Western Sydney and Australian Literary Culture
Emmett Stinson, Deakin University
Western Sydney holds a prominent but vexed position within the Australian cultural imaginary. It has often been discussed as a centre-right political bellwether populated by John Howard’s ‘battlers’, but, as the chosen home of many Australian immigrants, it also represents the success of Australian multiculturalism. Yet its distance from the cosmopolitan inner-city also means that Western Sydney is often conceived of as provincial and culturally disengaged. But despite (or, perhaps, because of) these various depictions of Western Sydney, it has increasingly been acknowledged as one of the most important cultural centres of literary activity in Australia and the home of such literary organisations, journals, and publishers as Sweatshop, Giramondo, and The Sydney Review of Books, as well as writers like Fiona Wright, Felicity Castagna, Luke Carman, Peter Polites, and Michael Mohammed Ahmad.
This paper examines Western Sydney as a key site of Australian publishing in an institutional context by examining critically the way that key institutions and agents in the field have sought to ‘fashion’ a literary identity for Western Sydney that both responds to and draws on preconceptions about this region. In particular, it examines the fact that—despite Western Sydney’s comparative marginality in relation to high cultural institutions—many of its key agents and institutions have sought to produce explicitly highbrow literary work.
Emmett Stinson is a lecturer in Writing and Literature at Deakin University and the author of Satirizing Modernism (2017) and Known Unknowns (2010).
The Coffee Table: A Site for Saving the American Wilderness
During the 1960s the Sierra Club, an American grassroots environmental organisation, published twenty environmental coffee-table books, under the stewardship of its first Executive Director David Brower. As a passionate environmental activist, with little regard for the economics of publishing, Brower’s single-minded commitment to The Exhibit Format Series, helped the Sierra Club broadcast its environmental message and had significant influence on environmental policies.
The coffee-table book medium, in Brower’s opinion, had longevity and could be displayed on coffee tables in the home and returned to at any time. He believed Americans would become passionate about the need to protect the American wilderness if reminded of its beauty on coffee tables in their own homes. From its inception, this Series of coffee-table books is one of the strongest known examples where the intended site of influence for a coffee-table book was clearly defined. Brower and the publications committee had the necessary skills to produce the Series, but the Club was not a full-time publishing house and faced near bankruptcy in 1969.
This paper focuses on two books in The Series. This Is the American Earth, released in late 1959 is a reproduction of a photographic exhibition of the same title. Although Brower took a risk with the first book in the Series he demonstrated a market for environmental coffee-table books. His experiment particularly came to fruition with the success of In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, the fourth book in the Series, which proved that a large market existed for full-colour coffee-table books.
Christine Elliott is an independent researcher who gained a PhD from Monash University in August 2018. Her thesis, ‘Decorative and Democratising: How the Coffee-table Book was Popularised in the Post-war Era’, is a publishing history of coffee-table books in post-war America, Britain and Australia at the intersection of social change, advances in colour printing and cultural entrepreneurship. In 2009, The Images Publishing Group published a coffee-table book she a co-authored. Custom Bicycles: A Passionate Pursuit, along with a revised edition published in 2012 has sold approximately 10,000 copies worldwide. This publishing experience piqued her interest to undertake a PhD on the genre’s history and cultural role.
Printers’ sites of need: how a lack of resources brought Australia together
Jocelyn Hargrave, University of Melbourne
Australia’s print culture began with the First Fleet in 1788, in the form of an old wooden screw press, a small selection of used type, and paper and ink. The press was left unused for seven years, when George Hughes became the colony’s first government printer. George Howe succeeded Hughes in 1802, produced Australia’s first book, The NSW General Standing Orders, in 1802 and launched the colony’s first newspaper, The Sydney Gazette, in 1803. Early locally produced literature was thus utilitarian in nature, serving the information needs of colonists. Paper, ink and type continued to be shipped from England, and were second hand and substandard. This persisted until the first paper mill was built at Botany Bay around 1814, and the first locally manufactured ink followed in 1829.
Howe regularly expressed his frustration about operating a press without sufficient resources. For example, on 31 August 1806, he informed his Sydney Gazette readers that he could not promise a publication the following week given that he had ‘no certainty of an immediate supply of Paper’. The technological and material limitations experienced by Howe unsurprisingly impacted on the quality of output: it was often necessary to produce the Gazette using whatever size and number of paper that were on hand and obtaining clear impressions frequently proved difficult owing to the used type.
