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Welcome to the Spotlight: The success of the Australian debut

August 31, 2018

The Australian literary scene has changed a great deal in the past few years, with new (and welcome) trends emerging. We’ve seen female authors and characters thrive, fewer male gatekeepers in the industry, and novels that are much more diverse and experimental. But, there’s another phenomenon that we are truly excited about – the success of the debut.

Once upon a time in Australian publishing, to make it as a writer you had to already have a profile. Writers had to work hard to establish a following, often having to publish five or so novels before reaping any rewards or gaining any acknowledgment. Books were very much judged by the name of the person behind the pen, but this isn’t so much the case today.

Lately, a new trend has steadily emerged – the successful debut. We are talking about previously unheard of authors who are emerging from seemingly nowhere to produce amazing pieces of writing – and we, the readers, are absolutely lapping it up.

Let’s take a look at this year’s stand-outs (so far):

We’ve had The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, The Nowhere Child by Christian White, Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton, and, most recently, Scrublands by Chris Hammer, all of which have taken Australian readers by storm. The Nowhere Child in particular has exceeded debut expectations big time, breaking the record for the fastest-selling Australian debut novel ever, with over 25,000 sales in its first eight weeks.

What has prompted this trend? The willingness of publishers to take on new and potentially risky titles has certainly contributed. A book however, is only as successful as its readership deems it to be – and readers have certainly helped to carry the success of these debuts. It seems that avid readers are judging books more on the merit of their story and writing, as opposed to the writer’s reputation or national profile. Whilst writers are boldly branching out and trying new things, readers are taking risks as well by experimenting with new genres and forms that they previously would never have read.

It’s a great time to be a writer and a reader in Australia. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for our already-too-full bookshelves.


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