash of the Nash Agency. Sheppard said he and Verso ‘both have very similar ideas about the kinds of gay stories we would desperately love to see more of in the world’.

Jodi McAlister’s supernatural YA trilogy ‘Valentine’ (Penguin Random House Australia), Sarah Epstein’s psychological thriller Small Spaces (Walker Books Australia) and Krystal Sutherland’s A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares (Penguin Random House Australia) have also been optioned for the screen in recent months.

Literary agent Alex Adsett told Think Australian that producers are on the hunt for great middle-grade and YA content, which Australia is delivering in spades. ‘With the success of YA shows like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Sabrina and Riverdale, there’s a proven global market,’ says Adsett. ‘Just in YA, I’ve optioned Welcome to Orphancorp, Valentine and Small Spaces. Otherwise, I’ve been hearing some great producers are snapping up middle-grade series too.’

For the latest Australian rights sales news, click here.


‘The Dressmaker’ sequel among recent Oz acquisitions

Australian publishers have been busy acquiring new titles over the past six months, including a kids’ guide to journalism, a ‘vital, groundbreaking book’ about gender transition, and a highly anticipated sequel to Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker.

Adult fiction acquisitions

A 2015 film adaptation of Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker (Duffy & Snellgrove) sent the novel to the top of the Australian bestseller charts and prompted a flurry of international rights deals. So the news that Pan Macmillan Australia has acquired ANZ rights (via Jenny Darling & Associates) to a sequel was received with great excitement. The Dressmaker’s Secret (November 2020) is set in 1953—the year of the young Queen Elizabeth’s coronation—and moves between the now-ruined Victorian town of Dungatar and fashionable Melbourne.

Also highly anticipated is Pip Williams’ second novel The Bookbinder of Jericho (late 2022), set in the same world as her bestselling debut The Dictionary of Lost Words. Acquired by Affirm Press, The Bookbinder of Jericho follows a young woman who works in the bindery of Oxford University Press during the outbreak of World War I, where she is told that her job is to bind the books, not read them. ‘As The Dictionary of Lost Words deals with the representation of women in language and suffrage, The Bookbinder of Jericho will explore censorship and access to knowledge and opportunity,’ said the publisher.

Allen & Unwin has acquired world rights to author and screenwriter Debra Oswald’s novel The Family Doctor (early 2021) from the Cameron Creswell Agency after a ‘heated’ auction. Pitched as a ‘riveting moral thriller’, The Family Doctor tells the story of a suburban doctor who is devastated by the murder of a friend and her children by the woman’s estranged husband, and is compelled to help patients at risk from their own violent partners.

Several promising debuts have also been picked up by Australian publishers in recent months. Simon & Schuster Australia has acquired ANZ rights (via Catherine Drayton at InkWell Management) to women’s fiction Grace under Pressure by Tori Haschka (early 2021). The novel follows three mothers who move in together after their partners ‘screw up spectacularly’ and create a ‘mummune’—sharing the load of chores, bills and school pick-ups/drop-offs.

Transit Lounge has acquired world English rights to crime fiction The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou via Martin Shaw from Shaw Literary. Introducing what may be Australian fiction’s first Greek-Australian detective, the novel tells the story of a crime that rocks a small Australian outback town, with suspicions falling on the inmates of a nearby detention centre and the local Aboriginal community.

Other promising early-career fiction acquisitions include Sadvertising, the satirical short story collection from Ennis Cehic, which dissects ‘the world of advertising, consumerism and technology’ (world rights acquired by Penguin Random House Australia); and Jamie Marina Lau’s novel Gunk Baby (early 2021), which is set in a suburban shopping centre and explores ‘the anatomy of a suburban climate and the aesthetic, inner eco-systems we create to distract from the outer’. Gunk Baby was jointly acquired by Hachette Australia and Weidenfeld & Nicolson UK.

Adult nonfiction acquisitions

After the global success of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, all eyes will be on a new acquisition from Simon & Schuster Australia. The Nazis Knew My Name (late 2021) is Maya Lee’s biography of her mother, Australian–Slovakian Auschwitz survivor Magda Hellinger, who was chosen as one of the Jewish ‘prisoner leaders’ in charge of the accommodation blocks. S&S Australia has acquired world rights.