Need manifested also in Howe’s frequent pleas to his subscribers to pay their subscriptions. Through this, Howe’s public and often desperate pleas to his subscribers not only meant the survival of the press, thereby ensuring the public remained informed of the colony’s goings-on, but it also ultimately represented a national commitment to its literature. This paper therefore explores more comprehensively the ideas of need and nationhood in nineteenth-century Australia—how particular sites of publishing and their need served to bring the nation together.
Jocelyn Hargrave teaches writing, editing and publishing at Monash University and the University of Melbourne, Australia. She has worked in the educational publishing industry for 22 years, 20 as an editor. Her forthcoming monograph, The Evolution of Editorial Style in Early Modern England, is scheduled for publication by Palgrave Macmillan in October 2019. Current research relates to colonial Australian print culture and the transition of editing and publishing graduates into industry.
Beyond the Book as Site
Bookishness in the Age of Alexa
Sybil Nolan, University of Melbourne
In the nineteenth-century colonial world, enforced separation from books caused anxiety for colonial educators, librarians, newspaper editors and writers (Buckridge, 2006). Somewhat similarly, audiobooks, and the way they disconnect readers from print editions, create contemporary anxiety about the future of literacy and bookishness (i.e. the love of books and reading). Yet as sales of audiobooks have grown massively (Audio Publishers Association, 2017) traditional book publishers have become deeply involved in their production and marketing. And while audiobooks are now mostly downloaded from users’ mobile devices (Audio Publishers Association, 2017), in coming years many consumers will acquire and access them using virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa which respond to voice command. How these devices filter and select books will have major consequences for the publishing industry, readers and reading culture. This paper is interested Alexa as a site of publishing. It proposes a phenomenology of bookishness in the age of Alexa, and explores how some publishers and software developers are seeking to firmly attach bookish qualities to audiobooks as consumers embrace the immediacy of ambient (or seamless) computing.
Dr Sybil Nolan is the coordinator and one of the founders of Grattan Street Press, the teaching press at University of Melbourne and a lecturer in publishing studies.
Converging Margins: Publishing Books Beyond the Codex
Sarah Layton, University of Melbourne
In 2017, Viz Media began the process of publishing the 2009 webcomic Homestuck in a print format. Spanning over 8000 pages, its genre-defying, hybrid form comprising of webcomic pages, chat logs, video games, animation and music, became a “sprawling saga … immortalized on dead trees” (S&S Digital Catalog). Viz’s updated web platform for the comic and its hardcover editions demonstrated an increasing possibility for transmedia stories to bring the codex into collision with other forms: the digital and hard copy combining to become collectively something larger and more mutable – a book.
Whether it’s EPub files shared on custom-shaped USB’s; paperbacks that come with homemade, playable Twine games or animated ebooks, independent publishers like Viz and Instar Press are playing with convergence and the codex, increasingly creating new book forms. These books, made using new literary models on the margins of traditional publishing, use ebooks, webcomics, collaborative storytelling and indie games to experiment, engage readers and push the boundaries of how the book is conceptualised in traditional publishing. Looking at these experimental forms that blur the line between the codex and other, this paper will explore their possibilities to create new spaces for diverse and niche content. It will also look at the tensions these forms create, as traditional publishers push back against non-codex forms in an attempt to maintain traditional funding models and their position as gatekeepers, confirming that “the greatest possibility lies in the direction of democratization” (Darnton p.153).
Sarah Layton is studying a Master in Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne. She has been published in Voiceworks and Antithesis Journal and edited these publications in 2018. She reviews books at www.litsponge.com and tweets at @SlmLayton.
Vocal Experiences: Audience Engagement with Librivox Audiobooks
Millicent Weber, Australian National University
Audiobooks are a vibrant growth sector in contemporary publishing, but despite this, minimal research has been undertaken to substantiate or evaluate assumptions about their growth and popularity. Librivox, which facilitates volunteers to create and share public domain audiobooks, is likewise massively popular, with the Internet Archive versions of its recordings collectively accessed more than one billion times. Moreover, as a wholly online community, its site and forums act as a living archive of the way that these recordings are produced and received. Enabled by this fact, and by a conceptualisation of Librivox as simultaneously cultural object, paratextual website, and community of producers and readers, this paper explores what Librivox can reveal about contemporary engagement with audiobooks.
