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Inside the Australian book industry

We love books for kids

Coming to you from a country that has seen sales of children’s books boom in recent years, we are so pleased to share news and new books from the world of children’s and YA publishing in Australia in this Bologna issue of Think Australian, which is produced in partnership with the Australian Publishers Association (APA) and is also being distributed by Publishers Weekly and BookBrunch.

At the fair, look out for 11 publishers on the Australian Collective Stand, which will be managed again this year by Rome-based Australian bookseller, publisher and translator Kabita Dhara. Also attending will be literary agencies Annabel Barker Agency and the Bold Type Agency, while several publishers will be exhibiting on the virtual stand on the APA’s Books from Australian website. If you’re in Bologna, you’re invited to the Australian stand party: the Australian Collective Stand is located at Hall 25, Stand A87, and the party will be held on Tuesday, 7 March from 5-6pm.

This year at the fair 13 Australian illustrators and authors will be participating in the APA’s creators table. Among them is Jess Racklyeft, who was awarded one of two SCBWI International scholarships to attend the fair.

In the meantime, catch up on the titles publishers will be pitching across picture books, children’s fiction, children’s nonfiction and YA. Meet Racklyeft, literary agent Annabel Barker, and the winner of this year’s APA Beatrice Davis Fellowship Sophie Splatt, who is researching graphic novels for the fellowship, learn more about the Australian market in 2022, and see what Australian books are bestsellers in the market so far this year.

We also have recommendations from Australian creators and the latest local acquisitions and sales in children’s and YA.

Happy reading!

—the Books+Publishing team

Think Australian is produced by Books+Publishing with support from the Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts and the Office for the Arts.

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Who’s at Bologna? Come meet them at the party!

Publishers attending the Bologna book fair in person on the Australian Publishers Association (APA) Australian Collective Stand are Allen & Unwin, Berbay Publishing, CSIRO Publishing, Five Mile, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, Interactive Publications, Magabala, Pascal Press, Scribble, UQP and Windy Hollow Books.

They will be joined on the stand by literary agencies the Annabel Barker Agency and The Bold Type Agency, as well as 13 Australian illustrators and authors who will be participating in the APA’s Creators table: Davina Bell, Kelly Canby, Isobelle Carmody, Tony Flowers, Jane Godwin, Carla Hoffenberg, Alison Lester, Lucia Masciullo, Josie Montano, Jess Racklyeft, Gabrielle Wang, Anna Walker, Inda Ahmad Zahri.

As in 2022, the stand will again be managed by Italy-based Australian publishing professional Kabita Dhara.

In addition, the following publishers will be exhibiting on the virtual stand on the Books from Australia website: Scale Free Network, Wakefield Press, Text Publishing, Angel’s Leap, Fremantle Press, Storytorch Press, Melbournestyle Books and Serenity Press.

Other Australian publishers attending the fair on their individual stands include Exisle Publishing, Elk Publishing, Hachette Australia, Lake Press, Pantera Press, Scholastic Australia and Wild Dog Books.

Come meet the Australian attendees at this year’s fair. The Australian stand will host a party on Tuesday 7 March from 5-6pm.

Pictured: Kabita Dhara

Logo for the Bologna Prize

The Australian publishers shortlisted for the 2023 Bologna Prize

Australian publishers Affirm Press, EK Books, Magabala Books, Starfish Bay and Wilkins Farago have been shortlisted in this year’s Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year in the Oceania category. For Affirm Press, EK Books and Magabala it is the second shortlisting in a row.

The winners will be announced at the fair. To view the shortlists in each region, see the BCBF website.


2022 Australian Market Overview

The Australian book market is trading well above the last pre-Covid year of 2019 after three consecutive years of growth. Sales of books in Australia grew 7.2% last year to A$1.3 billion, up from A$1.26 billion in 2021, according to Nielsen BookData, while the total number of unit sales for 2022 was 70.9 million, an 8.2% year-on-year increase.

Last year’s growth was driven by a boom in sales of adult fiction (19.4%), led by interest in titles by #BookTok phenom Colleen Hoover, while the children’s category also performed strongly (up 7.7%), boosted by sales of Alice Oseman’s ‘Heartstopper’ series following the Netflix adaptation in May; graphic novels were also up 34%. Nonfiction saw small growth of 0.4%, supported by the sales of the atlases, maps and travel category, which was up 51% at $16.3 million—boosted by the return of international travel.

Although growth in the nonfiction category was lower than fiction and children’s, nonfiction still represents the largest portion of the market at 44%, with children’s at 29% and fiction at 27%. Australian cook Nagi Maehashi’s RecipeTin Eats: Dinner (Macmillan), which set a debut-week record during its publication week in October, was 2022’s highest selling title by value, with $4.4 million sales from 164,000 units sold.

By volume, there were three Australian titles in the overall top 10 bestselling books in Australia in 2022: Barefoot Kids (HarperCollins), by personal finance expert, and bestselling author of The Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape, was the third-highest selling book overall; Maehashi’s RecipeTin Eats: Dinner was fifth; and crime novelist Jane Harper’s latest book featuring The Dry’s federal investigator Aaron Falk, Exiles, was sixth. In total, four Colleen Hoover books made the top 10; Hoover was the highest selling author by value, with $18.3 million from 1.2 million units sold.

The strong year of sales was capped off by another robust Christmas selling season. Nielsen BookScan’s results for the Christmas period largely reflect the main trend of 2022, which was overall sales growth on the back of a strong performance in the adult fiction category.

According to Nielsen BookScan, Australian book retailers sold 9.5 million titles in the four weeks to Christmas, up from 9.1 million in the same period of 2021, with a value of A$188.7 million, up from A$180.8 million the previous year.

The strong sales performance was led by gains in sales of adult fiction titles, up 8.5% by volume and 9.7% by value for the Christmas period. Sales of children’s titles were also up, growing 5.8% by volume and 4.2% in value. Sales of nonfiction titles were flat, down 0.1% by volume and up 1.6% in value.

A strong Christmas selling season for bookshops is a good sign that customers are returning to bricks-and-mortar bookshops after being sent online during the pandemic. Booktopia, Australia’s largest online book retailer, has had a torrid time since floating on the Australian Stock Exchange in December 2020, with the share price dropping from A$2.80 at launch to around 20c at the start of 2023. Despite turmoil last year, which saw Booktopia founder Tony Nash ousted from the CEO role, Nash was re-elected to the company board in November, and Booktopia’s share price rallied in February after the business announced a plan to boost its profitability, which includes 30–40 redundancies, as well as the company’s announcement it has secured funding for its new distribution facility.

PubTrack Digital Australia, a new ebook sales tracking service launched by Nielsen Book Australia in 2021, indicated that lockdowns the previous year prompted growth in ebook sales, with sales peaking during the first Covid lockdowns in April and up by more than 26% on April 2019. Major publishers have reported to Books+Publishing that ebook sales have since dropped off for the majority, and have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Ebook sales account for an average of 11% of total sales for major Australian publishers.

The industry is beginning its efforts to diversify with the Australian Publishers Association releasing the first baseline survey on diversity and inclusion in August; and both publishers and booksellers are examining next steps to reduce their environmental footprint. The book trade has also welcomed a new national cultural policy recently announced by the Australian federal government, which includes the establishment of a new literature funding body, Writing Australia, a long-awaited expansion of the country’s lending rights scheme to compensate creators for ebook and audiobook library borrowings, as well as the establishment of a national poet laureate.