Allen & Unwin has acquired ANZ rights at auction (via Jacinta di Mase) to a ‘vital, groundbreaking book’ about gender transition. All About Yves: Notes from a Transition by Yves Rees (early 2022) examines the author’s gender transition, with Rees posing the question, ‘Was I always trans, part boy beneath my skin, or was it that I landed in a place where “girl” was a container so small it could break your bones?’

Scribe has acquired world English-language rights at auction (via Martin Shaw at Shaw Literary) to Tom Doig’s narrative nonfiction book We Are All Preppers Now, which examines the practices of survivalism and doomsday prepping in New Zealand and around the world. Scribe will publish in Australia and the UK in late 2021/early 2022.

Children’s/YA acquisitions

NewSouth Books has acquired ANZ rights to children’s nonfiction book Kid Reporter: The secret to breaking news (2021) from Benython Oldfield at Zeitgeist Agency. Written by journalists Dhana Quinn and Saffron Howden, Kid Reporter will teach children how to research and interview, write and produce, and start their own school newspaper, news website or podcast. Howden said: ‘A key part of improving news and media literacy among young people is teaching them how to produce media themselves. It’s incredibly exciting to be writing a book that will empower kids to better understand how journalism works.’

Penguin Random House Australia has acquired ANZ rights to the ‘hilarious and heartwarming’ YA novel Anything But Fine by Tobias Madden (2021). The novel follows an unlikely friendship between its teenage protagonist, an aspiring ballet dancer recovering from an injury, and the perfect-in-every-way rowing star of his new school.

Affirm Press has acquired world rights to a four-book middle-grade fantasy series by Samantha-Ellen Bound via Danielle Binks and Jacinta di Mase of Jacinta di Mase Management. The ‘Seven Wherewithal Way’ series is pitched as ‘Nevermoor meets Doctor Who with a dash of Howl’s Moving Castle’. The first book in the series (late 2021) follows two sisters whose summer holidays are uprooted when their cousin sweeps them away to a magical house with a portal to another world.

Affirm Press has also acquired world rights to the picture book Our Family Pledge (2021), based on a poem by Emmaline Carroll Southwell that has accumulated millions of views on video sharing platform TikTok. ‘Emmaline’s video struck a chord the minute we saw it,’ said Affirm Press children’s publisher Tash Besliev. ‘Her family credo speaks to the modern family: a poem that encourages acceptance, love and community, all values which many of us are clinging to even more tightly in 2020.’

For the latest Australian rights acquisitions news, click here.


Award-winners among recent rights sales successes

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic putting a halt to international travel, a majority of Australian rights managers and literary agents have reported a stable rights market over the past year, with strong demand for audio and screen rights. Here are some of the highlights.

Adult fiction sales

A major award win and a shortlisting have helped two Australian novels secure rights deals over the past year.

The University of Queensland Press has sold world English language rights (ex ANZ) to Melissa Lucashenko’s 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award-winning novel Too Much Lip to HarperCollins international imprint HarperVia, in addition to Chinese simplified and Italian language rights. Too Much Lip, the sixth novel from the Indigenous author, is a ‘dark and funny’ story about a woman who returns to her hometown after an armed robbery gone awry to farewell her dying father.

Wild Dingo Press has sold Arabic rights and numerous translation rights to the International Booker Prize-shortlisted novel The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Iranian-Australian writer Shokoofeh Azar via Natasha Solomun from The Rights Hive on behalf of The Newman Agency and Wild Dingo Press. US and UK rights were previously sold to Europa Editions. Narrated by a 13-year-old ghost, the novel tells the story of a family fleeing their home in Tehran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Pip Williams’ bestselling debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words has continued to reach new territories over the past year. Its publisher Affirm Press has sold rights to the US (Ballantine), Germany, Holland, South Korea, Spain, Russia and Taiwan, in addition to pre-emptive offers at the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair from Chatto & Windus in the UK and Garzanti in Italy.

Historical fiction author Natasha Lester has been one of Hachette Australia’s greatest exports this year, with the author becoming a New York Times bestseller and securing rights deals in the UK, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Russia, Romania and Sweden. Her latest novel is The Paris Secret.

