About Andrea Hanke

Andrea Hanke is the editor-in-chief of Books+Publishing magazine. Follow @ahankey on Twitter.

Where can you buy ebooks in Australia? A round-up of ebookselling developments in 2013

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A number of new ebookstores opened in Australia during 2013, while others closed. Andrea Hanke rounds-up some of the recent developments in the local ebook market.

While the news was announced partway through 2012, the withdrawal of Google as a local book retailing partner in January 2013 was one of the first major upsets of the year, affecting local partners Dymocks, Booktopia, the Co-op and QBD, although QBD was not yet selling ebooks at the time of Google’s withdrawal.

This followed in March with the news that ebook distributor OverDrive would discontinue ebook sales from its Booki.sh platform in June. Booki.sh, a home-grown ebook platform provider that was purchased by OverDrive in 2012, helped a number of indie booksellers launch their ebookstores, including Avid Reader, Gleebooks, Fullers, Imprints, Mary Ryan’s and Books for Cooks. These ebookstores subsequently closed. ‘Ebooks, in my opinion, have been a major headache for any but the biggest Australian retailers, all along,’ said Gleebooks co-owner David Gaunt at the time.

In March, Australian ebookstore Booku, along with online print bookstore Boomerang Books, was put up for sale. Booku eventually closed in August, while Boomerang continues to trade through its partnership with Pages & Pages Booksellers.

In April, a new ebook retailer emerged on the scene. JB HiFi launched its own ebookstore offering ebooks in PDF and EPUB formats for all devices that support Adobe digital rights management, as well as dedicated ereading apps for Apple and Android devices. The retailer was already selling a range of ereaders, including Sony and Kobo devices.

Slipping under the radar somewhat, German ereading company txtr also launched Australian and New Zealand ebookstores in the first half of the year, offering local ebook titles alongside international ones.

Pages & Pages Booksellers made headlines in April when it announced that it would introduce a ‘Kindle amnesty’, asking customers to trade in their Amazon Kindles for BeBook ereaders and raising awareness about the limitations of the Kindle. While only a few customers took the bookseller up on its offer, Pages & Pages general manager Jon Page said that the promotion led to ‘countless conversations with customers who have been considering buying a Kindle and have changed their mind’.

In May, Sony opened its Reader Store in Australia, offering a range of local and international ebooks. While the store is aimed at users of Sony Reader devices, the ebooks can be used on any devices that support the EPUB format.

Also in May, QBD become the first Australian retailer to launch an ebookstore powered by ebook provider Copia, and was soon followed by a number of other booksellers around the country, including: Farrell’s, Mary Martin, Dillons Norwood, UNSW Bookshop, The Turning Page, Better Books and Paperbark Merchants. Several other booksellers opened Copia-powered online stores in the second half of 2013.

Also announced in June was the long-awaited launch of TitlePage Plus by the Australian Publishers Association and Thorpe-Bowker, which gave Australian retailers local availability and other information on print and digital books.

Big W became the first discount department store in Australia to enter the ebook market, launching its ebookstore, powered by OverDrive, in September. The store offers ebooks in EPUB and PDF formats, which can be read on all devices that support Adobe digital rights management. Big W was already selling a range of ereaders and tablets, including Kobo, Kindle and Samsung products.

In October, Kobo announced a partnership with the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA), similar to partnerships signed with independent booksellers in New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, and the US. ABA member booksellers who sign up will be able to sell Kobo devices in their stores, and will also get a percentage of the sales of ebooks purchased by their customers from the Kobo store. ‘It has been a mystery to me why it has taken this long to find a straightforward, cost-effective solution to allow bookshops the opportunity to provide ebooks and ereaders in their suite of services. Kobo has provided a simple, elegant, comprehensive and inexpensive entry point,’ said ABA CEO Joel Becker at the time.

The only ABA member store to start selling Kobo ebooks and ereaders before Christmas was Pages & Pages, which previously sold ebooks through the ebook supplier ReadCloud, although the ABA has confirmed that another seven booksellers have signed-up. In Australia, Kobo also supplies ebooks and ereaders to Collins Booksellers and online retailer Bookworld.

