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Inside the Australian book industry

Uplit, environment trending ahead of Frankfurt

While Frankfurt returns as an in-person fair this year, Australian rights managers and literary agents will be participating virtually once again as international travel remains difficult for those of us Down Under. That said, the Australian Publishers Association will be hosting a small physical stand showcasing new titles from 23 Australian publishers (say g’day at Hall 6.0 Stand A33). This will be supported by a virtual stand and rights catalogue, which will be uploaded to the Books from Australia website ahead of the fair.

There’s a strong environmental theme running through this issue of Think Australian, which features Australian climate change fiction and nonfiction, and children’s books that explore the natural world. It’s also prominent in our feature on Australian illustrated nonfiction, which includes a number of new books on plants and nature—think titles such as The Plant Clinic by Lovell Verinder (Thames & Hudson Australia), The Language of Houseplants by Cheralyn Darcey (Rockpool Publishing) and Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs.

There’s also a lot of joy to be found in Australia’s latest acquisitions—from a swathe of new uplit to the intriguingly titled nonfiction acquisition This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch (Tabitha Carvan, HarperCollins Australia, March 2022), which is pitched as an ‘irrepressibly clever and uplifting book about the role of joy in women’s lives’.

We also round-up the latest Australian rights sales, award-winners and bestsellers, and interview Germany-based Australian literary agent Martin Shaw.

As previously, this issue of Think Australian is being distributed by Publishers Weekly and BookBrunch. For more information on Think Australian and to sign up directly, click here.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian


The bigger picture: Australian books respond to climate change

It’s hard to find a theme more urgent in publishing today—and one that unites fiction and nonfiction—than climate change.

Australian independent publisher Black Inc. has been particularly active in publishing books about the environment and climate change—and its titles have been picked up by numerous publishers around the world. ‘Books about the environment—particularly books about human–nature connections and climate change—have been dominating the big-picture nonfiction sector for a couple of years,’ says Black Inc.’s rights and contracts manager Erin Sandiford. ‘Everyone wants the definitive book on the climate emergency.’

Since Australia’s Black Summer bushfires in 2019–20, Sandiford has noticed a surge in international interest in Australia’s experience of the climate emergency. ‘Those photographs of koalas caught in burning trees went global and really did come to reflect solastalgia,’ says Sandiford. ‘As Bronwyn Adcock, author of Currowan: The story of a fire and a community during Australia’s worst summer, which we’ve just sold to the UK, says, “Australia is (unfortunately) a poster child for what happens in a climate-changed world.”’

Black Inc. has three new titles that tackle climate change from different perspectives. Witnessing the Unthinkable: Notes from the front line of the climate crisis (September 2022) by Joëlle Gergis, the lead author of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, is pitched as ‘an insider’s account of what it’s like to be among a group of the world’s elite climate scientists trying to avert disaster at humanity’s eleventh hour’. Full Circle: A search for the world that comes next by former Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam offers ideas for a more humane and sustainable world, collected from the author’s years of activism, study and travel. And designer Lucianne Tonti’s Sundressed: Natural fibres and dressing consciously in a world on fire (July 2022) taps into the growing trend for sustainable fashion—and offers an important contribution to climate change literature, with clothing responsible for almost 10 percent of global emissions.

Sandiford also reports that Black Inc. has had ‘great rights success’ with Andrew Wear’s ‘big-picture environment books’, Solved: How other countries have cracked the world’s biggest problems and we can too and Recovery: How we can create a better, brighter future after a crisis.

Scribe is well known for its incisive literary nonfiction (‘We publish books that matter’ is the company’s motto). In November it will publish Jeff Sparrow’s Crimes Against Nature: Capitalism and global heating, ‘a polemic about global warming and the environmental crisis’, which argues that ‘ordinary people have consistently opposed the destruction of nature and so provide an untapped constituency for climate action’. With examples from Australia and around the world, this title is bound to have international appeal.

Other recent and wide-ranging nonfiction titles that explore climate change include Summertime by philosopher Danielle Celermajer (PRH Australia), a collection of essays written in the shadow of Australia’s recent bushfires, which looks at our relationship with the planet’s living beings; Living with the Anthropocene (ed by Cameron Muir, Kirsten Wehner & Jenny Newell, NewSouth), in which some of Australia’s best-known writers and thinkers ‘reflect on what it is like to be alive during an ecological crisis’; Windfall: Unlocking a fossil-free future by Ketan Joshi (NewSouth), which investigates why Australia’s climate change efforts have failed—and how the rest of the world can learn from our mistakes; and Fire Country: How Indigenous fire management could help save Australia (Hardie Grant), a ‘powerful account from Indigenous land management expert Victor Steffensen’, with lessons for other countries.

