The publishing industry is bracing for a political book boom as last week’s turmoil in Canberra reverberates around the nation’s retailers.
When this week’s Nielsen Bookscan results are released next Friday, Jacqueline Kent’s The Making of Julia Gillard, published by Penguin, is expected to surge to the top of the charts. Copies are currently piled up in airports across the country and Kent is quickly compiling an update to accommodate the unprecedented knifing.
A leading literary agent said Kent’s account of the new PM had become an “instant best-seller”, with two covers being prepared depending on whether Gillard can hold off Tony Abbott at the ballot box. But Kent told Crikey the new edition was unlikely to be ready before August, if her subject decides to pull the election trigger this week.
David Marr’s Quarterly Essay Power Trip: The Political Journey Of Kevin Rudd has entered a new pressing, as the public scrambles for an insight into the man Marr describes as an angry loner from Queensland made good.
Crikey also understands Bob Ellis has been commissioned to write a day-by-day account of the next few months, including last week’s shenanigans, for immediate release in the days following the poll.
But the prospect of a slew of political quickies on Rudd’s downfall appears slim, with industry chatter at the Australian Book Industry awards last night limited to the suite of titles already on shelves or in the pipeline, according to observers.
Leading literary agent Mary Cunnane, who handled Mark Latham’s diaries and also acts for Kent, said the prospect of a frank and fearless tell-all from Rudd himself was only an outside possibility, given the dumped PM was planning to secure a place in Gillard’s post-election cabinet.
Another agent said a Rudd effort probably “wouldn’t sell particularly well … he lost his popularity and there’s not much warmth”. Even so, a Rudd decision to take the plunge would inevitably result in a “six figure” advance, depending on the content and timeliness.
A glut of titles commissioned before last week’s treachery, and designed to cash in on election year fever, are undergoing frantic last-minute changes.
Spare a thought for Nicholas Stuart, who emailed the final chapter of his second draft of Rudd’s Way: Labor in Power, 2007-2010 to his publisher Scribe just as Bill Shorten was sharpening the knives in Canberra. “Remarkably”, a Scribe publisher said, Stuart didn’t need to “change a word or a judgement in the body of the text”, with the only task being to bring the last chapter up to date.
A tome by Jonathan Biggins on Rudd — iKevin — scheduled for an August release has been shelved completely. Another MUP effort by Patrick Weller, Kevin Rudd: The Making Of A Prime Minister, has been delayed “in light of the current political situation”.
Sydney Morning Herald cartoonist Alan Moir’s visual record of the Rudd years, Are We Nearly There Yet? An Epic Saga of Courage Amidst Turmoil, is due out on Scribe in August, but there is no word yet if the book will take in last Thursday’s chapter.
Lenore Taylor and David Uren’s Shitstorm: Inside Labor’s Darkest Days is likely to escape unscathed, given its time-specific focus on the ALP’s response to the global financial crisis, however Annabel Crabb’s recently-released collection of her columns — Rise of the Ruddbot: Observations from the Gallery — may struggle, with one leading publisher questioning whether readers “would want to delve into something with a title like that”. On the plus side, Crabb fans might hand over cash to secure her lauded colour pieces in one place, rather than rely on random internet links.
Rival Gillard biographer Christine Wallace, who became embroiled in a stoush last year after she gave Kent’s book a lukewarm review in The Monthly magazine, said that her account, published by Allen & Unwin, would finally see the light of day next year. She said there was “no temptation” to bring it forward in light of Gillard’s ascension.
“My book was never going to be a quickie,” she said. “Quickies have their place but I’m trying to go beyond that to something deeper.” The book will form part of a PhD at the Australian National University’s National Centre for Biography.
Meanwhile, Jessica Rudd’s prescient tome Campaign Ruby, due in August via Text, appears to contain some eerie insights into Julia Gillard’s assassination of her dad, as The Australian noted this week.
But the same might not be said for Rudd and Rhys Muldoon’s children’s book, Jasper and Abby and the Great Australia Day Kerfuffle, which is likely to viewed as rose-tinted relic after yesterday’s news that the former first pets had been offloaded to “friends” in Canberra in the wake of their owners’ eviction.