The year ended with a flurry of new ebookstore announcements. In November, the rumours that Amazon was launching a Kindle store in Australia were finally confirmed. The Kindle store went live on 13 November at www.amazon.com.au, a domain name that the retailer has owned since 2004 and which previously directed Australian consumers to the amazon.co.uk site. The local site does not, however, sell print books.

Around the same time, Optus also launched its own ebookstore, powered by OverDrive, with ebooks available in EPUB and PDF formats and able to be read on devices that support Adobe digital rights management. Existing Optus customers can pay for their purchases from their pre-paid mobile account or monthly mobile bill, while new customers can purchase ebooks and audiobooks using Paypal.

Finally, US bookseller Barnes & Noble launched an Australian Nook ebookstore in November, which is accessible via an app for PCs and devices with Windows 8.1.

In the game: bestselling sports books in Australia

HarperCollins launched Ricky Ponting’s memoir At the Close of Play this month with an initial print run of 100,000 copies. The book was launched by former PM John Howard and has already inspired an MCG made entirely of books.

The publisher had a good reason to print big. When it comes to book sales, cricket is by far the most popular sport, claiming six of the 10 highest selling sports titles in Australia in the past decade. (Rugby League came a distant second with two of the bestselling titles, while AFL and car racing had one title apiece.) The book to beat is of course Steve Waugh’s Out of My Comfort Zone, which has sold over 230,000 copies since it was released in 2006.

Bestselling sports books in Australia in the past decade:

2012: Old School (Nathan Hindmarsh & Michael Visontay, Macmillan)
2011: Darren Lockyer (Darren Lockyer & Dan Koch, Random House)
2010: That’s What I’m Talking About (Shane Crawford & Glenn McFarlane, Michael Joseph)
2009: True Colours (Adam Gilchrist, Macmillan)
2008: Glenn McGrath: Line and Strength (Glenn McGrath & Daniel Lane, William Heinemann)
2007: Peter Brock (Hyperactive)
2006: Out of My Comfort Zone (Steve Waugh, Penguin)
2005: Chappelli Speaks Out (Ashley Mallett, A&U)
2004: One Who Will: The Search for Steve Waugh (Jack Egan, A&U)
2003: Lillee (Dennis Lillee, Hachette).

© Nielsen BookScan 2013

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The Indigenous Literacy Foundation: Tiwi Islands trip

Andrea Hanke joined several members of the Australian book industry on a trip to the Tiwi Islands to visit some of the schools involved in the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF). She shares some of her trip diary here.

Day one:

Participants in this year’s ILF ambassador field trip arrive in Darwin from across the country. There are 10 of us in total: ILF’s Karen Williams and Tina Raye; authors and ambassadors Andy Griffiths, John Danalis and Leonie Norrington; Gleebooks’ co-owner and ILF board member David Gaunt; Fremantle Press’ Claire Miller; National Library of Australia’s Maureen Brooks; student teacher Jemimah Bowan; and myself.

Some of the team, including comedy duo David and Andy, are veterans of numerous ILF field trips. However, many of us are first-timers, unsure of what to expect over the next few days. Karen and Tina have helpfully supplied us with ILF goodie bags full of useful items for our remote experience, including our uniform (navy blue polo shirts with ‘reading opens doors’ emblazoned across the back), paw paw ointment (suitable for insect bites, burns and other assorted ailments) and a map of Indigenous Australia.

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ILF goodie bag

Our first team activity is a briefing with Ian Smith, principal of Tiwi College, and Geoff Perry, principal of Top End Group Schools. During our stay on the Tiwi Islands we will be living at Tiwi College and working with the students there, as well as with two primary schools in the area. Both Ian and Geoff speak passionately about their work in remote Indigenous communities, about the importance of building long-term projects and partnerships, and about the benefits that the experience has brought them personally. Ian tells us that whenever he’s having a tough day at work, he reminds himself of what a privilege it is to live on the Tiwi Islands—a place that few white people will ever have the chance to visit.

