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Inside the Australian book industry

Bologna bound

Eleven independent publishers, 15 children’s book creators and one children’s laureate will set up shop at the collective Australian stand at this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

The publishers represented on the ‘Hello! From Australia’ stand are: Affirm Press, Allen & Unwin, Berbay Publishing, EK Books, Five Mile, Kids Own Publishing, MidnightSun, Quirky Kid, Scribble, University of Queensland Press and Windy Hollow Books (along with a local representative from Penguin Random House). A selection of children’s and YA titles from these and other Australian publishers can be found in the ‘Hello! From Australia’ catalogue.

Australia’s newest children’s laureate Maurice Gleitzman will also be based at the stand, while some of Australia’s finest children’s book creators will spend time showing off their wares. They are: Davina Bell, Jonathan Bentley, Allison Colpoys, Katrina Fisher, Jane Godwin, Mark Greenwood, Ann James, Jane Jolly, Frané Lessac, Alison Lester, Antonia Pesenti, Michael Wagner, Anna Walker, Gabrielle Wang and Ruth Waters.

Moving on from Bologna to China, last year, Brio Books associate publisher Alice Grundy travelled to China to attend the China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair. She writes about the country’s emerging children’s book market here.

Finally, a number of Australian publishers have recently announced moves into children’s publishing. Wakefield Press will launch a dedicated YA list this year; Transit Lounge has acquired world rights to its first children’s title; and Affirm Press has engaged international agency Rights People to represent its growing kids list. On top of that, an Australian book has been chosen as one of the launch titles for the new Oxford-based children’s publisher Guppy Books.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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Multiple deals for Berbay

Berbay Publishing has announced multiple rights deals over the past few months. The children’s publisher has sold North American and UK rights to Colours and two further board books by Tokyo-based illustrator Chihiro Takeuchi to Candlewick Press; sold simplified Chinese rights to John Canty’s picture-book series ‘Heads and Tails’ (Heads and Tails, Heads and Tails Insects and Heads and Tails Underwater) to Dook; and simplified Chinese rights to Tohby Riddle’s picture book Nobody Owns the Moon to Love Reading Books.

Berbay has also acquired world rights to a three-book middle-grade fiction series by bestselling children’s author Louise Park. Grace’s Castle, the first book in the series, is a time-slip adventure involving a girl who journeys back in time to meet some of the great children’s book authors of the past 150 years.

Allen & Unwin has acquired ANZ rights to two new YA-adult crossover fantasy novels by Garth Nix, with US and UK rights also selling in a two-book deal. Angel Mage, set in an alternative 17th-century Europe, follows an ageless young woman with angelic powers who is bent on reuniting with her lover; and The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, set in 1983 London, sees a young art student drawn into the arcane business of the booksellers whose secret agenda is to ensure that mythic entities and dormant legends do not intrude into the modern world.

Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina’s award-winning YA novel Catching Teller Crow (Allen & Unwin) has been sold to Penguin Children’s Books in the UK and Knopf in the US, respectively. Catching Teller Crow, which will be published in the US as The Things She’s Seen, follows a young Indigenous woman who dies in a car accident but communicates with her detective father to help solve a murder in a small town.

Alex Adsett Literary Agency has sold rights in multiple territories to graphic designer Robert Hendersen’s forthcoming picture book I See, I See, which encourages readers to turn the book to reveal new ways of seeing the pictures. Alex Adsett sold world rights (excluding North American) to Allen & Unwin and sub-agent Allison Hellegers sold North American rights to Chronicle.

Yellow Brick Books has sold Chinese and Korean rights to the picture book Oliver’s Grumbles (Yvonne Mes, illus by Giuseppe Poli) to Beijing Xiron Books and Froebel Media, respectively. It is the emerging children’s publisher’s first overseas rights deal.

North American rights to Jacqueline Harvey’s middle-grade spy-adventure series ‘Kensy and Max’ (Penguin Random House Australia) have been sold to Kane Miller Publishers; and UK and Commonwealth (ex ANZ) rights to Jaclyn Moriarty’s middle-grade fantasy novel The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone (Allen & Unwin) have been sold to the new Oxford-based children’s publisher Guppy Books.


A six-part teen drama series based on Isobelle Carmody’s YA novel The Gathering (Puffin) has received funding from Screen Australia. The novel follows a group of disillusioned teens who have been chosen to battle a centuries-old evil in their small town.

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


Fremantle Press’ newest rights opportunities

Fremantle Press specialises in books by new and emerging Western Australian writers and artists, and has a thriving children’s and YA list. Its forthcoming titles include the picture books Rodney by Kelly Canby and Violet and Nothing by Fiona Burrows, which have already received international offers, and the middle-grade adventure stories Alex and the Alpacas Save the World by Kathryn Lefroy and The Wreckers’ Revenge by Norman Jorgensen (read more in our profile).

View Fremantle Press’ latest rights catalogue here.


Awards attention for ‘Catching Teller Crow’

Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina’s YA novel Catching Teller Crow (Allen & Unwin) has won a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and received a shortlisting for the Indie Book Awards. The YA novel, which recently sold into the UK and US, is pitched as a ‘totally addictive ghost story, crime story and thriller, told half in prose and half in verse, from two of the most exciting Aboriginal voices in Australia’.

Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King’s picture book Pea Pod Lullaby (Allen & Unwin) and Richard Yaxley’s YA novel This is My Song (Scholastic) have also picked up prizes at the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.


What’s new at Fremantle Press

Fremantle Press specialises in books by new and emerging Western Australian writers and artists, and has a thriving children’s and YA list. CEO Jane Fraser spoke to Think Australian about the publisher’s recent rights successes and forthcoming titles. View the publisher’s latest rights catalogue here.

Which children’s and YA titles will you be promoting at Bologna and internationally this year?

Our picture books always do well, and we already have international offers for Kelly Canby’s next book Rodney (March) and Fiona Burrows’ picture book Violet and Nothing (May).

Rodney is the tale of a small tortoise with a big dream. Kelly hand-coloured and cut out each individual element then created a diorama, which she photographed and manipulated digitally. You feel a little like you’re wearing 3D glasses, which is perfect for entering Rodney’s world as he works out how define himself in relation to others and the world around him.

Violet and Nothing is the tale of a little girl with very big ideas. The illustrations are beautiful and distinctive and help unpack some very sophisticated concepts. Fiona uses black-and-white drawings offset by brilliant colour to illustrate Violet’s inner thoughts as she wrestles with the idea of nothingness.

We also think our two new adventure stories will appeal. I challenge you to find a 10-year-old who wouldn’t want to live with talking alpacas or own their very own pirate ship. Kathryn Lefroy’s debut novel Alex and the Alpacas Save the World (May) sends Alex, a feisty, adventurous and curious kid, off on a gripping and mystical adventure to save the planet.

Award-winning Norman Jorgensen is back with a rollicking tale of mischief on the high seas. The Wreckers’ Revenge (June) sees young Red Read expelled from school and whisked off by Captain Black Bowen, one of the most infamous smugglers to ever have plied the coasts of Australia and Asia.

Which titles have been the most successful in overseas markets in the past year?

The Hole Story by Kelly Canby was our international hit last year with sales to China, Korea, Italy, Spain and Catalonia, the Netherlands, and Belgium. It was great to see the Indigenous picture book I Love Me by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina get picked up by a big North American publisher, and really nice to see debut author Ian Mutch’s More and More and More getting signed up in Korea. Pandamonia is in its third printing in the US and selling well. We predicted Kyle Hughes-Odgers’ titles would do well too—and they did. One Thousand Trees and Can a Skeleton Have an X-ray? may be off to Korea soon.

In addition to the picture books, we had Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey and Dropping In by Geoff Havel translated into Slovenian, and sold the Spanish- and Catalan-language rights for Dungzilla by James Foley.

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

We can’t wait to release Antarctica by Moira Court (November). Moira has illustrated a number of picture books with Fremantle Press authors, including My Superhero with Chris Owen, which sold into China and France. This time Moira’s flying solo. Antarctica is in the news every day and this gorgeous picture book introduces the continent’s wildlife, topography and quirky facts to a new generation of readers in a cleverly constructed counting book. Moira’s distinctive illustrations are all created by hand using layered wood block prints, screen prints and collage. The result is stunning.

Helen Milroy is Australia’s first Indigenous doctor and is a child psychiatrist who uses her stories and artworks extensively with children. Her debut book Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories (July) features her original artworks. From a fallen star to a lonely whale, and from an entertaining lizard to an enterprising penguin, each story explores the power of friendship and celebrates the wonder of the natural world. The themes will work in many cultures and contexts and Helen is an exciting writer to watch.


‘Pig the Grub’ tops Australian picture book bestsellers chart

Aaron Blabey’s antihero pug is at the top of the Australian picture book bestsellers chart for January with the latest title in the ‘Pig the Pug’ series, Pig the Grub, while Matt Cosgrove’s amiable alpacas occupy three spots with A Stack of Alpacas, Alpacas with Maracas and Macca the Alpaca. The start of the new school year in Australia also sees two picture books from Andrew Daddo and Jonathan Bentley—Old Friends, New Friends and First Day—charting highly.

Australian picture book bestsellers: January

  1. Pig the Grub (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  2. Old Friends, New Friends (Andrew Daddo & Jonathan Bentley, ABC Books)
  3. A Stack of Alpacas (Matt Cosgrove, Scholastic)
  4. Where Is the Green Sheep? (Mem Fox & Judy Horacek, Puffin)
  5. Seriously, Do Not Open This Book (Andy Lee & Heath McKenzie, Lake Press)
  6. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury, Puffin)
  7. First Day (Andrew Daddo & Jonathan Bentley, ABC Books)
  8. Alpacas with Maracas (Matt Cosgrove, Koala Books)
  9. Macca the Alpaca (Matt Cosgrove, Koala Books)
  10. Thelma the Unicorn (with Unicorn Horn) (Aaron Blabey, Koala Books).

© Nielsen BookScan 2019
Period covered: 6 January to 2 February
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide




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