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Nurturing Australian children’s literature by growing international markets

Oct 18, 2019

Australian children’s books and authors are invaluable cultural assets, playing an essential role in the lives of Australian children and families and in developing the future generation of Australian readers. Eight in ten Australian children read for pleasure,*1 with far reaching benefits for their development, literacy and enrichment. Australia has a strong list of titles with children’s books comprising nearly half our book market.*2

International market development activities provide vital income opportunities to support the Australian literature sector while showcasing Australian culture and creativity to a global readership. Sharing Australian stories overseas grows our international reputation, attractiveness and influence.

The Australia Council has a long history supporting international engagement through the arts, fostering connections and brokering opportunities for cultural exchange. Our International Arts Strategy maximises opportunities in identified priority markets.

China boasts one of the fastest growing children’s book markets in the world, releasing over 40,000 new titles each year. The China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair is the only book fair fully dedicated to books for children aged 0-16 years in the Asia Pacific region, and is a major hub of rights activity for children’s literature.

In November 2018, the Council supported a delegation of Australian literary agents, rights managers and publishers to attend the book fair. The fair brought together an extensive range of international exhibitors and more than 33,700 visitors, including publishers, literary agents, illustrators, translators, distributors, booksellers, mobile developers, education and training institutions and children’s book lovers.

The Australian delegation was led by the Council’s International Development Manager for North Asia who brokered an opportunity for an Australian delegate to participate in the Shanghai Visiting International Publishers fellowship – an exclusive opportunity to gain detailed insight into China’s publishing landscape.

IMAGE CREDIT: China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF)

The delegation gained invaluable insights into the exciting, dynamic and booming market for children’s books in China and built relationships with Chinese publishers and editors, resulting in significant, concrete rights sales that benefit Australian authors. This activity will also bear results in the long term.

Income from international rights sales are a way for Australian authors to augment their diminishing income at home. As Australian writers are now earning less income for the same amount of work, *diversification of writing income is vital for sustainable careers.

This strategic market development activity increased opportunities for Australian children’s authors and highlighted China as a sophisticated and potentially profitable export market for Australian work for young people across art forms.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity for children’s book publishing and, if all the auguries are true, will continue to expand exponentially for some years to come.” publisher Alice Grundy*4


*1 Aged 5–14. ABS 2019, Participation in Selected Cultural Activities, Australia, 2017–18 (cat. no. 4921.0).

*2 Around 25 million titles based on Nielsen BookScan 2017.

*3 Throsby D and Petetskaya K 2017, Making Art Work: An economic study of professional artists in Australia, Australia Council for the Arts.

*4 Alice Grundy 2018, ‘Children’s book boom: Alice Grundy on the China Shanghai International Book Fair,’ Books + Publishing, 21 November 2018.