Team photo

Top: Ian, Andy, David, Andrea, John, Karen; Bottom: Geoff, Jemimah, Tina, Maureen

Day two:

This morning we board two small aircrafts and fly 80km north of Darwin to the Tiwi Islands. When I first learnt the destination of our field trip I had to pull out a map. The Tiwi Islands comprise two main islands: Bathurst and Melville. Bathurst is the smaller, more densely populated of the two, with around 1500 people living in the town of Nguiu. Melville, our destination, has two villages of around 450 people each. The islands are governed by the Tiwi Land Council and the majority of the inhabitants are Indigenous.

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Our ride to the Tiwi Islands

When we arrive at Tiwi College there are no signs of the school’s 70-plus students. Due to its remote location, the college operates as a boarding school; the students are collected on Monday mornings and dropped back home on Friday afternoons. We begin with a tour of the college grounds, which include a much-loved football oval, a basketball court that is primarily used for football practice, and an impressive kitchen garden.

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Tiwi College football oval

In the afternoon our group splits off into different activities: beach walking for Andy, barra fishing for John and Leonie, and a hunt in the mangroves for mud-mussels and longbums for the rest of us. These activities turn out to be great preparation for our classroom visits over the next few days, as fishing and hunting feature heavily in the students’ stories and drawings (along with croc and shark attacks).

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Hunting among the mangroves

We also experience our first and only flat tyre of the week—but it’s a spectacular one! Luckily our drivers are able to replace the tyre with a little assistance from David. With no phone reception on long stretches of the island’s roads, it’s a reminder of one of the many challenges of remote living.

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A spectacular flat

Day three:

Today is our first day with the students at Tiwi College. Our three authors, Andy, John and Leonie, are each assigned a classroom and several ‘helpers’.

I start off in Andy’s classroom where Andy is teaching his students (year 7-9 girls) how to create stories with images, labels and dialogue boxes. He presents a slide show of his treehouse stories and encourages the students to come up with their own Tiwi-style treehouses. The results are a delightful combination of local experiences (croc-infested watering holes) and images inspired by Andy’s own fantasy world (shark-infested swimming pools).

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Andy at Tiwi College

In another classroom Leonie is creating storeyboards with the primary school students while John begins his ‘owl project’ with the year 7-9 boys. Over the next few days John’s owls (originally purchased from Bunnings) will travel all over the island. They will be photographed on trampolines, in waterholes and with other birds, and on the final day John will work with some of Tiwi College’s senior students to create a storybook about the owl’s journey.

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John (and owl) at Tiwi College

After a long day in the classroom we head to the local waterhole for a quick dip and a swing (the kids assure us a crocodile hasn’t been spotted here in years).

Day four and five:

Over the next two days we visit two primary schools on the island: Milikapiti School in Milikapiti and Pularumpi School in Pirlangimpi. After some initially shy introductions the students are soon lapping up the attention (as you can imagine, they don’t get visitors here very often!). I notice that the kids switch easily between Tiwi (which they often speak among themselves) and English (which is used in the classrooms). The level of literacy among the kids is varied but the enthusiasm is constant—and catching! Some of the kids will eventually go to Tiwi College, while others may attend secondary schools in Darwin or even further afield. Many of them dream of following in the footsteps of famous Tiwi Island footballers Michael Long and Cyril Rioli. Hopefully, our visit will encourage some other dreams as well.

Students at Pularumpi

Students at Pularumpi School

After classes are over the kids take us on a tour of the village. At Milikapiti School we visit the local arts and crafts association, where we get our faces painted and watch the kids perform some traditional dances.

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Andy gets his face painted at Milikapiti

At Pularumpi School we go for a walk along a beautiful stretch of beach; the water is, of course, off-limits because of the crocs. We also stock up on soft drinks and snacks from the village’s one-and-only store, which gets its supplies shipped in once a week from Darwin.

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Beach walking at Pirlangimpi

Day six:

On our final day at Tiwi College Ian presents us with school caps and books on the history of the Tiwi Islands. He describes us to the students as the books and literacy equivalent of elite sports stars. It’s very flattering, and much of the praise deserves to go to Andy, John and Leonie for the incredible sessions they’ve run with the kids this week.

