Reviews of Australian Books

In a comment to a post here concerning recent internet reviews of Australian books, Genevieve asked: "it looks like you are finding more reviews of Oz books on weblogs than in the paper at present - would that be a reasonable assumption? or is it just a lean couple of months for publishing down here? Care to take a guess?"

A big topic. Firstly, we need to be aware that a lot more Australian books are gaining a foothold in non-Australian markets these days. Twenty years ago it would have been possible to count the number of Australian sf or fantasy writers on the fingers of one hand. Now they number over 50. Similarly in the crime genre. So the sheer quantity of Australian books finding their way into foreign markets has increased. Secondly, the number of literary weblogs has climbed dramatically since I started Matilda three years ago, therefore the number of possible web-based reviews has also risen. Thirdly, it's now easier to find these reviews with the advent of Google Alerts.

I don't think the number of reviews of Australian books has changed all that much in the mainstream media in the past few years, at least on a year-by-year basis. There is, as best I can see, a distinct seasonal aspect to publishing in this country. Which, I suppose, is merely a reflection of what happens in the US and UK. But we do have some strange scheduling arrangements that have an affect. You might be aware that if a book is published in a non-Australian English-language market it must then be published in Australia within, I think, 30 days or else booksellers are free to import it. This means, for example, that the major UK novels become available here within a month of their original publication. So Ian McEwan's, or Salman Rushdie's, or even Beryl Bainbridge's latest will be in our bookshops very quickly. A few years back they might well have been held over for the Christmas market, and therefore not available until well after the Man Booker longlist/shortlist reading period. I can remember in the mid-1990s struggling to get copies of books on the Booker shortlist as they just weren't available here.

I may be going out on a limb here but it seems to me that books in the UK follow a distinct prize and seasonal publishing schedule according to genre. Big genre novels, or "airport" novels, will be published in time for the summer holiday season. "Literary" fiction is published in time for Christmas (presents and winter), autumn in time to be eligible for the Man Booker prize, and spring because that's all that's left.

That reads as a rather simplistic view of the schedules, and I may well be completely wrong, but it fits my experience. Over the past 10 years or so I've been compiling, during the year, a list of novels that might make the Booker shortlist (see my woeful selection for 2007). Each entry is accompanied by a note indicating the month of first publication. I have been meaning to go back over this data, at some time, to try to figure out some sort of pattern. If I get a free week I might have a chance. I think it might have an interesting tale to tell.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 22, 2007 9:59 AM.

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