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Inside the Australian book industry

Two children’s publishers launch in Australia; Magabala celebrates 30th birthday

Two new Australian children’s publishers have recently released their first titles. Dirt Lane Press has published The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear (Margrete Lamond, illus by Heather Vallance), a 72-page illustrated hardback title inspired by Norwegian folk tales; and Little Pink Dog Books has released The World’s Worst Pirate (Michelle Worthington, illus by Katrin Dreiling), a picture book about a boy who tries to be a good pirate but does his best work in the ship’s galley.

Indigenous publisher Magabala Books is celebrating its 30th birthday this month. Magabala publishes books by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and illustrators across memoir, poetry, fiction and nonfiction, with a strong focus on books for children and young adults. Over 30 years it has supported ‘more than 200 storytellers, authors and illustrators from all over Australia, published more than 250 titles, sold book rights into more than six countries and built an impressive resume of award-winning titles’. See some of its publishing highlights here.

The latest instalment in Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s ‘Treehouse’ series, The 91-Storey Treehouse (Pan), has become the fastest selling Australian book of all time at Australia’s largest chain bookstore Dymocks. The book was launched in August by local bookseller Readings at a sell-out event of 1900 attendees. The 91-Storey Treehouse is the seventh title in the bestselling junior-fiction series.

Finally, don’t forget to spread the word about this newsletter. If you have any colleagues who might be interested in signing up, please direct them to this link.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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New acquisitions for Affirm Press, Walker Books

Affirm Press has acquired a children’s fiction series by Australian lifeguard and TV star Trent ‘Maxi’ Maxwell. The series, co-written by children’s book author David Lawrence, will centre on ‘a young Maxi’s life on Bondi and his dream of becoming a lifeguard, with safety tips as a secondary focus’. Maxwell was Australia’s youngest ever lifeguard to patrol Bondi Beach when he began at 16. He has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter and is an ambassador for Tourism Australia and the Royal Life Saving Society UK.

Walker Books has signed a two-book deal with Australian comedian Andrew Hansen and his wife, designer Jessica Roberts. The first title from the duo is Bab Sharkey and the Animal Mummies: The Weird Beard, a funny adventure story that follows Bab, a lonely 12-year-old boy who ‘unexpectedly finds the friends he’s always needed: a pair of undead animals wrapped in bandages’, and is transported to the ‘bizarre city of the Animal Mummies’. Hansen and Roberts said they were inspired by the large collection of mummified animals at the Cairo Museum. ‘They were amazing and terrifying and we wondered what their stories were.’

Film and TV

Australian author Justin Woolley’s post-apocalyptic YA zombie trilogy ‘The Territory’ (Momentum) has been optioned for screen by Australian director Dana-Lee Mierowsky Bennett following negotiation by Alex Adsett Publishing Services. Bennett said she had been looking for a post-apocalyptic Australian-set story to adapt for screen. ‘What excites me about this story is the unique dystopian outback world and the strong characters who dig within themselves to find courage as they fight to free those repressed in their world.’

Other recent rights sales of Australian titles include:

Picture books

Scholastic has sold US, UK, Canadian English-language and Chinese rights to Pig the Elf (Aaron Blabey), the latest book in the author’s bestselling picture book series starring Pig the Pug.

Hardie Grant Egmont has sold simplified Chinese rights to Ponk! (Edwina Wyatt & Christopher Nielsen), a humorous picture book about a flightless bird who chooses to live at the top of a tree because of the view.

Younger readers

Scholastic has sold Canadian English-language rights to the first three books in Jack Heath’s action-adventure series ‘Countdown to Danger’, in which the stories play out over 30 minutes to match the average reading time of each book.

Penguin Random House has sold Czech-language rights to the first two titles in the ‘Vet Cadets’ series by Rebecca Johnson, which follows three animal-loving girls solving mysteries at a country boarding school.

Young adult

Capstone’s teen imprint Switch Press has acquired North American rights to The Boundless Sublime (Allen & Unwin), Lili Wilkinson’s YA novel about a teenage girl seduced by a modern-day cult.

Penguin Random House has sold Bulgarian-language rights to Melina Marchetta’s 2011 YA novel The Piper’s Sona companion to her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca.

