The shortlists for the 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were announced late Friday afternoon 17 November 2017. Remarkably, nineteen of the 20 nominated books for adults were produced by Australia’s independent small press sector.
Only one was published by a global conglomerate – The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam, published by Hachette, the largest publishing company in France. The Easy Way Out is Amsterdam’s third novel. His previous two novels Things We Didn’t See Coming and What the Family Needed were published by small press and founding Small Press Network member Sleepers Publishing.
The other four novels nominated for the fiction prize were from small Australian publishers: Melbourne-based Black Inc, Sydney-based Puncher & Wattmann, and the presses at the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia.
All of the nominated poetry books were from small Australian publishers – one from Giramondo, a press based at the University of Western Sydney and two each from Hunter Publishers and Pitt Street Poetry.
In the non-fiction category, again all five nominees were from small independent presses: University of West Australia Press again, and two each from Black Inc and Text, both based in Melbourne
NewSouth press, based at UNSW Sydney, dominated the Australian History category with three nominations, with Monash University Press and Australian Scholarly making up the balance.
Turning to the children’s books nominated, again Australian publishers dominated, taking seven of the 10 places.
The announcement of the award shortlists coincided with the annual conference of the Small Press Network at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. Among the presentations at the conference were academic papers showing that books published by independent Australian publishers are increasingly dominating the reviews columns of Australia’s mainstream newspapers; and a paper reporting that the final arbiter of performance – book sales – also showed a steady increase in the proportion of the market representing sales by Australian-owned independent publishers.
The Australian book buying public is increasingly seeking out Australian stories, told by Australian writers and published by Australian owned and operated publishing companies – many of them proud members of the Small Press Network.
The shortlists of this year’s PM’s Literary provide a fascinating cultural snapshot of the types of books which are currently valued by the Australian literary community, and capture a sea change as the era of the dominance of large multinational conglomerates draws to a close.
For more information or comment, contact SPN chair Michael Webster firstname.lastname@example.org / 0419 345 533