Millicent Weber is a Lecturer in English at the Australian National University, and the author of Literary Festivals and Contemporary Book Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). With Aaron Mannion she co-edited the essay collection Book Publishing in Australia: A Living Legacy (Monash University Publishing, 2019), which will be launched at the 2019 Independent Publishing Conference.
Publishers and Processes
Cleaning and Repairing: Mitigating Conflict at the Site of Publishing
Katherine Day, RMIT University
Publishing houses are insular places where culture and commerce coincide – sites where the publisher, design team, production, sales and marketing and rights departments collaborate on a shared vision for each title. Yet, within this creative synthesis, one contributor is absent: the author. To the author, ‘in-house’ is mysterious and intangible, but a place to which they have contractually entrusted their work and where they hope it is respected, nurtured and successfully distributed. In the seemingly covert operations enshrouded by industry jargon, specific workflow processes and a hierarchy not immediately evident, how can an author ensure that their work is honoured in the way they intend and not buried in the system or manipulated to the extent that they feel it is no longer theirs?
Editors provide the most effective communication between the author and the publisher and other professionals in the in-house space. Not gatekeepers, as such – their role is of key holder and ally. They have also been likened to midwives and workers in the ‘cleaning and repairing business’, (Commins) and they facilitate communication when authors’ moral rights are challenged by commercial considerations. This conference paper explores a ‘post negotiating space’ where editors’ roles extend beyond finessing text to provide a crucial link for the author to the ‘site’ of in-house processes, by mitigating the balance of power between authors and publishers.
Katherine Day has been working in the publishing industry for over fifteen years. She was an editor at Penguin Group (Australia) for eight years before freelancing for Penguin Random House, Allen and Unwin, University of Queensland Press, Rockpool Publishing, Working Title Press, and Thames and Hudson. She is currently a sessional course coordinator and lecturer in the School of Culture and Communications, University of Melbourne, and is a PhD Candidate at RMIT.
The evolution of reversion rights in publishing contracts
Rebecca Giblin and Joshua Yuvaraj
Publishing contracts govern the rights of authors and publishers. They dictate the formats in which books can be published, how long for, and the permitted territories and languages. They also set out the circumstances in which those rights return to authors – for example, where titles have gone out of print, or when rights have been assigned to a publisher but never actually exploited. Reversion clauses play an increasingly important role in the publishing ecosystem – to give authors fresh chances to financially benefit from their books, publishers new opportunities to invest, and the public additional possibilities to access.
Last year we conducted a study analysing publishing contracts from the archive of the Australian Society of Authors, and found that reversion clauses were often unsatisfactorily drafted. The vast majority of out-of-print clauses were drafted with outdated formulations, including some that conditioned the author’s reclamation of rights not only on their repaying any unearned portion of their advance, but even requiring them to buy the book’s plant. Some contracts were missing basic rights, like the ability to reclaim the copyright in the event of the publisher’s liquidation, and remarkably few contained ‘use-it-or-lose-it’-style clauses for unexploited rights. All this inspired us to ask: just how did this state of affairs come about? In this follow-up study we use legal cases and ‘model’ publishing guides from throughout the Anglosphere to explore the origins of reversion clauses and their evolution over time. Consistent with our earlier archival study, our results challenge the idea that publishing contracts are a safe repository of author rights.
Rebecca Giblin is an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, an ARC Future Fellow and a CREATE Fellow. Joshua Yuvaraj is a PhD candidate at Monash University. This research has been supported by funding from the Australian Research Council via projects LP160100387 and FT170100011, an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, and Monash University.
Local window, global view: picture-book publishers in regional areas
Despite technological transformation and changes in the contemporary publishing landscape in Australia, most publishers, whether big, medium or small, are still based in capital cities. Factors such as cost of transport, distance from suppliers and markets and shortage of skilled workers may be cited as reasons for the overwhelmingly metropolitan localities of Australian publishers. However, regional centres increasingly attract publishers, especially small publishers, and in recent times a growth area in regional small-press publishing has been in the field of children’s picture books, with several successful publishers of national reputation and international vision operating from outside the metropolis.
Why do publishers decide to set up in regional areas? What are the particular challenges and opportunities for picture-book publishers? How does their regional locality impact on and influence their work? What role does community play? And how do they reconcile the regional, national and international aspects of their business, professional and creative visions? In this paper, the author gives an illuminating insight into the realities for regionally-based publishers through frank and wide-ranging interviews with three acclaimed small presses specialising in children’s picture books, Little Pink Dog Books, EK Books and Dirt Lane Press.