New in fiction

While climate fiction has been around for many years (the term ‘cli-fi’ first gained popularity in the early 2010s), 2020 saw a surge in new Australian titles—a trend that has continued in 2021.

One of the cli-fi titles that kicked things off last year was Chris Flynn’s cult novel Mammoth (UQP)—a history of earth narrated by a 13,000-year-old extinct mammoth, which ‘scrutinises humanity’s role in the destruction of the natural world’. The buzz was considerable, with a cover quote from Elizabeth Gilbert.

Several impressive titles followed: Kate Mildenhall’s The Mother Fault (S&S), a literary thriller set in a climate crisis, which was nominated for several awards, and Robbie Arnott’s ‘eco fable’ The Rain Heron (Text), which has sold into North America, UK, France and Norway. The latter recently won the Age Book of the Year Award, with judge Gay Alcorn describing it as ‘hugely imaginative and lyrical, but also grounded in some deeper issues about the climate and what human beings do to [it]’.

This year, two of Australia’s most promising new writers—Miles Allinson and Briohny Doyle—have set their second novels against a backdrop of climate change. Allinson’s In Moonland (Scribe) offers a portrait of three generations grappling with their own mortality, from the wild idealism of the 70s to a climate-ravaged near future; Doyle’s Echolalia (Vintage Australia), meanwhile, concerns a family on the verge of disintegration in a time of climate crisis. ‘While Briohny Doyle’s second novel Echolalia is less overtly end-of-days than her first (The Island Will Sink, Brow Books), it still carries a sense of desolation that speaks to Doyle’s preoccupations with domestic unrest and climate catastrophe,’ writes reviewer Bec Kavanagh.

Also exploring the fallout from climate change is Clare Moleta’s debut Unsheltered (Scribner), which follows a woman’s search for her daughter against a background of social breakdown and destructive weather.


‘Magical Australian light’: Rights successes and recent titles from Australian illustrated nonfiction publishers

Australia’s leading publisher of books on the visual arts, Thames & Hudson Australia, has been publishing—and exporting—local titles for many years.

‘We find there is a real thirst for Australian illustrated books in the international market,’ says publisher Kirsten Abbott. ‘Thames & Hudson usually publishes at the higher end of the market, but even the most practical topics can turn into books that are objects of beauty in their own right. Our photography is bold and often carries the magical Australian light within it. We also have some of the freshest thinking designers in the world here.’

While the publisher’s larger format art and interior design titles—such as the forthcoming Anna Spiro: A life in pattern—tend to sell into English-language territories through Thames & Hudson’s global distribution network, the Australian office has had a number of recent successes in translation markets. These include David Coles’s illustrated history of colour, Chromatopia, which has sold into Korea, Germany, Poland, Japan and Hungary; David Harrison’s anthology of furniture, fabric, lights and decorative objects, A Century of Colour in Design (France, Korea and Japan); and Plants for the People by Erin Lovell Verinder, a beginner’s guide to plant medicine (Russia and Germany). Ahead of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, Abbott is particularly excited to be pitching Lovell Verinder’s follow-up, The Plant Clinic, which she says is ‘ahead of the game in taking plant medicine mainstream’.

‘Everything old is new again,’ says Abbott when asked about current trends in illustrated publishing, citing a growing interest in New Age titles that ‘reinterpret ancient wisdom for a new audience’. ‘Readers are also enthusiastic about good reads, accessible information, beauty and luxury,’ Abbott adds. ‘Books are a luxury and have answered many needs during Covid times.’

Also renowned for its illustrated nonfiction list, Hardie Grant Australia’s most successful international exports (excluding its food and drinks list) are concentrated on design and interiors, with sales primarily in Europe but also some ‘promising deals’ in China and Korea. The publisher distributes its own titles in the UK and US.

‘We sell a large volume of our list internationally via co-editions, and we have seen particular success with our illustrated fashion series with Megan Hess, selling a huge number of individual rights deals globally across her list, and countless reprints,’ says Hardie Grant Australia managing director Roxy Ryan. The publisher is currently pitching a new series from Hess to international publishers, as well as an upcoming interiors book Style: The art of creating a beautiful home by Natalie Walton (May 2022).

