Most Underrated Book Award News

The Invisible War by Ailsa Wild, Briony Barr, Gregory Crocetti, Ben Huchings and Jeremy Barr (Scale Free Network) is the winner of the 2017 Most UnderratedBook Award (MUBA), sponsored by the Australian Booksellers Association.

Now in its sixth year, the Small Press Network’s ‘Most Underrated Book Award’ celebrates hidden gems – engaging and creative books across all genres that deserve to reach a wider audience. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Australian Booksellers Association, the award gives the winning title enhanced exposure among booksellers, and through them, readers.

This year’s winning title is a unique publication, funded through a Pozible campaign, created by a team of writers, illustrators and scientists, and combining the format of a graphic novel with science education writing.

‘A graphic novel about dysentery during WWI doesn’t sound like the makings of an engaging work, but The Invisible War is a cleverly created comic that’s informative, interesting and surprising,’ said the judging panel of Toni Jordan, Sarah L’Estrange and Megan O’Brien. ‘In this book, even the bacteria go “ka-boom”. The Invisible War is an educational and entertaining book and demonstrates an exciting style of science writing that is far from textbook.’

The Invisible War began as an attempt to interweave the stories of two very different protagonists, but to show a parallel between them’ said publisher and co-creator of The Invisible War Gregory Crocetti. ‘Our protagonist on the small scale was the bacteriophage (bacteria-eating viruses). On the human scale, it was an Australian nurse. Both are fairly non-traditional points of view and share a connection to the WWI setting and in the physical connection between the trenches of the Western Front and the trenches of the human gut.

‘We’re thrilled to have won the Most Underrated Book Award. This award means a lot to a tiny publisher like ourselves, who are able to take risks to creative innovative new works, but simply don’t have the marketing budget and networks to promote it.’

The Invisible War was chosen from a shortlist of four titles that also included: The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle (Brow Books), Loopholes by Susan McCreery (Spineless Wonders), and Horse Island by Christina Kennedy (Zabriskie Books). The winner announcement was made at a special event at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne, on Friday 17 November 2017.

About the sponsor
The Australian Booksellers Association is the official national body representing bookshops across Australia. Formed as a not-for-profit organisation, it provides education and training, advocacy, technical advice and marketing support to booksellers. It also recognises and celebrates the special role that books and bookselling play in society – creating community, supporting ideas and creativity, and opening doors to other worlds.

About the Small Press Network
Established in 2006, the Small Press Network is a representative body for small publishers around Australia. It presents the Most Underrated Book Award annually and has run the Independent Publishing Conference since it was established in 2012.

About the conference
Now in its sixth year, SPN’s Independent Publishing Conference runs 16 to 18 November at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. Saturday tickets are available via

About the judges
Toni Jordan
 has published four novels since 2008. Sarah L’Estrange is a producer of Books and Arts DailyMegan O’Brien was Australian Booksellers Association Young Bookseller of the Year 2012.

The Most Underrated Book Award 2017 shortlist announced

The Small Press Network is delighted to announce  the four titles shortlisted for this year’s Most Underrated Book Award, sponsored by the Australian Booksellers Association.

The shortlisted titles are:

  • The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle (Brow Books)
  • The Invisible War by Ailsa Wild, Briony Barr, Gregory Crocetti, Ben Huchings, Jeremy Barr (Scale Free Network)
  • Loopholes by Susan McCreery (Spineless Wonders)
  • Horse Island by Christina Kennedy (Zabriskie Books).

Featuring fiction, micro-fiction, nonfiction and a graphic novel, this year’s shortlist highlights the diverse, risk-taking and creative work being published by independent publishers. See below for more information about the shortlisted titles.

The winner will be announced during SPN’s Independent Publishing Conference in Melbourne at 6.15pm on Friday 17 November 2017, at a special edition of the Wheeler Centre’s ‘Next Big Thing’ series. This is a free event and bookings can be made online.


