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BookPeople Conference 2024 - Report by Rachel Chopping

Thursday 4th July

The weekend of 15-17 June saw booksellers across Australia flock together to attend the annual BookPeople conference, this year celebrating 100 years of the industry association for bookshops. Reflections from bookselling veterans found the plight of the bookseller largely unchanged over a century: the drive for better publisher terms, the persnickety customer, and the looming threat of the digital, be it eBooks or AI. So too were we glad to find that books are still beloved recession-proof sources of stories and the shops in which we work to sell them, based on the innovation, collegiality and excellence seen over the weekend, are in no danger of becoming extinct.

BookPeople CEO Robbie Egan welcomed us on Saturday afternoon at the Pullman on the Park with an update on the recent discussions on the net book agreement, the curtailing of deep discounting and the potentials for political lobbying. He reminded us of the success the UK Booksellers Association have had with their Book Tokens, a campaign that proves the collective power of bookshops, and one we have an opportunity to make our own with Australia’s equivalent — the BookPeople Gift Cards. He reminded us that bookshops are just as much their own technological marvels, acting as natural gateways to other worlds just as much as one’s iPhone.

Our opening keynote Nardi Simpson then took to the lectern to greatly move the room with a snippet from her new novel The Belburd (Hachette) out in October. She spoke on reconciling literary freedom with cultural obligation and walking alongside the belburd on sites integral to the Australian identity — Bennelong Point and the Barangaroo waterfront. Nardi’s address was a forceful and welcome reminder of just how powerful a role fiction can play in our lives.

Nic Bottomley of Mr B’s Emporium in Bath followed with his experiences of taking the risk of opening a small bookshop with two people and building it into one of the UK’s most awarded establishments with over twenty staff. Forging into battle against the likes of Amazon and deep discounters, Mr B’s wields customer service as a bookshop’s unique weapon, encouraging infectious enthusiasm, creative marketing ideas, and chatting about books at all times between the shop’s shelves.

Anna Burkey of Australia Reads and Bianca Whiteley of Nielsen BookData then gave us their annual data-rich updates. Bianca explained that 2024’s consumers may be cautious, but not about their book buying, with sales up in the double digits compared to pre-pandemic numbers. Indeed, 2023 was the third highest year on record for Australia’s book market. Yet, as Anna reported, alongside these high numbers runs a parallel statistic, that 44% of Australians have a low level of literacy and one-third of young adults do not consider reading fun or pleasurable. Booksellers know all too well how important it is to get stories into the hands of people who need them, and as Australia Reads proposes, a National Reading Strategy initiative would be widely welcomed.

A star-studded cast of booksellers soon took to the stage, and we were treated with a reflective discussion from Association life members David Gaunt, Mark Rubbo, Fiona Stager, and Suzy Wilson. Mark and David reminisced on early lobbying against censorship, copyright and supporting local publishers, and Fiona and Suzy spoke on how the generous, collegiate nature of the industry meant that people who should be fierce competitors were actually each other's greatest allies.

Our first evening concluded with an iconic Australian face — Noni Hazlehurst speaking on her new memoir, Dropping the Mask (HarperCollins) out in October. With warmth and humour, Noni moved us with tales of craft, family and legacy, leaving all in the room eager to press her book into customer hands come October.

Day two was kickstarted by an energetic bookseller ideas exchange session where we were pitched ideas from search-and-find windows to pay-it-forward vouchers, and mystery author dinners. Pauline McLeod from Margaret River Bookshop took home the well-deserved popular vote for their Reading Rabbits initiative that rewards young library borrowers with a bookshop voucher after reaching their goal. Further inspiration came in the form of genre-experts Belinda Cunningham and Megan McPheat from Harry Hartog and associate professor and author Amy T Matthews, who spoke on shadow daddies, infinitely varied and creative sub-genres, and how best to leverage the popular, reflexive, and extraordinarily lucrative romance genre in your bookshop.

Booksellers then swapped their panel chairs with writers, and we heard from the other side of the manuscript, with novelists Jessie Tu, Malcolm Knox and Jacqueline Bublitz giving us an insight into to their writing practice and sneak peeks of their exciting new novels out just in time for Christmas selling later this year.

We turned to the state of Indigenous publishing and storytelling in Australia, with ILF founder Suzy Wilson, ILF head of publishing Nicola Robinson, award-winning author Debra Dank, and Magabala Books CEO Lilly Brown celebrating and reflecting on the role of the ILF, the seed of which was planted at a Booksellers’ Association Conference, and the importance of Indigenous publishing for all Australians. ⁠ 

Booksellers then got to stretch their legs around the bustling trade exhibition and load their bags with this year’s exciting Christmas new releases, as well as meeting authors, Miffy the rabbit hosted by Text Publishing, and, making a trip all the way from Paris, Claris the Mouse courtesy of Hardie Grant. 