Illustrated books on nature and gardens have also been popular for Hardie Grant Australia, with several deals in Europe for its books on garden photography, Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs, and flower design, A Tree in the House by Annabelle Hickson. Books that include global or European content usually do well, notes Ryan, with buyers looking for ‘beautiful design on a contemporary subject at a reasonable price’.

Other Australian publishers publishing and exporting adult illustrated nonfiction include NewSouth Books, Rockpool Publishing and Murdoch Books.

NewSouth will be pitching Glass: The life and art of Klaus Moje (December 2021) ahead of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. Written by art historian Nola Anderson, it’s the first major in-depth publication on internationally acclaimed glass artist Klaus Moje, and associate publisher Harriet McInerney believes the book will have widespread international appeal. ‘The stunning kiln-formed glass artworks of German-born Klaus Moje are collected internationally and represented in over 60 public collections worldwide,’ she says.

Rockpool has several new illustrated nonfiction titles on ‘the power of plants’ that will appeal to international publishers. The Language of Houseplants by Cheralyn Darcey combines practical gardening advice on popular houseplants with vintage artwork, while Plants of Power by Stacey Demarco and Miranda Mueller and From Earth by Charlotte Rasmussen (April 2022) offer how-to guides for growing, and using, garden apothecaries.

While its illustrated exports tend to focus on food and drink titles, lifestyle publisher Murdoch Books—a division of Australia’s largest independent Allen & Unwin—has seen worldwide success for its illustrated guide to managing anxiety, The Panic Button Book by Tammi Kirkness, which has sold into North America, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Korea and China. ‘Over the last 18 months there has been strong demand for titles that help people get through lockdown,’ says Murdoch’s new publishing director Jane Morrow.


Exploring the natural world: Australian picture books and children’s nonfiction with an environmental theme

Australian artist and mother of three Kat Macleod was inspired by the challenge of entertaining small children during lockdown to create her first picture book for Thames & Hudson Australia. The Tiny Explorers takes readers on a treasure hunt through the garden, exploring the natural world—including grass, leaves, bugs and flowers—up close through what the publisher describes as the artist’s ‘luscious mixed media artwork’. ‘After such a strange 2020, with so many months spent in lockdown and our children limited to playing in our small backyard, it shows that if you use your imagination, you can still have big fun in a tiny space,’ says Macleod.

The Tiny Explorers is one of several new Australian picture books that inspire closer attention to the natural world.

Alison Binks’s picture book 9 things to remember (and one to forget) (Berbay) explores some of the small natural wonders of the world, from the moon’s control of the tides to the joy of waking up to birdsong, with beautiful watercolour illustrations. It’s clearly a theme close to the heart of the author, whose previous picture book, Night Walk, tells the story of a little boy’s night out under the stars while camping.

When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna, illustrated by Judy Watson (Allen & Unwin, March 2022), celebrates the joys of childhood play as two brothers seek adventure in the natural world. (‘When you’re older we’ll ride together on our bikes through the jungle. We’ll see snakes on branches of trees.’) ‘This beautiful book gives us the life we’d all love our children to have, out in the natural world, revelling in its beauty and truly being part of it,’ says Australian children’s author Alison Lester.

Internationally published children’s book author and street artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers offers a quirky take on the theme. His forthcoming picture book Everything You Want to See (Fremantle Press, April 2022) presents ‘an eclectic range of items that kids will find fascinating—like a tiger in a car, a bin that stinks and a giant cake’.

A number of new nonfiction books also help to feed young readers’ curiosity about the world around them.

This year, Hardie Grant Egmont has been pitching Explore Your World: Weirdest creatures in time by Tim and Emma Flannery (illus by Maude Guesne), the third book in a children’s nonfiction series about nature and the environment (the first two books were Weird, Wild, Amazing and Deep Dive into Deep Sea). The series offers a ‘deep-dive into the natural world’ peppered with ‘bizarre facts and vibrant illustrations’.

No Way! by Dan Marshall (Pantera Press, October), aimed at readers aged eight and up, promises plenty of ‘mind-blowing facts’ about the world around us (topics include earth, science, humans, space, animals and maths), with a trusty robot sidekick leading kids through the text with ‘challenges and questions’. It’s ‘beautifully designed, and with appeal to kids around the world’, says the publisher.

