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Inside the Australian book industry

Masters of the middle grade

Several years ago Hilary Rogers, then a publisher at Australian children’s imprint Hardie Grant Egmont, commissioned author Sally Rippin to write the ‘Billie B Brown’ series. It turned out to be the publisher’s most successful series ever, selling more than 4.5 million copies in 14 languages. As Hardie Grant Egmont rights manager Joanna Anderson tells us in this month’s profile, ‘over fifty “Billie” books continue to sell every hour’.

Now, it looks like the publisher is onto another winner with Jack Henseleit’s ‘The Witching Hours’ series: The Vampire Knife and The Troll Heart have both sold in multiple territories, including North America, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Brazil. Its success is testament to publisher Marisa Pintado’s instinct that ‘horror is “The Thing” right now for kids’. Indeed, in its first two weeks of release in Australia, Henseleit’s first book in the series sold 1300 copies and then went on to sell more than 12,000 copies in its first four months.

So what is the publisher excited about now? Read the profile below to hear about new middle-grade adventure novel Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds, which has already sold in nine languages. ‘It is already drawing comparisons to “big bad blockbusters” such as Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant and Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials”,’ says Anderson.

Matthia Dempsey
Think Australian

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‘The Bad Guys’ feature film in development with DreamWorks

Scholastic Australia has recently sold Italian rights at auction to the first four books in ‘The Bad Guys’ series by Aaron Blabey, and now DreamWorks Animation has begun development on a feature animated film based on the illustrated chapter books. Foundation Media Partners and Northside Services negotiated the deal for the rights to Blabey’s book series, and screenwriter Etan Cohen is slated to pen the adaptation. Blabey, who will serve as an executive producer on the film, told Think Australian that Cohen’s adaptation is looking ‘absolutely brilliant’. The series has around 2.5 million books in print, and has spent 17 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Combined with his other books in the ‘Pig the Pug’ series and Thelma the Unicorn, Blabey now has more than five million books in print worldwide.

Penguin Random House Australia (PRH) has acquired Australian and New Zealand rights to a new picture book by Gus Gordon titled I Am Alice. The book is described as ‘an exquisite and reassuring story about friendship, loss, and found family, featuring a city piglet, a seaside piglet, and a dash of magical realism’. ANZ rights were acquired by PRH publishing director Laura Harris in a two-book deal negotiated by Charlie Olsen at InkWell Management. Olsen also sold world English-language rights (ex ANZ) to the title to Jessica Garrison, senior editor at Dial Books for Young Readers. I Am Alice is scheduled for release in August 2019.

Berbay Publishing has sold North American rights to John Canty’s Heads and Tails: Insects to Candlewick Press, following deals with Le Genévrier in France, and Carl Hanser Verlag in Germany. The book is the companion title to Canty’s 2017 book Heads and Tails, which Candlewick also acquired in February last year. Berbay managing director Alexandra Yatomi-Clarke said she is delighted to have licensed the book to these territories. ‘These markets are very selective and sophisticated and John Canty’s books confirms his originality, creativity and talent,’ she said. Candlewick Press editorial director Elizabeth Bicknell said both books are ‘exactly’ what she looks for in picture books: ‘fresh, interesting artwork that perfectly reflects its subject matter in addition to being playful and accessible’. The US edition of Heads and Tails: Insects will be published in the US Spring 2020

A new Australian small publisher focused on children’s books has recently released its first title, and plans to release two more books in 2018. In May this year, Yellow Brick Books released Young MacDonald by author and illustrator Guiseppe Poli—a picture book about an ordinary day on the farm transformed into a grand adventure through a child’s vivid imagination. First established in 2016, Yellow Brick Books is primarily focused on ‘picture books and early readers (accessible chapter books for five- to nine-year-olds)’, as well as junior fiction for ages nine to 12, said acquisitions editor Rowena Beresford. The small publisher has also acquired rights to two previously published picture books: Oliver’s Grumbles (Yvonne Mes, illus by Giuseppe Poli), which Yellow Bricks Books re-released in October 2017, and Gus the Asparagus (Ann-Marie Finn & Kaylene Hobson), which will be re-released in July this year.