Dr Sophie Masson AM is the award-winning author of over 60 books. Her latest books, all published in 2019, include the novel War and Resistance (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia), and three picture books: There’s a Tiger Out There (illustrated by Ruth Waters, Little Hare), Join the Armidale Parade (illustrated by Kathy Creamer, Little Pink Dog Books) and On My Way (illustrated by Simon Howe, Scholastic).
Sophie is also a founding partner and Publishing Director of boutique children’s books publisher, Christmas Press. She successfully completed a PhD in creative practice at the University of New England in 2018.
A former Chair of the ASA, current Chair of the New England Writers’ Centre, and Board member of the Small Press Network, Sophie received an AM award in the Order of Australia in 2019, for significant service to literature as an author, publisher and through service to literary organisations.
Mary Poppins’ Publishing Compass
Professor Claire Squires, University of Stirling
Inspired by a scene from PL Travers’ Mary Poppins (1934), in which a magical box opens up perspectives to the north, south, east and west, this keynote goes on a journey structured around four points of a ‘publishing compass’, responding to the following questions (not necessarily in this order). In so doing, it thinks through a series of pressing issues for publishing and publishing research, and interrogates how we might set our coordinates in order best to navigate through them as both researchers and practitioners of publishing:
Publishing Geographies: the spatial organisation of publishing has long been global, but determined along lines which continually reassert hierarchical structures of power, the less than equal ‘world republic of letters’ (Casanova) which privileges certain languages, countries, and metropolitan centres. How might local, regional, ‘remote’, peripheral and digital activity be disrupting, shoring up or diverging from such patternings? Is the publishing map being redrawn, and if so, in what ways?
Publishing Epistemologies: as the publishing industries face increasing disruption, challenge and opportunity in their operations, how do structures of knowledge make sense of the current state and future shape of those industries? What is the role of the academic researcher, and which creative and critical modes might be employed to understand, or intervene in publishing’s directions? And what place might the small Scottish Highlands town of Ullapool take in such concerns?
Publishing Responsibilities: independent publishers have frequently taken a role in directing publishing’s moral, cultural and political compass. In an age of ongoing inequalities, hastening climate crisis and geopolitical upheaval, how might publishers, and publishing studies academics, respond to such challenges, take action to address them, develop socially just post-growth economic structures, and plan for responsible futures?
Publishing Imaginaries: what might future ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson) generated by publishing look like, and by which dystopian and utopian visions of the future might we want to navigate in order to create them?
Claire Squires is Professor of Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling, Scotland. Her publications include Marketing Literature: The Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain, The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain Volume 7: The Twentieth Century and Beyond (as co-Volume Editor with Andrew Nash and I. R. Willison) and (as Blaire Squiscoll, writing with Beth Driscoll), The Frankfurt Kabuff, a comic erotic thriller set at the Frankfurt Book Fair. She is currently working on a short book on Publishing Bestsellers: Buzz and the Frankfurt Book Fair with Beth Driscoll, as well as editing a special issue of Memoires du Livre/Studies on Book Culture entitled Book Commerce Book Carnival. She previously worked at Hodder Headline publishers, and is a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awardee.
Digital and Virtual Sites of Publishing
Title: Global self-publishing and a multitude of local laws
Rita Matulionyte, Newcastle University
During recent decades self-publishing has grown exponentially and a stigma over it as ‘vanity publishing’ is gradually disappearing. While most self-publishing appears in a global online environment, it is little understood that there is no single global law that regulates self-publishing. Rather, there is a multitude of local laws on copyright, defamation, freedom of speech, etc that applies to each title published and with which self-publishing authors should comply. These local laws contain different rules on a number of issues, such as whether and to which extent fan-fiction is legal, to which extent writers are allowed to intrude in somebody’s privacy and when freedom of speech prevails over racist speech. While in case of a ‘traditional’ publishing, publishers used to take responsibility of these legal issues, self-publishing authors face these legal risks themselves, and on international scale.
Dr Rita Matulionyte is a lecturer at Newcastle Law School. Her research focuses on legal and policy aspects of creative industries, with a particular focus on copyright law and intellectual property. Rita has been a legal research fellow at universities in Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Lithuania and, recently, in Australia. She have prepared research reports on copyright law for the European Patent Office, and for the governments of South Korea and Lithuania. She presented research papers in a number of national and international conferences.