About the books

The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle is a work of science fiction set in the not-too-distant future in which we are perpetually on the brink of collapse, and catastrophe is our most popular entertainment. The world watches as Pitcairn Island sinks into the Pacific, wondering if this, finally, will be the end of everything. Amongst it all, Max Galleon, anxious family man and blockbuster auteur, lives a life that he cannot remember.




The Invisible War by Ailsa Wild, Briony Barr, Gregory Crocetti, Ben Huchings, Jeremy Barr is an illustrated science-history graphic novel for young adults set in WWI about a bacteria-eating virus that fights dysentery. It takes place on two scales: the macro-scale, from the point of view of a Victorian nurse serving in the trenches of France, and the micro-level, from the point of view of the microbes which fight to keep her alive.



Loopholes by Susan McCreery is a collection of microfiction that provides glimpses into the everyday challenges of family life, relationships, ageing and loss. The characters are typical humans, flawed, vulnerable, frustrating and frustrated. Told with empathy and wit, and honed with a wordsmith’s skill, Loopholes makes us see ourselves and each other differently.



Horse Island by Christina Kennedy (Zabriskie Books) is a visual guided tour of the private retreat of Christina and Trevor Kennedy. Horse Island is a place of great natural beauty and the setting for a remarkable garden created by Christina, featuring only Australian indigenous plants. Horse Island, the book, reflects Christina’s own desire to share an extraordinary place and to have us think differently about native plants.



About the award
The Most Underrated Book Award was established by the Small Press Network (SPN) in 2012 to highlight hidden gems – wonderful books that deserve to find a wider audience. Now in its sixth year, this award has put a spotlight on relatively unknown books, helping to generate new interest well after their initial publication.

‘Thousands of books are published in Australia every year,’ said Joel Becker, CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) which this year sponsors the award. ‘Unfortunately many of these don’t get the attention they deserve. Some are published by small presses without the marketing teams often required to get the attention of media, the bookselling community and the public. The ABA is proud to be the major sponsor of this award, which specifically focuses on those creative, articulate voices that might otherwise slip under the radar. This award not only gives public recognition to the winner, but to the worthy shortlist, and all those small presses supporting Australian cultural work. Awards like this assist our hundreds of bookseller members, who take their curatorial roles seriously, in taking readers on journeys of discovery, personalising the shopping experience well beyond web-based algorithms. We look forward to giving these books the attention they deserve.’


 Last year’s winner:

‘Creating Cities’ wins MUBA 2016!

The Small Press Network (SPN) is delighted to announce Creating Cities by Marcus Westbury has won the fifth annual Most Underrated Book Award (MUBA), sponsored by Booktopia.

The winner was chosen by the judging panel of author Toni Jordan, former young bookseller of  the year Megan O’Brien, and Books and Arts Daily producer Sarah L’Estrange.

Westbury receives a $500 cash prize thanks to sponsor Booktopia. The winner was announced on Friday 11 November at the Independent Publishing Conference in Melbourne.


About the 2016 shortlisted books

man-made-of-batsA Man Made Entirely of Bats

by Patrick Lenton


Patrick Lenton’s debut collection of short stories and flash fiction merges the comedic, the absurd and the surreal.

First published by Spineless Wonders in March 2015, A Man Made Entirely of Bats defies narrative convention, humorously weaving fairytale, horror and superhero genres.

Lenton is a regular contributor to The Spontaneity Review, Junkee, The Guardian, Daily Life and The Sydney Morning Herald. His fiction and memoir pieces have been published in The Best Australian Stories, Best Australian Comedy Writing, The Lifted Brow, Voiceworks, The Canary Press and Scum Mag. His work has been shortlisted for numerous literary awards including the Viva Novella Prize, The Novella Project, The Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers and many more.

Lenton was awarded the ROFL Canadian Club Comedy Award at the 2010 Sydney Fringe Festival and in 2015

was the recipient of the Thiel Grant for Online Writing. Lenton is also currently undertaking the massive task of reviewing every book read by Rory Gilmore in the television series Gilmore Girls over at Going Down Swinging (‘The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge’).

