Review of 2014 Australian book sales

Books+Publishing in conjunction with Publishing Perspectives have published their annual guide to the Australian book market, Think Australian 2015. The review offers some interesting perspectives and you can browse the full magazine here.

Data on the health of Australian publishing and bookselling continues to be limited by the lack of availability (or lack of will to compile and release) ebook publishing and sales statistics. Even when ebook sales are taken into account, it is abundantly clear that the only ebooks that are taken into account in the discussions reported by Think Australia 2015 are those that are:

  1. Published by traditional publishers, AND
  2. Have a paperback equivalent

Even digital first imprints like Escape and Momentum, which are housed within traditional publishing groups, do not appear to be accounted for. Certainly indie publishers are not taken into account, and they would make up the bulk of ebook sales, as shown by Bookscan sales data which reports that 3,815 different publishers produced 20,877 new titles in 2014. Publishers and titles are more reliably tracked thanks to ISBN requirements.

Adding fuel to the fire of my observations regarding how flawed and useless statistics on book sales are without a reliable measurement tool for ebook sales, Bookscan reports that 44% of the books bought by Australians in 2014 were non-fiction, 31% were children’s books and only 24% were fiction. Huh?!!!!! I find it hard impossible to believe that nonfiction book sales are double that of fiction sales. The sceptic inside my head is bellowing, ‘Lies, lies and statistics,’ and, ‘Codswallop’, as well as a few less polite terms.

Bookscan’s own sales data contradicts these statistics. As indicated by the Australian bestsellers table below, published in Think Australian 2015, the top 20 fiction titles outsold the top 20 non-fiction titles by 150,000 copies, or close on 20%. (Click on the image to enlarge it).


Australian adult fiction and non fiction bestsellers ThinkAustralian2015


So … what is an author to make of all this? Keep your chin up, your fingers twinkling over the keyboard and your marketing fresh. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. There is insufficient proof that they know what they are talking about.


November new title releases from RWA members

Can you believe it? November already, and the countdown to Christmas is quickening its pace and squeezing 24 hours into 20 hours max. At least, that’s how it feels to me. If you need to take a deep breath and a time out amidst all the mistletoe madness, try one of these new releases. As usual, there is something for everyone. Enjoy.


RWA members new book releases

Christmas gifts for writers and readers

It’s October, which means it is time to start planning and shopping for Christmas, especially if you are thinking of doing a little online overseas shopping, so that you can avoid that most crushing of disappointments: the late delivery.

keep calm and write on pendantI  love Christmas, I love shopping, and I love giving gifts. Unfortunately, my family is not nearly big enough to justify buying all the things I have my eye on so I thought I would share the spoils of my research and send some of those pressies out to others.

Writers are also readers so one can always give the ‘obvious’ – a book, a writing course,  or a gift voucher for a bookshop or online retailer. Too many of my rellies assume for some weird reason that I wouldn’t want a book because I already have ‘so many’. *eye roll* For any non-writers and readers who might be reading this post, allow me to state the obvious: YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS!!

However, if you are looking for an alternative to a good book, here is a selection of delightful trinkets from small stocking fillers to expensive custom-made items. If you wish to explore the general links provided, you’ll find many more choices:

Literary adaptations of every day items

Literary adaptations

For little book lovers

Little book lovers





Afternoon Tea, all-day coffee and chocolate

Afternoon tea

For Men


Clothing and accessories


Custom-made clothing

Writing Aids

Writing Aids

  • Pay it Forward Writing Prompts A$59
  • Jane Austen Regency magazine subscription $94 Jane Austen Gift Shop
  • And a book no home should be without: It’s a Book by Lane Smith. Available in hardcover from The Literary Gift Company at £6 but also in paperback from bookshops everywhere.



* All prices correct at time of going to press. All items in stock at time of going to print. Most URL links are to the home page of the online retailer, not to the specific item.

Selling Synopsis competition opens soon

All RWA members are invited to enter the Selling Synopsis competition which opens on 19 October. More information at

Selling Synopsis announcement

Macquarie Uni releases key findings of report on authors’ income

In February this year, a Macquarie University team led by David Throsby surveyed 1,000 authors of trade and educational titles as part of a three- year research project to understand how changes to the publishing industry are affecting authors, publishers and readers.

Impact of change

The report found that genre fiction authors, including romance writers, have benefitted the most from changes to the publishing industry. Twenty-five percent of genre authors reported that their financial position had improved over the last five years. Thirteen percent indicated that they earned more than $101,000 in the 2013-14 financial year. In contrast, literary authors have experienced a drop in income over the past five years.