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

The Bone Sparrow cover

Refugee story takes out Australian YA prize

Zana Fraillon’s YA novel The Bone Sparrow (Hachette) has won the inaugural Readings YA Prize. Fraillon’s novel tells the story of Subhi, a refugee born in a detention centre, who ‘finds hope, curiosity and friendship in hopeless circumstances’, before his optimism is challenged by worsening conditions in the camp. The Bone Sparrow was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

Three children’s books have been honoured in this year’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature. They are: Chooks in Dinner Suits (Diane Jackson Hill & Craig Smith, Museum Victoria Publishing) for picture books; Rainforest Camp: Juliet Nearly a Vet Book 12 (Rebecca Johnson, Puffin) for fiction; and Welcome to Country (Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy, Black Dog Books) for nonfiction. The awards celebrate books that ‘foster a love of wild places and wildlife’ and ‘encourage a sense of responsibility for our natural world’.

Several children’s and YA crime/mystery/detective novels have been shortlisted for the Davitt Awards for crime books by Australian women. Shortlisted in the YA category are: Yellow (Megan Jacobson, Penguin), Frankie (Shivaun Plozza, Penguin) and Everything is Changed (Nova Weetman, University of Queensland Press). Shortlisted in the children’s category are: Theophilus Grey and the Traitor’s Mask (Catherine Jinks, Allen & Unwin), Elizabeth and Zenobia (Jessica Miller, Text), Wormwood Mire: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue (Judith Rossell, HarperCollins) and Hoodwinked! Truly Tan Book Five (Jen Storer, HarperCollins).


Introducing Berbay Publishing

Australian small press Berbay Publishing specialises in local and international children’s picture books. Last year it won the Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year in the Oceania category. Founder and managing director Alexandra Yatomi-Clarke spoke to Think Australian:

Describe your company in under 50 words.

Berbay is a remarkable imprint, small and fearless. Producing children’s picture books from local and international talent, Berbay fills an important niche in storytelling: it brings sophistication and depth to children’s picture books by combining poignant and imaginative stories with illustrations that are stunning, unique and eclectic.

What makes your press unique?

Berbay Publishing is daring, bold and risk-taking, sourcing and producing highly original content. In an increasingly risk-averse publishing environment, it stands out as a glittering jewel.

What kinds of books does your press publish?

Mainly picture books including nonfiction. In 2018 Berbay Publishing is also releasing a new junior-fiction series and its first ever YA book.

How many books do you publish each year?

Historically, Berbay has produced four to six picture books per year, although in 2018, our list will grow to 10 books.

What are some of your bestselling titles in Australia?

The Australian first settlement series What’s Your Story?, The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip, and William Bligh: A Stormy Story of Tempestuous Times.

Have you sold international rights to your books?

Yes, Berbay has successfully sold into the North American, French and German markets.

What have been your biggest rights sales successes?

Heads and Tails by John Canty. This book has been sold to the North American, French and German markets.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international titles in Australia?

Yes, Berbay selects one or two international titles per year.

What have been your most successful international acquisitions? Why do you think they took off in Australia?

A Spanish book 71 Sheep Try Soccer by Pablo Albo and illustrated by Guridi. A quirky and humorous book showing young readers how unexpected challenges can be triumphed by imagination and cooperation. Its success is due to the fabulous sheep and imaginative story.

What will you publish next?

Our next book to be released in November 2017 is M is for Mutiny! History by Alphabet written by John Dickson and artwork by Bern Emmerichs. This extraordinary book explores how the strange truths of Australia’s colonial beginnings can excite the imagination and spark deeper learning. With Bern Emmerichs’ detailed, intricate and evocative images, they demonstrate the place storytelling holds in learning about history.


‘Funny Kid for President’ tops bestsellers chart

Bestselling Australian children’s author and illustrator Matt Stanton (There is a Monster under My Bed Who Farts, This is a Ball) has launched a new middle-grade series called ‘Funny Kid’ aimed at fans of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, ‘Tom Gates’ and ‘Big Nate’. The first title in the series, Funny Kid for President, is at the top of the Australian children’s fiction bestsellers chart for July. Another bestselling Australian author Sally Rippin (‘Billie B Brown’, ‘Hey Jack’!) has a new junior-fiction series debuting in the chart. The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster: Polly and Buster Book One explores the magic of friendship through the unlikely pairing of a witch and a monster.

Australian children’s fiction bestsellers: July

  1. Funny Kid for President (Matt Stanton, ABC Books)
  2. Really Weird! WeirDo Book Eight (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  3. Intergalactic Gas: The Bad Guys Episode Five (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  4. The 78-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  5. The 13-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  6. The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster: Polly and Buster Book One (Sally Rippin, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  7. WeirDo (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  8. Hotdog (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  9. The 65-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  10. Mega Weird! WeirDo Book Seven (Anh Do, Scholastic)

© Nielsen BookScan 2017
Period covered: 2 to 29 July 2017
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide

   The Bone Sparrow cover



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