Australia’s Astronomer-at-Large Fred Watson takes young readers on a tour of the universe in his first book for kids, Spacewarp: Colliding comets and other cosmic catastrophes (November), answering such questions as ‘Why do stars twinkle?’, ‘Is there life beyond Earth?’ and ‘What’s the chance of a catastrophic collision with a killer asteroid?’ Watson’s previous books have sold in numerous countries and NewSouth believes this one will have worldwide appeal.

A nonfiction book for emerging environmentalists, The Australian Climate Change Book by Polly Marsden and Chris Nixon (Hachette Australia, October) ‘aims to demystify climate change for very young readers, with accessible and reassuring illustrations and facts’ as well as ideas for how they can help make a difference.

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Evie and Rhino

When Evie finds a fully-grown rhinoceros washed up on a beach, she feels an immediate connection and knows she has to help him. When Rhino wakes, he knows that the small, golden-haired child in front of him will save his life. Side-by-side, these unlikely friends form a bond capable of overcoming the tragedies that saw one in chains and the other lose her parents and unable to speak. A moving tale for middle-grade readers about love, connection and the healing powers of friendship

Evie and Rhino
Author: Neridah McMullin
Illustrator: Astred Hicks
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Rights held: World, all languages
Contact: Clare Hallifax
Catalogue available here.


Gustav and Henri: Volume #1

Opposites attract in this humorous graphic novel series about best friends Gustav and Henri.

Gustav is a goofy, optimistic and naively enthusiastic pig. Henri is a grounded, pragmatic and quietly sceptical dog. They are as drawn to each other as they are to the weird and ridiculous. Which is a lot.

Whether it’s venturing into space to find a lost shuttlecock, or shrinking to the size of microbes to fight a cold, Gustav and Henri are always up for a madcap adventure, so long as they have each other.

With the irresistible humour of Dog Man and the value of Real Pigeons (with three stories in one volume), this is the perfect series for kids who love comics and funny stories.

Gustav and Henri: Volume #1 (cover image—draft)
Author: Andy Matthews
Illustrator: Peader Thomas
Publisher: Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing
Rights held: World, ex US and Canada
Contact: Joanna Anderson
Catalogue available here.
Please contact us to arrange a virtual meeting.


How We Love

A deeply personal exploration of love in all its forms from a feminist icon and bestselling author of Fight Like a Girl and Boys Will Be Boys.

This lyrical memoir explores love in its many forms. With an open heart, Ford writes about losing her adored mother far too young, about the pain and confusion of first love—both platonic and romantic—and the joy and heartache of adult love. She writes movingly about the transformative journey to motherhood and the similarly monumental path to self-love. ‘We love as children, as friends, as parents and as sexual beings, and none of it is more important than the other because all of it shows us who we are.’

How We Love
Author: Clementine Ford
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Rights held: World, ex ANZ
Contact: Jacinta DiMase
Catalogue available here.


YA, graphic novels among recent international sales

Lisa Fuller’s multi-award-winning YA novel Ghost Bird (UQP), which previously won the David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer, has been sold to UK independent publisher Old Barn Books for publication in the UK and Commonwealth (ex Canada and ANZ).

‘I knew Ghost Bird had attracted prizes and praise from people I respected in Australia, but it was only when I received the manuscript that I realised how strongly Lisa’s powerful writing was rooted in her community,’ said Old Barn Books publisher Ruth Huddleston. ‘The voice of a First Nations Australian author has been missing from the Old Barn Books growing list of Australian fiction and I’m so excited to be able to bring Lisa’s writing to a UK audience.’

UQP publisher Clair Hume said: ‘After being so well received in Australia, we can’t wait to see Ghost Bird published in other territories where more readers can enjoy this important, edge-of-your-seat novel.’

Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing (HGCP) has sold North American rights to The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name by Sandhya Parappukkaran and Michelle Pereira—a picture book that encourages young readers to embrace their individuality—to Abrams Books following a ‘competitive’ four-way auction. The deal was managed by the Annabel Barker Agency on behalf of HGCP. Abrams acquiring editor Courtney Code said Parappukkaran and Pereira ‘have made picture book gold in this exploration of how good friendships invite us to be our authentic selves’.

Australian graphic novel publisher Twelve Panels Press has sold world English rights (ex ANZ) to Safdar Ahmed’s Still Alive to Fantagraphics—the first rights sale for the small press, which was established in 2015. Interweaving journalism, history and autobiography, Still Alive is the result of Ahmed’s visits to Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, where he met, talked and drew with people who arrived in Australia by boat.