After the trade exhibition, Gina Chick arrived to a starstruck room and left not a dry eye in the house, describing her experience on Alone Australia, and the childhood of books, literary family legacy and memories full of tragedy and wonder that have fuelled her new memoir We are the Stars, out with Summit Books in October.  

Clare Wright kicked off our glamorous evening schedule with an introduction to her new book Naku Dharuk: The Bark Petitions before our gracious MC Alice Zaslavsky introduced Tim Winton to the Gala Dinner stage to give us an exclusive sneak peek of perhaps the most anticipated book of the year. The limited-edition slipcase proofs of Juice revealed from under a tablecloth were a decided highlight of the night.

Legendary Australian musician Kasey Chambers received a standing ovation for her breathtaking musical interlude, and we were delighted to learn of her upcoming memoir Just Don't Be a D**khead, out in October with Hardie Grant.

It was then awards time, with bookseller favourites Edenglassie by Melissa Lucashenko (UQP) winning Fiction Book of the Year, Wifedom by Anna Funder (Hamish Hamilton) winning Non-Fiction Book of the Year and Sophie Blackall’s If I was a Horse (Lothian Children’s Books) winning Children’s Book of the Year.

The bookseller awards were then celebrated with gusto — Matt Davis of The Bookshop at Queenscliff received Bookseller of the Year, Madeleine Delany of Fullers Bookshop won Young Bookseller of the Year and Kat Matthews of Mary Martin Bookshop took home Children’s Bookseller of the Year. Legendary booksellers Ian and Meredith Horton of Farrells Bookshop, and Tim White of Books for Cooks were celebrated for their long service to the craft of bookselling and inducted as BookPeople Life Members.

Our booksellers returned to the foyer on Monday morning to be rejuvenated by a panel of master children's booksellers including Erin Wamala of The Kids’ Bookshop, Sophie Reid of Fullers, and writer Judith Rossell. With lively and engaged participation from the bookseller audience, the room discussed gaps in children’s publishing, strategies to encourage a love of reading from a young age, and the difficulty in securing media spaces for children’s books. Judith’s rollicking new middle-grade book out in October, The Midwatch, (Hardie Grant) is sure to get kids excited about reading.

We then were treated by a panel of crime writing experts with Angie Faye Martin winner of the 2019 HQ/Flinders University Commercial Fiction Fellowship for First Nation Writers, award-winning author and screenwriter Christian White, and the legendary Michael Robotham reflecting on how the genre has changed over the decades.

The rest of the day was jam-packed with bookseller advice, ideas and mirth. Tim Jarvis of Fullers Bookshop, Emily Westmoreland of Avenue Bookshop, CEO of Hachette Australia Louise Stark, Publisher at MUP Foong Ling Kong, author Christos Tsiolkas and lawyer Josh Bornstein were led with deft humour by Robert Skinner through hypotheticals that featured everything from a controversial Miles Franklin shortlist, AI ethics, print runs, public nudity and Melbourne’s public transport system.

Laura Sedgwick of Sedgwick Communications, international guest Nic Bottomley and Anna MacDonald Melbourne’s Paperback Bookshop then took a deep dive into finding, nurturing and marketing the story of each independent bookshops' unique identity.

To finish off a very special weekend, the beloved Robbie Arnott gave a closing keynote on the moving family legacy behind his forthcoming novel Dusk, out with Macmillan in October.

If one theme could be picked out running strong over the weekend, it was the importance of children’s literature. With the data on low literacy and strong sales found by organisations like the ILF, Nielsen BookData and Australia Reads under our belts, Australian booksellers are working hard to find unique and interesting ways to help kids develop a love of books that will help them grow into healthy and creative adults, those who will, hopefully, go on to love and support their local bookshops.

BookPeople 2024 Book of the Year winners

Tuesday 18th June

BookPeople is delighted to announce the winners of the BookPeople 2024 Book of the Year Awards announced at the BookPeople Conference Gala Dinner and Awards Night in Melbourne on Sunday 16 June.

The BookPeople Book of the Year Awards recognise the Australian books published in 2023 that our booksellers have selected as their favourite books to personally recommend as part of their ongoing commitment to bring writers and readers together. These awards celebrate the unique role played by booksellers in sharing their knowledge and passion with communities across the country.

Previous winners include Limberlost by Robbie Arnott, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton, Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski, All That I Am by Anna Funder, and The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton.

BookPeople BookData - Adult Fiction Book of the Year

  • Edenglassie by Melissa Lucashenko (University of Queensland Press)

BookPeople BookData - Adult Non-Fiction Book of the Year

  • Wifedom: Mrs Orwell's Invisible Life by Anna Funder (Hamish Hamilton)

BookPeople Kids' Reading Guide - Children's Book of the Year

  • If I Was A Horse by Sophie Blackall (Lothian Children's Books)

BookPeople 2024 Bookseller of the Year winners

Tuesday 18th June

BookPeople is delighted to announce the winners of the BookPeople 2023 Bookseller of the Year Awards announced at the BookPeople Conference Gala Dinner and Awards Night in Melbourne on Sunday 16 June.