Kickstarting book projects through creativity, connectivity and crowdfunding
Claire Parnell, University of Melbourne
The contemporary publishing industry is now defined as much by the technology corridors of Silicon Valley and Seoul as it is by dealings in the literary hubs of New York, London, and Frankfurt. It is a landscape that is increasingly dominated by technology companies and platforms (Ray Murray & Squires, 2013). With skim financial margins and incredibly competitive traditional arts funding, some writers and publishers are looking to crowdfunding platforms as a means of earning money for their creative projects (Bradley et al, 2011; Mustafa & Adnan, 2017). These spaces draw on the collective and connective power of imagined social media communities (Anderson, 1983; Baym, 2010; Bennett & Segerberg, 2013; Rossi, 2014; Reinsfelder & Pike, 2018). The technological, social and economic aspects of this digital site also shape and transform processes of creation and reception. This paper focuses on the practices and platform characteristics of Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform that directly engages with writers, publishers and literary organisations, as well as its position in the broader social media sphere and publishing industry. It draws on case studies of publishing-related Kickstarter campaigns and interviews with industry professionals to show the new and creative ways authors and publishers are funding book publishing in the early 21st century.
Claire Parnell is a PhD candidate, lecturer and research assistant at the University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on the platformization of publishing and cultural inclusion in romance fiction. Her article ‘Models of publishing and opportunities for change: Representations in Harlequin, Montlake and self-published romance fiction’ is published in the Australian Literary Studies journal. She is an RA on the ARC Discovery Project ‘Genre Worlds: Australian popular fiction in the 21st century’ and is a co-recipient of the 2019 RWA academic grant to investigate English-language romance in the Philippines.
The Gram, The Grid, and Genre: #bookstagram and the Impact of Image-Based Systems of Classification in Post-Digital Book Culture
Kenna MacTavish, University of Melbourne
How does image-based organisation encourage the cultivation of book culture? Book culture is post-digital (Ludovico 2012) and therefore operates within a hybrid zone of online and offline space. In 2019, digital spaces and the cultivation of book culture are closely intertwined with materiality, perhaps more than they have ever been before. Instagram is a user-generated content (UGC) platform that operates as an interactive digital space where sociality of reading and books necessarily positions material “book acts” at its centre. The inherent disembodied nature of the #bookstagram community, the images it collects, and its wider role in bookish, cultural practices destabilises the position of the reader in the publishing communication circuit. Any image tagged with “#bookstagram” acts as a visual cue for the organisation of genre and culture. Claire Squires argues, “genre is the system through which art interacts with society” (74). In the case of #bookstagram, “art” becomes the primary way in which book objects are organised by readers for the book industry. This paper introduces a concept underpinned by a sociality of reading and books where creative and connective systems of classification are created and maintained through “book acts”. By examining preliminary findings from both popular and niche #bookstagram accounts, this paper asks how Instagram—as an online platform dedicated to aesthetics and representations of materiality and as a site of publishing—acts as a conceptual organiser for the cultural relations between genre and everyday reader practices within the contemporary book industry.
Kenna MacTavish BA (Hons) is a PhD candidate in Publishing and Communication at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include contemporary book culture, genre, and social platforms. Kenna’s thesis-in-progress is titled, “Organising Books: Creative and Connective Systems of Classification in the Twenty-First Century”.
Heroine Chic: The Young Adult Fantasy Heroine in the Contemporary Literary Marketplace
Jodi McAlister, Deakin University
Fantasy has historically played an important generic role in children’s literature. Works by authors like CS Lewis, Susan Cooper, and Ursula K. Le Guin are among foundational twentieth century texts, and with the emergence of middle grade and young adult blockbusters like the Harry Potter series (1997-2007) and the Twilight saga (2005-2008), fantastical fiction for young people become a global, boundary-crossing phenomenon. While the boom of the 2000s has dropped off somewhat, fantasy remains at the forefront of the young adult publishing market, through authors like Sarah J Maas, Cassandra Clare, and Holly Black.