Big Sky Publishing has sold international rights to several titles on its growing fiction and nonfiction lists, including Hungarian rights to The Music Maker of Auschwitz IV by Jaci Byrne; Hungarian and Italian rights to Steve Matthew’s historical novel Hitler’s Brothel; and Italian rights to Jason Foster’s The House of Shudders (Italian sales via Randle Editorial & Literary Consultancy).

Alex Adsett has sold world English rights (ex ANZ) to Trent Jamieson’s forthcoming fantasy novel The Stone Road to New York publisher Erewhon and ANZ rights to Brio Books. The novel, due in 2022, is pitched as a ‘haunting, lyrical fantasy set in a harsh world of grit and monsters’.


‘Ginnie & Pinney’ educational children’s series optioned for TV

Big Sky Publishing’s educational children’s series Ginnie & Pinney, Learn & Grow has been optioned for development as a television series by Australian animation studio Moody Street Productions. Created by writer Penny Harris and animator Winnie Zhou, the eight-book series, released in 2020–21, encourages ethical thinking, empathy and EQ for children aged 3–8. The books will be developed into an animated series for Australian and international distribution.

‘Penny Harris and Winnie Zhou’s fabulous series feels very timely, discussing themes of wellbeing, inclusiveness, fairness, friendship, responsibility and more,’ said Emily Randle from Randle Editorial & Literary Consultancy, the rights representative for Big Sky Publishing. ‘With characters from all over the world, this series is deliberately international in order to appeal to children wherever they are in the globe.’ Rights to the series have been sold to Thunderbird in Korea.

Clementine Ford’s nonfiction book Fight Like a Girl (A&U) has also been acquired for TV by Aquarius Films in a deal negotiated by Jacinta DiMase Management. The production company will develop the book for television as a comedy–drama series of six 30-minute episodes, centred around ‘future feminist icon 15-year-old Bel Jones’. Published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in September 2016, Fight Like a Girl has sold over 65,000 copies locally and was published in the US and UK by Oneworld Publications.


Debut buzz: new authors attract major deals

A number of debuts have been picked up by Australian publishers in recent months amid significant buzz.

Hachette Australia has acquired world rights to two crime novels by Canberra debut author Shelley Burr in a ‘hotly contested’ international auction. The six-figure, two-book deal was struck between Hachette Australia head of fiction Rebecca Saunders, Hodder & Stoughton crime and thriller publisher Jo Dickinson and Sarah McKenzie at Sarah McKenzie Literary Management. US rights were sold to Rachel Kahan at William Morrow by Sarah Brooks at Hachette Australia.

The first book Wake (2022) is described by Hachette as ‘a searing crime novel’ about a rural NSW farming community still haunted by the unsolved disappearance of a nine-year-old twin girl 20 years ago. Saunders said she’d ‘been wanting and waiting to read a rural noir novel as good as Wake since trying to acquire The Dry along with every other publisher in Australia’. ‘I finally found that jewel with Wake, which is not only an unputdownable murder mystery but also a character-driven emotional drama. It’s a powerful and unsparing story of how trauma ripples outward when people’s private tragedies become public property.’

Penguin Random House Australia (PRH) has acquired ANZ rights to former music journalist Kate Scott’s debut novel Compulsion (2023), in a deal agented by Benython Oldfield at Zeitgeist Agency. Compulsion centres on Lucy, a woman in her early twenties, who bows out at the height of a promising career in the music industry to retreat to a remote seaside town. ‘Before long she has assembled a small cast to recreate her old life in hothouse miniature, full of claustrophobic entanglements and pill-blasted afternoons.’ ‘It’s notoriously hard to write elegantly about twenty somethings, sex, drugs, music and love, but Kate Scott has done it,’ said Oldfield. PRH publisher Meredith Curnow said of the manuscript: ‘I had the same feelings as when I first read The Secret History.’ 

Ultimo Press has acquired world rights to two books by debut novelist Zoë Coyle, in a deal brokered by Jeanne Ryckmans of Cameron’s Management. Where the Light Gets In (2022) is the story of Delphi Hoffman, ‘a wildchild living in London … finally getting her somewhat deliciously messy life together’ when she is called home to Australia to help her terminally ill mother prepare for ‘a good death’. Ultimo publisher Alex Craig said: ‘We believe Zoe has an incredible future. Her voice is unique—authentic, full of wit, wise and gracious. Where the Light Gets In is a novel women will relate to as mothers, daughters, sisters, friends.’