Top 10 titles in 2022

  1. It Ends With Us (Colleen Hoover, S&S)
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens, Hachette)
  3. Barefoot Kids (Scott Pape, HarperCollins)
  4. It Starts with Us (Colleen Hoover, Simon & Schuster)
  5. RecipeTin Eats: Dinner (Nagi Maehashi, Pan Macmillan)
  6. Exiles (Jane Harpe, Pan Macmillan)
  7. Verity (Colleen Hoover, Hachette)
  8. Atomic Habits (James Clear, PRH)
  9. Ugly Love (Colleen Hoover, S&S)
  10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid, S&S)

© Nielsen BookScan    Period covered: 2 January to week ending 31 December 2022
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from over 1,500 retailers nationwide 


First Nations YA to look out for

A debut young adult title by Lystra Rose, a descendant of the Guugu Yimithirr, Birri Gubba, Erub and Scottish nations, took out the prestigious $25,000 Indigenous writing prize in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. The Upwelling (Lothian) is the outcome of Rose’s research over many years and of her time as a participant of the black&write program, which partners Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander editor and writers to develop new work.

‘Hachette is honoured to partner with black&write! and couldn’t be more excited about the inspiring and innovative work, like The Upwelling, coming through the program,’ said Hachette head of children’s publishing Jeanmarie Morosin, who praised Rose for ‘her incredible talent and the absolute dedication she showed to all aspects of this book’.

Grace Lucas-Pennington, a senior editor at black&write!, said the program was ‘thrilled to be part of the journey for this incredible book’.

‘Lystra Rose has spent years researching and talking to First Nations knowledge holders to incorporate First Nations culture and language into an electrifying and gutsy story that will inspire, and educate, young people for generations to come. Congratulations Lystra, this feels like just the beginning!’

While readers await Rose’s next offering, Magabala, which has also been a past partner with the black&write! program has a new offering in YA to look out for: Tracks of the Missing by Carl Merrison & Hakea Hustler (Magabala Books) is ‘a gripping First Nations thriller’, according to Frances Atkinson writing in the Age newspaper.

Also in First Nations YA is Borderlands by Graham Akhurst (UWA Press) is ‘a blending of mythic, gothic horror, with a strong message of conservation and connection to land’ according to Bold Type Agency.


Junior and middle-grade fiction offerings

In junior fiction on offer at Bologna this year, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing has Monsties: The Lost Bunny (Zanni Louise & Kyla May) featuring Orla, Pearl, Mig, Boo and Oops—five best friend monsters who live in Scaryland, surrounded by scary monsters, but who are hopeless at being scary. They much prefer candy and cupcakes to spiders and centipedes. From UQP in junior fiction comes Leo & Ralph (Peter Carnavas), in which Leo finds that saying goodbye to an imaginary friend is harder than dreaming one into the world. How will Leo make a new start with an imaginary friend who refuses to give up on him? And from the creators of the Real Pigeons comes the ‘joyous early graphic novel series about four twigs and their adventures’, Hello Twigs (Andrew McDonald & Ben Wood, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing), which celebrates ‘friendship and emotional expression, and explores wanting independence and needing the safety of home’.

In middle-grade, look out for the two new fantasy series: The 113th Assistant Librarian by Stuart Wilson (Melanie Ostell Literary/Penguin Random House Australia) is the first in a new series from the author of Prometheus High (Bold Type Publishing), and The Quest for the Galleon of Time (MidnightSun Publishing) is a debut from Tanya Hunter (Bold Type Publishing).

In standalone middle-grade, Anna Feinberg, author of Tashi, has a ‘new heart-warming standalone for teens’ called Picasso and the Greatest Show on Earth (A&U), in which a blossoming friendship between two new school students, who each have a secret loneliness, helps one another surface through grief, find their voice and reconnect with happiness. Also from A&U is Two Sparrowhawks in a Lonely Sky, the latest by Rebecca Lim, publishing locally this year (Annabel Barker Agency).

Also in middle-grade, Victor Kelleher returns with his second title in 15 years, The Cave (Christmas Press/Bold Type Publishing); Nim’s Island author Wendy Orr offers Honey and the Valley of Horsesan adventure with a touch of fantasy … in which a family escapes a diseased world by living in a magical valley, but later choose to return to save those they love’; and Anita Heiss brings us Koori Princess (fiction, 7–12) (Magabala Books) introducing Teish, a sassy, soon-to-be 8-year-old who believes more than anything, that she is a Disney princess. But will her siblings accept her being a feisty Koori Princess?

Also from Magabala comes Uncle Xbox (Jared Thomas), ‘a coming-of-age story for young gamers [7–12], that offers gentle insights into growing up, family and finding your place in a digital world. Or not.’; and Bindi by Kirli Saunders, a verse novel for ages 7–12.

Illustrated juvenile fiction

This Camp is Doomed (Anna Zobel) is an illustrated middle-grade novel due from PRH this year, represented by Annabel Barker Agency, which also has a new illustrated middle-grade title from Judith Rossell.

Hairy Holes by Brenton E McKenna (Magabala Books) is a graphic novel for ages 8+  about ‘two hairy hole people living ordinary lives until their world is lifted up and tossed on its rear when a lost tourist named Joplin stumbles upon them with promises of friendship and help to search for their parents’. Also in graphic novels for 8+ is Scarygirl: The Origin Story Film tie-in (Nathan Jurevicius, A&U), the basis for a new film releasing in the US in August this year, with the tie-in including new creative content.

From Berbay comes Moth in a Fancy Cardigan (Berbay) an illustrated ‘funny, insightful coming-of-age story, told from the unlikely but utterly relatable perspectives of a moth and a butterfly’.

Finally, from UQP comes a middle-reader illustrated verse novel: The Dance of the Kraken, the Singing of the Sea is by award-winning author Zana Fraillon and is an ‘utterly unique story about two brothers separated by life and death who refuse to let each other go’.


Pitching pictures at Bologna

Experiences in nature fill many of the picture books on offer from Australian publishers at Bologna this year. Thank you rain! (Sally Morgan & Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr, Magabala Books) is full of the plants and animals that welcome rain: raindrops in the treetops; birds singing in the rain; raindrops wetting the dry earth and filling creek beds; birds, and frogs all enjoying the rain. Also from Magabala, Silver Leaves (Gladys Milroy) tells the story of Owl and Night Parrot, who are both nocturnal. They have a lovely big tree well away from all the noisy birds, until one day they are woken up by the birds fighting over space in their tree–a story about conservation, working together and hope.

In Night Ride (Sally Soweol Han, UQP), a boy heads home with his mother after a busy day in the city. There’s so much noise! When they need to make a stop because the bus has a flat tyre, the boy follows a firefly and discovers a peaceful world of nature sounds and sweetness. In Cloudspotting (Samantha Tidy & Susannah Crispe, Windy Hollow Books), a father and daughter share a special time catching crabs but also treasuring being on the water and appreciating what is around them. And in The Garden at the End of the World (Cassy Polimeni & Briony Stewart, UQP), Isla finds a rare plant and her mother tells her about a vault hidden in a frozen mountain on the other side of the world. Soon the mother and daughter head off to deliver their precious parcel to the garden waiting at the ‘end of the world’.

