Three great Aussie writers give us the inside track to the Publishing Market and their writing life, Down Under.
SCBWI is a vital part of the Australian and New Zealand children’s book community with chapters in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Auckland, Newcastle with regional events in Tasmania, Gold Coast, Northern Queensland. We connect, share, support each other and have some great adventures together across our chapter and internationally.
|Elephants Have Wings by Susanne Gervay & Anna Pignataro|
The market is well established with most major publishers having headquarters in Sydney or Melbourne, as well as boutique publishers.
Our publishing industry rarely publishes manuscripts from overseas as government funding and awards are for writers and illustrators who are resident or Australian citizens.
However there are a lot of imports from the UK and USA in our market which has impacted strongly on our domestic publishing with reduced numbers of Australian books published.
With the decline in bookshops and the digital revolution, publishers are initiating their own concepts and series, contracting authors and illustrators for them. There are less stand-alone titles.
Publishers are still looking for new books and new authors, but they are very selective and marketing has become the major driver for most publishing houses.
The other driver is the national Australian school curriculum. Many books are published only if they slot into the school programmes. The new players in the market are the supermarket and department store chains especially BIG W, Target, K-mart, Aldi.
There is very little income received by authors/illustrators for sales from these chain stores, but the exposure is major and it facilities the real driver in income which is speaking at festivals, conferences and schools.
There are opportunities for publication through the new processes of online submission. There are very stringent directions and the Friday pitch or Monday pitch has led to an opening for authors to submit work. Unlike the slush piles of the past where very few books were picked up, this new system actually leads to publication of a number of authors.
Most publishers have allocated a day when authors can submit work.
As an author, I am not market driven, writing across the board from picture books to upper end YA novels. My young adult book, Butterflies is recognized as Outstanding Youth Literature on Disability.My anti-bullying ‘I Am Jack’ books have become rite-of-passage children’s books, adapted into a play by Monkey Baa Theatre touring Australia and the USA and optioned for a TV series.
|Slave Girl by Alexa Moses|
Despite the enormous land mass, Australia is piddling in population terms.
Which means our book market is also teeny. Nonetheless, according to the Bowker global survey of 2012, we’re not just a sporty nation - Australia is a nation of readers, too.
Per capita in 2012, we led the English-speaking world in number of books bought, as well as in e-book uptake.
We also love to read our own children’s writers, and talents like Andy Griffiths, Jackie French and Markus Zusak are household names and garner great sales.
For local writers, these contradictory facts – a small population of avid readers - present certain challenges.
- First, there are far less titles published in Australia than either the UK or the USA, so a children’s manuscript has to tick a lot of boxes to sell. Not only does it have to be entertaining and appealing, fact is, it’s easier to sell if slots into the Australian curriculum so it can be taught at schools.
- Secondly, there are many less smaller publishers to sell to, compared to the same territories.
Still, the Big Five all have Australian offices and we also have passionate, experienced independent publishers like Text Publishing, Allen & Unwin, and Black Inc.
In the end, the way to find a great publisher in Australia is the same as it is everywhere else.
Writers can look to the market all we want, but in the end, we have to fall in love with our characters and stories, or readers won’t fall in love with them either.
We need to pen stories that drag our readers through the pages with such excitement, they don’t want to set them aside.
If we writers can pen a fabulous manuscript, the chances are it will get published even in this small market, and attract its audience.
|Daisy's Quest Series|
One of the most enjoyable parts of being a children’s author in Australia, apart from that wonderful moment when your finished book arrives in the mail, is belonging to such an inclusive and friendly community.
My path to publication was a long one. For almost 15 years I was an eager apprentice, writing and submitting, studying and listening then writing and submitting again. I attended every workshop and writers’ festival, gathering new books and lining up to have them signed. I entered competitions and joined writers’ groups, paid for manuscript assessments by editors and authors and happily hovered around the periphery of the writing world meeting as many people as I could.
Naturally shy and like many writers, prone to self-doubt, I was very grateful for the encouragement and support of the professional writers I met while undergoing my writing apprenticeship.
There is a prevailing attitude among Australian children’s authors where unpublished writers are seen and treated like future authors that haven’t yet been discovered. And while everyone longs for the sales and awards the successes of their peers are genuinely celebrated and a feeling pervades that there is always room for more in the club.
Having SCBWI in Australia has extended this collegiality.
Australia is a vast country but SCBWI events bring together writers, illustrators, editors and agents from all our different states and territories to meet and share what we do.
I’ve been very lucky for my first project to have my agent, publisher, editors and illustrator all located in my home state of New South Wales. I was able to meet Kerry Millard, the illustrator of my books very early on and we worked together at every stage of development on both the text and illustrations. With the last two Wilderness Fairies books coming out this year and Kerry now living interstate I’m looking forward now to new challenges and new collaborations.