This paper will consider the development of the young adult fantasy novel in the contemporary literary marketplace. In particular, it will explore the development in representation of one particular figure: the heroine. It will identify key textual and paratextual trends in the representation of the young adult fantasy heroine, as well as examining how her representation changes depending on the type of fantasy fiction she appears in (drawing on work by Farah Mendlesohn). It will also explore the young adult fantasy heroine’s relationship to place: how does her representation change depending on the nature of the fantasy world in which she occupies? how is she positioned in paratext – both peritexts (like the cover) and epitexts (like reviews)? and how does her representation change depending on the territory from which the text in question primarily arises?
This paper will take as its corpus texts which have won or been nominated for the Goodreads Best Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction awards. However, I will also consider my own experiences as an author of young adult fantasy fiction, and reflect on the thought processes behind and the creative decisions I made in representing my own fantastical heroine: Pearl Linford in the Valentine series (2017-).
Dr Jodi McAlister is a Lecturer in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. Her research focuses on representations of romantic love in popular culture, and the operations of the popular fiction industry. She is also an author of young adult fiction: Valentine (2017), Ironheart (2018), and Misrule (2019) are all published by Penguin Teen Australia. She is on Twitter at @JodiMcA.
Mapping the Regions of an ‘Art World’: Lynette Noni’s The Medoran Chronicles and the Place of Independent Publishing in the Art World of Popular Fiction
Caylee Tierney, University of Tasmania
Howard S. Becker employs the term ‘art world’ to describe the organisations and support networks that collaborate to produce works of art. From Becker’s perspective, literature is one such art world. I draw on Becker’s conceptualisation, but conceive of literary fiction and popular fiction as distinct art worlds. In this paper, I explore the place of independent publishing within the art world of popular fiction to investigate how this specific aspect or ‘region’ of the art world operates as part of the whole. I ask what independent publishers contribute to the art world of popular fiction and how these publishers, who often describe themselves in national terms, operate in the transnational publishing ecosystem of this art world. To address these questions, I discuss the production, publication history and distribution of Lynette Noni’s The Medoran Chronicles (Pantera Press). This series is a commercially successful example of young adult fantasy. My discussion of the series considers Noni’s blog and Twitter feed, as well as interviews with Noni posted on other blogs and published on YouTube. I investigate how the information disseminated in these digital spaces not only connects the author with readers, but also provides first-hand knowledge about the processes of book production and the conventions of the traditional publishing industry. Such knowledge is valuable to academics and aspiring authors who seek to understand the industry and its associated art worlds. This research is significant to mapping the art world of popular fiction and thereby developing our understanding of what it means to conceive of popular fiction as an art world.
Caylee Tierney is a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Tasmania. Her PhD project explores how conventions enable the creation of children’s fantasy series and influence the kinds of books produced. It draws on Howard S. Becker’s conceptualisation of ‘conventions’ in art worlds to take a multi-faceted approach to these series that addresses their textual and contextual elements. Her broad research interests include popular fiction, publishing studies and children’s/young adult fantasy. @CayleeTierney
Australian Crime: A Twenty-First Century Publishing Story
Beth Driscoll, University of Melbourne
This paper presents findings from the three-year “Genre Worlds” project on contemporary Australian commercial fiction, with a focus on the publishing of crime, mysteries and thrillers. Our conceptual model of “genre worlds” adapts Howard Becker’s theory of “art worlds” (1982) to argue that genre fiction books are not only texts, but also nodes within industrial and social networks. The paper will present insights developed from interviews conducted with crime fiction writers and publishing professionals, and from analysis of trade data. Features of the contemporary genre world of Australian crime fiction include its involvement with twenty-first century technologies, including the uptake of self-publishing, the uses of social media, and the changing practices of large, medium and small publishing houses. I will also consider the role of national and international festivals and prizes in building the crime fiction genre within Australia, and will discuss Australian crime fiction’s involvement with issues of diversity and inclusion.
Beth Driscoll is Senior Lecturer in Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne. She is the author of The New Literary Middlebrow (Palgrave, 2014) and, with Kim Wilkins, Lisa Fletcher and David Carter, is a Chief Investigator on the Australian Research Discovery Project “Genre Worlds: Australian Popular Fiction in the Twenty-First Century”. Her current research projects include work on post-digital literary culture, reading and empathy, and, with Claire Squires, she is co-authoring a short monograph, Publishing Bestsellers: Buzz and the Frankfurt Book Fair (forthcoming Cambridge UP 2020).