Penguin Random House Australia has acquired Australian rights to a debut novel and collection of essays from Jessica Zhan Mei Yu, in a four-way auction. The deal was struck between PRH publisher at large Nikki Christer and Sophie Scard at United Agents, in a joint deal with Jonathan Cape, which acquired UK and Commonwealth rights. Yu’s debut novel But the Girl (2023)—which was shortlisted for the prestigious Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award—is a coming-of-age story that follows a young Malaysian-Australian woman from childhood to adulthood. Exploring themes of belonging, identity, relationships, girlhood and home, the novel is ‘about learning to be at home in the world even when it won’t make a home for you’.

Finally, Allen & Unwin (A&U) has acquired ANZ rights to a new novel by Robert Lukins—whose 2018 debut The Everlasting Sunday was nominated for multiple awards—from Grace Heifetz at Left Bank Literary, in a ‘heated auction’. A&U publisher Jane Palfreyman said: ‘Two women stand in the shallows, a man dead at their feet, while around them buildings burn. How they come to be there, and the price they pay for their courage, is gradually revealed as this mesmerising novel unfolds. We are so proud to be publishing Robert and this superb, compelling novel.’


Uplit dominates recent fiction acquisitions

Hachette Australia has acquired world rights to two uplifting ‘family dramedies’ by Toni Jordan, author of numerous award-winning, bestselling novels, including Addition, Nine Days and Our Tiny, Useless Hearts (all Text). The deal was struck between Hachette head of fiction Rebecca Saunders and Jane Novak of Jane Novak Literary Agency.

The first novel is titled Dinner with the Schnabels (2022) and is the story of a family of ‘flawed people who often get things wrong but deep down, they love each other and they’re trying their best’. ‘No other Australian author quite matches [Jordan’s] ability to combine great comedic writing with deep insight into family, love and relationships,’ said Hachette CEO Louise Sherwin-Stark.

Simon & Schuster Australia (S&S) has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to two adult rom-coms by Jodi McAlister, author of the YA series ‘Valentine’, via Alex Adsett Literary. Here for the Right Reasons (2022) and Can I Steal You for a Second? are two ‘adorable romantic comedies’ set on the same season of a reality dating show being filmed during a pandemic. ‘Sweet, romantic and so much fun, these novels are the perfect tonic for what we’ve all been going through these past 18 months,’ said S&S commercial fiction publisher Cassandra Di Bello.

Affirm Press has acquired world rights to Australian journalist Carrie Cox’s latest novel So Many Beats of the Heart (2022)—‘a wonderfully warm and witty novel about a marriage counsellor [whose] husband abruptly leaves her’—via Lyn Tranter at Australian Literary Management. ‘Carrie Cox’s writing is exactly what we’re looking for—smart, funny uplit which, for all its lightness of touch, shares some deeply insightful truths about humanity, love and relationships,’ said Affirm commercial publisher Kelly Doust.

Hachette Australia has acquired ANZ rights to Sydney author Dianne Yarwood’s debut novel The Wakes (2023) in a ‘hotly contested’ international auction. The six-figure, two-book deal was struck with Catherine Drayton at InkWell Management, while UK and Commonwealth rights (ex ANZ) were sold to Francesca Main at Phoenix, an imprint of Orion. This ‘wry, moving and uplifting novel’ follows the lives of two strangers: Clare, who is recently separated and working in her neighbour’s funeral catering business; and Chris, an emergency doctor who ‘feels compelled to attend the occasional wake’. Hachette fiction publisher Rebecca Saunders described the novel as ‘emotionally rich, warm-hearted and funny’.


Modern families, joy and koalas: latest nonfiction acquisitions

A new acquisition at NewSouth Publishing offers a ‘meticulously researched and highly accessible deep-dive’ into 21st-century families. The publisher has acquired ANZ rights to Kin: Family in the 21st century by journalist Marina Kamenev (2022) via Melanie Ostell Literary, which will investigate how traditional ideas of family are changing, by exploring ‘childless couples, single-parent families, rainbow families, adoptions, surrogacy, IVF, freezing eggs, sperm donors, embryonic rights, “designer babies” created with CRISPR technology, and more’.