The BookPeople Penguin Random House Australia Young Bookseller of the Year Award recognises and rewards the excellence of a bookseller 35 or under and promotes bookselling as a career choice for young people. This award gives booksellers the chance to be recognised by the book industry for their career achievements, innovation and outstanding performance in their stores as well as the local and wider community. 

The Penguin Random House Young Bookseller of the Year 2024 winner is: Madeleine Delany, Fullers Bookshop

The BookPeople Hardie Grant Children's Publishing Bookseller of the Year Award recognises individual children's specialist booksellers for their outstanding achievements in the past twelve months. The winner will not only be identified for their exceptional performance within the bookshop that they work in but also for their achievements within the book industry as well as the local and wider community. This award gives booksellers the chance to be recognised by the book industry for innovation, excellence and career achievements. 

The Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing Children’s Bookseller of the Year 2024 winner is: Katherine Martin, Mary Martin Bookshop

The BookPeopleText Publishing Bookseller of the Year Award recognises an individual bookseller for their outstanding achievement in the past twelve months. The winner will not only be identified for their exceptional performance within the bookshop that they work in but also for their achievements within the book industry as well as the local and wider community. This award gives booksellers the chance to be recognised by the book industry for innovation, excellence and career achievements. 

The Text Bookseller of the Year 2024 the winner is: Matt Davis, The Bookshop Queenscliff

Amy McKinnon, Where the Wild Things Are travels to Chicago

Thursday 2nd May

In February, I was fortunate to travel to Chicago as part of a RISE Bookseller Exchange program, an initiative aimed at strengthening the sharing of information across the global bookselling community. My destination: Anderson's in Naperville, Illinois, a revered institution in the realm of independent bookstores. This opportunity, facilitated by RISE, was the most wonderful week of learning and sharing, and truly reinforced why I love working in bookselling so much.

If you love discount books, you don’t love their authors

Saturday 10th February

Opinion - The Age/SMH

Raymond Bonner

In his inaugural State of the Arts oration, Minister Tony Burke lauded the “history and legacy” of Labor’s commitment to the arts, tracing it back to Gough Whitlam.

Burke faulted recent Coalition governments for defunding many cultural programs. Writers have been “the most underfunded”, he added.

The Labor government has pledged $286 million to support the arts, the centre of its national cultural policy, which it has dubbed Revive.

It all sounds wonderful. But there is a glaring omission from Labor’s policy in Burke’s speech: how do you support writers if the market for their books is being steadily destroyed?

Health of Business Report

Thursday 25th January

This year our Health of Business report comes off the back of repeat surveys in 2021/2022. It is always good practice to compare periods and back-to-back reports given with this opportunity. With all the pressures booksellers face it is helpful to step back and consider those things we can control. The Health of Business Report provides information on various income and cost aspects of respondent’s businesses, their inventory mix, staffing, and the factors that contribute to profitability. 

Members can log in below to access a copy of the report.

Reminder on Australian Book Vouchers and BookPeople Gift Cards

Friday 8th December

Superseded Australian Book Vouchers scheme

Although we are no longer selling the Australian Book Vouchers, any vouchers still in circulation can be redeemed by bookshops. BookPeople will continue to guarantee bookshops that once they have exchanged a valid dated Australian Book Voucher for goods, an agreed monetary amount will be reimbursed on the return of the voucher.

It is important to remind staff to accept both Australian Book Vouchers and the new BookPeople Gift Cards whilst we are in this transition phase. 

More information can be found here

Do you know how to redeem BookPeople Gift Cards in your bookshop?

There are now thousands of the new BookPeople Gift Cards in circulation with many more to come as the gift-giving season gets into full swing. Ensure you don't lose a sale because you don't know what to do.

Download this easy-to-follow step-by-step guide complete with screenshots and who to contact if you get stuck. 

For any questions please contact the BookPeople office.

More information can be found here

New BookPeople Gift Cards

March 2023

BookPeople's gift cards are the culmination of several years’ work and an important step for your Association in modernising a key activity. Driving people to your bookshops is the focus of the program, and the more liquidity we can inject into our market the more we all benefit. Through BookPeople’s ongoing promotional program we will continue to build the profile of our industry and the cultural importance of books and reading. 

Please visit the booksellers information page for instructions, the bookshop manual, training video and FAQs.


BookPeople Buying Group update

You can view the latest guide on the Reading Guide website

See the latest newsletters here.

All ABA-produced marketing material seeks the involvement and contribution of BookPeople Buying Group booksellers in the curation of titles. Books promoted in the guides and newsletters are available to purchase at extra terms for Buying Group members and supported via the BookPeople and Kids’ Reading Guide social media channels.

More information and FAQs are available on the Buying Group page

If you have any questions, contact Galina by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., P: 0414 166 203.