The survey discovered that 25% of authors are self-published indie authors. Forty-two percent of authors work with one publisher only while one third of authors work with two or more publishers.

The report speculates that one of the reasons for the increased success of genre authors is the growth of book sales at discount departments stores (DDS) such as Target, Big W and K-Mart. I speculate that another reason is the willingness – at least in the case of romance writers – to embrace change, try different formats and put personal time, energy and funds into marketing their books, engaging with their audiences and growing their readership. Societal change as much as changes to the publishing industry mean that it is no longer realistic for an author to cloister themselves in an ivory tower and still hope for success.

Income Facts and Figures

The report distinguishes between overall income for authors (average $62,000) and average income derived from practising as an author ($12,900). Nearly half of all authors supplement their income with a job unrelated to their writing. Education authors still earn the most from ‘author activities’ ($16,500), followed by children’s authors ($14,000) and then genre fiction authors ($11,100).

Just over 44% of authors have sold overseas right to their books during their careers and nearly one third have had their works translated into other languages. However, these figures do not represent the full reach of Australian-authored books as they don’t include individual sales of books in overseas markets nor self-published books.

Sadly genre fiction authors are the most likely to have their cant-wait-whole-new-generation-harper-lee-books-reading-funny-ecard-jTZbooks pirated (the flip side of the popularity coin). Forty-four percent of genre authors report pirated editions of their novels as opposed to the average figure of 25% for all authors.

Highly educated

The demographics research confirmed that two thirds of Australian authors are women. More than 80% of authors have attended university and almost 50% have completed a post-graduate degree. Unsurprisingly 97% speak English as a first language.

So, we’re smart, well-educated and hard-working (and sassy). We knew that – but it’s nice to have someone else confirm it for a change :)

To read the full report, click here


It’s October and I can feel a frisson of Christmas excitement in the air. Can you? Early Christmas titles are sneaking into bookstores and onto Christmas reading lists. I love Christmas-themed books, so I am pleased I can spot at least one in this month’s member new releases. What about you? Do you enjoy romances tailored to a particular occasion like Christmas or Valentine’s Day?

New releases October 2015

US start-up offers serialised fiction in ebook and audiobook formats

Bookseller + Publishing and Publishers Weekly have reported that a new American digital publishing venture named Serial Box has started operating. It aims to deliver original fiction in ebook and audiobook formats on a weekly basis. Serial Box was founded by former Penguin Random House global digital director Molly Barton and former Justice Department senior counsel Julian Yap. Their aim is to to emulate the episode nature of TV series in what appears to be a more formal publishing venture than the chapter by chapter uploads on websites such as Wattpad.

Serial Box will employ a team of writers to produce series of between 13-16 episodes, with a lead writer assigned to shape each series. Episodes can be accessed on an app that can toggle between ebook and audio formats, as well as through Google Play and iTunes. There is a two-tier pricing structure with each episode costing subscribers US$1.59 and non-subscribers US$1.99 . The first episode of each series will be available for free.

Despite still being in beta testing mode, Serial Box launched on 16 September with a paranormal crimeProblem #453 waiting for the sequel series BookBurners. In late October it will release Tremontaine, a ‘swashbuckling 13-episode love and adventure series’.

How do you feel about episodic books and TV serials? I like the comfort and familiarity of knowing a favourite show is on at a particular time but I can get really frustrated if I miss an episode and forgot to hit the record button. Likewise, if the action is running hot, there is nothing worse than having to wait ONE WHOLE WEEK to find out what happens next. Obviously, I suffer from impatience. What about you?


Did you get into the craze for adult colouring books? It wasn’t something I felt I had the time or inclination for – or really understood – but it certainly appealed to many people. I’ve noticed that they (colouring books) are eventually dropping out of the top spots on the bestseller lists in both Australia and America. However, the trend isn’t over yet. A little publishing birdie told me one publisher’s biggest decision this Christmas is whether to say yes to a print run of 100,000 or 200,000 for their Christmas colouring book in the Aussie market. Go figure.

Looking at other publishing trends, I am always interested in whether spinoffs work as well as the originals. There have been a number of revivals recently, with ‘rewrites’ of classics spurred on by publisher initiatives such as The Austen Project, in which authors like Joanna Trollope and Alistair McCall Smith were asked ‘retell’ in 21st century style Jane Austen’s original classics, including Sense and Sensibility (Trollope) and Emma (McCall Smith). The public response was lukewarm, judging by peer reviews posted on GoodReads and Amazon. While I am sure the books sold fairly well, I doubt they’ll still be in print in another 300 years – unlike the originals which show every intention of being around for as long as humans continue to enjoy stories.

