For the past 10 days, I've been in Sydney, Australia, attending the first annual GenreCon, hosted by the Queensland Writer's Centre. The conference was attended by over 100 fiction writers in several genres, with romance, mystery, thriller, women's fiction, chick lit and rural contemporary—also known as 'outback stories'—represented.

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Here's a list of things I learned about the Australian fiction market and the writers who work within it, all of which I found uniquely fascinating.

1. Books are holy-crap-you-will-be-light-headed-in-the-bookstore expensive.

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Several people explained to me the myriad of reasons politically and legally why that is, but the result is still enough to drop your jaw. A mass market paperback you might pay $5-7 for in the US is about $9-12 in Australia. Hardbacks are often more than $30AU, and trade-sized paperbacks are $20-25 Australian.

The prices are not just high genre fiction, either. I like to bring my children books when I travel, so I bought picture books and chapter books for my 5- and 7-year-old sons. One picture book, There is a Monster Under my Bed Who Farts, by Tim Miller and Matt Stanton, was $24.99AU, and one chapter book, The Day My Bum Went Psycho, by Andy Griffiths, was $12.99AU. For a total of three books in Australia, I spent over $67.00. For comparison, the Miller book is not available in the US, but the Griffiths book is, and it's $6.99.

And right now, the US and Australian dollar are at near parity, so I was severely lightheaded by the time I was done shopping in the books section.

2. Mystery and thriller writing is very, very popular in Australia, as is "outback lit." (These contemporary stories set in the Australian outback, not set in Outback Steakhouse.)

Many of the writers present at GenreCon write and publish mysteries, but that wasn't the only genre represented. Anna Campbell writes romance— rip-your-heart-out-and-hand-it-to-you-weeping romance. Shannon Curtis writes romantic suspense, and Paula Roe writes contemporary romance. Lisa Heidke writes contemporary women's fiction, or "chick lit" as one author described it, as does Kimberley Freeman. Denise Rossetti writes erotic fantasy romance. But all told me mystery was the bigger genre in Australia most of the time.

3. Several of the authors present talked about writing for the American market, and having to remove much of the Australian references and language from their books to sell to the US publishing market.

This is the part of the conference that's still bouncing around in my brain. I read a lot of romance (obviously) and I have read and enjoyed several set in Australia and New Zealand. The differences in language didn't bother me, but I have to wonder how much was taken out or changed for the American market. 

I'd like to think that American readers can understand variations in English, whether they're British or Australian or Kiwi. I know that a "sheep station" is not where sheep wait for the bus. I know that "boogies" are boogers. I might stumble on the word "yute" but within context I know that's a truck, or some sort of large vehicle.

But when I read all those words, I have a better understanding of the differences that hide within our common language, and I get a much better sense of the location and culture where that story takes place. I'm old enough to Google if I don't understand, and usually the dictionary on my reader can tell me what things mean, whether they're Australian slang or pieces of clothing from the 19th century. I don't want the unique language that denotes place, time and culture massaged out of my books because I'm American. 

One of the side effects of reading is learning what one has in common with people both fictional and real, and what the differences between the reader and the characters might be. Even though there are sometimes hilarious language differences, I think we have more in common; only through seeing the differences can I as a reader come to appreciate those similarities. So now that I'm home, I'm looking for Australian fiction to read.

Have you read any books where the differences in English were noticeable?

Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.