Think Australian Junior newsletter
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Inside the Australian book industry

Australian publishers heading to Shanghai

Looking for opportunities to meet Australian publishers face-to-face? A number of Australian publishers and literary agents will attend this year’s China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair in November after receiving funding from the Australia Council. So if you’re heading to Shanghai be sure to look up literary agent Jacinta di Mase, Berbay Publishing MD Alexandra Yatomi-Clarke and rights managers Sarah Brooks (Hachette), Elizabeth O’Donnell (HarperCollins) and Claire Pretyman (Scholastic).

Another opportunity to meet Australian publishers is through the popular Visiting International Publishers (VIPs) program, which brings international publishers and literary agents to Sydney each year to participate in one-on-one meetings and networking events. Since its inception in 1998, the VIPs program has welcomed 250 international guests from 28 countries, with more than 300 Australian titles sold into overseas markets through the program. One of the latest is 13-year-old Australian slam poet Solli Raphael’s debut book Limelight, which has been picked up by Andrews McMeel Universal in the US (see Rights).

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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‘Totally unique graphic work’ sold to US

Melbourne-based art-science collaborative and micro-publisher Scale Free Network (SPN) has sold North American rights to the graphic novel The Invisible War (Ailsa Wild, Briony Barr, Gregory Crocetti et al) to Lerner Books’ imprint Graphic Universe. Graphic Universe acquiring editor Greg Hunter described the book, which simultaneously follows a nurse stationed at the Western Front during World War I, and the microscopic battles between the bacteria and viruses lining her intestines, as ‘a totally unique graphic work’. The Invisible War has won a number of awards in Australia, including the overall Award for  Excellence in Australian Educational Publishing. SFN co-founder and microbial ecologist Gregory Crocetti said he hopes the deal will ‘help popularise the use of graphic novels as a medium for science education’.

Penguin Random House Australia has sold North American rights to Limelight by 13-year-old slam poet Solli Raphael to Andrews McMeel Universal (AMU). The deal, brokered by Rights People, follows AMU president and publisher Kirsty Melville’s participation in Australia’s Visiting International Publishers (VIPs) program. Limelight is will publish in Australia in September and will introductory chapters on traditional and slam poetry, 30 original poems and tips on writing and performing.

Penguin Random House Australia has also sold North American rights to Tim Harris’ children’s book series ‘Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables’ (illus by James Hart) to Sourcebooks. The three-book deal was negotiated by Allison Hellegers at Rights People on behalf of Eleanor Shorne Holden at Penguin Random House Australia.

Wai Chim’s YA novel Freedom Swimmer (Allen & Unwin) has been optioned for film by writer and director Ben Ockrent at Micro Productions UK in a deal negotiated by Brian Cook of literary agency The Authors’ Agent. Freedom Swimmer is inspired by the true story of two boys who swam from mainland China to Hong Kong to escape poverty and oppression.

Walker Books Australia has acquired world rights to an anthology of YA short stories by LGBTQIA+ Australian authors, due to be published in 2019. Kindred: A Queer #LoveOzYA Anthology will be edited by writer and bookseller Michael Earp, and will include internationally published authors such as Christos Tsiolkas, Benjamin Law and Erin Gough.


Shortlists highlight environment, crime books

The shortlist for the Environment Award for Children’s Literature has been announced. The award is presented annually to children’s fiction, nonfiction and picture books that ‘foster a love of wild places and wildlife’ and ‘encourage a sense of responsibility for our natural world’.

The shortlists for the Davitt Awards for the best crime books by Australian women have also been announced, which include children’s and YA categories.


Introducing Affirm Press kids list

Affirm Press launched its list of books for children and young adults in early 2017 and has since published books by Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester and much-loved author Jane Godwin, alongside up-and-coming talents. Senior editor Davina Bell—who works on the kids list with commissioning editor Clair Hume—spoke to Think Australian.

What makes Affirm Press’ children’s list unique?

