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Kathy Keele Addresses Visiting International Publishers

Speeches and Opinions
Oct 31, 2007

Kathy Keele addressed the opening of the Visiting International Publishers (VIP) program in Sydney on Monday 28 May 2007.

Anniversaries of any kind are milestones that prompt reflection on what has gone before.

This evening is no exception.

I’ll spare you the embarrassing photos and corny anecdotes from the past decade of the program that has affectionately become known as VIPs.

But I would like to talk briefly about the kind of things that those who know me, know I like to focus on – the outcomes of this great program.

I am sure many of you have probably heard the basic facts, so forgive me but they do bear repeating …

Since 1998, more than 100 publishers, editors, literary agents, film agents and book scouts have come to Australia through VIPs, from as far afield as the UK, Germany, France, Israel, Korea, Japan, the US and Canada.

Well over 200 Australian titles have been sold into international markets as a direct result of these visits, generating – at a very conservative estimate – $3 million in rights sales.

For an investment by the Australia Council of a little over $100,000 per year, I’m sure you’ll agree, VIPs represents a great return for literature in this country.

But we can see the influence of VIPs far better if we look beyond the numbers and look at the books themselves.

We can see that a novel such as Roger McDonald’s Mr Darwin’s Shooter sold to the important US, German and Korean markets as a direct result of the program.

Or we can see from the 1999 program, the world’s largest children’s book publisher Scholastic took Andy Griffith’s bum stories to America.

There, the first book was translated into words that could be easily understood – The Day My Butt Went Psycho! – sold more than 100,000 copies and made the New York Times bestseller list.

Or again, from 2003 program, we can see the bestselling Shantaram get picked up by St Martin’s Press in the United States.

There, amongst its many readers, was the little known actor Johnny Depp … and I think that most of you already know the rest of this story.

And so to this year’s VIPs …

We hope to see more deals being done that take some of our best Australian writers to the rest of the world, through the various meetings and networking opportunities over the course of the Sydney Writers Festival.

We hope that all the local editors and publishers here tonight join us for the VIP industry seminar on Wednesday afternoon.

We also hope that you can catch one of the panel appearances by the VIPs over the coming week – on topics as diverse as editing, publishing, book design and international spotlights.

And most of all we hope you’ll join with me in welcoming and having a chat to the VIPs who are with us tonight. We’ve made them easy prey by asking them to wear an orange-coloured nametag.

Finally, I would like to offer some very big thank-yous.

First thank you to the VIP program committee – Jenny Darling, Michael Heyward and Fiona Henderson – for their time and expertise in making this year’s program a success.

Second, thank you to the Sydney Writers Festival – particularly its chair Sandra Yates, artistic director Dr Wendy Were and festival staff – for so warmly welcoming the VIPs into the festival. We appreciate their generous partnership.

And finally, thank you all again for making it here tonight. We hope you continue to have a pleasant evening.