Responding to a response

The Sydney Morning Herald published my op-ed yesterday. The subbies there called it Leave the Antibooks on the Shelves (which probably wasn’t the snappiest of titles, but I couldn’t come up with anything better myself). I got a couple of supportive messages from publishers, but the letters section of today’s paper included a comment from the chairman of Allen and Unwin, Australia’s largest independent trade publisher:

If Sherman Young claims to be an authority on Australian publishing, heaven knows where he gets his statistics. To take just one example from his column, he refers to 32 Australian novels published in 2004 and implies that this figure is in terminal decline. Over the next 12 months Allen & Unwin alone will be publishing 32 novels by Australians.

My response?

I’m not privy to any publisher’s internal plans, and only drew on publicly available data for the op-ed piece. The declining number of Australian literary novels being published (by the big trade publishers) comes from research done by Mark Davis from The University of Melbourne, and has been widely cited; including in an Australian article which canvassed this territory (in much more detail than an op-ed allows) last year.

(See Rosemary Neill, Lits Out, The Australian, March 18th 2006, )

I note a comment from A&U in that piece:

Allen & Unwin initially tells Review its commitment to local fiction has not waned during the past decade. Then it consulted its records and found that in 1996 it published 12 literary Australian novels. This year it will publish seven.

But if the pattern from 1996-2006 is part of a longer cyclic one that is now trending up, that’s great.

I for one look forward to much more Australian literary fiction in the near future!! But I suspect that the A&U response is not acknowledging the distinction between literary fiction and other fiction, which should have been made clearer in my piece. Mea culpa!


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