Physical and Material Sites of Book Culture
Gender and race bias in the programming of three writers’ festivals in Scotland, 2017
Christina Neuwirth, University of Stirling and the University of Glasgow
Building on the work of Weber (2018) and Dane (2018) on the field of the writers’ festival, this paper explores the relationship between space and power at three different Scottish writers’ festivals: Edinburgh International Book Festival, Aye Write (Glasgow’s book festival) and Bloody Scotland (crime writing festival in Stirling), particularly looking at gender and race of authors invited to speak, and of event chairs. Conducted as part of my AHRC/SGSAH funded doctoral research into gender equality in contemporary Scottish writing and publishing, this paper presents a quantitative study of the year 2017 which analyses events featuring over 3,600 authors, teasing out how programming of writers’ festivals performs value judgement. The study discusses the spaces of these writers’ festivals, including tents, rooms in a library, castle halls; the number of authors speaking per event; who is called on to chair whom; what time and what day of the week the event takes place, etc. Analysis of semi-structured interviews with festival programmers add to this paper’s understanding of programming decisions. The paper concludes with the findings that men were programmed more than women; that an overwhelming majority of event chairs was white; and that for solo events and big event spaces, the likelihood of the author invited to speak being white and male increased. This implies that there is a persistent bias in programming of both small and large festivals.
Christina Neuwirth is a PhD researcher in Publishing Studies at University of Stirling, University of Glasgow and Scottish Book Trust. She is the recipient of the SGSAH/AHRC “Women of Words” Creative Economies Studentship, and her work examines gender equality in contemporary Scottish writing and publishing.
Cultural Capital as Performance: Tote Bags and the Literary Festival Audience
Alexandra Dane, University of Melbourne
The tote bag is a deeply coded item of literary paraphernalia and carrying a bag from a symbolically wealthy bookstore or gallery is a particular performance of cultural capital that is common among the literary festival audience. This paper presents findings from a study conducted at four literary festivals in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States where hundreds of canvas tote bags adorned with the branding of cultural institutions were observed and sketched. Taking a multi-disciplinary approach, this research presents a new framework for understanding the positionality of literary merchandise like the tote bag, and explores what these tote bags tell us about the literary festival audience.
Dr Alexandra Dane researchers contemporary book cultures, focussing on the relationship between gender, literary consecration and the influence of formal and informal literary networks.
Shelf-talkers and Showrooming: Locating Bestsellers in Bookstores
Lisa Fletcher and Elizabeth Leane, University of Tasmania
Twenty-first century bestsellers are thoroughly spatial in their industrial, social, and textual operations. This paper examines the locations and mobilities of contemporary fiction bestsellers as a distinctive, named category of book in contemporary physical bookstores. Through paratextual and site-based analysis, we examine the ways in which the term “bestseller” functions as a banner and a label in the overlapping micro-geographies of retail sites for print editions of fiction, including independent bookstores, airport chains, and discount department stores. We argue that ‘bestseller’ shelves and associated paratexts (such as shelf talkers, straplines and cover stickers) seek to move books by orienting potential readers in local space and time and registering the national, and international geographies of the fiction industry. However, these devices are heavily mediated by the retail sites’ methods of presentation, curation, and categorisation. This paper offers a snapshot comparative analysis of the presentation of ‘bestsellers’ in bookstores for consumers in three locations–Hobart, Tasmania; Singapore; Washington DC. It identifies the fluidity of the concept of the bestseller as the key to its value for publishers and retailers. Point-of-sale paratexts (e.g. shelf-talkers) and the book purchasing behaviours they encourage (e.g. showrooming) establish and sustain a productive tension for publishers and booksellers between the intimate and public spatialities of the bestseller.
Lisa Fletcher is Associate Professor English and Head of School of Humanities at the University of Tasmania. Her books include Historical Romance Fiction: Heterosexuality and Performativity (2008), Popular Fiction and Spatiality: Reading Genre Settings (2016), and Island Genres, Genre Islands: Conceptualisation and Representation in Popular Fiction (2017). She is currently co-writing Genre Worlds with Beth Driscoll and Kim Wilkins, and Circulating Bestsellers with Elizabeth Leane.
Elizabeth Leane is Professor of English and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Tasmania. Her books include Reading Popular Physics: Disciplinary Skirmishes and Textual Strategies (2007), Antarctica in Fiction: Imaginative Narratives of the Far South (2012), and South Pole: Nature and Culture (2016). She is currently writing Traveling Ice, and co-writing Circulating Bestsellers with Lisa Fletcher.