After assembly Karen and Tina meet with the Tiwi College staff to discuss what books and literacy resources the school might need in the future. They also discuss ways to continue the authors’ work beyond the week. ILF describes its ambassador field trips as a two-way learning experience, and it’s through these visits that the foundation is able to determine how to offer each community the best possible support.

Even though classes are over, I notice that most of the team are still wearing our ILF polo shirts. It could be because we’re out of clean shirts, but I also think it’s out of pride. After spending a week with the ILF team I can say that the Australian book industry should be very proud of what it has achieved.

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Claire, John, Karen, Jemimah, Maureen

To find out more about ILF visit the website here. And don’t forget to take part in Indigenous Literacy Day on Wednesday 4 September.

Interview: Chip Rolley, artistic director of Sydney Writers’ Festival

This year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival (14-20 May) is the third to be programmed by artistic director Chip Rolley. He spoke to Andrea Hanke.

What do you think will be the highlights of this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival?
It’s always difficult to pick favourites, especially in a festival that features over 400 participants in over 300 events. Judging by the early ticket sales, Edmund de Waal and Jeffrey Eugenides are runaway bestsellers. But others are knocking on the door.

What sessions or which authors do you think will attract the big crowds?
There’s a lot to choose from, but I think the largest crowds will be lining up for Jeff ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ Kinney, Jeanette Winterson and Jeffrey Eugenides. And then we’ve got Roddy Doyle together with Sebastian Barry and Tom Keneally. Of course Stella Rimington and Kathy Lette will pull in crowds. And there’s a lot of curiosity about Joe McGinniss and Michael Hastings.

What about your personal picks? Which authors are you most looking forward to hearing talk about their work?
I am really keen to hear Susan Swingler, whose memoir House of Fiction (Fremantle Press) lifts the lid on one of our literary legends Elizabeth Jolley. And I’m always attracted to the new voices—authors like Sjon from Iceland, Riikka Pulkkinen from Finland, Chad Harbach with The Art of Fielding (Fourth Estate). And I’m keen to hear Jesmyn Ward, whose book Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury) is one of the most moving novels I have read in some time.

How did you decide on the theme for this year’s festival?
I’ll never forget when the ex-News of the World journo Paul McMullan told the UK Leveson Inquiry into the media, ‘Privacy is for paedos.’ The audacity of it: if you’re concerned about privacy, you must have something to hide. That crystallised for me the question of where we draw the line between public and private. The sense that that line is vanishing has been building for years. Not just because of UK scandal rags, or even the increased state security apparatus. But with social media we post things about ourselves that in previous times we might not have even told our loved ones. It seems to me it’s the question of our time—and it’s a question writers have been asking themselves for years. For us, it was a perfect way to give the festival itself a narrative.

Will you be doing anything different this time around? Any strategies for attracting younger crowds?
I learned a long time ago (back when I worked in magazines in New York) that the minute you start trying to attract younger crowds, you’ve lost the game. Smells like Teen Spirit. If we ensure our programming is driven by strong ideas, people of all ages—young, old and every age in between—will come to the events.

You’ve got a couple of pretty big-name authors in attendance (Jeffrey Eugenides, Jeff Kinney …). Any outrageous tour riders?
Are you referring to that rumour we have to buy a life-time supply of drawing paper and Textas in 36 colours? I’m contractually bound not to say anything about it.

Picador relaunches its ‘greatest novels’

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Pan Macmillan imprint Picador is re-issuing 12 of its ‘greatest novels’ in March.

This one-off list, which is being spearheaded by Picador UK, draws on prize-winning and bestselling authors from 40 years of publishing, including Bret Easton Ellis, Cormac McCarthy, Alice Sebold, Helen Fielding, Graham Swift, Alan Hollinghurst and Australia’s Tim Winton.

‘It’s an incredible list,’ says Picador Australia publisher Alex Craig. ‘Man Booker Prize winners (Last Orders, The Sea, The Line of Beauty), cultural game changers (American Psycho, Bridget Jones’s Diary), classics (All the Pretty Horses) and bestsellers (The Lovely Bones, Room).’