Animals are a focus in Brilliant (Rosi Ngwenya & Sandy Flett, Riveted Press) which offers an insight into the life cycle of an ant ‘in a truly humorous and educational way’, according to Bold Type Agency, as well as in Little Shark Lulu is Sleeping (Interactive Publications) which is ‘a gentle introduction to the importance that sharks play in keeping our marine environment sustainable’, while in Alice the Kangaroo (Interactive Publications) Alice’s mob leave her in the dust, and she spends most of the book trying to catch up with them—with the help of a friendly galah.

Connection and culture

Connection, friendship and culture are at the heart of several picture books on offer at Bologna. The Month That Makes the Year (Inda Ahmad Zahri) is a picture book exploring the month of Ramadan through the eyes of a Muslim child (A&U 2023; Annabel Barker Agency); from acclaimed author Lian Tanner comes When the Lights Went Out (illustrated by Jonathan Bentley, A&U), ‘a cosy, reassuring and beautifully illustrated picture book about finding warmth and connection in community‘; Knock Knock (Catherine Meatheringham & Deb Hudson,Windy Hollow Books) invites readers to knock on doors all over the world and see how people live, in ‘a wonderful exploration of language and culture’, while All in a Day (Berbay) Chihiro introduces kids to the concept of reading a clock in a celebration of community; it follows the comings and goings of everyone in the same apartment building and what happens at each hour of the day.

Gus (Berbay) is ‘a funny, heartfelt story about friendship and aging’ that is the perfect choice for fans of A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Friendship is also at the heart of Bertie and the Ginger Cat (Bex Parkin, Red Paper Kite), a classic story overflowing with exquisite flora and fauna (‘You will want to live in this book’ says Bold Type Agency).

‘Jon Klassen meets Carson Ellis’ in Bear and the Little Green Thing (Diandian, Berbay), about an unlikely friendship between a bear and a sapling by a Bologna Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition winner.


The Paper-Flower Girl (Margrete Lamond & Mateja Jager, Dirt Lane Press), featuring a giant who lives on the hill and an artistic young girl who wants to make art for all, ‘has a fairy tale feeling to it’ says Bold Type Agency.

Also represented by Bold Type, in What will You Make Today? (Maura Pierlot & Triandhika Anjani, Storytorch Press) the creators ‘offer a wonderful prompt for children to think actively about how they use their time and the endless possibilities’, while in Ship Ahoy Box Boy (Mal Webster, Windy Hollow Books) ‘a boy shows what’s possible with some creativity and your imagination’.

In Fix-It Ninget, from the imagination of 12-year-old artist Luca French (Five Mile) readers are introduced to a ‘fantastical realm bursting with creatures who work together to find creative solutions to everyday problems’; while in The Storytellers (Interactive Publications) the reader sees how ‘the germ of an idea sparks different inspirations among children from diverse cultures, leading to interesting careers’.

In We Children and The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Interactive Publications) Izumi, Ren and little Yoshi are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the famous poet Bashō in their village. It is 17th century Japan and the poet is walking far to the north, writing his now world-famous haiku.

Inspiration and wellbeing

Chill Out: A Wellness Book for Toddlers (Anna Pignataro,Windy Hollow) is the first in a new series of board books from the author and illustrator. The next titles in this series are Love Green, Be Kind and Go Wild (Bold Type Agency).

Finding Kutopia (Five Mile) presents a gorgeously illustrated world filled with colourful Kutopian critters, who will help guide young readers through a magical exploration of different feelings—big and small, while Can You Teach a Fish to Climb a Tree (Jane Godwin, illus by Terry Denton, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing) is ‘a quirky and inspiring book about the power and peace to be found in not trying to be anyone else’: Can a fish climb a tree? Can a horse drive a car? And if they can’t, what wonderful things can they do?

In Mia’s Glamma (Josie Montano, illus by Carla Hoffenberg, Interactive Publications) Mia’s grandmother is anything but a cliche. She wears the latest fashions, runs marathons, owns a restaurant and provides an excellent model for Mia to look up to in understanding what older persons can be, while the Young Queens series (Megan Hess, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing) offers a collection of original fairy tales about young girls discovering their power.

Finally, what is better for wellbeing than a laugh? Jimmy Bottoms (Mary Anastasiou, illus by Alex Patrick, Five Mile) is ‘a hilariously fun story about a cheeky boy and a wayward fluff!’. It will take readers on an adventure through the town to catch ‘the fluff on the loose’.


The fascinating truth: Nonfiction titles on offer at Bologna

In nonfiction the ‘long-awaited’ picture book Your Brain is a Lump of Goo from Idan Ben-Barak (A&U), the award-winning author of Do Not Lick This Book, and Christopher Nielsen. It explores ‘the biggest and most mysterious organ in the human body’ with expertise and humour, says A&U, while All About the Heart (Berbay) will give curious kids the answers to all their questions about that other important organ, the heart, from leading paediatric cardiologist Remi Kowalski. The first book in a nonfiction series authored by medical experts it is ‘designed to be read cover to cover’.

Animals small and large are the focus of several nonfiction titles. An extinct animal is the subject of Thylacine (ed by Brandon Holmes & Gareth Linnard, CSIRO Publishing) which profiles the extinct ‘Tasmanian tiger’, examining its ecology, evolution, encounters with humans, and extinction as well as final chapters exploring ‘the future for this iconic species—a symbol of extinction but also hope’; meanwhile Extinct (Benjamin Gray, CSIRO Publishing) is a collection of artworks from Australian artists, each depicting a now extinct Australian animal, accompanied by stories of each animal ‘to lament their loss, but also to celebrate their former existence’.

Taking a look under Australia’s waters is Pete Cromer: Sealife (Five Mile) which introduces 18 of the country’s unique aquatic creatures through Cromer’s ‘bold and beautiful animal portraits’ in this ‘gallery-in-a-book’, while Sensational Sharks (Tim Flannery & Emma Flannery, illus by Katie Melrose, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing) invites readers on an exciting expedition in a brand-new picture-book series that ‘deep-dives into some of the weirdest creatures around the world!’ And to creatures on the smaller side: Eyes on Flies (Bryan Lessard, Pan Macmillan 2022) is being pitched by Annabel Barker Agency.

Also in nonfiction CSIRO Publishing has Ending Plastic Waste (Britta Denise Hardesty, Kathryn Willis, Justine Barrett and Chris Wilcox), a collection of stories, advice and information from experts that ‘provides a broad outlook on how various waste programs from different countries are protecting our planet’.

From independent educational publisher Pascal Press are the Targeting range of primary workbooks. The range addresses all key learning areas of primary literacy, numeracy, handwriting and humanities and social sciences, with series on writing skills, maths problems solving, phonics, homework and grammar. Also from Pascal Press is the Catch Up Maths series—written for students struggling with primary maths, the books take maths concepts back to their foundation, and ensure that concepts are consolidated by offering hundreds of coaching videos accessed via QR codes.

Finally, look out for Powerful Princesses (Angela Buckingham, illus by Anne Yvonne Gilbert, Five Mile), fast-paced stories that ‘come from every corner of the world and across history’ and share each in their own way, a powerful princess.


Aus publishers' latest acquisitions

Among the latest children’s and YA acquisitions by Australian publishers:


Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing (HGCP) has acquired two books by Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Releasing in June 2023, It’s the Sound of the Thing: 100 new poems for young people, is Clarke’s debut collection of poetry for children and teens. Aimed at upper primary through to lower secondary readers, the collection celebrates the joy of language and features ‘evocative, enticing’ poems about everyday life—the sounds of the block, the boredom of detention, the happenings in the schoolyard, a big brother’s messy room, a grandfather’s fading memory, a grandmother’s garden magic.