At Allen & Unwin, rights highlights for the year include the debut thriller The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle and historical fiction Finding Eadie by Carrie Beecham; and in nonfiction, Kitty Flanagan’s comic guide to modern life, 488 Rules for Life; and Anita Collins’ The Musical Advantage, which explores the benefits of learning music for children’s brain development. All of these titles are about to be published in North American and multiple other territories.

Among Text Publishing’s rights highlights from the past year are two forthcoming debuts, which have each sold for six-figure deals. Emily Spurr’s A Million Things—a story about friendship, which centres on 10-year-old Rae, her dog Splints and her neighbour Lettie—was sold to Berkley in North America in a two-book deal, among other territories; while Hugh Breakey’s debut novel The Beautiful Fall—a romance with a memory-loss twist—was sold to Blanvalet in Germany and Fleuve in France.

Adult nonfiction sales

See What You Made Me Do: Power, control and domestic abuse by Jess Hill, which won this year’s Stella Prize for women’s writing, has become an international bestseller for Black Inc. over the past year, with rights sold to the US (Sourcebooks), UK/Commonwealth ex ANZ (Hurst Books), Hungary, Russia, Turkey, Traditional Chinese character, Film/TV (Northern Pictures) and audio (Audible).

Jacinda Ardern: A New Kind of Leader by Madeleine Chapman, a biography of the New Zealand prime minister, has also travelled well for Black Inc., with rights sold to the US (Skyhorse Publishing); UK/Commonwealth ex ANZ (The History Press); Hungary; traditional Chinese character and audio (Ulverscroft).

On a similar theme, Women and Leadership by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard—a ‘robust and lively call to arms examining the role of gender in political leadership’—has secured several international deals for Penguin Random House Australia, which has licensed UK/Commonwealth rights to Transworld and North American rights to MIT Press.

NewSouth Books’ biggest rights deals over the past year have been a US deal for Flames of Extinction: The terrible toll of Australia’s bushfire crisis on Australia’s wildlife and the heroic efforts to save it by John Pickrell to Island Press—it ‘shows the world is watching Australia when it comes to the threat of extinction to our native animals and the catastrophic effects of climate change’, says the publisher—and the continuing global success of Eleanor Gordon-Smith’s Stop Being Reasonable, with recent sales for Japanese and Chinese language rights.

UK rights to Ruby Hamad’s White Tears/Brown Scars (Melbourne University Publishing)—‘a confronting reality check for the privileged position of the white woman’—have been sold to Orion via Rach Crawford and Kate Johnson at MacKenzie Wolf, on behalf of Alex Adsett at Alex Adsett Literary Agency.

Scribe has reported renewed interest in topical backlist titles this year, in particular, Why Aren’t We Dead Yet? by Idan Ben-Barak, an entertaining guide to the immune system, which has been sold into six territories, most recently Taiwan; and The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code by Judith Hoare, the true story of a mental-health pioneer who revolutionised the way we treat anxiety, with recent deals for translation and film rights.

Children’s/YA sales

It’s been a standout year for Australian picture book creator Philip Bunting, with his front and backlist titles selling into multiple territories.

Scholastic Australia has sold rights to Bunting’s 2018 picture book How Did I Get Here?—‘one of the best picture books on evolution,’ according to US publisher Little, Brown—in 17 territories across the US, UK, European and Asian markets.

Meanwhile, Hardie Grant Children’s has sold Bunting’s 2020 book Your Planet Needs You!a ‘highly original nonfiction guide to reducing household waste, presented in a picture-book format’into nine territories, and his picture books Wild about Dads and Wild about Mums to Germany and the Netherlands.

Highlights from Hachette Australia’s children’s list this year include a co-edition for Ben Sanders’ ‘Lento & Fox’ series in the US, with 74,000 copies of My Book (Not Yours) and My Pet (Not Yours) shipped to the States, as well as rights deals in China and Turkey; and Sami Bayli’s The Illustrated Encyclopedia for Ugly Animals, with rights sold in the US, UK, China and Russia, as well as a film option and merchandising agreement.

Allen & Unwin has had international success with its nonfiction picture books I See, I See by Robert Henderson and Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You! by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost, as well as its graphic novels list, in particular the ‘Sherlock Bones’ junior fiction detective series by Renee Treml.

Fremantle Press author Kelly Canby’s picture books continue to find new readers around the world, with her 2018 title The Hole Story, released in nine regions over the past year. Her new books Rodney and Littlelight have also recently been sold into South Korea, Turkey and Taiwan.