In Australia, the list includes three local titles—Tim Winton’s Dirt Music (which is part of the UK-selected top 12), Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance and Carrie Tiffany’s Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living. These hand-picked titles have been chosen to reflect ‘the spirit of the anniversary—representing the past, the present and the future of the imprint’, says Craig. ‘All three novels engage with Australian themes and concerns deeply rooted in our landscape, history and psyche. All are stunning novelists at the forefront of Australian literature.’

As with any new series, the design is crucial. Picador has chosen black-and-white jackets as a nod to the ‘distinctive white spines and black type’ of Picador’s early paperbacks. Each title includes extra content such as reading-group notes, interviews and articles from the authors (all published around the time the novels were released), and is priced between $19.99 and $22.99.

For more information on the series go here.

INTERVIEW: Frank Moorhouse on ‘Cold Light’ (Vintage)

In the conclusion to Frank Moorhouse’s ‘Edith Trilogy’, former League of Nations officer Edith Campbell Berry mixes politics with pleasure in post-war Canberra. Moorhouse spoke to Andrea Hanke in the November issue of Bookseller+Publisher. (See her review here.)

Edith has a glamorous lifestyle in the first two books. She is young, attractive, surrounded by interesting men and women, and working for world peace. Were you tempted to end her story there?
For a while after Dark Palace I thought that Edith’s life ended with the collapse of the League of Nations. She had come through this great disaster in human vision—what some saw as the greatest diplomatic embarrassment of the 20th century—the new UN had rejected her, and some of her friends at the League had suicided because of their failure to stop World War II. In some ways Edith flees back to Australia to find herself. I became excited and went to Jane Palfreyman, my then editor at Random House, and said, ‘the third novel is set in Canberra in the 1950s’. She looked at me and said, ‘do you have a stronger pitch than that?’ I told her that this was a remarkable time in Australia and the world regardless of how we tend to see it—and Edith belonged there. Jane agreed. In Canberra Edith again confronts all the great problems of the human race—and her own personal dilemmas. Wherever we go the existential questions follow us. Edith is a woman in her prime, also a woman still trying to understand her sexuality even if it means crossing the sexual borders or trying to live without borders. She is a woman who wrestles for her say in the world; to find a family life; she wrestles with alcohol, and she strives for a sexual life which fits her personality and she searches for peace of mind.

In Cold Light, Edith takes up a number of causes, including the construction of Canberra, for which she has lofty dreams. How do you think she would feel about Australia’s capital today?
Edith would’ve been pleased to see that the unique and creative hands of Marion and Walter Griffin were still clearly present in the design of the national capital.

She would have seen that the residential neighbourhoods of Canberra had lost their rawness and had become distinctive in design and layout—some with interesting restaurants and their own community activities, and that each is now an archive of the architectural styles of the decade in which they were built.

She would have said now let’s pull down any unsuccessful structures and ugliness.

She would have been disappointed that the buses taking people to and from work did not have visits from wandering minstrels and opera singers and celebrities.

But she would be delighted and thrilled that Australia had manage to create a distinctive city ‘not like any other in the world’ with its ‘temples’ of art, literature, science, music, democracy, law, military history, its parks and gardens, and a national museum—all showing where we came from and what brought us along.

She would probably ask where the Museum of Design, Arts, and Crafts was and why there wasn’t there a great museum of Indigenous culture.

She might be disappointed at the level of political debate in the new parliament house.

You spent some time in Geneva to research the first two books of the trilogy. Did you set up camp in Canberra for this book?
One day in the bus travelling through Canberra in a winter mist I had a dazzling revelation—it was that Canberra may well have evolved into the most aesthetically distinctive and functionally satisfying 20th-century planned city in the world—that Australia had pulled it off. I then had a second realisation, Canberra was now completed in the formal sense—the new parliament house was working and the key cultural institutions were pretty much in place. I even entertained the notion that Canberra might be the most beautiful 20th-century city in the world. While some people who live outside Canberra still hold out-dated memories of the ‘city without soul’ where you couldn’t get a decent coffee, Canberra is now a sophisticated city and it increasingly delights me—architecturally, gastronomically and with its wonderful cultural resources.

