A UNSW creative writing lecturer and the University’s publishing company have won major prizes at the annual Australian book industry awards in Sydney.

The Other Side of the World, by UNSW lecturer Stephanie Bishop, was named the Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and UNSW Press’ publishing and sales division NewSouth Books was named Best Small Publisher at the 2016 awards ceremony held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 19 May.

The Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) is an annual event that celebrates the connection between Australian readers and the ‘book makers’ – authors, editors, publishing professionals and retailers, who unite to create the must-read books of the year.

The Other Side of the World – described as a story of love, marriage and geographical dislocation tells the story of a young English woman and her husband as they emigrate to Perth in Western Australia in the 1960s.

The ABIA Voting Academy, made up of more than 100 representatives from across the bookselling and publishing industry, described Bishop’s work as “a novel of astonishing grace and devastating emotional power that will make your heart ache”. 

“It’s such an honour to win the Australian Book Industry Award for Literary Fiction Book of the Year – I really didn’t see this coming and am so thrilled and grateful. It was an incredible shortlist, and a real privilege to be in such fine company,” Bishop said of her win.

“The Australian book industry is a vital player in our cultural life and the means by which our stories are shared and preserved. I’m incredibly grateful for their support and the passion with which they boldly champion Australian literature in all its forms.” 

She was handed the award by US novelist Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections and Purity.

“Jonathan Franzen just handed me an #ABIAaward. So honoured, so thrilled,” Bishop tweeted soon after the ceremony.

Newsouth ABIA

From left: Publisher Elspeth Menzies; UNSW Press chief executive Kathy Bail; publisher Phillipa McGuinness; NewSouth Books director Nella Soeterboek; Sales Manager Jane Kembrey

NewSouth was named the Best Small Publisher for 2016. This division of UNSW Press creates general and illustrated non-fiction books and scholarly titles. NewSouth manages the sales and marketing of these books and also represents other independent publishers from Australia and around the world.

“Winning this award is exhilarating for us. It recognises the energy and commitment with which every member of NewSouth approaches their job, whether it be publishing and editing, design and production, publicity, marketing and sales,” Phillipa McGuinness, the company’s executive publisher, said.

“Most of all, it shows that a small publisher can have the best of all worlds; we have very diverse lists, from prize-winning books for scholars and specialists alongside a strong list of general books that also win prizes, are strongly supported by booksellers and find thousands of readers. This prize shows that our books make a major contribution to Australian cultural life.”

UNSW Press chief executive Kathy Bail said the industry recognition alongside Bishop’s award was an “excellent  double” for the University and “demonstrated that our authors and publishers continue to stimulate public debate and policy making. Books published by NewSouth have a real impact – nationally and globally”.

“It was an honour to receive the 2016 Publisher of the Year award, which was presented to us by novelist Jeanette Winterson. We’re now set to build on our distinctive print and digital publishing lists at UNSW Press for some time to come.”

Read the full list of winners go to the ABIA website.