Top stories this week

wbnimage2015feb26This week’s top stories from the Weekly Book Newsletter include:

For details on these stories and many more, subscribe to www.booksandpublishing.com.au.

New magazine out now!

bpluspmag2015e1_w300Make sure you grab a copy of Books+Publishing magazine’s first issue of 2015! Inside you’ll find 21 reviews of adult books and 17 reviews of children’s books publishing between March and May.

Just one adult title was awarded five stars by our reviewers. Angie Andrewes wrote Panthers and the Museum of Fire (Jen Craig, Spineless Wonders) is ‘an experimental novella but surprisingly easy to read, and brilliant for the very ordinariness of its subject’. Two other adult fiction books, The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine (Krissy Kneen, Text) and Anchor Point (Alice Robinson, Affirm Press), were awarded four stars.

All but one of the adult nonfiction books were awarded four stars by our reviewers. These include Bloodhound: Searching for My Father (Ramona Koval, Text); One Life: My Mother’s Story (Kate Grenville, Text); Mothermorphosis (ed. by Monica Dux, MUP); and Thea Astley: Inventing Her Own Weather (Karen Lamb, UQP).

Among the feature articles, Gary Copeland reports on book industry supply chains; Matthia Dempsey asks publishers about their parental leave policies; audiobook narrator Humphrey Bower shares his career journey; Hilary Simmons looks at the Australian poetry scene; and Chloe Townson asks Oliver Mol about his memoir, Lion Attack! (Scribe).

» Junior Term 1

B+P_JUNIORMasthead_2015_PRINT.inddAmong reviewers’ top picks in the current edition of Junior is Alice’s Food A-Z (Alice Zaslavsky, illus by Kat Chadwick, Walker Books). Reviewer Tim White, who is an expert in cookbooks as co-owner of Melbourne bookstore Books for Cooks, has awarded five stars to Zaslavsky’s introduction to food, food science and health for young readers.

Eight Junior books were awarded four stars by reviewers. These were Billie’s Underwater Adventure (Sally Rippin, illus by Alisa Coburn, Hardie Grant Egmont); Bogtrotter (Margaret Wild, illus by Judith Rossell, Walker Books); A Curry for Murray (Kate Hunter, illus by Lucia Masciullo, UQP); Anyone but Ivy Pocket (Caleb Krisp, Bloomsbury); Johnny Danger: DIY Spy (Peter Millett, Puffin); A Single Stone (Meg McKinlay, Walker Books); The Hush (Skye Melki-Wegner, Random House); and Prince of Afghanistan (Louis Nowra, A&U). Frances Atkinson talks Meg McKinlay about A Single Stone here.

In this edition, Carody Culver investigates the effect of big-screen adaptations of children’s and YA books on the publishing industry; Mason Engelander explores how eco-friendly children’s books have evolved with the rise of the green movement; meet US author Laurie Halse Anderson, a guest speaker at the Reading Matters conference in Melbourne in May; and read about children’s bookstore and toy shop Three Four Knock on the Door from owner L-J Lacey, who opened the store with her sister Danielle.

All these reviews, interviews and stories, and many more, can be found at our website: www.booksandpublishing.com.au

Bestsellers this week

Pete Evans Family FoodPete Evans’ Family Food (Plum) is this week’s fastest mover, having jumped from sixth to first spot on the top 10 bestsellers chart. The rest of the titles in the top 10 remain mostly unchanged, with The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan, Vintage) and The Long Haul (Jeff Kinney, Puffin) each dropping down one spot to second and third place respectively. Other notable movers in the chart include the film tie-in for American Sniper (Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen & Jim DeFelice, HarperCollins), which jumped from 10th to fourth spot in the top 10, making it this week’s second fastest mover, and Die Again (Tess Gerritsen, Bantam), the only new title in the top 10. The highest new entry for the week is Firefight (Brandon Sanderson, Hachette)—Books+Publishing (source: Nielsen BookScan, week ending 17 January 2015)

Bestsellers this week

jamie_comfort_foodJamie Oliver is climbing up the bestsellers chart in the lead-up to Christmas. Three of his titles are among the week’s fastest movers, with Jamie’s Comfort Food (Michael Joseph) at the top of the fastest movers chart and in third spot on the overall bestsellers chart. There’s no change at the very top of the bestsellers chart, with Jeff Kinney’s The Long Haul (Puffin) and Matthew Reilly’s The Great Zoo of China (Macmillan) in first and second place, respectively, for the second week in a row. Local titles The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan, Vintage), The 52-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, Pan), Family Food (Pete Evans, Plum) and Gallipoli (Peter FitzSimons, William Heinemann) have each held on to a spot in the top 10. The week’s highest new entry is Captivated by You (Sylvia Day, Penguin), which debuted in sixth spot overall—Books+Publishing.