HGCP publisher Chren Byng said: ‘For all those young readers whose exposure to poetry is often via the words of generations past, this electric and eclectic modern collection will reinvigorate homes across the country.’ The poems in the collection will also be line-illustrated by Clarke in black and white, for older primary readers.

‘The aim of the book, apart from creating a really fun read for kids, especially after the last few years they’ve endured, is to provide a substantial collection of new contemporary poems for kids, to generate excitement about the many possibilities of language and poetry,’ Byng said.

Clarke is the author of 10 books for children and adults, including fiction collection Foreign Soil, memoir The Hate Race, poetry collection Carrying the World and picture books The Patchwork Bike and When We Say Black Lives Matter, all published by Hachette. Clarke’s second Hardie Grant title— ‘a joyous picture book celebrating home and neighbourhood’—will be published in 2024.

Christmas press has acquired world rights to The Cave, an upper middle-grade novel by Victor Kelleher, via Margaret Connolly of Margaret Connolly and Associates, for publication in April 2024 under its Eagle Books imprint. Described by Christmas Press publishing director Sophie Masson as an ‘extraordinary adventure’ exploring loss, survival and courage, The Cave is set in the Palaeolithic times and follows teenagers Irian and Ulana who, with their Clan, have made a cave their home ever since they used fire to drive off the Beast—a savage sabre-toothed tiger.

Protected by an ongoing fire at the cave mouth, they continue to keep the Beast at bay until one fateful night when the fire goes out. What happens next shatters the Clan and leaves Ulana badly injured and Irian too traumatised even to speak. Alone and adrift, they have little hope of survival, until a chance meeting with a prickly old woman called Trug who, grudgingly, takes them on a journey of discovery, flinging them into the many wonders and hard realities of ancient times.

Explaining the genesis of the novel, Kelleher said: ‘For almost as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by pre-history. In particular by the question of how our early ancestors, starting out as helpless wanderers on the plains of Africa, went on to become secure cave dwellers and greatly feared hunters. How did this great change come about? Clearly, the discovery of fire must have played a part. And so, too, the creation of better weapons and tools. But how did the change actually occur? That’s precisely the story I’ve tried to tell in The Cave.’

Said Masson: ‘Last year, we had the great delight of publishing Wanderer, Victor Kelleher’s first new middle-grade novel for over fifteen years, to great reader acclaim and excellent reviews. Its success also saw the author reinvigorated to create more works for middle-grade readers, and The Cave is the brilliant result … as compelling, exciting and thoughtful as Wanderer, it too is sure to find many, many readers.’

Young Adult

Allen & Unwin (A&U) has acquired ANZ and Oceania rights to Shadows of Truth by Astrid Scholte, the sequel to her 2022 YA fantasy League of Liars, for publication in March 2024. It is described by the publisher as a ‘fabulous and fast-paced’ sequel with ‘more intriguing magic and super high stakes’. ‘With the cliff-hanger ending of League of Liars, I am so delighted to have signed up Shadows of Truth, which will take readers beyond the veil and into a dangerous world layered with magic and intrigue, mystery and danger,’ says A&U children’s and YA publisher Jodie Webster.

Scholte’s debut novel Four Dead Queens was published by A&U in 2019 and was followed by the standalone novel The Vanishing Deep in 2020 and League of Liars in March 2022. Her books are published by Penguin Young Readers in North America.

UWA Publishing (UWAP) has acquired ANZ rights to Graham Akhurst’s young adult novel Borderland, via Danielle Binks of Jacinta di Mase Management, for publication this year. Set in Brisbane and the fictional rural town of Gambari in western Queensland, Borderland explores issues of urban youth identity, cultural connection, land rights, and fracking and its ecological impacts, through protagonist Jono as he begins to understand his place in the world.

Akhurst is a First Nations writer and academic from northern Queensland. He was the recipient of the 2019 Fulbright W G Walker scholarship, the first Indigenous recipient of the award. Akhurst travelled to New York City in August 2019 to fulfil the program and completed an MFA at Hunter College in 2021. The author is ‘thrilled and delighted’ to be among the first commercial YA fiction acquisitions for UWAP.

Affirm Press has acquired world rights to Anomaly, the debut young adult novel by Sydney-based writer Emma Lord, for publication in 2024. Described by the publisher as Tomorrow When the War Began meets The Knife of Never Letting Go, the book follows 17-year-old Piper who thinks she’s the last person left alive. Although she has survived the virus that took the lives of many, Piper has been left with frightening new abilities that make her reluctant to leave the safety of her isolated property and scared of the truth of what happened to her. When an injured boy washes up on the shore of her lake, Piper learns she isn’t alone, but she is in danger. If she’s going to survive, Piper will need to leave her safe haven, trust a stranger and face her ghosts.

‘This high-octane work of YA speculative fiction is filled with breathtaking action sequences, intrigue, snarky banter and romance. It will ultimately leave you questioning the power of memory and how far you would go to survive,’ said Affirm.

Of her debut, Lord said: ‘I never could have predicted I’d be living through a deadly pandemic while writing a story that incorporates one. I was several drafts in when Covid-19 hit in 2020, and it was bizarre to see real life aligning with the craziness on the page. My fictional virus is very different to Covid, of course—but the initial stages of the real pandemic gave me a lot of material to work with, especially when it came to supermarkets and border closures!’

Anomaly is exactly the kind of YA we’ve been looking for,’ said Affirm senior editor of children’s books Meg Whelan. ‘It’s loaded with rich world-building, high-energy pacing and authentic characters. It’s the kind of YA that reminds you how much you love YA, and we can’t wait to share it with the rest of the world.’

Pictured: Maxine Beneba Clarke
Photo credit: Leah Jing McIntosh


Baby boom: The growth of children’s and young adult market

Children’s and young adult (CYA) titles have been driving the growth of the Australian book market in the past year, with titles like Heartstopper, Bluey and The Bad Guys becoming regular presences on the bestsellers chart. The numbers from Nielsen BookData confirm this: looking at children’s and young adult fiction alone, the CYA fiction category (which doesn’t include picture books or children’s nonfiction titles) grew 16% in value and had a 0.7% lift in market share in the year to 1 October 2022, compared to the same time in 2021. Nielsen’s 2022 overall market report also revealed the children’s category was up 7.7% compared to the previous year, with the category representing 29% of the Australian book market.

Compared to overseas markets, this growth places Australia ahead of its counterparts in relation to the children’s market. In mid-2022, the Bookseller reported that Australia is ‘the only BookScan territory where the overall children’s category outpaces nonfiction’ (comparing territories covered by Nielsen).

Affirm’s kids publisher Tash Besliev suggests this boom is partly due to the fact that Australia is still a young market. ‘But I also think our industry has been clever enough to tap into the single category that ensures the future viability of our industry,’ Besliev told Books+Publishing (B+P). Besliev believes the growth of the CYA category directly affects the sales of adult books in the future.

‘Without a thriving and growing children’s sector, we won’t have a reading audience for grown-up categories in 10–20 years. It’s a refreshing category as well. It makes sense for it to be in constant and consistent growth—so long as we are publishing the right content!’