A virtual reality (VR) project based on Jack Heath’s book of short stories 300 Minutes of Danger (Scholastic) is one of four online projects to receive production funding from Screen Australia. Produced by independent film company Happening Films and VR entertainment studio The Pulse Originals, 30 Minutes of Danger follows Nassim who is mistaken for a jewel heist witness and poisoned in a revenge attack. Rosie Lourde, investment manager for online production at Screen Australia, said that that creative team is ‘experimenting with innovative distribution methods utilising pathways to audience through the existing fan base in ways not previously explored for VR in Australia’.

Other Australian rights sales and acquisitions include:

Read the full article here.


‘Nevermoor’ scores industry hat-trick

Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor (Lothian) has won yet another award—this time the Australian Booksellers Association Booksellers Choice Award, announced on 17 June. The children’s book has previously taken out Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards and was also voted Book of the Year by Australian independent booksellers at the Indie Book Awards.

Another industry prize, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, was also announced recently. Presented by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the members’ choice award in the Australian and New Zealand division went to The Scared Book (Debra Tidball, illus by Kim Siew, Lothian), which has also been listed as a Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Notable Book for 2018.

Speaking of New Zealand, the finalists in the NZ Book Awards for Children’s and YA have been announced.

Finally, look no further than the Readings Young Adult Prize shortlist for a round-up of the best YA titles to come out of Australia. Judged by booksellers, and with a teen advisory board to be consulted in deciding the winner, the award is presented by independent bookselling chain Readings. You can find the six shortlisted books here.


Introducing Hardie Grant Egmont

Hardie Grant Egmont rights manager Joanna Anderson is part of a small Melbourne team doing big things. She reveals to Think Australian that almost all of the publisher’s fiction and picture book titles have sold in multiple languages. Read on to hear what Hardie Grant Egmont has coming next.

What makes Hardie Grant Egmont unique?

Like the kids who read our books, Hardie Grant Egmont is young and small with boundless energy. Born in 2002 to two proud parents—Hardie Grant Publishing and Egmont UK Ltd—our business has grown rapidly to become one of Australia’s largest independent children’s publishers. We purposely keep our team small and use our size to our advantage: we handpick the people and projects we work with, and dedicate all our efforts and resources into making them a success. Across all our publishing, we pride ourselves on being children’s specialists. We know that kids pay attention to the ‘facts’ in their fiction, like: Can you use a lightsaber to toast your sandwich while cutting it? What actually is the cutest pet? And how many settings does a fart machine need to be considered deluxe? So we pay attention to these things too.

How many books does Hardie Grant Egmont publish each year—and what kinds?

We publish approximately 80 new titles each year. We make brilliant books for everyone from tots to teens, and bookworms to reluctant readers. The HGE fiction team publishes bestselling series and standalone books that will compel kids and teenagers to stay up late reading. Our fiction authors include Sally Rippin, Peter Helliar, and young-adult favourite Melissa Keil. Under our Little Hare imprint we create award-winning picture books to delight the smallest children. We work with some of Australia’s best picture book creators including Margaret Wild, Libby Gleeson, Jan Ormerod, Freya Blackwood and Jonathan Bentley. We also have a growing range of licensed products for global brands, including Star Wars, Winnie-the-Pooh and Thomas & Friends.

Have you sold international rights to your publications?

Our fiction and picture books are extremely successful overseas, and almost all of them have sold in multiple languages. We have regular international co-edition printings for our picture books.

Which titles have been most successful overseas?

For fiction, our forthcoming middle-grade adventure novel Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds (publishing August 2018) has already sold in nine languages. Heated auctions were held in four territories. Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds is the first book in Sydney bookseller Jeremy Lachlan’s four-book series debut, and it is already drawing comparisons to ‘big bad blockbusters’ such as Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant and Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’.

Our junior reader series ‘Billie B Brown’ by Sally Rippin is our most successful series ever (both locally and internationally). It has sold in 14 languages and film/TV rights are under option. More than 4.5 million copies of ‘Billie B Brown’ books have been sold around the globe, and more than 50 ‘Billie’ books continue to sell every hour! 

The Swap (Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner) is an uproariously funny picture book about a young crocodile who is jealous of her new baby brother. It has now sold in 24 languages and won a range of awards, including the CBCA’s Early Childhood Book of the Year in 2014. This perfect pairing of author and illustrator created picture book magic. Another international success story is the delightful alphabet book B is for Bedtime (Margaret Hamilton and Anna Pignataro). In the US it is now in its eighth printing and has already sold over 150,000 copies there.