ClClancyancy of the Undertow

by Christopher Currie

YA fiction

Brisbane-based writer, blogger and bookseller Christopher Currie released his first young adult novel in November 2015, his follow-up to adult novel The Ottoman Motel – both of which are published by Text Publishing. Clancy is the titular heroine of Clancy of the Undertow, a sixteen-year-old misfit living in a dead-end Queensland town, populated by traditional ‘bogans’ and small-minded individuals. Currie’s novel is a coming-of-age story with a strikingly vivid, young voice that delicately deals with a teenager’s sexual awakening. The book was longlisted for the Gold Inky award in 2016.

Currie’s first novel The Ottoman Motel was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and the Queensland Literary Awards in 2012. The novel’s dedications page also featured a bold marriage proposal to his girlfriend, which garnered much attention (and was accepted!).

creating-citiesCreating Cities

by Marcus Westbury


It was only a few years ago that the future of Newcastle’s city centre was looking dire, with more than a hundred and fifty empty buildings lining the CBD’s two main streets. After taking a trip to his hometown back in 2008, Marcus Westbury created the innovative not-for-profit organisation Renew Newcastle.

Since its inception, Renew Newcastle has licenced over seventy buildings and found temporary homes for over one

hundred and seventy artistic enterprises. While Renew Newcastle helped these organisations find their footing and

gave them a space to share their work, it also generated significant interest in the formerly desolate city centre. Less than a decade later and Newcastle’s CBD is a thriving community.

The crowd-funded book Creating Cities details Newcastle’s incredible transformation and discusses how Renew Newcastle’s business model can be applied nationally. Creating Cities was published by Niche Press in August 2015 after Westbury raised the money to write and publish the book using the Pozible crowdfunding platform. Before writing the book, Westbury spent many years as a director for Next Wave Festival in Melbourne, the This Is Not Art Festival in Newcastle, and the Cultural Festival of the Commonwealth Games. His cultural and political

writing has been featured in Griffith Review, Meanjin, Crikey, Volume, Desktop, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

floating-gardenThe Floating Garden

by Emma Ashmere


Published by Spinifex Press in May 2015, Emma Ashmere’s debut novel The Floating Garden is a beautiful mediation on grief, guilt and regret, set against the backdrop of Milsons Point, Sydney, in 1926.

Protagonist Ellis Gilby is a gardening columnist residing in the small community and is one of the unlucky

residents to be faced with the imminent demolition of her home—to make way for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Floating Garden alternates between Ellis’ past and present, juxtaposing her story with that of

Rennie Howarth, a young English artist suffering abuse at the hands of her privileged Australian husband.

Ashmere has a Masters in Creative Writing from The University of Adelaide and a PhD on the use of marginalised history in fiction from La Trobe University. She has worked as a researcher on Green Pens and Reading the Garden

and has had several short stories published in The Age, the Review of Australian Fiction, GriffithReview, Etchings, Sleepers Almanac and Text Journal.

The winner of the 2016 Most Underrated Book Award will be announced at 6pm Friday 11 November 2016 at the Wheeler Centre. The announcement is a free event – book your place here.

About the award
Open to all members of the Small Press Network, the Most Underrated Book Award is designed to highlight titles that did not garner the sales or recognition they deserved at the time of release.

About the sponsor
Founded in 2004, Booktopia ( is Australia’s home-grown, leading online bookstore and regularly donates to literacy charities and organisations.

About the conference
SPN’s Independent Publishing conference ran from 9-12 November at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. Next year’s conference will run from 15 to 18 November 2017.

About the judges
A prolific author in her own right, Toni Jordan has published four novels since 2008, Addition  (2000), Fall Girl (2010), Nine Days (2012) and Our Tiny, Useless Hearts (2016). As a producer of Books and Arts Daily on ABC Radio National and during five years on The Book Show, Sarah L’Estrange has carved out a lucrative career in the arts. Rounding out our trio of  esteemed judges is Megan O’Brien, 2012’s Australian Booksellers Association Random House Young Bookseller of the Year.


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