The success of UK author Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series (Hachette), which straddles both graphic novels and YA fiction, has trickled over into more traditional YA fiction, especially novels of the romance genre. On the bestselling children’s and young adult charts, the four volumes of Heartstopper have all secured a spot in the top 10, with volume one taking the top spot. Its success is also attributed to BookTok and its Gen-Z users, as well as the series adaptation which released on Netflix in April 2022 and saw Heartstopper Volume 1 enter the Australian top 10 bestsellers the very next week.

Similarly, The Summer I Turned Pretty (Penguin), which sits at number six on the CYA fiction charts, saw an increase in sales following the release of its TV adaptation. The film adaptation of Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys series (Scholastic) seems to also have contributed to the series’ meteoric rise, with book #15 Open Wide and Say Arrrgh! sitting at number three overall. Blabey and beloved duo Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (The 156-Storey Treehouse, Pan) are the only Australian authors to make the list.

Top 10 CYA fiction 

  1. Heartstopper Volume 1 (Alice Oseman, Hachette)
  2. Heartstopper Volume 2 (Alice Oseman, Hachette)
  3. Open Wide and Say Arrrgh!: The Bad Guys #15 (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  4. Heartstopper Volume 3 (Alice Oseman, Hachette)
  5. The World’s Worst Pets (David Walliams, HarperCollins)
  6. The Summer I Turned Pretty (Jenny Han, Penguin)
  7. Heartstopper Volume 4 (Alice Oseman, Hachette)
  8. The 156-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  9. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (Holly Jackson, Electric Monkey)
  10. On Purpose: Cat Kid Comic Club #3 (Dav Pilkey, Scholastic)

Based on sales for the period 2 January 2022 to 1 October 2022, excludes picture books and children’s nonfiction titles     

Homegrown favourites

Although it seems overseas children’s and young adult titles are dominating the overall charts, homegrown titles are continuing to sell well in the Australian market.

Affirm Press, which has been growing its kids list over the past two and a half years, is publishing between 40 and 50 new CYA titles a year, Besliev tells B+P. ‘This has afforded us a wonderful backlist of books that continue to sell well, right across the market, year in and year out and our picture books, the largest part of our publishing, does especially well with beautiful ranges from homegrown creators like Jess Racklyeft (a star on our back and forward publishing lists!).’

‘Picture books are a wonderful way to explore big topics in the classroom and in the home,’ says Besliev of the popularity of Jess Sanders’s new picture book series ‘Life Lessons From Little Ones’, where the first title You Are Enough is on its third reprint, just six months after publication. Kylie Howarth’s Koala Stole My Undies has also been reprinted since publication and ‘continues to sell solidly each week’; meanwhile, debut author-illustrator Brentos’s From Dawn to Dusk performed ‘brilliantly’ through the Christmas season and into the new year.

At Affirm, picture books aren’t the only CYA category selling well. Amelia Mellor’s The Grandest Bookshop in the World was the publisher’s ‘first real success in middle-grade fiction [and] has paved the way for a bigger middle-grade fiction category on our list,’ says Besliev, who adds that the second book The Bookseller’s Apprentice has sold ‘just as strongly’ as the first.

For Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, the success of titles in its CYA list also reflect the diverse interests of children and young adult readers in Australia. Over Christmas, HGCP celebrated a ‘major milestone’ for the Real Pigeon series by Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood, which published its tenth book in November last year; the series has 350,000 copies in print in Australia and is published in 21 languages. ‘The series is a stand-out in the category thanks to Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood’s extraordinary collaboration, which marries the textual and artwork narratives seamlessly and is riotously good fun for child and adult readers alike,’ HGCP publishing director Marisa Pintado told B+P.

HGCP has also seen a ‘huge amount of love’ for The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name and other picture books by Sandhya Prappukkaran and Michelle Pereira, whose collaborative titles celebrate and explore the immigrant experience from a younger perspective. Meanwhile, Jeremy Lachlan’s middle-grade series ‘Jane Doe Chronicles’ has appealed to fantasy and adventure lovers, with HGCP reporting ‘strong’ sales for the first two books, with the third Jane Doe and the Quill of All Tales to be published next month.

On the look out 

A 2021 report from the Australian Council for the Arts showed international rights sales of Australian books has increased by almost 25% between 2008–2018, with almost half of the deals pertaining to children’s books. Anecdotally, it’s no secret Australian children’s and young adult books continue to sell well in international markets. But what overseas titles are Australian rights buyers looking to acquire in the CYA category?

It seems publishers are eager to tap into the growing graphic novel category which saw a 34% growth in 2022. ‘When acquiring children’s titles, we are particularly focused on graphic novels at the moment,’ said Pintado. ‘It’s a format that has been growing steadily in our market, and we are looking to supplement our locally originated titles with high-quality stories from overseas.’

The same goes for Affirm, which, although acquiring fewer foreign titles, is looking for books that are ‘clever and interesting’, according to Besliev, who recently acquired an Italian nonfiction graphic novel about genetics which will be publishing later this year.

While the trends on #BookTok, and screen adaptations, have assisted with the sales of children’s and young adult books in the overall bestseller charts, there has been a quiet success of local titles that are diverse and reflect the myriad ways Australia’s young readers engage with books.

‘There are always new trends, new sub-categories in growth, others in decline, whether it be riding the high wave of YA dystopia, enjoying the popularity of a video-game tie-in handbook or jumping onto the bandwagon of graphic novels. These are all healthy signs of a dynamic industry trying new things, listening to retailers, responding to readers—we are so lucky to have such fun jobs!’ shared Besliev, who has spent almost all of her 20 years in publishing in the children’s space.

‘But at the heart of all of it, what works, what really sells, are books that connect with the most number of readers, irrespective of trend or fad, often running against the current favourite (a trend only becomes a trend once something takes off after all).’

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Emit (whose parents turned back time to name him) is surrounded by busyness. Dad is too busy to read stories, Mum is too busy to play games and Emit’s brother and sister are simply too busy doing nothing to do anything, at all. Emit tries everything he can think of to get more time, he tries to catch it, wait for it, but it’s not until Emit tries to buy some time that he learns the secret which is, if you want time, you have to make it. Kelly’s distinctive water colour illustrations and amusing puns make this a fun book for kids to learn about the importance of family, quality time and community.

Author: Kelly Canby
Publication date: January 2023
Publisher name: Fremantle Press
Rights held for book: World
Email for rights contact:
Stall number: Hall 25, Stand A87
Catalogue URL: here


Say Hooray

This fantastic, colourful read-aloud has been designed to captivate babies and celebrate their every move. We know from research that the more senses you engage while reading to bubs, the better their language and comprehension skills develop. That’s why Say Hooray can be read, sung and acted out. The high-contrast colours and simple illustrations feature lots of recognisable words—like mum, dad, banana, teddy bear, dog and pyjamas. Plus, there are lots of chances for babies to participate—with sounds like zoom and woof and actions like waving, kissing and peek-a-boo. Both mums themselves, Renae and Rebecca wanted a book they KNEW babies would love. Say Hooray is that book.

Say Hooray
Author: Renae Hayward and Rebecca Mills
Publication date: March 2023
Publisher name: Fremantle Press
Rights held for book: World
Email for rights contact:
Stall number: Hall 25, Stand A87
Catalogue URL: here


Cat on the Run, Episode 1: Cat of Death!

