Successful new research on rights sales shows increased demand for Australian books overseas


The popularity of Australian children’s books abroad, the strength of the Chinese market, and the growing interest in Australian adult fiction have contributed to the success of Australian books abroad.

The research, Success Story: International rights sales of Australian-authored books 2008-2018, was carried out in partnership between the Australian Council for the Arts, Macquarie University and the Copyright Agency and highlights the growth of Australian books on international markets.

Together with the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest book trade fair, which kicks off on Wednesday, October 20, this report timely demonstrates the enormous international sales potential for the Australian publishing industry.

During the decade 2008-2018, rights to Australian literature were sold in 92 different territories, with books by Australian authors translated into 70 languages. The number of absolute transactions has also increased.

The strength and quality of the Australian children’s book market has been demonstrated by the results of children’s titles, including picture books and those aimed at young readers, which account for more than half of all rights deals.

Chinese translations accounted for the largest number of translations (14%), highlighting the importance of the Chinese language market.

International rights sales provide vital revenues for Australian writers and the entire book publishing industry.

Success Story represents the first time that international rights sales for Australian literature have been mapped and quantified in this way, revealing a significant market that can be tapped for further success.

Australian Council Literature Officer Wenona Byrne said:

“It’s a big industry that hasn’t been properly understood or presented before, earning up to $ 10 million a year. The research provides timely information on how we can build on these achievements and help Australian authors, literary agents and publishers promote their work abroad. This will be more important than ever as we reestablish connections after the COVID-19 disruption. “

Adam Suckling, Managing Director of the Copyright Agency, said:

“Australian publishers and literary agents have made great strides and made great strides in selling Australian copyright abroad and bringing great books to international readers. Sales of rights are an important source of income for writers and publishers. For the first time, we have real data to support our industry and our writers. This research will be of tremendous value to policy makers and government, as well as the Copyright Agency, as we consider other ways to support Australian writers. “

Dr Jan Zwar of Macquarie University, who coordinated the research with Dr Paul Crosby, said:

“A range of books are internationally successful, including children’s novels, genres such as crime, romance, action, contemporary female fiction, self-help and literary fiction. Australian publishers and literary agents have learned who in the global industry is able to take an author’s book and successfully launch it in another market, if not another language. This has allowed a new level of success for Australian books overseas and the industry is well positioned to capitalize on it for future opportunities. “

Michael Robotham, two-time Gold Dagger winner and two-time shortlisted by Edgar, said:

“International rights are so vital because they offer Australian writers and illustrators the opportunity to publish books in larger English language and translation markets, increasing their income and spreading Australian stories to the world. Without international rights, most of us will end up being amateurs and part-time workers, doing a myriad of other jobs to pay the bills.

Key Ideas:

  • Demand for Australian children’s books is booming: more than half (54%) of all transactions recorded were books for young readers, including: picture books (21%), middle school students (27%), adolescents and young adults (YA) (6%).
  • Adult fiction is also on the rise – The percentage contribution of adult fiction contracts almost doubled between 2011 (17%) and 2012 (33%). Since that time, adult fiction titles have largely maintained their share of all Australian offerings.
  • China is a key market for Australian books – After English (19.6%), Chinese (both simplified and complex) was the most frequently specified language (13.7%), followed by Korean ( 7%), German (5.5%) and Portuguese (4.4%).
  • Australian authors are increasingly recognized and appreciated by foreign publishers and agents. Overall, 63% of respondents to a survey of rights sellers indicated that they had felt an increase in international interest in Australian-authored books over the ten-year sampling period.
  • The number of film, television and theatrical adaptations of books by Australian authors has increased. Examples include Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe (released 2018; theatrical production premiered 2021), A Long Way Home (released 2013; film released as Lion in 2016), and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies novels (released in 2014; TV series released in 2017) and Nine Perfect Strangers (released in 2018; TV series released in 2021).
  • There is a clear opportunity to unlock further growth in sales of international Australian literature rights through investment and to rebuild the connections disrupted by COVID-19. After decades of capacity building and relationship building by the Australian rights seller community, interest in and awareness of Australian literature is increasing in foreign publishers and their markets. It is now possible to capitalize on these gains and leverage the existing interest in Australian literature to increase export opportunities in the future.

The full report, entitled Success Story: International rights sales of Australian-authored books 2008-2018 is available on the Australia Council website.

/ Public distribution. This material is from the original organization / authors and may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. See it in full here.

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