Really, really angry (be warned: swears)

I am so fucking pissed off right now, and I’ve spent the last couple of days writing polite and considered letters, so here is my chance to say what I really think.

Yesterday, the productivity commission, in its infinite bullheaded ignorance, recommended lifting the restrictions on parallel importation that protect the Australian publishing industry. What does that mean in simple terms? Well, if an edition of one of my books comes out at the same time in the US, and the US copy is a nasty cheap version with no “u”s in the word “colour”, bookstores over here are free to import the nasty cheap version instead of selling the Australian (correctly spelled) version. The profit will leave the country and go to a US publisher, I will be paid less because (1) it’s a cheap version and (2) US publishers offer lower royalty rates.

The Australian publishing industry is a beautiful, yet delicately balanced eco-system. It operates on the slimmest of margins, and once those margins disappear, the whole shebang is put at risk. Where do they get the money to pay the printers, the sales reps, the transport workers, and so on and so on? Who’s going to lose their jobs first? (Hint: it’s the writers, both published and yet-to-be published. Imagine the voices we might never hear). What is now a thriving and wonderful business will become a cottage industry: publishers will become glorified distributors for overseas product. Oh, by the way, the US and the UK are smart enough NOT to have an open market. But they’re going to totally love ours; they will be in here like fucking wolves.

The most vociferous supporters of this unholy mess are, of course, the ugly greedy corporations. Dymocks, for example, who bang on about how it’s going to make books “cheaper for everyone”. Well they are big fat fucking liars, because they could make books “cheaper for everyone” if they immediately stopped the practice of charging more than the recommended retail price for books whenever they fancied. Do not listen to them: they are not interested in promoting literacy, they are interested in putting gold flakes in their water coolers.

One of the things that pisses me off the most is the way that authors are being frowned upon for talking about how the changes will affect their incomes. That hoary old romantic chestnut about real art not concerning itself with commerce gets an airing. “Artists aren’t supposed to want money!” (blanches). Well, you can’t buy your groceries at Coles with artistic integrity. Doesn’t fucking work. Tried it. Why shouldn’t I care if I lose money? Should everybody who likes their job be happy just to do it for free?

Yesterday The Australian hauled me out of my office to take my photo looking cranky in an independent bookshop and interviewed me about what I thought, for today’s paper. I’m not in today’s paper, and nor is my photo. There is a photo of a teenager with gigantic tits (in a Dymocks: they’re getting shitloads of free advertising this week) who is happy that she will be able to buy cheap books now. She can’t even vote. Why did I waste my fucking time and breath?  The media likes the issue because it has two very clearly opposed sides and they’re getting top page-filling mileage out of it. They don’t give a fuck who wins (tits may win), cos they’re still going to have jobs when the publishing industry shrivels up.

And plenty of journos are bitter, scorned, unpublished novelists anyway. Just saying.

So the productivity commission suggests to offset any loss of income for writers (note: by saying this they show that they do believe writers will lose income) the government should look at increasing funding for writers. I’m sorry, but that’s just a leeetle too vague for my liking. Does that mean the government, rather than the readers, are going to decide what constitutes suitable Australian literature? Am I the only person who can see the looming disaster here? “We asked around at some universities and have decided on more contemporaryrealistliteraryfiction for everyone!” “Excuse me, Mr Government, can I have some money for my book with dragons in it?” “Dragons!” (blanches AND faints).

If you want to do something, write to Peter Garrett. Write to the PM. Write to your local member. It still has to get through parliament. Write them letters, not emails. And shop at independent bookstores. Give Dymocks a big swerve. Google the issue. Mark Seymour did a great article on it, comparing it to the nightmare that was the deregulation of the music industry.

And bring on the digital revolution.

43 responses to “Really, really angry (be warned: swears)

  1. Go for it, Kim. I am proud of you for standing up so strongly about this. Thank goodness there are strong, vocal Australian authors around like you. Joanna

  2. And I would’ve perferred looking at your angry face, Kim than that bosomy girl who can’t even vote yet. Just shows the way The Australian editorial committee thinks.
    If anyone wants to read more on this topic I’ve been churning up about it for a few months, damn it all too, it’s taking me away from writing!
    http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com/

  3. Bravo. Well said. I will NEVER support Dymocks again no matter what the decision. The coverage today in the Australian was a total DISGRACE and smacks heavily of advertising dollars from Dymocks. Totally agree on the journalist comment (the bias was staggering)
    Carr should be disgusted at himself for the damage he has done to culture in this country. As if he didn’t stuff up Sydney enough in his reign.
    The average Joe in the street only believes what has been fed to them – that they will save money on books. It will be a black day for publishing in Australia if this is bought in.
    I am sorry that they used the big tits instead of you. I have seen talk on Lee Tulloch’s Facebook of book burnings being organized to demonstrate what will happen to Australian publishing. Keep fighting the good fight, Kim. xx

    • Bob Carr is a fucking looney.