Back before the BAD GUYS went good, someone was in even BIGGER TROUBLE …

What happens when the WORLD’S BIGGEST CAT VIDEO STAR gets accused of a crime she didn’t commit? She becomes a CAT ON THE RUN, that’s what! But how do you avoid capture and prove your innocence when you are the MOST FAMOUS FELINE on the planet?! Well, it ain’t easy …

Cat on the Run, Episode 1: Cat of Death!
Author: Aaron Blabey
Publication date: August 2023
Publisher name: Scholastic Press, Australia
Rights held for book: World excluding ANZ, Canada and USA, and UK.
Email for rights contact:
Catalogue URL: here


Secret Agent Mole, Book 1: Goldfishfinger

Max Mole is a mole on a mission. With Helena Hippo and June Bug by his side, Max must stop the evil Goldfishfinger from stealing a priceless solid gold piece of art.
This dangerous, top-secret mission will involve explosions, a naked mole rat, and being flushed down a giant toilet. Will Max and the team defeat the fiendish fish?
Time to rock and mole!

Secret Agent Mole, Book 1: Goldfishfinger
Book author: James Foley
Publication date: March 2023
Publisher name: Scholastic Press, Australia
Rights held for book: World excluding ANZ.
Email for rights contact:
Catalogue URL: here


The Garden at the End of the World

When Isla makes a special discovery, she and her botanist mother adventure to the Global Seed Vault in Norway. Isla is going to leave her precious package there, so children who haven’t even been born yet can grow and eat the food we all enjoy. What else will they encounter along the way?

The Garden at the End of the World is a hopeful story about protecting nature’s treasures for the future.

The Garden at the End of the World
Author: Cassy Polimeni
Illustrator: Briony Stewart
Publication date: April 2023
Publisher name: University of Queensland Press (UQP)
Rights held for book: World.
Email for rights contact:
Stall number: Hall 25, Stand A87
Catalogue URL: here


The Party Wish (The Wish Sisters Book 1)

Imagine if your baby sister could make wishes come true…
Flick has just found out her little sister has a special gift. Birdie has wished for a super-fabulous unicorn party and it has magically appeared in their backyard! There’s a rainbow slide made out of sour straps, a ball pit full of marshmallows and a real-life unicorn that poops cupcakes!
How can Flick stop the nosy next-door neighbour finding out about Birdie’s magic when the birthday cake is floating like a cloud?

The first book in a magical and mischievous new series for early readers from beloved author Allison Rushby.

The Party Wish (The Wish Sisters Book 1)
Author: Allison Rushby
Illustrator: Karen Blair
Publication date: March 2023
Publisher name: University of Queensland Press (UQP)
Rights held for book: World.
Email for rights contact:
Stall number: Hall 25, Stand A87
Catalogue URL: here


Australian titles with international appeal

Discover the latest rights opportunities from Australian publishers and literary agents participating in the Australian Collective Stand at Bologna. View the Stand Catalogue here, featuring over 50 children’s and YA titles with international appeal.


Award winners

Lystra Rose has won the $25,000 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing for her YA debut novel The Upwelling (Hachette Australia), while We Who Hunt the Hollow (Kate Murray, HGCP) took out the $25,000 YA category in the awards. In other state-based awards, Ella and the Ocean (Lian Tanner & Jonathan Bentley, A&U) took out the $25,000 young readers and children category in the 2022 Tasmanian Literary Awards announced in December.

The winners of the 2022 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (PMLAs), worth $80,000 in each category included The Gaps (Leanne Hall, Text) for YA and Mina and the Whole Wide World (Sherryl Clark, illus by Briony Stewart, UQP) in children’s; and Katrina Nannestad won the $30,000 children and young adult (CYA) category of the ARA Historical Novel Prize for the second year running, this time for Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief (ABC Books), with her WWII-set middle-grade novel We Are Wolves (ABC Books) awarded the inaugural CYA prize last year. Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief is also set during WWII, but this time in Russia during the Great Patriotic War.

Australian bookselling groups and chains have recognised the following books for children and young adults: Dymocks chose Craig Silvey’s Runt (A&U) in the newly added Young Readers Book of the Year Award category; QBD chose A Girl Called Corpse (Reece Carter, A&U) in the children’s category of its 2022 Books of the Year; and independent bookselling chain Readings has recognised Underground (Mirranda Burton, A&U) in its Young Adult Book Prize and The Sugarcane Kids and the Red-bottomed Boat (Charlie Archbold, Text) in its Children’s Book Prize, each worth $3000.

Meanwhile, book buying group Leading Edge has announced the shortlists for the 2023 Indie Book Awards, chosen by independent booksellers from around Australia. Shortlisted in the children’s category are: Frank’s Red Hat (Sean E Avery, Walker Books), Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country (Adam Goodes & Ellie Laing, illus by David Hardy, A&U Children’s), Guardians: Wylah the Koorie Warrior 1 (Jordan Gould & Richard Pritchard, Albert Street) and Runt (Craig Silvey, A&U). In YA, the shortlisted titles are: Cop and Robber (Tristan Bancks, Puffin), The Museum of Broken Things (Lauren Draper, Text), Unnecessary Drama (Nina Kenwood, Text) and The Brink (Holden Sheppard, Text).

Some books come with an award before they even hit the shelves. YA novel Maria Petranelli is Prepared for Anything (except this) (Elisa Chenoweth, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, 2024), an ‘outrageously funny, tender-hearted and awkward queer screwball comedy’ following 16-year-old Maria as she abruptly decides to go on student exchange to Italy to get away from her overbearing Australian-Italian family’, has won the Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing 2022 Ampersand Prize.


Graphic novel researcher: 'Australian publishers are hungry for titles'

Sophie Splatt, an editor of books for children and young adults at Allen & Unwin for the past decade, is the Australian Publishers Association’s (APA) 2023 Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellow. Her research project will take her to the US and Canada to meet with graphic novel publishers, editors, agents and creators for her research project ‘Graphic novels: Can we grow them at home?’ Here, she outlines the graphic novel market in Australia, what publishers are looking to acquire and some titles to look out for.

The subject of your Beatrice Davis fellowship is ‘Graphic novels: Can we grow them at home?’ How would you sum up the current state of graphic novel publishing in Australia?

While sales of children’s graphic novels are experiencing long-term growth in our market, local creators are not benefiting from these strong results as content generated overseas consistently holds sway. Why is this, when Australian creators often top the bestseller lists across all other children’s categories? Clearly we need to do better as an industry in this growth area.

Have you worked on many graphic novels, what led you to this project subject?

With this rising demand comes untapped opportunity. But when it comes to editing graphic novels I do feel that I’m wading into somewhat uncharted territory—and I imagine other Australian editors and publishers, who work on graphic novels here and there, may feel the same way. I’m hoping my research project can fill those knowledge gaps.

Are Australian publishers looking to acquire graphic novels from overseas? If so, what are they looking for?

Australian publishers are hungry for titles in this category, and in particular I’d say they are seeking out titles that would have strong commercial potential in the Australian market—titles similar to Kayla Miller’s Click series or those by Raina Telgemeier. Of course there are always the unexpected titles too—those that are exceptional in some other way that you didn’t even realise you were looking for until you find yourself reading it.

What are some local graphic novels you would pitch to overseas publishers?

I’m a big fan of The Super Adventures Of Ollie And Bea series (Allen & Unwin) by the very talented Renée Treml. These sweet and gentle stories about an owl and a bunny who are best friends are the perfect pun-packed introduction to graphic novels for young readers (ages 4–7). I dived right into coming-of-age story Stars in Their Eyes (Fremantle Press; ages 12+) by Jessica Walton and Aśka and chuckled along until the very last page. I loved that accessibility, diversity and inclusivity were at the forefront of this fresh and witty narrative. This is the kind of Australian content that I’d love to see more of! I couldn’t go past Safdar Ahmed’s award-winning debut Still Alive (Twelve Panels Press), which tells stories from Australia’s immigration detention system. This powerful nonfiction book is a fantastic example of how graphic novels can interweave multiple modes of storytelling and genres—in this case, journalism, history and autobiography—and in doing so engage a different type of young reader (ages 15+) in complex topics.

