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Visiting International Publishers (VIPs) Program: Longitudinal Evaluation 2011-2016

Feb 01, 2018


The Visiting International Publishers (VIPs) program was developed to facilitate Australian publishers’ access to international markets and audiences for Australian writers by promoting rights sales. The program brings international publishers, agents and scouts to Australia for a week-long program. They attend events to increase their knowledge of Australian literature, and meet with local publishers and agents.

In 2016/17, the Australia Council for the Arts conducted a five year longitudinal evaluation of the VIPs program to determine:

  • the impact of the program for Australian publishers and agents
  • the effectiveness of the program at delivering on its aims
  • options for consideration in designing future programs to further increase rights sales.

The evaluation included a survey of Australian publishers and agents who had attended the program between 2011 and 2016 (response rates of 36% and 40% respectively). The impact of the program for the international guests was also assessed (response rate of 90%).

Visiting International Publishers (VIPs) program 2016. Credit: Australia Council

The VIPs program provides a strong return on investment

  • The financial return on investment in the VIPs program is 445%. This means for every $1 invested in the program by the Australia Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, $5.45 is generated for the sector.
  • Australian attendees attributed $4.1 million in rights sales to the program from 2011–2015.
    • $3.8 million in rights sales were made directly to attending international guests
    • $300,000 in sales arose indirectly through referrals from international guests.
  • Three in four Australian publishers who participated reported their organisation had sold rights as a result of attending the VIPs program.
  • Of the Australian publishers who attended, the program accounted for 15% of their rights sales in the preceding year (2015–16).
  • Rights sales have been made across a range of genres. The most common genres licensed were children’s books (19%), literary fiction (18%), literary non-fiction (16%) and commercial fiction (14%). Genres vary greatly by publisher – for example for one publisher, all the titles licensed were young adult.
  • Approximately 60% of deals licensed through the VIPs program involved a third party such as an agent or scout. However third party involvement varied widely between respondents with many Australian publishers making rights sales directly to overseas publishers.

The VIPs program helps Australian publishers and agents build international networks

  • Australian attendees cited ‘relationship building’ and the ‘chance to connect’ as key benefits of attending the VIPs program.

Programs like VIPs keep publishers here in touch with the international market place. Face-to-face is still the best way of doing business and investing in the future.

  • The program helps Australian publishers and agents identify what appeals to different audiences across the globe and what genres particular publishers have an interest and expertise in publishing. An attendee stated the greatest benefits of the VIPs program as:

Networking, specific market knowledge, suggestions of other publishers/editors to contact, industry knowledge, different marketing practices and challenges facing other markets.

The VIPs program builds the reputation of Australian literature among international guests

  • Nine in ten international guests reported a more positive perception of Australian literature after the 2016 VIPs programs. Those who reported no change noted their perceptions were already positive. This is consistent with the 2017 program evaluation.

My opinion about Australian literature hasn’t changed, because I already had the highest opinion about it.

  • All elements of the program were rated by the majority of guests as being ‘somewhat’ or ‘extremely useful’ in developing their knowledge.
  • Some international guests felt the program could be improved with more consultation to ensure all meetings were relevant.

I felt in some cases that my time would have been better utilised. I also feel that we could have been consulted more about the one-to-one business meetings, to judge whether there was compatibility. This would have helped to allocate time productively.

The VIPs program plays a key role among many support structures

  • Attendees noted that the VIPs program is one among many support structures needed to boost rights sales of Australian works.
  • Respondents identified a number of additional supports they believe encourage right sales and the success of a title. Australian attendees stated the importance of the following:

Attendance at international book fairs

Support to attend international book fairs was requested as attendees feel being seen at international industry events is an important step to securing rights sales.

I think if [we] attended more book fairs or at least had a stand we could make a bigger impact. Being seen is everything. Recently we attended the Prague book fair (long story) and we have since secured three rights deals just from meeting publishers with our agents on their home turf.

Translation for non-English language markets

Other Australian attendees believe that being able to apply for translation grants is a significant consideration for international publishers acquiring rights, particularly when the print run is likely to be small.

Translation is simply a matter of cost – it is almost impossible to afford to be able to wear the extra cost of translating a book when our average print runs are 5k or less.

Author tours

Once titles are sold, Australian attendees believe the biggest opportunity to increase the success of a title is with publicity generated through author touring.

Publishers that say that without an author in the country that it [rights sales] is a difficult proposition.

Support for book fair attendance, translation costs and international author tours continues to be available through the Council’s funding programs. There are also other state, federal and industry funding opportunities available.


The VIPs program is managed and funded by the Australia Council for the Arts with additional funding support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade since 2014.

The program was developed to facilitate access for Australian writers to international markets and audiences by promoting rights sales. The program brings international guests (including publishers, agents and scouts) to Australia for a week long program of events and meetings to increase their knowledge of Australian literature and publishing. Australian publishers and agents attend events and meetings to receive insights into global publishing trends and to pitch their titles to the international guests. From 2011 to 2016, 69 Australian publishing companies and approximately 35 Australian agents participated in the VIPs program.

Short terms aims
  • International publishers grow their understanding of the Australian market
  • Strengthened relationships between Australian publishers and agents, and their international counterparts
  • Improved perceptions of the Australian literary sector among International publishers
Medium term aims
  • Australian publishers develop international networks
  • New and/or strengthened relationships lead to rights sales of Australian work
  • Distribution and access to new markets and audiences is increased
Long term aims
  • Improved profile of Australian work among audiences and markets
  • Improved profile leads to demand for Australian work from markets and audiences
  • Ongoing rights sales outside of those facilitated through the VIPs program
  • Increased Australian artist incomes and sustainable careers
  • Australia has a more sustainable literary sector