This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch is pitched as an ‘irrepressibly clever and uplifting book about the role of joy in women’s lives’ by journalist Tabitha Carvan, who draws on her experience of unexpectedly falling for British actor Cumberbatch to explore ‘what happens to women’s passions after we leave adolescence’. HarperCollins Australia has acquired ANZ rights in a deal brokered by Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management, with acquiring publisher Catherine Milne drawing comparisons to the writing of Jon Ronson, Caitlin Moran and Lisa Taddeo.

Black Inc. has acquired world rights to biologist and natural history author Danielle Clode’s new book on ‘the hidden life of koalas’, via Jenny Darling & Associates. Black Inc. publisher Sophy Williams said she’s ‘tremendously excited to work with Danielle on this groundbreaking book on the koala’, adding that the book is pitched at readers of Helen Macdonald, Sy Montgomery and Peter Wohlleben.

Pictured: Marina Kamenev


Lohrey wins Miles Franklin Literary Award for seventh novel

Amanda Lohrey has won Australia’s prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award for her seventh novel The Labyrinth (Text), ‘the work of a major novelist at the peak of her powers’, according to her publisher Michael Heyward.

The Labyrinth tells the story of Erica Marsden, who retreats to a quiet hamlet near the prison where her son has been incarcerated, where she obsesses over creating a labyrinth by the ocean. ‘The Labyrinth is an elegiac novel, soaked in sadness,’ said the judges. ‘It is a beautifully written reflection on the conflicts between parents and children, men and women, and the value and purpose of creative work.’

Two finalists for this year’s Miles Franklin Award have picked up other literary prizes in recent months. Nardi Simpson has won the Australian Literature Society (ALS) Gold Medal and the Queensland Premier’s Fiction Award for her debut novel Song of the Crocodile (Hachette), an intergenerational family saga set in a rural town undergoing social and environmental change; and Robbie Arnott has won the Age Book of the Year for his second novel The Rain Heron (Text), a lyrical novel grounded in deeper issues about climate change.

The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards winners and honour books were announced in August. The winners include Davina Bell’s YA novel The End of the World is Bigger than Love (Text), Kate Gordon’s middle-grade novel Aster’s Good, Right Things (Riveted Press), and picture books No! Never! (Libby Hathorn & Lisa Hathorn-Jarman, illus by Mel Pearce, Lothian) and How to Make a Bird (Meg McKinlay, illus by Matt Ottley, Walker).

Other awards announcements in recent months include:


Meet literary agent Martin Shaw

Since moving from Australia to Germany in 2015, former book buyer Martin Shaw has established himself as a literary agent, first as ‘an understudy’ to Alex Adsett, and subsequently as the founder of Shaw Literary. He spoke to Think Australian.

How did you become a literary agent?

I’m a book trade person through and through, so when I found myself moving to Germany for family reasons, I thought it might be a way of keeping my hand in an industry I love. So I became something of an understudy to the ace Queensland literary agent Alex Adsett and off I went. It was a steep learning curve though, after only having seen the industry from the retail bookselling perspective, and selling my first books did indeed take quite some time! But, as it’s turned out, it’s simply ideal for me: spruiking fantastic books is what I simply love doing.

What do you love most about your job?

There is nothing quite as satisfying as identifying something simply superb (Adriane Howell’s Hydra from Transit Lounge next year comes to mind), proselytising about it as best as I can, and then for those that matter in the whole equation—the commissioning editors—becoming equally passionate. So those emails that arrive from time to time with ‘OFFER’ in the subject line? I’m bouncing off the walls at that point!

What titles are you currently pitching to international publishers?

Splice in the UK picked up world rights to an incredible new Australian talent in Adam Ouston and his debut novel, Painting the Face of Chaos, which, among other things, recounts Harry Houdini’s visit to Australia in 1910 and one of the very first controlled aircraft flights that he undertook during his tour. I’m barracking hard from the sidelines for this one and telling every publisher I know about it!

What have been your biggest international rights successes over the past year?

I was immensely proud to help facilitate the sale of Peter Papathanasiou’s extraordinary crime fiction debut The Stoning (Transit Lounge) to the MacLehose Press, which has just been released to deserved acclaim. Meanwhile, to see one of the finest Oz fictions in recent years—Jen Craig’s Panthers & the Museum of Fire—land at bold emerging US publisher Zerogram was also immensely gratifying.

Which title or author on your list do you believe deserves greater recognition overseas?