Acknowledging that you haven’t yet carried out your research, what would you say are the current barriers to more graphic novels being produced or published locally?

Graphic novels can be labour intensive for publishers, and costly to print and produce. Given rising costs across the board, this will continue to be a major barrier. The market in Australia is obviously much smaller than, say, in the US, and a consequence of this is lower advances and print runs—basically it’s harder for most local creators to take the time needed to develop and produce graphic novels as it’s not financially lucrative for them to publish into our market. Compounding all this is the stiff competition from overseas titles that are heavily marketed and publicised—how can local publishing compete with a series like Heartstopper that has a Netflix adaptation that’s an international sensation?

What do you hope to learn from your research project?

I really want to get into the nuts-and-bolts of how to make graphic novels. I hope I’ll learn current best practices to enrich my editorial skills and processes in this area and that I come away from the project with a deep understanding of how to successfully publish in this category. I truly do believe that as an industry, the more we learn, the better books we make. I’m keen to widely share my learnings, and I’d love to see the graphic novel genre thrive in Australia with a wealth of local content!

Sophie Splatt is the 2023 Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellow. She’s worked as an editor of books for children and young adults at Allen & Unwin for the last decade. She has been a recipient of the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust mentorship, an APA publishing internship, and was selected for the 2018 Australia Council Seagull School of Publishing residency in India, and the APA’s 2022 Residential Editorial Publishers program.


Spotlight on Annabel Barker

The launch of your own agency was quickly followed by the pandemic; how did that affect what you were pitching and how you were making deals?

Like others, I had to cancel my trip to Bologna Book Fair with two weeks’ notice and pivoting to digital meetings was, to begin with, really challenging. The deals were very slow to start, as publishers grappled with what to do with existing books. Backlist boomed and new children’s books were badly affected by the closure of bookshops and libraries, so debut creators were hard to sell. I didn’t really change the books I was pitching, but everything slowed down. Thinking back, there was so much uncertainty around what would even happen to the industry.

But there were positives toovideo calls enabled me to connect to editors who do not usually travel to bookfairs. Working flexibly was effective for selling rights. I was probably also in a more fortunate position than many others, as my business was in its infancy when the pandemic hit and I did not have any expectation of immediate success. I also really did not have any of my client’s books publishing throughout at least the first year of Covid. I do not mean to lessen the tragedy of the pandemic but I do appreciate, in hindsight, the relatively fortunate position I was in during that time.

When you launched you represented Hardie Grant and Berbay into the UK and North America, is this still the case? Have you added any other publishers?

Honestly, I pivoted very quickly from managing rights to acting as a traditional literary agency. I no longer represent publishers, except on the occasional book-by-book basis where it does not conflict with my own business. My own writer and illustrator clients take up all my time. I now represent around 25 writers and illustrators who create books from picture books up to young adults, including comic and graphic novel formats.

You have a particular focus on illustrators and comic artists, can you tell us about demand for these genres? Where is it growing at present? And what changes have you seen in the kind of book/ages in demand?

I really love visual narratives of all kinds so this felt a very natural progression for me. Many of the writers I represent; for example, Anna Zobel or Judith Rossell, also illustrate their stories. I think there is a trend toward illustration in fiction for all age groups (even for adults, although I am sure many people will query that!) and I particularly love hybrid-illustrated fiction for all ages. I feel this generation of children is so used to visual stories on demand and books need to keep up with that.

There is demand for comic artists in every age group from young children up to adults, and graphic novels and graphic memoir are particularly big. The middle-grade graphic novel market is so immense now that perhaps there is a sense of ‘wait and see’ if that can keep going – but graphic formats are such a natural fit for these readers I don’t see this trend going away. There is definitely growth in older age groups including YA graphic novels.

You visited New York as part of a rights delegation last yearhow was the experience, what connections did you make and have any deals come of the visit/relationships as yet?

It was fantastic to visit publishers and agents in NYC last year, the benefits of meeting people in person are so great. When we were visited there were still a lot of empty desks; the Australia Council did a fantastic job of setting up meetings within this tricky scenario. The relationship building benefits of those trips is hugeI can honestly say having one good meeting is worth going for.

Yes, I am finalising a post-trip deal now actually but it can’t be announced quite yet.

Do you have thoughts on what the industry can do locally to encourage more publications in the illustrated/graphic novel genres, rather than having creators go overseas for publication?

That is such a hard question because I know, coming from publishing, what a huge investment a graphic novel is for an Australian publisher. Justifying the printing alone can be really challenging. It is also an enormous workload for the artist so publishing overseas can often be a financial necessity.

I think there are models whereby publishers here and overseas can share publication or publish simultaneously—which gives the comic artist a ‘home’ publisher in Australia (something I feel is important from an author care perspective) but helps to make the project financially viable. Those kinds of connections are something I try hard to work on.

I do also find comic artists are frequently unsure who they can submit to in Australia, also which prizes are open to comic formats and which mentorships might be open for them to apply, so perhaps there are steps that could be made to help make the industry more visibly welcoming to these creators. I think there has previously been a disconnect between the comic and book publishing communities and it’s great to see that changing; with creators like Safdar Ahmed and Miranda Burton winning really major prizes this year.

Do you have any recent acquisitions or sales you’d like to highlight?

I am really excited about Rebecca Lim’s middle-grade book Two Sparrowhawks in a Lonely Sky, coming later this year with Allen and Unwin. That will be a big focus for me for Bologna—as will Lauren Draper’s fantastic new YA novel Return to Sender, publishing with Pan Macmillan in 2024.


Spotlight on Jess Racklyeft

Melbourne-based author and illustrator Jess Racklyeft has been awarded a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) International Bologna Scholarship to attend this year’s Bologna book fair. Here she shares her journey to illustration and writing, upcoming projects, the illustrators she admires and why she cried at Bologna the last time she visited.

How did you come to illustrating and then to writing?

I have always wanted to be an illustrator and took a fairly winding path to get there. After university I travelled, then worked in publishing for almost a decade selling books and working with booksellers whilst drawing in my spare moments. In 2012 I was on maternity leave and finally decided to give my dream of illustrating a good crack (whilst not sleeping a great deal). I received my first book offer that year, and have now illustrated over 30 books.

Writing on the other hand was encouraged by a publisher! The lovely Clair Hume (currently at UPQ but at this time with Affirm Press) as well as the talented Davina Bell gave me a (kindly) push to try writing after I probably wrote one too many rambling emails. These first books were the ‘There’s Only One’ series and have done well enough to encourage me to write quite a few more, including Welcome Baby and All the World Says Goodnight with Affirm Press.

What other Australian illustrators do you admire or find inspiring to your work?

I am part of a great ‘Authorstrator’ group and very inspired by this talented community, such as Heidi McKinnon, Zeno Sworder, Anna McGregor, Sher Rill, Evie Barrow, Lucinda Gifford, Jess McGeachin and Renee Treml, among many more. Anna Walker is also referred to as ‘Yoda’ as she is so generous with her support and mentoring over many years, not to mention brilliant, and is a huge inspiration to me.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you are working on at present?

