The Australian books that are hot property overseas

More than 80 per cent of the deals specify a particular territory, and since 2010, China has consistently topped the list, with Germany, Britain and the US featuring significantly.

Advances to authors fluctuate, as do the number of deals each enjoys. Most authors had between two and 10 deals (46 per cent) or a single deal (44 per cent), but 152 authors (9 per cent) were involved in between 11 and 50 deals for their work. Twenty writers each signed more than 50 deals, which comprised more than 23 per cent of all international publishing deals. Thirty-seven of the deals resulted in advances of more than $250,000, with more than half these going to women writers, but the bulk, 4724, resulted in advances in the $1000-$5000 range.

Author Liane Moriarty.

Author Liane Moriarty.Credit:Nic Walker

The report was not allowed to name the authors, but Ms Byrne, who was previously international rights manager at Allen & Unwin, said adult fiction was driving the larger advances.

There have always been successful authors, but people often didn’t know they were Australian. “Maybe literary writers like Richard Flanagan might have been different because his work is very much set here,” Ms Byrne said.

“For a lot of those big writers they were seen as international success but not necessarily connected to Australia. There’s been this growing awareness that Australia is producing these writers; that Liane Moriarty is not an American based in California — she’s here.”

‘Rights deals are not very doable without fairs’

Lindy O’Donnell

Stitching up international publication has always depended heavily on face-to-face appearances at events such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, which begins on October 20. It was cancelled as an in-person event last year and pandemic restrictions mean Australian publishers will again have to rely on Zoom.

Australian author Richard Flanagan.

Australian author Richard Flanagan.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Ms Byrne says the importance of face-to-face contacts cannot be overestimated. “A lot of those contacts are built up over a long time so having a two-to-three-year hiatus will mean many literary agents, rights managers and publishers are going to have to almost start again, re-establish all those connections.

“I don’t know in terms of figures what the impact will be, but I know anecdotally that foreign markets are now shoring up their own markets and publishing their own authors because that’s easier and less risky.“

Libby O’Donnell, head of international rights at HarperCollins, who negotiated the sale of Sorrow and Bliss, says she started her Frankfurt meetings over video link about 10 days ago and expects them to run well into November.


While she is relieved to be able to have them, she says they are a time-consuming way to do business. “Rights deals are not very doable without fairs,” she said. “That makes it really challenging. In some markets the long-term effects of COVID means there is less space for overseas authors.”

While Meg Mason was heartbroken not to be in Britain for publication, she has still been able to promote the book. “There is an upside and lots of things I have been able to do: Zoom interviews, of course, and radio — before you couldn’t do those except from the studio.”

On Saturday, she spoke from the comfort of her Sydney home to an audience in a 900-person-capacity venue at the Cheltenham Literary Festival.

The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from books editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday.

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