Top 10 political bios of the past decade

How will Julia Gillard’s memoir measure up against her predecessors’? Nielsen BookScan has put together a list of the bestselling political biographies and memoirs of the past 10 years.

  1. Dreams from My Father (Barack Obama, Text, 2008)
  2. Lazarus Rising (John Howard, HarperCollins, 2010)
  3. My Life (Bill Clinton, Hutchinson, 2004)
  4. I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb, Hachette, 2013)
  5. The Latham Diaries (Mark Latham, Melbourne University
    Press, 2005)
  6. Stasiland (Anna Funder, Text, 2003)
  7. Infidel (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Pocket Books, 2008)
  8. Conversations with Myself (Nelson Mandela, Macmillan, 2010)
  9. Mandela (Five Mile Press, 2006)
  10. The Costello Memoirs (Peter Costello & Peter Coleman, Melbourne University Press, 2008).

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The Stella Count: 2013 gender ratios in books pages revealed

Books by male authors received on average 55.4% of coverage in Australia’s major newspapers and literary journals compared to 44.6% for books by female authors, the 2013 Stella Count has revealed.

For the third year in a row—and the second year in conjunction with the Stella Prize—Books+Publishing has compiled Australian statistics showing how many women and men were reviewed in Australia’s major newspapers and literary journals.

The 2013 red and blue pie charts, which are modelled on those produced by US-based organisation VIDA, are relatively similar to those from 2012 and 2011, with some publications recording an increase in coverage of female authors and others recording a drop. The two publications with the largest bias towards male authors were the Australian Financial Review, with 85% of its reviews devoted to books by male authors (up from 80% in 2012), and the Weekend Australian, with 65% of its reviews (down from 70% in 2012).

This year, the Stella Count also considered the genders of literary reviewers, and found that while female reviewers reviewed books by both men and women, male reviewers overwhelmingly reviewed books by men.

‘The Stella Count reveals that not only are books by men reviewed more often, but male reviewers tend to review books written by men and these reviews are often longer and given more prominence,’ Stella Prize chair Aviva Tuffield told Books+Publishing. ‘All of this suggests that there is still a vital role for the Stella Prize to play in highlighting Australian women’s contribution to literature and in bringing more readers—male and female alike—to books by female authors.’

Notes on the data: anthologies and other books with both male and female authors were excluded from this count. Every effort has been made to ensure these statistics are accurate, and any publication for which we were unable to obtain sufficient or reliable data this year has been excluded from the count. This count surveyed print publications only.

With thanks to 2013 Stella Count coordinators Fay Helfenbaum and Veronica Sullivan.

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Awards round-up: July

Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing (Vintage) has won this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award and picked up the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize and Encore Award for a second novel. BookScan reports that sales of Wyld’s novel have ‘risen significantly’ since her Miles Franklin win.

A number of awards were announced at the recent Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) conference. Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (Giramondo) won the 2014 Australian Literature Society (ALS) Gold Medal; the Magarey Medal for Biography was presented to The Lone Protestor: AM Fernando in Australia and Europe (Fiona Paisley, Aboriginal Studies Press); and the Mary Gilmore Award for poetry went to Even in the Dark (Rose Lucas, UWA Publishing).

Also announced in recent weeks were the winners of the Australian Shadows Awards for horror fiction and the Dagger Awards for crime fiction; the shortlists for the National Biography Award, the Ernest Scott Prize for history and the Australian Christian Book of the Year; and the longlist for the John Button Prize for writing on policy and politics.

In New Zealand, the winners have been announced for the New Zealand Society of Authors Best First Book and the longlist for the Ngaio Marsh Award for New Zealand crime fiction.

Recent international awards include the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Andrew Carnegie Medal, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Postage costs and the Australian book industry: a history

postboxThe Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) believes the biggest threat to bookshops and other local retailers is postage costs. It offers this example: ‘It costs in excess of ten times more to post one book from Mosman to Penrith than it does to post the exact same book from the UK to Sydney. This is not only damaging local retailing but it is also crippling an Australian institution.’