I am wrapping up a huge book with Affirm Press currently. It is called Australia: Country of Colour and covers the rainbow of Australian plants and animals in watercolours—my first nonfiction authored book. It has been a true delight to work on—as well as challenging trying a big nonfiction book (with much support from Tash, the publisher, and Samone Amba, editor), and I have been blown away with the design by Kristy Lund-White who has pieced my hundreds of paintings together beautifully.

In April I am excited to also share my first more narrative picture book, which is also quite a personal story about lockdown—a very tricky time for us Melbournites! It is called Big Cat, published by Allen & Unwin and explores the city of Melbourne through the eyes of a wild cat, lured to the city by a small girl and her well-placed cans of tuna, who learns how to experience her city in a new way. It feels cathartic and a bit of a love story to Melbourne, even through a couple of tough years.

I am also winding up two very fun books written by Maggie Hutchings. One is a follow up to The Book for Happy Hearts, and the other is all about beloved (and somewhat dishevelled) favourite books. She is an outstanding writer and the books are very fun to work on!


Do you have an agent? How your projects come about?

My lovely agent is Jacinta DiMase, who is an inspiring person in business, her vocal support for the industry, and life. Because I have been illustrating for quite awhile now, most of my projects are through my longer term relationships with publishers but I also occasionally do receive opportunities that Jacinta wonderfully manages! For example later this year a book with CSIRO Publishing The Forgotten Song will be released, written by Coral Vass, a beautiful nonfiction book about the regent honeyeater.

What are you hoping to get from the SCBWI Scholarship?

I was very lucky to attend the Bologna Book Fair 11 years ago when I sold co-editions for a publisher. It was such an inspiring time—even with only one hour that I wasn’t in meetings selling books! In that one hour I visited the international exhibition of illustrators and cried—a mixture of exhaustion and inspiration, and knowing that illustrating was what I really wanted to do. Attending this year feels like a very big circle, going back as an illustrator. I am hoping to network with our international community, get to know more publishers, authors and illustrators both from Australia and abroad. I am going to meet with my North American publisher of Iceberg, the agents that work with Affirm Press, draw live on the Australian stand, and be part of an ‘illustration battle’ on the SCBWI stand! I will have my portfolio shown there, spend many hours this time at the exhibition and I am sure to be blown away by the talent once again.


Australian creators recommend

Australian creators tell us the most recent book they have read and loved, and why.


Illustrator and author Jess Racklyeft will attend this year’s Bologna Book Fair as the winner of a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) International scholarship:

‘I am a huge fan of Claire Saxby’s work (I have been honoured to work on the books Iceberg and Whisper on the Wind with her) and recently read Tasmanian Devil (Walker), beautifully illustrated by Max Hamilton to my seven year old. I love how Claire manages to make nonfiction so dang poetic, and Max’s beautiful watercolours matched the text so perfectly. If I can sneak in one more, I got an advance look at Anna McGregor’s Who’s Afraid of the Light? (Scribble). It is so clever in all aspects—design, writing and illustrating.’

Lystra Rose won the recent Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Indigenous writing for her YA novel The Upwelling (Lothian):

Aurora Rising (by the talented Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, A&U Children’s) was the last Aussie YA book I read. I devoured it through the night—stolen from my daughter’s bedside table. An annoying habit, I know, but it was a great space story with quirky characters that made me wish they were part of my everyday life. And patience isn’t something I’m great at practicing when it comes to books. Sleep? Don’t let that get in the way of finishing a great story!

Pictured L–R: Jess Racklyeft, Lystra Rose


Australian children’s and YA bestsellers for 2023 YTD x

Children’s books boomed in Australia during the pandemic and continue to be a success story for the market. According to data from Nielsen BookScan, the children’s category was up 7.7% in 2022 compared to the previous year, and represented 29% of the market.

In 2022, the market continued to see strong growth of the graphic novel category (34%), with sales of $51.1 million for 2022.

Once again, the dominance of the children’s picture book charts by beloved cartoon blue heeler pup Bluey means that we have excluded Bluey titles from the picture book chart below. If Bluey titles had been included, they would have taken up four places in the picture book chart, including top spot, with sales of 17,000 volume between the four titles.

Top 10 Australian picture books YTD*

  1. Where is The Green Sheep? (Mem Fox, Penguin)
  2. Do Not Open This Book for Eternity (Andy Lee, Lake Press)
  3. Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes (Helen Oxenbury & Mem Fox, Penguin)
  4. The Very Clever Bear (Nick Bland, Scholastic)
  5. Kissed by the Moon (Alison Lester, Penguin)
  6. Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country (Adam Goodes & Ellie Laing, A&U)
  7. The Speedy Sloth (Rebecca Young, Scholastic)
  8. Old Friends, New Friends (Andrew Daddo, HarperCollins)
  9. Wombat Stew (Marcia K Vaughan, Scholastic)
  10. Busy Beaks (Sarah Allen, Affirm Press)

*Note: If including “Bluey” picture books, this Top 10 would have four Bluey titles with sales of 17k volume between them, with one taking the #1 position.

Top 10 Australian children’s fiction YTD

  1. Welcome to Paradise: Wolf Girl #8 (Anh Do, A&U)
  2. The 156-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan Macmillan)
  3. Others?!: The Bad Guys #16 (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  4. Soccer Time!: Hot Dog! #13 (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  5. Friends Fur-ever: Smarty Pup #1 (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  6. Hedgewitch (Skye McKenna, Welbeck)
  7. Crash Course: Wolf Girl #7 (Anh Do, A&U)
  8. Into the Wild: Wolf Girl #1 (Anh Do, A&U)
  9. Open Wide and Say Arrrgh!: The Bad Guys #15 (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  10. The Wild Guide to Starting School (Laura Bunting, Scholastic)

Top 10 Australian Young Adult fiction books YTD

  1. The Blood Traitor: The Prison Healer #3 (Lynette Noni, Penguin)
  2. Never Getting Back Together (Sophie Gonzales, Hachette)
  3. The Prison Healer (Lynette Noni, Penguin)
  4. If You Could See the Sun (Ann Liang, Harlequin)
  5. The Gilded Cage: The Prison Healer #2 (Lynette Noni, Penguin)
  6. House of Hollow (Krystal Sutherland, Penguin)
  7. Unnecessary Drama (Nina Kenwood, Text)
  8. Akarnae (Lynette Noni, Pantera)
  9. The Lorikeet Tree (Paul Jennings, A&U)
  10. The Killing Code (Ellie Marney, A&U)

Top 10 Australian children’s nonfiction books YTD

  1. Barefoot Kids (Scott Pape, HarperCollins)
  2. Come Together (Isaiah Firebrace, HarperCollins)
  3. Girl Stuff 8-12 (Kaz Cooke, Penguin)
  4. Bluey and Bingo’s Fancy Restaurant Cookbook (Puffin)
  5. 1001 Cool Jokes (Glen Singleton, Hinkler Books)
  6. The Treehouse Joke Book (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan Macmillan)
  7. Finding Our Heart (Thomas Mayo, Hardie Grant)
  8. 1001 Cool Freaky Facts (Glen Singleton, Hinkler Books)
  9. Life Lessons for Little Ones (Jess Sanders, Affirm)
  10. Girl Stuff 13+ (Kaz Cooke, Penguin)

Period covered: 1 January to week ending 11 February 2023 © Nielsen Book.

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