Pantera Press’ biggest international success this year has been Lucy Bell’s You Can Change the World, ‘a beautifully illustrated nonfiction title for children aged 8-12, which leads kids on a mission to make our earth a better place’. World English language rights have sold to HarperCollins UK (non-exclusive for North America) and North American English rights to Andrews McMeel, in addition to German, Spanish and Afrikaans rights.

For the latest Australian rights sales news, click here.

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Three Oz titles scoop major awards

Three Australian books have collected several prestigious awards and shortlistings over the past six months: Tara June Winch’s novel The Yield (Hamish Hamilton), ‘a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity’, which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award; journalist Jess Hill’s investigation of domestic violence, See What You Made Me Do (Black Inc.), which picked up the Stella Prize for women’s writing; and Favel Parrett’s novel There Was Still Love (Hachette), which was named Book of the Year at the independent bookseller-voted Indie Book Awards.

A number of up-and-coming Australian authors have been recognised in two local awards: the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists, and the Readings New Australian Fiction Prize, which announced its shortlist in late August.

In genre fiction, the winners of the Davitt Awards for crime books by Australian women, the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Awards and the Aurealis Awards for science fiction, fantasy and horror writing have been announced, as have the shortlists for the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing. Crime fiction authors Adrian McKinty (The Chain, Hachette) and Dervla McTiernan (The Scholar and The Ruin, both HarperCollins) also picked up international awards in recent months.

Australian writer and academic Maria Tumarkin is one of eight recipients of this year’s Windham Campbell Prize, the world’s richest literary prize, for her work in nonfiction, including her latest book Axiomatic (Brow Books).

Picture book wins top prize at ABIAs

Bluey: The Beach—a picture book inspired by the popular Australian children’s cartoon series—became the first children’s picture book to take home the top prize at the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs).

Three children’s books have been selected for the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature: picture book One Careless Night (Christina Booth, Walker Books), junior nonfiction Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing! (Tim Flannery, illus by Sam Caldwell, Hardie Grant Children’s) and junior fiction Super Sidekicks 2: Ocean’s Revenge (Gavin Aung Than, Puffin).

Other recent children’s book award winners include writer/illustrator Shaun Tan, who won the UK’s Kate Greenaway Medal for his picture book Tales from the Inner City (Allen & Unwin); Jack Heath, who won the Ena Noël Award for emerging writers and illustrators for his collection of action stories 500 Minutes of Danger (Scholastic); and Lisa Fuller for her YA thriller Ghost Bird (UQP) and Matilda Woods for her junior fiction The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator (Scholastic), which picked up the Readings YA and children’s book prizes respectively.

The shortlists for the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards have also been released, with the winners announcement due in late October.


Meet UQP rights and contracts manager Kate McCormack

Kate McCormack has been the rights and contracts manager for Brisbane-based independent UQP for the past four years, joining the publisher after 10 years at Penguin Random House Australia and stints in the UK and India. She spoke to Think Australian about her rights list and how Covid-19 has changed the way she works.

How did you get into rights management?

In my 20s I travelled to London on a working holiday visa and started working at Foyles bookshop. I was then lucky enough to be sponsored for a position with a UK literary agency that represented writers such as William Styron, Gitta Sereny and Billy Bragg, along with the books of Arthur Upfield. I did a little rights licensing work, which I discovered I loved.

An international sales and rights job came up with Virgin Books (now an imprint of PRH UK) and it was on to there: working purely on selling rights to often commercial titles such as Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson and even the ‘Black Lace’ erotica series, which was very popular in Germany in those days.

I felt it was time to leave the UK and went to India where I did an internship at a small, independent publishing house. Someone brought my attention to a rights executive position with Penguin Australia and I had my interviews over a mobile phone sitting on a stoop in Chennai. I got the job. I spent approximately 10 years there and when I left my title was rights manager. I’m now rights and contracts manager with UQP.

What do you love most about your job?

A major aspect I find rewarding is garnering international exposure for UQP authors, taking their stories out to the world in as many formats as possible, and bringing in additional income for them. We all know writing is, for most authors, not a highly lucrative occupation. Licensing overseas sales or optioning film rights can result in often unexpected extra revenue, and it makes me very happy to achieve this for writers and illustrators.