Another spinoff appears to be doing better. PW has just released first week sales figures for the new Lisbeth Salander novel. Following author Stieg Larsson’s untimely death, books two and three in the trilogy were published posthumously. Now journalist David Lagercrantz has written a fourth book in the series. He says he took extensive notes on the first three books but didn’t read Larsson’s outline for his version of the fourth book.  Lagercrantz’s book The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the number one title in the US this week. Here are the first week sales figures for each of the four titles:

  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson) 2008: 14.6k print units
  2. The Girl Who Played with Fire (Stieg Larsson) 2009: 43k print units
  3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Stieg Larsson) 2010: 248k print units
  4. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (David Lagercrantz) 2015: 53k print units

So, The Girl in the Spider’s Web has sold in better than books 1 and 2 in the original series. Regardless of whether readers maintain the enthusiasm they displayed for the initial thrillers, I reckon both Lagercrantz and his publisher Knopf (Random House) are very happy with that start!

September new book releases from RWA members

September and Spring is in the air, washed in by the cleansing rain, unlimited ideas and camaraderie of the Get Fresh and Clayton’s conference team organisers, presenters and participators. If you’re looking for some additional inspiration, look no further than your fellow writers. To be a writer is to be a reader and there are plenty of good new books available in all the sub genres this month. Happy reading :)

New book releases from RWA members in September 2015

Romance goes mainstream at MWF 2015

At our recent conference, the RWA raised over $6,000 for the nominated conference charity, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Keynote speaker Anita Heiss was very eloquent on the importance of education for all, particularly children in disadvantaged communities. Thus it was interesting to read Hachette Australia co-managing director Louise Sherwin-Stark’s reflections on her her trip to the Tiwi Islands with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Sherwin-Stark said, ‘Most of all, I witnessed a fierce determination to nurture and support their kids through reading and education, something often missing from the news coverage about indigenous communities we see in the media.’

Books+Publishing’s Weekly Newsletter of 2 September included a detailed report on the RWA’s annual conference, Get Fresh 2015 under the headline ‘Romance goes mainstream at RWA conference 2015’. The report mentioned that the conference attracted over 400 attendees, the largest in the organisation’s 24-year history and quotes RWA president Leisl Leighton as saying the response to the conference was ‘100% positive’, with many attendees claiming it was ‘one of the best conferences they had been to’. During the AGM, the RWA also announced that membership had exceeded 1,000 writers for the first time.

Leighton said the conference ‘diversified its program this year by bringing in fresh non-romance presenters to broaden the professional development opportunities available to members’, covering ‘all elements of craft and the business of writing’.

Books+Publishing’s reporter went on to say that one of the topics discussed in-depth and over several sessions at the the conference was the stabilisation of digital sales and a return to confidence in traditional formats and outlets. The report quoted Random House editor Lex Hirst, Sourcebooks editorial director Deb Werksman and US agent Courtney Miller-Callihan on the subject.

  • Lex Hirst: ‘Ebook usage has reached a plateau.’
  • Deb Werskman: ‘Print is still ‘obust, with US sales for print romance titles exceeding 30 million dollars in 2014 … a Nielsen Bookscan report revealed that physical bookstores are the most-mentioned way of acquiring new books among romance readers … while digital sales are important for many romance subgenres, authors should be aware of all potential sales channels or risk missing significant segments of their readership.’
  • Courtney Miller Callihan: ‘The atmosphere within publishing is more positive and people are more comfortable with digital as the format has stabilised.’

On-site bookseller Dymocks Melbourne told Books+Publishing that conference-goers were ‘inspired by the words of guest speakers and presenters, and keen to read outside of their genre to glean as much insight into their craft as possible.

‘The conference committee included some great speakers such as Anita Heiss, C S Pacat and Graeme Simsion to bring some great ideas to the table this year,’ said the bookseller.

The bestsellers at the Dymocks shop were:

  1. Not Always a Saint (Mary Jo Putney, Kensington)
  2. Captive Prince (C S Pacat, Viking)
  3. The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion, Text)
  4. Avoiding Mr Right (Anita Heiss, Bantam)
  5. Prince’s Gambit (C S Pacat, Viking)

You can read the full Books+Publishing report here:

In other news, Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) CEO and artistic director Lisa Dempster reported this year’s festival had the highest attendance on record. Dempster told Books+Publishing final figures are still being tallied but that the turn-out had exceeded expectations. International headliners at the festival, which ran from 20-30 August, included Naomi Klein (US), Jon Ronson (UK), Sarah Waters (UK), Daniel Handler (US), Antony Beevor (UK) and ‘Veronica Mars’ creator Rob Thomas (US), who were among more than 500 local and overseas guests who appeared at 531 events.


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