      I don’t mind not being in the paper (I actually lay awake last night wondering if I could get sued for some of the things I said), but it made me realise how the media don’t really care.

  4. What adds insult to injury is what you point out about authors being told to shut up because they are in an arts position and hence must get an awful lot of pleasure from it, therefore why want pay as well. That’s a crap sentence but you get what i mean. I resent the way reference was made, in such a derogatory way, to ‘a bunch of noisy writers’. WTF! If you aren’t noisy who bloody listens? Would they say that about mechanics or nurses, no. Teachers maybe.
    Bob Carr pisses me off and the Australian’s coverage was nauseating. Who gives a shit about Big Knockers and what she will and won’t buy?
    I’ve written to as many MP’s as I can, and will continue to do it. It shits me and it shits me even more when I think about how this country treats its arts community.

  5. i, a consumer with rather average tits, also have to be willing to pay more for quality and something spesh. and i do. i go into pulp fiction and ask the boys to introduce me to something new that i’d like. i shell out a bit, but i know i’ll be happy and lost in a new world.

    so the books cost more. i don’t have to have the newest furniture, a closet full of shoes (made where?), or the it-restaurant on speed dial. if i don’t want everything, i can afford a few good things.

    i worry as much about the people who want everything as cheap as possible as i do about those who provide them.

  6. Fucking awesome post, Kim. I’m writing letters — actual, on paper, sent-with-a-stamp letters — I promise. I’m also awfully pessimistic, though. Peter Garret just approved another uranium mine. I don’t think he’ll balk at lifting the parallel import restrictions for books.😦

  7. As with most things, it’s all about money.

    Cheap product printed on crap paper with binding that falls apart the second you crack the spine= repeat business and more $$ for overseas publishing empires at the expense of local skills and writing talent.

    Thinking of Giants of the Frost, if this lunacy gets through parliament, does that mean the US edition with the different ending will become the one most commonly available? Where’s the respect for the story you wrote and the readers who prefer it the way the author intended?

    I’m not typically a political animal, but isn’t Labor supposed to support the arts? I expect this sort of bollocks from Libs who don’t give a twopenny damn about anything except the almighty dollar, but what happened to giving workers (writers) the best possible conditions in return for the work they do and consumers (readers) the best possible product in return for their money?

    Productivity commission, my Aunt Fanny. This has more to do with cutting corners and ripping people off for short term (or probably non-existent) gain.

    Rant mode *off*

  8. It’s not just dragons I’m worried about – but future boy wizards and teenage vampire love affairs and literary classics reworked to insert vampires that will be missed!

  9. Great, passionate post — but a quick factual correction. Even though they may not be saintly in things like pricing over RRP, A&R and Borders are actually siding with the Booksellers Association in rejecting any change to the parallel importation rules. The ‘coalition’ is Dymocks, Big W, Woolworths, Coles, Target and K mart

    • Thanks, Tim, will clarify this in the post. Also, we must be kind to the franchise sellers, who don’t always have a say.

  10. I read a report about the subsidies here: http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/90281/16-appendixf.pdf

    It suggested that subsidies only be given to books like:
    Childrens books
    Australian bios+history
    Education textbooks.

    WOOT! Way to go to cut my heart out and pour acid in the space! Gimmie my spec fic, biatches!

    And I thought as a silly comment after seeing the tit-pic that I’m pretty damn sure Aust SF fans and writers could make a fair chunk of money against PIR-removal if we posed for a calender. Oh wait, we don’t stoop that low. I thought it wasn’t possible to think less of Australian newspapers, but clearly I was wrong.

    Sorry for the rant…this has pissed me off too >< When I finish uni in a year (and postgrad in editing and publishing in two years) I was going to start working in the industry to work my way up to publisher extraordinaire of Australian SF. Grr!

  11. Go Kim!

    I emailed Rudd, Garrett and my local MPs. They will also be getting a snail mail. I have a list of all major Australian newspapers email addresses and they will be next. I am also speaking at schools to groups of teachers and have made a handout to pass to them.