In 2011, Books+Publishing published a post on the subject, ‘Why is it cheaper to post a book from overseas than within Australia?’. Some of the contributing factors we reported were: the ability of organisations such as the Book Depository to negotiate a volume-based discount from Royal Mail; fluctuations in the Australian dollar; and ‘a substantial difference between the unit costs charged by Australia Post and Royal Mail’.

‘Australia Post … is required to deliver parcels sent through Royal Mail (and other international postal services) within Australia as a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). In return for delivering these parcels, Australia Post receives a payment from the Royal Mail,’ a spokesperson for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy told Books+Publishing at the time. ‘It makes sense then that if parcels coming into Australia are increasing because of retailers like the Book Depository, Australia Post is spending more money on delivering parcels for Royal Mail. The questions then becomes, are the payments received by Australia Post for delivering these parcels covering the costs of delivery?’

The book industry investigates
The Book Industry Strategy Group’s (BISG) report to government, which was published in 2011, goes into further detail on the cost of parcels mailed to Australia from overseas countries such as the UK.

‘Under the rules of the UPU, international package postal rates are determined by the rate charged for a 20g first class priority letter within the destination country,’ explains the BISG report. Australia has a flat letter rate of $0.60, while many other countries, including the UK, have a first class postal rate for letters that results in higher rates for parcels sent to those countries.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, quoted in the BISG report, estimates that UK companies may pay Royal Mail about $3.04 for each 500 gram parcel sent to Australia, as a volume discount for posting 100 parcels (but companies such as Amazon and Book Depository may have a higher volume discount). Royal Mail then effectively passes on 60 cents of that amount to Australia Post, which is forced under international postal union obligations to deliver these parcels and cover the remaining cost of delivery.

‘Australia Post now concedes that delivering parcels from the United Kingdom is a loss-making activity, which suggests that higher prices on their domestic services are in part compensation for its losses of approximately $1.72 per parcel from the United Kingdom,’ said the BISG report.

Australia Post had previously applied to the UPU to register a first class postal rate for letters of $2.60, but the UPU rejected the request. Registering a first class postal rate would close the gap on Australia Post’s delivery cost of overseas mail by moving the cost onto overseas companies.

The BISG report includes a recommendation that ‘the Government initiate negotiations with the Universal Postal Union (UPU) to secure amendment of the appropriate postal treaties to provide more equitable and competitive pricing for print post delivery, where Australia is currently severely disadvantaged’.

The government responds
The former Federal Labor Government formally responded to the BISG recommendations in 2012. It supported the recommendation ‘in principle’ that the government enter into negotiations with the UPU to amend postal treaties. It noted that ‘effecting this recommendation will require renegotiation of Australia’s terminal dues rate which is set by rules established through the Universal Postal Union Convention and Acts’.

‘The rates of payment to Australia Post for inward parcels are set using a formula linked to the domestic standard letter postage rate [of 60 cents],’ said the government. The government said that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is currently talking to members of the union ‘to agree [to] a different letter postage rate to be used for terminal dues’ but with 192 countries as members of the union, ‘negotiations are complex’. ‘Potential options outside of the union treaty arrangements are also being investigated by Australia’s designated operator, Australia Post,’ said the government.

Calls for a first class mail rate
The ABA has called on the current Federal Coalition Government to establish a first class mail rate in Australia to increase postage costs for overseas retailers sending parcels to Australia. In an open letter to the federal Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, the ABA said:

‘In Australia there is no First Class Mail rate. This has been exploited by many overseas retailers, in particular The Book Depository (an Amazon-owned company). With no First Class Mail rate overseas companies are able to post goods under 400 grams to Australia at the cost of a local stamp. The Book Depository has used this to send orders in individual parcels and to provide free freight to customers in Australia. Under international postal union obligations Australia Post is then forced to deliver overseas parcels at their own cost. These costs have been passed onto Australian businesses and Australian consumers.

‘Free post coupled with a strong Australian dollar has meant that overseas purchases have skyrocketed. Not only that, but Australia Post’s costs have also gone through the roof. Parcel post costs have dramatically increased which means Australian businesses are in effect subsidising their overseas competitors. And now jobs and services are being cut back. Four years ago Australia Post was one of the most profitable government-owned enterprises. Now it is in dire straits.

‘If a first class mail rate was established in Australia overseas retailers would not be able to offer free freight to Australia and the volume of overseas post would decrease to more viable levels. This would reduce Australia Post’s costs and save jobs across the Australian economy.’