The story also delves into the history of the Australian Communist Party, and its role in political espionage during the 1950s (both as a spy and as a party that was heavily spied upon). Did you find many sources to draw on this?
The release of national archival material and the publication of a revealing book by former communist Mark Aarons (The Family File, Black Inc.) may have extinguished any illusions those on the left still have about the nature of the Australian communist party leadership during the immediate post-war years. We now know that the communist party in Australia was substantially funded by the Soviet Union and a section of the membership was engaged in spying for the Soviet Union. Whether this has discredited forever the vision of some sort of a socialistic economic and social system as an alternative to that of American capitalism is, perhaps, still to be resolved.

You write ‘literary novels’ that are funny and sexy, which is less common in this genre. Have you been influenced by any particular authors?
My hero author is George Eliot and she has influenced me throughout my life since school days but I doubt that she has contributed to what you call the ‘sexy’ in my work—I have to take responsibility for that—although, given her own personal life, I do not think she would’ve been in any ways embarrassed by it if she were alive to read it. I think her influence on me was that she showed me that the personal life, the civic life, the life of ideas and social change can be intertwined into an engaging readable novel.

Are there any plans to adapt Edith’s story into a movie or mini-series?
A number of film options have been taken out on the Edith novels over the 20 years that they were written but they still await the right director and producer—Cate Blanchett said in an interview that my character Edith was the one she most wanted to play. I hope that comes to pass.

Page to screen: summer edition

This year we’ve had The Help, Norwegian Wood, We Need to Talk about Kevin and who could forget Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1. The book-to-movie adaptations continue this summer, beginning with several high-profile Boxing Day releases.

One of the most-anticipated adaptations has to be The Adventures of Tintin (Boxing Day), based on three of Herge’s comics: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure (all Egmont Books). This 3D adaptation is directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by Peter Jackson, and has Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig and Andy Serkis in starring roles.

Stephen Spielberg is also the director behind the World War One drama War Horse (Boxing Day), adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s bestselling children’s novel of the same name (Hardie Grant Egmont). The story has also been turned into a successful theatre production and after stints in London and New York, a local production will open in Melbourne in late 2012.

We Bought a Zoo (Boxing Day) is a comedy-drama directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and a menagerie of animals. The movie is based on Benjamin Mee’s memoir of the same name (HarperCollins), which tells of how the author and his young family came to own a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. The movie, however, is set in Southern California.

Thankfully, the new movie adaptation of John le Carré’s spy novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (January) remains faithfully British, with Colin Firth and Gary Oldman in the lead roles. The novel is published by Hodder.

Also out in January is a second Sherlock Holmes movie adaptation from director Guy Ritchie, again starring Robert Downey Junior as the detective and Jude Law as Dr Watson. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories are available in various imprints but for something new, check out Anthony Horowitz’s authorised Sherlock Holmes novel The House of Silk (Orion).

Brian Selznick’s multi-award-winning children’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic), which combines elements of picture book, graphic novel and film, was always going to be a tempting project for an ambitious filmmaker. The story of an orphan living in the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930s has been turned into a 3D film, simply titled Hugo (January), by Martin Scorsese.

The Descendants (January) is a quirky comedy-drama starring George Clooney as a man who finds out his wife has been having an affair after a boating accident lands her in a coma. It’s based on a novel of the same name by Hawaiian author Kaui Hart Hemmings (Vintage).

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death and one of several biopics in production is My Week with Marilyn (January), directed by Simon Curtis and starring Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh as Monroe and Laurence Olivier. It’s based on two books by Colin Clark (My Week with Marilyn and The Prince, The Showgirl and Me, both HarperCollins) about the making of the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl.

The US adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millennium Trilogy’ kicks off in January with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. A new movie-tin in edition is being published by Pan Macmillan.

A movie adaptation of Jonathan Safron Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Penguin), which draws on the events of September 11, will be released in late February after initial plans to release it on the 10th anniversary of the attack were scuttled. The movie is directed by Stephen Daldry and stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.

Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe tackles another book-to-movie adaptation with The Woman in Black (February), based on Susan Hill’s thriller of the same name (Profile). The book has also been adapted into one of the longest running stage plays.

On the smaller screen, Gabrielle Lord’s ‘Conspiracy 365’ series has been adapted as an interactive TV series for the Family Movie Channel, with 13 episodes to screen monthly from January 2012 to January 2013. The story follows 15-year-old fugitive Callum Ormond as he searches for the truth behind a deadly family secret, and features a local cast including RocKwiz’s Julia Zemiro.

Best books of 2011

Tis the season for ‘best of’ lists, and whether you get your tips from the New York Times, Goodreads or local booksellers/tastemakers such as Jon Page and David Gaunt, this year there are plenty to choose from.

From the local booksellers:

The good folk at Readings have devised multiple ‘best of’ lists, including the intriguingly titled ‘best overlooked books of 2011’, as well as the ‘bestselling ebooks of 2011‘; Pages & Pages’ has compiled its best books of 2011 (owner Jon Page has also nominated his top five reads for 2011 – if you follow him on Twitter these should be self-evident); Gleebooks’ David Gaunt has shared his favourite titles of the past year; Oscar & Friends has announced its staff picks for 2011; several Shearer’s booksellers have blogged about their top picks; and The Women’s Bookshop in New Zealand has compiled its favourite titles for 2011.

From the overseas booksellers:

Barnes and Noble has named its best books for 2011, including a category for ‘quirky, beautiful, different’ titles.

From the media:

The New York Times has released its annual ‘100 notable books’ and ‘10 best books’ lists; Flavourwire has compiled a list of ‘the most criminally overlooked books of 2011′; and there are more ‘best of’ lists from the Guardian, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Salon, NPR and Kirkus Reviews. In local media, the SMH/Age has asked a selection of writers to name their favourite reads of the past year; as has the New Zealand Listener. The Australian has released its Books of the Year over five pages starting here (paywall). The Huffington Post compiled a list of the best food books of 2011 as did the blog Brain Pickings.

From social media:

The winners of the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards have also been announced, with over 600,000 votes cast.

Bookish dates for 2012

It’s never too early (or nerdy) to start filling in next year’s diary. Here are some key dates for the book industry:

  • Taipei International Book Exhibition: 1-6 February
  • Perth Writers Festival: 23-26 February
  • Adelaide Writers’ Week: 3-8 March
  • New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Week: 9-14 March
  • Leading Edge Conference (Melbourne): 9-11 March
  • Bologna Children’s Book Fair: 19-22 March
  • London Book Fair: 16-18 April
  • WordStorm (Darwin): May
  • Mother’s Day (Australia and NZ): 13 May
  • Sydney Writers’ Festival (including NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, SMH Young Novelists of the Year Award): 14-20 May
  • New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards: 16 May (shortlist on 28 February)
  • APA Book Design Awards (Sydney): 17 May
  • Australian Book Industry Awards (Sydney): 18 May
  • CBCA National Conference (Adelaide): 17-19 May
  • Book Expo America: 4-7 June
  • ABA annual conference (Sydney): 17-18 June
  • Miles Franklin Literary Award (Brisbane): 20 June (shortlist in April)
  • Prime Minister’s Literary Awards: July (shortlist in May)
  • New Zealand Post Book Awards: 1 August (shortlist on 6 June)
  • Booksellers NZ annual conference: 2-3 August
  • Byron Bay Writers’ Festival: 3-5 August
  • National Bookshop Day (Australia): 11 August
  • CBCA Book Week: 18-24 August
  • Storylines Festival of New Zealand Children’s Writers and Illustrators: 18-26 August
  • Melbourne Writers Festival (including Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, Age Book of the Year Awards and Ned Kelly Awards): 24 August to 2 September
  • Father’s Day (Australia and NZ): 2 September
  • Indigenous Literacy Day: 5 September
  • Brisbane Writers Festival—50th birthday (including Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards): 5-9 September
  • Man Booker Prize: October (shortlist in September)
  • Nobel Prize for Literature: October
  • Ubud Writers & Readers Festival: 3-7 October
  • Frankfurt Book Fair (guest of honour is New Zealand): 10-14 October

INTERVIEW: Di Morrissey on 20 years in publishing

Bestselling Australian novelist Di Morrissey has just published her 20th novel in 20 years, The Opal Desert (Macmillan). Andrea Hanke spoke to the author about her career journey, changes in publishing, new media vs ‘pressing the flesh’, and the marginalisation of women’s writing and popular fiction.

