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).


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.’

Australian Book Design Awards 2014

The Australian Book Designers Association (ABDA) has announced the shortlist for the 2014 Book Design Awards.

Here’s a look at the covers for the shortlisted titles in the categories of Literary Fiction, Nonfiction and Children’s Illustrated Books.

Literary fiction

9781922182234  9781847088765
A Girl is a Half Formed Thing (Eimear McBride, Text), designed by W H Chong The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton, Granta), desgined by Jenny Grigg
 9780702249662 9781922079763
Letters to the End of Love (Yvette Walker, UQP), designed by Allison Colpoys The Double (Maria Takolander, Text), designed by W H Chong



 madness  the end
Madness: A Memoir (Kate Richards, Viking), designed by Allison Colpoys The End (Bianca Nogrady, Vintage), designed by Sandy Cull
 coat route High Sobriety
The Coat Route (Meg Lukens Noonan, Scribe), designed by Allison Colpoys High Sobriety (Jill Stark, Scribe), designed by Allison Colpoys
Girt cover
Girt (David Hunt, Black Inc.), designed by Peter Long

Children’s Illustrated Books

 Scarlett and the Scratchy Moon Alphabetical sydney
Scarlett and the Scratchy Moon (Chris McKimmie, A&U), designed by Chris McKimmie Alphabetical Sydney (Antonia Pesenti & Hilary Bell, NewSouth Publishing), designed by Natalie Winter and Antonia Pesenti
 ive an uncle ivan  rules-of-summer
I’ve an Uncle Ivan (Ben Sanders, Thames & Hudson), designed by Ben Sanders Rules of Summer (Shaun Tan, Hachette), designed by Shaun Tan

From book to film: what’s coming in the second half of 2014?

Forthcoming film adaptations of The Fault in Our Stars (John Green, Penguin) and Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, Orion), along with the recent release of Divergent (Veronica Roth, HarperCollins), have seen each of these books climb the bestsellers chart in the past few weeks. Brad Jefferies rounds up some of the adaptations coming to Australian cinemas in the second half of 2014.

Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien seductress tormenting hitchhikers in Scotland in director Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Under the Skin (Michael Faber, Canongate). The film received some rave reviews recently (although not unanimously) when it was released in the US and UK, with some of the buzz words including ‘weird’, ‘mysterious’, ‘original’ and ‘menacing’. It’s in Australian cinemas in May.

Also out in May is Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s comedy-western A Million Ways to Die in the West (Canongate). The novel—which was based on the film’s screenplay—was released in March and follows a mild-mannered farmer with a reputation for cowardice who teams up with a local gunslinger to get revenge on his ex-girlfriend. It stars MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris and Liam Neeson.

John Green’s YA novel The Fault in Our Stars has been in the bestsellers chart for the past month in anticipation of the film’s release on 5 June. Relatively unknown director Josh Boone—whose only other main gig was as writer and director of Stuck in Love (2012)—is in charge, with Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort playing Hazel and Augustus (trivia: the two actors played sister and brother in the film adaptation of Divergent). In more good news for John Green fans, Green’s 2008 novel Paper Towns (HarperCollins) will be adapted for the big screen in 2015.

The Edge of Tomorrow is the big-budget adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s science-fiction novel All You Need is Kill (Viz Media). The film, which is directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, and is in cinemas on 5 June.

Yves St Laurent is based on Debut (Abrams), Laurence Benaim’s biography of the French designer of the same name. Released overseas in January, the film hasn’t been received well by the critics—so this could be one for the die-hard fashionistas when it comes to Australian cinemas in June.

Hossein Amini (screenwriter of Drive) directs Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen in an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s thriller The Two Faces of January (various imprints). It follows a con artist, his wife and a local scam artist who are trying to flee Greece after becoming entangled in the murder of a local police officer. The film opened to good reviews at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, and is slated for release in Australia in July.

The adaptation of book two in Frank Miller’s Sin City graphic novel series, A Dame to Kill For (Dark Horse Comics), hits cinemas in August. Miller and director Robert Rodriguez team up again in the follow-up to the 2005 noir hit Sin City, which will again star Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis.

Jonas Jonasson’s 2009 novel The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (A&U) has been adapted to film in the author’s native Sweden, where the book sold more than a quarter of a million copies. The film, directed and adapted for the screen by Felix Herngren, has been well received, and comes to Australian cinemas in August.

Nick Hornby is no stranger to a film set. His novel High Fidelity (Penguin) was turned into a film starring John Cusack and Jack Black in 2000; About a Boy followed in 2002; and Hornby won an Oscar for best original screenplay for An Education in 2009. His latest book-to-film is A Long Way Down (Penguin), with the adaptation directed by Pascal Chaumeil and starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul. Reviews coming out of the UK suggest that it’s not Hornby’s best work on film, but Australian viewers can judge for themselves in August.

Australian Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence, Salt) directs the adaptation of a dystopian YA novel, Lois Lowry’s The Giver (HarperCollins), due for release in August. The film stars Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaite, who plays a young boy trying to escape a society that has embraced ‘sameness’ and discarded pain, emotion and memory.

October sees the release of one of the most anticipated films of 2014: David Fincher’s take on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling thriller Gone Girl. Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Missi Pyle, the film promises to keep fans of the novel guessing, after the revelation in January that Fincher asked Flynn to write a new ending for the film.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1—the penultimate film in the ‘Hunger Games’ series—is due in cinemas in November, while the third and final Hobbit film, There and Back Again, will land in December.

Top stories this week

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