Fremantle Press (known as Fremantle Arts Centre Press until 2007) published its first book, a poetry anthology, in 1976.
The initial idea for a publishing house grew out of the Fremantle Art Centre’s writing classes. One of the most popular tutors in those classes was Elizabeth Jolley. Fremantle Press was the first to publish Jolley’s work in book form and went on to publish six titles by this acclaimed author.
In the early years, the annual publishing program was limited to five or six new works of poetry and prose. A little later, creative non-fiction titles were introduced, which led to the Press’ first major national success, AB Facey’s A Fortunate Life (1981). Described by reviewers as ‘the quintessential Australian pioneer story’ the book is now considered an Australian Classic and has sold more than 750,000 copies. It is still available under licence to Penguin Books.
Further outstanding success was achieved with the publication of My Place by Sally Morgan in 1987. The book was an instant bestseller and heralded the beginning of a successful and continuing distribution arrangement with Penguin Books Australia.
In the 1990s the Press introduced its children’s list, publishing a number of bestselling titles ranging from picture books for the very young to works of young adult fiction such as the multi-award winning novel Destroying Avalon.
Today the Press’ annual publishing program is known for its excellence and breadth. It includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art, photographic and children’s books as well as carefully selected titles designed to appeal to a wider audience. The latter include cookbooks and gardening books.
About 24 to 28 new titles are published each year and popular titles are reprinted, honouring the Press’ mission to keep works available for as long as possible.
Many titles from the program have won major literary awards. For example: Kim Scott’s novel, Benang, was the first by an Indigenous Australian to win the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award and In Flanders Fields, by Norman Jorgensen and Brian Harrison-Lever, won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year.
By the end of 2007, the Press had published more than seven hundred titles.