Mark’s Say: Australian Publishers Overseas

Last month, we mentioned some interesting new fiction coming out later this year and I’ve been alerted to two other major titles to look forward to. Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan has a new novel in September, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which borrows its title from the Japanese poet Basho’s seventeenth century travel memoir. It’s partially set in a Japanese labour camp in 1943.

Chris Womersley, author of the acclaimed Bereft also has a new novel due in September, Cairo. It centres around the theft, and return, of Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria. Chris’s publisher, Scribe, have recently also launched their UK imprint.

Scribe publisher Henry Rosenbloom has always had an interest in featuring international books on his lists (last year, for example, he acquired the National Book Award-winning Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo). When a slot came up at the Faber Factory Plus, a sales and distribution service in the UK for independent publishers, Henry jumped at the chance, although not without some trepidation. Scribe plan to publish a small list overseas. This will consist of their Australian releases, where appropriate, and they have also started acquiring rights to publish international titles in the UK, Europe and Australia.

At the recent London Book Fair, Scribe picked up UK and Australian rights to some major US titles. They included the New York Times bestseller, The Way of the Knife by Mark Mazzetti, which describes how the lines between the CIA and the American military have been blurred, and The Book of Woe by Gary Greenberg, a critical look at the psychiatrist’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This comes out appropriately just after the release of the latest edition, the DSM-5, which has been ten years in the making. The DSM-5 has already been creating waves with its reclassification of Asperger’s syndrome as an autistic disorder, and is sure to cause further controversy.

Scribe are not the only Australian publisher to venture into international waters. Lonely Planet was the first successful organisation to become a truly international, Australian-based publisher. Trade publisher Hardie Grant have also had a UK presence for some years and have recently come to an arrangement with US publisher Rizzoli to move into that market. Sandy Grant, one of the principals of Hardie Grant, has extensive UK experience, having been CEO of Reed Publishing in the late 90s. Hardie Grant’s high quality illustrated books have found a niche in the UK. Scribe’s foray is different in that they will concentrate on serious non-fiction and some literary fiction. Perhaps some other publishers will follow – Text, maybe, as their new shareholders, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, maintain a base in London?

In any case I wish Scribe and our other Australian publishers well as they venture further abroad!

Mark Rubbo is the Managing Director of Readings