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

Erin Gough is definitely one to watch! Her first YA novel The Flywheel won Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Prize for debut writers. It was published by Chronicle in the US and S Fischer in Germany. Her most recent novel Amelia Westlake has been eagerly anticipated and has just been snapped up by Little, Brown Books in the US. Amelia Westlake is highly political, bitingly funny, and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, deeply relevant and empowering.

As one of the only authors writing queer, own-voice YA in Australia, Erin is a force to be reckoned with. We are extremely proud of Erin’s achievements and hope to build her international profile more widely.

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

We acquire a limited but strong selection of overseas titles for local publication. Last year we acquired the ANZ rights to US actor and director Neil Patrick Harris’ debut children’s series, The Magic Misfits, and published the first book in November 2017 as part of a worldwide release. The second book will be released in October 2018. 

We were also thrilled to acquire the ANZ rights to Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan and Sarah Walsh, originally published by Shade 7 Publishing. This is a beautifully illustrated board book introducing readers to the shared custom of head covering. Using accurate terminology, phonetic pronunciations and bright, beautiful imagery, Hats of Faith helps educate and prepare young children and their parents for our culturally diverse modern world. 

Some of our other notable acquisitions include Lemony Snicket’s ‘All the Wrong Questions’ series and Anna Banks’ ‘Syrena Legacy’ trilogy.

What will you publish next (that may appeal to international publishers)?

In July this year we publish Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt, the first book in a fabulous new fantasy trilogy by debut author Rhiannon Williams. Sitting between Nevermoor and Serafina, this is accessible fantasy for young readers—high-concept and commercial but with heart and adventure. Ottilie Colter is the first ever middle-grade winner of Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Prize. German rights have just been acquired in a heated auction, and Random House Germany will publish Ottilie Colter in 2020 under their cbj children’s imprint. Rhiannon is an impressive young writer and we are thrilled to introduce this fantastic new talent to the world. We are confident that her series will have broad international appeal.

The Man With Small Hair (publishing October 2018) is the latest picture book from multiple award-winning author Jane Jolly. This uplifting story—which follows a man who likes to look different—encourages individuality, questions conformity and instils courage. It shows children that without everyone’s individual qualities and quirks, the world would be a very boring place. With retro-style illustrations from international favourite Andrew Joyner, we have high expectations for global success for this feel-good, inspirational title.


‘Where is the Green Sheep?’ tops bestsellers chart

Australian children’s book author Mem Fox consistently tops the earnings chart for Public Lending Rights and Educational Lending Rights in Australia—the system under which authors are renumerated for the borrowing and use of their books in libraries and schools. This month, she is dominating the Australian picture book bestseller charts too, with perennial favourite Where is the Green Sheep? (illus by Judy Horacek) topping the monthly list, alongside a 35th anniversary edition of the classic Possum Magic (illus by Julie Vivas) in sixth place and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (illus by Helen Oxenbury) coming in at number eight. Sheep, possums or people, Fox can’t put a (five-toed) foot wrong.

Some 2018 picture book releases that have stayed in the bestsellers chart include prolific children’s author Tony Wilson’s Hickory Dickory Dash (illus by Laura Wood), and Matt Cosgrove’s Macca the Alpaca, which was published in February this year and has already generated a follow-up title, Alpacas with Maracas, which is due out next month in July.

Australian children’s picture book bestsellers: May

  1. Where is the Green Sheep? (Mem Fox, illus by Judy Horacek, Puffin)
  2. Hickory Dickory Dash (Tony Wilson, illus by Laura Wood, Scholastic Australia)
  3. Thelma the Unicorn (with Unicorn Horn) (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic Australia)
  4. Macca the Alpaca (Matt Cosgrove, Scholastic Australia)
  5. Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic Australia)
  6. Possum Magic 35th Anniversary Edition (Mem Fox, Scholastic Australia)
  7. Some Mums (Nick Bland, Scholastic Australia)
  8. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Mem Fox, Puffin)
  9. No One Likes a Fart (Zoe Foster Blake, Viking)
  10. My Mum’s the Best (Rosie Smith, Scholastic Australia)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 29 April to 26 May 2018
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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