Twenty novels in 20 years is an extraordinary achievement. What kind of discipline is required to meet these publishing deadlines, year in and year out?
When you start writing you don’t think past getting that story out and hopefully getting it published, but when you have the commitment of a contract there is an additional motivation. I have a very strong, perhaps old-fashioned, work ethic. I shudder when I hear of people who have a contract or potential interest in their work and diddle around and can’t meet their deadline and never produce anything. I’m there on the day it’s due, manuscript in hand for better or worse. I also understand it’s not just about me but there is a whole team involved, a schedule, a business plan, marketing campaign and people who depend on me producing a publishable book. The writing process may be a solitary endeavour but there is a massive machine involving many dedicated people that take your original scribbles and turn it into a polished, professional product, so it does put considerable pressure on me. And of course, when you have a successful book the expectation is there to do an even better next book.

When you look back over your career, how has the way in which your books are edited, published and promoted changed over the years? Is the publishing industry better at its job today than it was 20 years ago?
Well technology has made it easier in many ways to write. When I first started I mailed hard copy to my editor, so email has certainly speeded things up.  Publishers today don’t like to take risks and have had to adapt, to be more focused, take less of a scatter-gun approach and hope a book on spec does well, as they can’t afford a failure in these more competitive times. So I wouldn’t want to be starting out now! Marketing is even more vital now and traditional media campaigns have changed as social networking and an online presence reaches an audience as quickly and effectively as a print or radio ad. Authors have to be prepared to adapt to the new media but frankly, I still feel that word of mouth and ‘pressing the flesh’ is as powerful as ever. Publishing houses have had to be more savvy as well as cost-conscious, the old conservative days of British publishing dominating the Empire are gone but try telling them that! There’s still a bit of literary snobbishness and parochialism with international publishers believing their books outrank ours.

There has been a lot of talk recently about a gender bias in literary criticism and awards. What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you support the creation of a new women-only book prize? And do you think we need more book prizes for genres outside literary fiction?
There is no question that the bias exists. Women are not reviewed as seriously or in as great a depth or frequency as men. Nor do women receive as many awards as men. But to section ourselves off with women-only prizes and categories is buying into the marginalisation, i.e. ‘Men do art, women do craft’. Besides, I think there are enough specialist categories for a variety of genres. We know literary fiction usually doesn’t sell anywhere near what popular fiction sells, yet the ‘literary’ tag imbues a book with some kind of merit so these ‘serious’ authors content themselves with a badge of assumed quality when most would secretly prefer to have a royalty cheque of quantity. And let’s face it, if a heap of people buy a book, and continue to show loyalty to a particular popular author, then that author must be doing something right.

Of all 20 novels, which is your favourite?
I don’t have a favourite book per se, it is a bit like choosing a favourite child. But I have to confess to a slight affection for Tears of the Moon as it was the book that broke me out in hardback and international sales. And it was a deliberate strategy to find a mainstream and male audience and change the perception of me being a writer of romance fiction.

Which book has been the hardest to write?
The one I’m writing now! I face each new book with trepidation and insecurity, I never feel complacent and the more successful you become and the more you write, the greater the pressure. But equally I do it because of the passion and fulfilment that I only find from writing.

What has inspired your latest novel?
I’ve always loved opals, and I first visited the opal fields in the 1980s and decided I wanted to spend time in this strange word and write about it one day. I’ve been going to Lightning Ridge for many years and I saw how the industry was changing and decided this was the year to explore the lure and obsession that draws people to this different lifestyle and isolated community. It’s also about women’s friendship. The bonds and special connection and emotional support women draw from each other. This book explores the relationship between three women of differing generations who find themselves in the remote and wonderful opal fields.