Getting to understand in-depth what other countries are interested and not interested in and what’s working in their territories is a fascinating part of the job. You do this by talking with publishers and comparing our markets, which is fun. You often get a real surprise at their cover interpretation. Working in rights you feel at times like an ambassador for Aussie books to the world.

Read the full article here.


Dalton, Pape, Bluey top Australian bestsellers YTD

Trent Dalton’s 2018 debut novel Boy Swallows Universe has topped the Nielsen BookScan’s Australian fiction chart for the year to date, having sold more than 80,000 copies in 2020. Literary, historical and crime fiction are all represented in the top 10, including a number of bestsellers from 2019 or earlier—indeed, only two of the top 10 titles were released this year, Pip William’s debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words and Dervla McTiernan’s crime fiction The Good Turn.

In nonfiction, Scott Pape’s 2016 guide to household finance The Barefoot Investor is the highest selling title for the first eight months of the year after three consecutive years at the top of the chart. This year it has already sold over 90,000 copies. The top 10 also includes three timely titles that explore resilience: Phosphorescence by Julia Baird, The Resilience Project by Hugh van Cuylenburg and The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku.

In children’s books, it’s all about Bluey, with the popular children’s television series making a hugely successful leap into print (the top title alone, Bluey: Big Backyard, has sold over 150,000 copies this year). Also appearing in the top 20 are junior fiction series from Aaron Blabey (‘The Bad Guys’), Anh Do (‘Wolf Girl’ and ‘Ninja Kid’) and Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (‘Treehouse’).

Australian fiction bestsellers 2020 YTD

  1. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, Fourth Estate)
  2. The Dictionary of Lost Words (Pip Williams, Affirm Press)
  3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo)
  4. The Good Turn (Dervla McTiernan, HarperCollins)
  5. Cilka’s Journey (Heather Morris, Echo)
  6. The Nowhere Child (Christian White, Affirm Press)
  7. The Yield (Tara June Winch, Hamish Hamilton)
  8. The Ruin (Dervla McTiernan, HarperCollins)
  9. The Weekend (Charlotte Wood, Allen & Unwin)
  10. Bruny (Heather Rose, Allen & Unwin)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers 2020 YTD

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, Wiley)
  2. Phosphorescence (Julia Baird, HarperCollins)
  3. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala)
  4. A Bigger Picture (Malcolm Turnbull, Hardie Grant Books)
  5. The Resilience Project (Hugh van Cuylenburg, Penguin)
  6. Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life (Kitty Flanagan, Allen & Unwin)
  7. The Pie Maker (Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks)
  8. 4 Ingredients Keto (Kim McCosker, 4 Ingredients)
  9. The Happiest Man on Earth (Eddie Jaku, Macmillan)
  10. Women and Leadership (Julia Gillard & Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Vintage)

Australian children’s/YA bestsellers 2020 YTD

  1. Bluey: Big Backyard (Puffin)
  2. Bluey: Time to Play! (Puffin)
  3. Bluey: The Beach (Puffin)
  4. Bluey: The Creek (Puffin)
  5. Bluey: Bob Bilby (Puffin)
  6. Bluey: Fruit Bat (Puffin)
  7. Bluey: Easter Fun! (Puffin)
  8. Bluey: All About Bluey (Puffin)
  9. Bad Guys Episode 11: The Dawn of the Underlord (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  10. WeirDo #14: Vote Weirdo (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  11. Bluey: All About Bingo: A Shaped Board Book (Bluey, Puffin)
  12. Bluey: My Dad is Awesome: By Bluey and Bingo (Bluey, Puffin)
  13. Wolf Girl #2: Great Escape (Anh Do, Allen & Unwin)
  14. Wolf Girl #3: Secret Cave (Anh Do, Allen & Unwin)
  15. Wolf Girl #1: Into the Wild (Anh Do, Allen & Unwin)
  16. Ninja Kid #5: Ninja Clones (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  17. The 117-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  18. E-Boy #1:E-Boy (Anh Do, Allen & Unwin)
  19. The 13-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  20. Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes Board Book (Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury, Puffin).

© Nielsen BookScan 2020
Period covered: 29 December 2019 to 29 August 2020
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide

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