You might not have heard of her yet, but New Zealand author Sue Orr made a huge and deserved splash in her native country earlier this year with Loop Tracks (Victoria University Press), and an Oz edition (Upswell Publishing) will appear early next year. I prophesy that that’s just the beginning! And in Australia, Yumna Kassab brings an Arabic approach to storytelling that, in its cumulative impact, is some of the most powerful fiction I’ve ever come across. She has Australiana coming in 2022 followed by a drop-dead novella, The Lovers, in 2023 (both Ultimo Press).

How has Covid-19 changed the ways you make contacts and sell rights?

The collegiality of the physical fairs is of course sorely missed, and all the opportunities that arise out of chance meet-ups and get-togethers (actually the seed of that Papathanasiou sale took place at one London fair). But everyone’s in the same boat, so email and Zoom it is, inevitably!

What are you currently reading?  

It’s an incredible year for literary biographies, so I’m reading those of Walser, Sebald and Pessoa all simultaneously right now! And at last, recent Miles Franklin shortlistee Daniel Davis Wood’s At the Edge of the Solid World (Brio Books).


Williams, Pape, Bluey top Australian bestsellers 2021 YTD

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams has topped the Australian fiction bestsellers for the year to date (YTD), selling more than 66,000 copies in 2021 so far, edging out Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton, which has sold more than 40,000 for the year. Dalton’s 2020 follow-up All Our Shimmering Skies sits at number six on the Australian fiction bestsellers for 2021 to date, while Jane Harper also boasts multiple titles in the top 10. Released this year, Michael Robotham’s When You Are Mine and Jacqueline Bublitz’s debut Before You Knew My Name are the newest titles on the chart.

In Australian nonfiction, Scott Pape’s financial advice continues to reign supreme, with The Barefoot Investor selling more than 72,000 copies in 2021 so far, years after its 2016 release. The perennial bestseller comes in ahead of The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku, which has sold more than 60,000 copies YTD. Another long-term bestseller, Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, published in 2018, remains in the top 10 Australian nonfiction bestsellers. The newest title on the charts is Norman Swan’s 2021 health and wellbeing guide So You Think You Know What’s Good for You?

In Australian children’s books, the bestsellers charts are dominated by series, but even more so by Bluey. So comprehensive is the hold of the cartoon character on the Australian charts that Nielsen provides children’s chart data with Bluey titles removed. Across the eight picture books and Bluey activity books from the pre-school and picture books category, Bluey titles have sold 392,000 copies for the year so far.

Australian fiction bestsellers 2021 YTD

  1. Dictionary of Lost Words (Pip Williams, Affirm)
  2. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, Fourth Estate)
  3. The Dry: Film tie-in (Jane Harper, Pan)
  4. The Survivors (Jane Harper, Pan)
  5. Honeybee (Craig Silvey, A&U)
  6. All Our Shimmering Skies (Trent Dalton, Fourth Estate)
  7. The Dry (Jane Harper, Pan)
  8. When You Are Mine (Michael Robotham, Hachette)
  9. The Lost Man (Jane Harper, Pan)
  10. Before You Knew My Name (Jacqueline Bublitz, A&U).

Australian nonfiction bestsellers 2021 YTD

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, Wiley)
  2. The Happiest Man on Earth (Eddie Jaku, Macmillan)
  3. The Easiest Air Fryer Book (Kim McCosker, 4 Ingredients)
  4. Phosphorescence (Julia Baird, Fourth Estate)
  5. So You Think You Know What’s Good for You? (Norman Swan, Hachette)
  6. She’s on the Money (Victoria Devine, Penguin Life)
  7. The Resilience Project (Hugh van Cuylenburg, Penguin Life)
  8. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala)
  9. Air Fryer Express (George Georgievski, Plum)
  10. Un-Cook Yourself (Nat’s What I Reckon, Ebury).

Australian children’s and YA bestsellers 2021 YTD (excluding pre-school and picture books)

  1. The Bad Guys Episode 13: Cut to the Chase (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  2. Ninja Kid #7: Ninja Toys! (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  3. The 130-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  4. Wolf Girl 5: Across the Sea (Anh Do, A&U)
  5. Wolf Girl 4: Traitor (Anh Do, A&U)
  6. Weirdo #16: Tasty Weird (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  7. Wolf Girl 1: Into the Wild (Anh Do, A&U)
  8. The Treehouse Jokebook 2 (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  9. Wolf Girl 2: The Great Escape (Anh Do, A&U)
  10. Wolf Girl 3: The Secret Cave (Anh Do, A&U).

© Nielsen BookScan 2021
Period covered: 3 January 2021 to week ending 28 August 2021.

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