Success Story: International rights sales of Australian-authored books 2008–2018

Oct 18, 2021
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Summary

Australian writing is read globally. Our carefully crafted words carry ideas, perspectives and culture well beyond our borders and return significant – and vital – revenue to the entire book publishing industry. For some writers, international rights revenue is their main source of income. For others, overseas markets provide a crucial supplement to local earnings. International markets also play a key role in international literary exchange, enhancing Australia’s reputation overseas. Our writers are recognised and celebrated internationally.

Success Story: International rights sales of Australian-authored books 2008-2018, by Paul Crosby, Jan Zwar, Airlie Lawson and Sunny Y. Shin, Macquarie University, examines the international rights sales and export of Australian books. The report was produced through a partnership between the Australia Council for the Arts, Macquarie University and the Copyright Agency, and highlights the growth of Australian books in international markets.

Success Story represents the first time that international rights sales for Australian literature have been mapped and quantified in this way, revealing an important market that can be leveraged for further success.

Key insights

  • There has been an overall growth in absolute deals. The number of international right sales deals completed in each year between 2008 and 2018 increased, and comprised sales into 92 territories (plus deals for ‘world’ rights) and 70 languages.
  • Over half of all recorded deals were for children’s books. Of the 9,315 rights sale deals contained within the sample, over half – 54% – involved titles targeted at younger readers: picture books (21%), middle grade (27%), teen and young adult (YA) (6%).
  • Adult fiction has been driving growth since 2012. Adult non-fiction has also been a stable contributor to the number of deals achieved annually. Deals for adult fiction titles (including literary, commercial and crime and thriller) make up 24% of all deals reported in the survey.
  • Chinese language has been a key market since 2008. After English (20%), Chinese (both simplified and complex) was the most frequently specified language (14%). Following this was Korean (7%), German (6%) and Portuguese (4%).
  • Many of these developments can be explained by the growing professionalism and capacity of Australia’s international rights selling sector. Australian rights sellers have nurtured and cemented relationships with overseas editors and have developed an invaluable understanding of overseas editors’ tastes and industry contexts.
  • There is clear opportunity to unlock further growth in international rights sales of Australian literature through investment, and to rebuild connections disrupted by COVID-19. After decades of capacity building and relationship building by Australia’s rights selling community, interest and awareness in Australian literature is increasing in overseas publishing houses and their markets. It is possible now to build on these gains, and to leverage existing interest in Australian literature for increased export opportunities in future.

“International rights are so vital because they offer Australian writers and illustrators the opportunities to have books published into bigger English language markets and in translation, boosting earnings and bringing Australian stories to the world. Without international rights, most of us will finish up being hobbyists and part-timers, doing a myriad of other jobs to pay the bills.”
Michael Robotham, two times Gold Dagger winning and twice Edgar short-listed author.