University of Queensland Press (UQP) received the Small Publisher of the Year Award at the 2021 Australian Book Industry Awards. Judges chose UQP for its commitment to platforming diverse voices and in recognition of various initiatives launched in 2020, and their international successes. As part of our series exploring these initiatives, we spoke with UQP about rights strategies in challenging circumstances, and the titles they’ve secured deals for over 2020 and 2021.
Doing business during a pandemic
‘2020 was a challenging year to sell rights as the pandemic closed down all overseas travel,’ says UQP Director Ben James, ‘However our Rights Manager, Kate McCormack, was able to make the most of the digital networking opportunities available and grew our subsidiary rights sales by 60% from 2019.’
‘Last year I kept busy setting up audio-visual meetings with interstate and overseas contacts,’ says Kate, ‘as well as pitching stories via email, loading titles up to platforms and attending international publisher meet-and-greets set up by the APA.’
UQP were thrilled that Omar Sakr’s Prime Minister's Literary Award-winning poetry collection The Lost Arabs was published in the USA by Andrews McMeel and that Melissa Lucashenko’s Miles Franklin award-winning novel Too Much Lip found a home in North America with HarperVia. The striking artwork for the American edition of Too Much Lip was created by Gangulu and Birri Gubba illustrator Teila Watson.
Melissa took part in a recorded panel discussion for the 2020 Frankfurt Book Fair digital program and it was great for her to talk to the international publishing world not only about Too Much Lip, but also to champion other Australian stories. More recently Melissa spoke powerfully, via video, at the Australian Embassy in Beijing as part of the Australia Writes Summer Session. An agreement for a Chinese Simplified edition of Too Much Lip was signed in 2020 and the book will be released later this year.’
In 2020 UQP secured North American deals for Adam Thompson’s wholly original debut short story collection Born Into This and for distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton Robinson’s seminal analysis of white feminism from an Indigenous woman’s standpoint, Talkin’ up to the White Woman.
Work in translation
While most humans couldn’t travel in 2020, UQP books did – with translation sales to Brazil, Russia, Taiwan, Korea, Denmark, Italy and Turkey, amongst others. This year has even seen the signing of UQP’s first ever Kyrgyz language deal, for Megan Daley’s Raising Readers.
Peter Carnavas’ The Elephant continues to find new readers in translation, with sixteen format/edition sales to date. Peter’s second novel for kids, My Brother Ben, is generating interest too, with UK publisher Pushkin Press releasing simultaneously with UQP in October 2021.
Audio, screen and stage sales
Audio continued to be a strong avenue for subsidiary rights deals and UQP were delighted to option two of Tony Birch’s books for Film/TV: The White Girl and Blood, as well as a German performance of Steven Herrick’s young adult classic The Simple Gift.
Successes continue into 2021 and beyond
This year is proving to be another exciting one for rights at UQP. Just a few highlights include Rose Byrne’s Dollhouse Pictures working with Aquarius Films to adapt Sally Piper’s The Geography of Friendship into a television series and HarperVia’s acquisition of The White Girl by Tony Birch.
‘I feel so lucky to be able to work on a list, from picture books to adult fiction, that always has something important to say. There’s so much to look forward to from UQP going forward.’
Read our other articles on UQP to learn more about their commitment to diversity and inclusion and the UQP First Nations Publishing Program. You can find an overview of other UQP initiatives in this article. Find out more about UQP and view their list of First Nations writers on their website.