I think that our list is distinguished by the pairing of our commitment to quality and our dedication to finding talented new creators. As a new children’s publisher, we have to be nimble, to take risks and to believe passionately in every book and author we publish, and part of that includes putting each through a rigorous editorial process. We’re devoted to making books that are beautiful and lasting objects, and I feel that the design and production of our titles really stand out. This focus on quality is perhaps why two of our first picture books were shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards this year, to our surprise and delight. We publish the Children’s Laureate Alison Lester and much-loved author Jane Godwin alongside first-timers 76-year-old Gwyn Perkins and 22-year-old Sasha Beekman, visual artist Jane Reiseger and family therapist Maggie Hutchings. Being able to launch the careers of such a diverse range of children’s book creators is a privilege, and I feel that each book we produce is infused with the joy we extract from making it.

How many children’s books does Affirm Press Kids publish each year—and what kind of books?

We’re publishing 24 books this year, and we’re aiming for 36 titles in 2019. The majority of these are locally produced, and they’re a mix of picture books, board books, junior fiction, middle grade and search-and-find. Our ethos is to publish bright, fun, quality books with humour and heart, and there’s a spark in each that we hope will inspire a life-long love of books in Australian child readers.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international children’s titles in Australia? Which titles have been the most successful?

We’re hugely excited by the international children’s books rights scene and have been attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair each year since we launched the kids list. We bought in seven international titles this year, including some delightful French picture books, with more to come in 2019. Our most successful overseas acquisition to date has been Patricia Forde’s The List—a dystopian thriller about the power of language, which we’ve just reprinted, originally published by a fantastic small Irish press called Little Island. Next year we’re releasing a hilarious bestselling Dutch series about a rogue dictator, and we’re currently considering translating a really charming Slovenian junior fiction series. Poring over international rights material is so inspiring, and we spend a frankly ridiculous amount of time plugging European picture-book texts into Google Translate, trying to work out the stories that accompany the illustrations we love.

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

A lot of our books are quintessentially Australian, which is how we like it, but The Lion in Our Living Room and The Bear in Our Backyard by Emma Middleton, illustrated by Briony Stewart, have a classic sensibility and, I believe, a universal appeal. This lovely pair celebrates the warmth and playfulness of family life, and the special moments that parents create around the world every day.

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

I think that our upcoming picture book When You’re Going to the Moon (October 2018) will have huge international appeal. It’s a really special collaboration between debut author Sasha Beekman and emerging illustrator Vivienne To (shortlisted for this year’s CBCA Crichton Award) that celebrates the power of imagination and features a particularly charismatic pet iguana called Rochelle. Vivienne has a background in animation, and her illustrations have a whimsical quality that I believe will translate across many markets.


‘Hotdog’ book tops children’s fiction bestsellers chart

Comedian and author Anh Do is once again at the top of the Australian children’s fiction bestsellers chart with the latest book in his ‘Hotdog’ series about a sausage dog and his animal friends. Books in Do’s ‘WeirDo’ and ‘Ninja Kid’ series are also in this month’s top 10. Other new titles include the second book in Sally Rippin’s ‘Polly and Buster’ series, about an unlikely friendship between a witch and a monster; and Marge and the Secret Tunnel, the fourth book in actor and author Isla Fisher’s series about an unpredictable babysitter.

Australian children’s fiction bestsellers: June

  1. Hotdog #4: Game Time! (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  2. Bad Guys Episode 7: Do-you-think-he-saurus?! (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  3. WeirDo #10: Messy Weird! (Anh Do, Scholastic)
  4. Ninja Kid #1 (Anh Do, Omnibus Books)
  5. The 13-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  6. Polly and Buster #2: The Mystery of the Magic Stones (Sally Rippin, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  7. Nevermoor (Jessica Townsend, Lothian)
  8. The 91-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, Pan)
  9. Marge and the Secret Tunnel (Isla Fisher, Piccadilly Press)
  10. Bad Guys Episode 1 (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)

© Nielsen BookScan 2018
Period covered: 27 May to 23 June 2018
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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