Forest for the Trees 2017

Thursday 25 May, 10am – 4.30pm

Metcalfe Auditorium, State Library of NSW

Read about the day in this roundup of Sydney Writers Festival 2017: On writing tips and publishing insights from the Sydney Writers’ Festival by Linda Funnell.



Forest for the Trees is a one-day seminar that explores the current state of writing and publishing in Australia. It brings together writers, publishers, and industry representatives to discuss what is happening in 2017.

Michael Mohammed Ahmad, author and director of Sweatshop, the Western Sydney based literacy movement will open the discussion. International publishers will discuss opportunities for Australian authors and researchers will present the facts on book sales, readers, and the economic argument for the book industry.

The conversation will cover mainstream, digital and independent publishing, ending with a panel of industry experts who will shine some light on the year ahead.


10.00am – 10.30am 

My Path Through the Forest

A writer’s life entails much more than getting words on the page. Michael Mohammed Ahmad is an author, actor, teacher, and champion of writing in Western Sydney. He is the director of Sweatshop, the Western Sydney based literacy movement. In 2014, his novel, The Tribe, was published and produced as a play.


10.30am – 11.30am

Crossing Paths

Changes to the industry are bringing new ways for authors to connect with readers. Rather than a gatekeeper, could publishers be more like curators or even cartographers? What changes will technology bring? And the bookshop: it’s a place for book lovers to gather, but is it the best place to sell books?

Matthia Dempsey, general manager, Small Press Network; Hera Lindsay Bird, New Zealand poet and bookseller; Connor Tomas O’Brien, co-founder of ebookstore platform Tomely; Alexandra Payne, publisher, University of Queensland Press.


Break 11.30am – 11.45am

11.45am – 12.45pm

Reading the Signs

Julie Winters from Nielsen Bookscan brings us data about the books readers are buying and the books that are likely to sell in the future. Dr Jan Zwar from Macquarie University will speak to a survey led by Dr David Throsby into the reading habits of 3000 Australians. Andrea Hanke, editor-in-chief of Books & Publishing brings her knowledge of the industry to the discussion and opens it up to your questions.


12.45am -1.45pm

Going Further Afield

From India, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia we bring together three publishers and an international agent to discuss what Australian works sell internationally and how authors get their work sold overseas. Sarah Crichton, publisher, Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Catherine Eccles, owner & literary scout, Eccles Fisher Associates; Fiona Henderson, publishing director, Simon & Schuster; and Gita Wolf, founder & publisher, Tara Books.


Lunch 1.45pm – 2.30pm


2.30 – 3.30pm

The Australian Book Industry: what’s it worth?

Professor David Throsby, distinguished professor of economics at Macquarie University, is currently engaged in the three-year study, ‘The Australian Book Industry: Authors, Publishers and Readers in a Time of Change’. He will discuss the value of the Australian book industry and why it is important to our culture and economy.


3.30 – 4.30pm

The Open Road

The publishing landscape has shifted. Some aspects, like making a living from writing, have become more difficult, but there are new opportunities too, particularly in alternative pathways to getting published. How do you make the most of those opportunities and how can we all ensure that Australian publishing thrives and encourages a multiplicity of Australian voices? Jonathan Green, editor, Meanjin talks with Michael Mohammed Ahmad, director, Sweatshop; Sophie Hamley, publisher, Hachette; author Julie Koh (Portable Curiosities); and Juliet Rogers, CEO, Australian Society of Authors.

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