Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

What’s Hot Down Under

STATUS: I was very glad to hear that New York City didn’t get as hard from Irene as anticipated but my contacts on Long Island are still without power. Eep.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? UPSIDE DOWN by Jack Johnson

As I’m based in the U.S., it’s easy to get tunnel vision on what is hot because obviously I’m mostly focused on this territory. Now granted we sell a lot of projects abroad and some of our authors are wildly popular in places like Japan more so than in the US so I’m certainly aware of territorial differences but I still find it fascinating all the same.

So when I was in Australia, I had a chance to visit with a couple of editors. One publishing division was housed in a charming old Victorian-style mansion and others had sleek modern offices. I rather liked both settings.

Some things I learned took me by surprise. For example, in talking with ANZ children editors, they are still having a wonderful market for picture books. I don’t rep this genre (so please don’t send me queries for it) but I’ve heard any number of editors and agent friends who handle picture books in the US bemoan the state of trying to break out a new author in this arena. The climate is tough here but Down Under, they are still seeing really great success–even for new authors. This could partly be because the Indie bookseller market holds a significant sales percentage still in that country.

Two chain sellers–Borders and Angus & Roberson–had closed doors and editors were greatly concerned. With it went 20% of their sales market. In consequence, print runs were down by several 1000 depending on the author.

I was also surprised to see Costco in Melbourne and Sydney. I didn’t realize that company was there. (I also saw a few Targets). Interestingly enough though, neither venue sells books in Australia yet. I mentioned that it tended to be a strong sales venue in the US so I will be watching to see where that goes, if anywhere, there.

In ANZ, for young adult, dystopian has not taken off in a big way yet. HUNGER GAMES is certainly popular and they’ve had nice success with some other dystopian titles but no big break out. Well, let’s hope Marie Lu’s LEGEND will help jumpstart that trend. I’d appreciate it.

In a similar vein, paranormal romantic YA is equally hot there as it is in US (no surprise). What has gotten harder is literary YA–and that use to be a good market for them.

For middle grade, the ANZ publishers bemoaned the dearth of MG boy adventure stories (that sounds familiar!) and Wimpy Kid blew it out there. No surprise really. That’s a series that feels really universal.

In the adult realm, they publish a lot of Australian authors (as they should) and they always do it in trade paperback. There are very few hardcovers published there. They still love beautifully written stories so US imports like a recent debut THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS is having nice traction.

Another interesting tidbit is that an adult title called THE SLAP did mildly in the US but really broke out Down Under (and it was from an Aussie author so maybe no surprise) but it did well in Europe too.

Editors like what they call “watercooler” books. Fiction that tackles issues that readers can dig in and talk about around the proverbial watercooler.

That’s a wrap. By the way, this blog entry is not meant to be the end-all be-all of the ANZ literature market. It’s just smattering of random bits of info but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

Tags: , , ,

15 Responses

  1. Tehani Wessely said:

    I really enjoyed reading this insight into the big publishers in Australia. I’m an Aussie secondary school teacher librarian (and I dabble in small press publishing!), and it was great to hear that publishers are working to promote new authors in children’s literature. I’m judging for the Children’s Book Council of Australian Book of the Year awards this year, and wonder if this prestigious Australian award helps the industry in some way? It’s also interesting to note that in the past couple of years, a number of state-based Premier’s Literary awards (and even the Prime Minister’s awards) have added categories to recognise children’s and YA literature on their own merits.

    The dystopian books are certainly being well received by kids in schools, and as with the paranormal YA, (and the Harry Potter juggernaut that preceded it), the films of the books will help the movement!

    I wanted to also mention that Target in Australia certainly DO sell books (rather more cheaply than the poor chain and independent bookstores, thanks to their massive buying power), as do Kmart, Big W and Myer, our other major department stores. Costco is only VERY new in Oz, with limited outlets (certainly not here in Western Australia!), so can’t comment there!

  2. Sarah said:

    Yep, Costco’s only been in Sydney since the end of July. Target’s been around my whole life… at least 27 years.
    Target, Kmart, and especially Big W do VERY cheap books. Books that I’d still pay $18 for from Booktopia (which is already cheap) I can get for $13 from Big W. It makes it very hard for booksellers to succeed. Was so sad about A&R and Borders, but especially A&R, which has been around for decades.

