Sydney is a great place to visit. And I'm up here for a couple of days with a late running at catching up with the Australia Council's Visitiing International Publishers program, and as always taking the opportunity to catch up with booksellers.
I was reading John Nicolson's 'The Sydney Harbour Bridge' with my son Miles (aged 6) on Wednesday night. Its a very lovely book. It's quite complex in text and illustration and I don't know how much Miles took in but he was intrigued and wanted me to take photos of the bridge while I was in Sydney. The Oz Co Visiting International Publishers program is spread out over several days so I went off for the afternoon to do the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. It was naughty - I should have been making my commercial best of being in Sydney - but worth it. The day was clear, the views were perfect and the bridge is an extraordinary construction. There was even a rainbow when we arrived at the top of the arch of the bridge. Our bridge guide said that 1 in 4 Australians live in the greater Sydney area.
It's fortunate from my point of view that Sydney is such good place to visit as it looks like I'll have to spend more time here. The publishing industry, organizationally, is becoming increasingly Sydneycentric - with both the APA and the Australia Council being in Sydney and organizing events around the Sydney Writer's Festival. The design awards are here, the visiting international publishers are here, and its all spread out over the whole week. I'm wondering whether this will have an impact on the literary side of the Adelaide Festival. SWF now seems to be the event a publisher pretty much has to attend.
The Visting International Publishers seminar was fascinating and useful - and both exciting and deflating. At this level you get a sense of publishing as a game with authors and books as the playing cards to be traded, and of it being important to be a trader and a player. The bright lights of globalisation are flashing. As an audience member it came across as an uneasy mix of litterati - of editors earnestly and importantly talking to editors - and the dollars of agents and advances. The uneasiness made it thought provoking. Ivor Indyk (I'm guessing it was Ivor - we've not met) did fly the flag for the editorial task of actually making an Australian book for Australian readers. But his point was largely lost. The debate then devolved into a discussion of how British publishers weren't willing for Australian rights to be sold separately for important books - "Perfidious Albion" needed Australian sales to make their P&Ls work. Culturally I don't want to remain a British colony yet I thought we had the cart before the horse - the international publishers were there so we could find out how to sell our books to them not to learn how we could argue about how we could better buy their books. (I was surprised though to find out how economically important we are to the British publishers.) I was also wondering what the lone New Zealand publisher was thinking, knowing Australian publishers automatic assumption that when we buy rights New Zealand is included.