    YA PNR (and adult PNR) is HUGE here. Libraries, bookstores, chainstores, supermarkets–Twilight, Fallen, Crescendo, Vampire Academy and their ilk are EVERYWHERE.

  3. Lucia Nardo said:

    Nice to get a non-partisan view of what’s happening in the ANZ industry. It can be hard work keeping up with its direction. The hardest trend to come to terms with is the loss of bookshops and the repercussions for writers.

  4. Sally Hepworth said:

    Sorry I missed you in Australia Kristen. I tried to get tickets to the Conference where you spoke, but it was sold out 🙁

    Echoing what was said above, Target does sell books (I always buy my books there) but you’re right, I’ve never seen books in Costco here (whereas I did see them when I lived in Canada.) But Costco is new to Melbourne so we’ll see!

    Thanks for the Aussie tips and hope you enjoyed your trip to our beautiful country.

  5. Megan Burke said:

    Yep I’d agree with the others and say Target does sell books. Very cheaply, I might add! I usually buy my books there, or Big W or Kmart.

    I haven’t seen the Melbourne Cosco yet despite living here so I’ll have to see if that sells books!

    I’m sorry I missed you while you were here too – would have been great to hear you talk.

  6. Tim said:

    Okay, I feel pretty ignorant here, but what exactly is “MG boy adventure stories”? Is that “middle grade”? My friend El Goog isn’t helping me on this one, either

  7. Kristin Laughtin said:

    Interesting! I love when agents talk about what’s working well in other countries after their visits, because it’s so easy to get a US-centric view (with sometimes some UK thrown in).

    @Tim: Yes, MG = middle grade.

  8. Mandy and Drew said:

    So interesting! Having just moved to Australia from Colorado, I have noticed that there are quite a lot of teens books on displays (similar to the US) and that books are really expensive here. The general attitude is a little bleak towards bookstores, but not towards books. Oh, and I’ve never heard of The Slap so I’ll have to check it out! 🙂

  9. Shannon McEwan said:

    The Slap sold well in Australia in part because of its main premise (mans slaps another persons child at a BBQ) called to the Australian obsession with arguing about political correctness, and in part because the author, Christos Tsiolkas has a degree of notoriety in Oz through the explicitness (sexual and drug) of his debut novel ‘Loaded’. ‘The Slap’ is more mellow than ‘Loaded’, but it was still pretty contentious when it was released a few years ago. People loved it or hated it – and needed to read it so they could place themselves in the debate…

    As to why ‘The Slap’ might be popular in Europe – ‘The Slap’ explores its subject matter through eight points of view – five of which are the perspective of either first generation immigrants or first generation Aussies. Maybe this kind of culture conflict is of more interest in Europe than in the USA.

  10. Ebony McKenna. said:

    It was wonderful having you at the RWA conference in Melbourne, you were fabulous and inspiring.

    You helped me create a strong query, which I sent to my agent in the UK. She said ‘it’s very “you” if I may say that’ – which is exactly what I was aiming for. Huzzah!

    Speaking of the Aus market, I do recall one editor mentioning at the RWAus conference they were after “Commercial Literary”. which kind of boggled me, as I thought they were very different things.

    YA literary is often picked up for high school reading lists here. Maybe that is changing – perhaps that’s why YA literary is getting harder? I don’t have the answers either.

  11. Margaret Tanner said:

    Hi Kristin,
    I hope you enjoyed your trip to Melbourne. I was at the conference there, and was lucky enough to attend one of your panel sessions, didn’t get to pitch to you though, but everyone I spoke to who did pitch were very complimentary about you. I sincerely thank you for coming all the way to Oz and hope you will return.



  12. Anonymous said:

    When you said ANZ I got confused. I thought of ANZ Bank, one of the big four banks in Australia.
    But I think you just mean Australians.

    Thanks for the insight in the Australian market, shame that I haven’t read your blog sooner and realized you were here!!!!

  13. Imelda said:

    I think by ANZ, Kristen means Australia and New Zealand. Same as it does in the bank, just regarding books, here!

Denver Skyline Photo © Nathan Forget [Creative Commons] | Site built by Todd Jackson