    Target and Kmart demand 60-70% discount on books from publishers and Dymocks about 50%. Strangely they often charge a few dollars above RRP for Aussie books. Coles and Woolies control our grocery prices. Now they want to control our book prices too. Can’t everyone see they stand to make mega bucks from this?

    As a child the only literature available to me was from the UK and USA. I grew up thinking that nothing exciting could possibly happen here. I had no sense of self and a lack of cultural identity linking me to the country I lived in. The same will now happen for my children and I will fight tooth and nail to prevent it.

    A copy of my email is on my blog: http://angelasunde.blogspot.com

    Not happy
    Angela

  12. I don’t know how much sway a letter from a Yank will have, but if you give me the addresses, you bet I will write and protest. I dont want to read editions that are changed in any way to suit Americans (even if i am one). Besides, between you and me and the apple tree, I dont think the readers of your books are going to give a flying fuck if colour is spelled the British way or the American way. I prefer the Queen’s English myself. It reminds me who I am reading. But more importantly, I want to know that what I am reading is what YOU wrote originally.

    I can tell you now that I will not ever again buy one of your books in the USA. My friend Pamela will get me any book I want in Australia. In fact I forwarded the posting from Hexebart’s Well for her to read. Do let us know where to buy your new book (s) when they are published – and how you can make the most. You know I am a loyal fan.

  13. I’m disgusted, though not surprised. The retail chains have kept prices up and selection low for ages. Have tried my best to keep my money out of their greedy mitts. I’ve bought all of your books at Slowglass. Have just emailed my local MP. I really hope, for writers and readers alike, that this does not come to pass. Good luck Kim.

  14. I had the same thoughts about the franchisee owners at Dymocks too until I talked to a few. Their line follows their general manager, Don Grover’s comments … ‘that it’s all the fault of the greedy publishers’.
    They haven’t bothered finding out for themselves what’s going on. I don’t buy their books anymore.

  15. I can’t help wondering why those in government are even thinking of deregulating the restrictions on parallel importation, when the US and the UK haven’t done so.

    Where’s the money? Who profits from this? As Kim said, what voices will go unheard?

    Are the Australian government are going to starve every cultural aspect of the Arts, and then wonder why Australians are considered yobbos? Yep!

    BTW…do books still have a luxury tax as well as the GST?

  16. ‘The Australian’ had another biaised piece today in Opinion (‘Death of author unlikely’ by Tim Wilson, p.12, 16/7/09). The argument being pushed is that authors and the publishing industry are being molly coddled, and should wake up and get over their cultural cringe. I don’t believe that argument. The bottom line (as far as writers are concerned) is about being paid for their work and being given as fair a go as any other profession. God knows that writers are poorly paid enough as it is, even if they manage to get published. If we are all to work for free and have to work full time in other jobs to support ourselves (in whatever job we can get, if we can get a job!), then I think many authors will just stop writing through lack of time, exhaustion and feeling undervalued. As for new writers like me, well, why would publishers risk putting the effort into an unknown quantity in a cut-throat market once (if!) parallel importation of books comes about? Writers aren’t burying their heads in the sand.

  17. Big titted writers unite! Great Stuff, Kim. We need to show our anger and stop being polite. We need grassroots action now to get the public who DO read and care about us (and there are some of them) to join the campaign. While it’s a Federal issue, the more voices with clout on side the better. That’s why I’m sending letters to my local councillors asking them to support the writers in my electorate as well as the local Federal member. And perhaps we can utilise our local libraries. But, in the end, it’s going to come down to what Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner think. I suspect they’re not all that well disposed to Carr anyway. He’s a notoriously vain man who f**ed up NSW for everyone else – as well as the ALP. We are small businesses, we are Australian, we are workers who are as entitled to government support as anyone who digs holes in the ground. Like kidnap victims who need to keep reiterating their names to their captors, we are not “content providers” but real people with families we need to support. We have to remind them of that.

  18. I still believe all this biased reporting in The Australian smacks of advertising dollars being paid by Dymocks. I will never vote for Labor again if this goes through. We may as well have stuck with the Liberals. As for Peter Garret – I too have lost all faith in him. I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world where she sees only American spelling in books! Or – where she finds it difficult to get published if she does go into the arts. A culture that ignores its own storytellers is a dying, diseased society. Sadly we are up against a campaign that is cleverly twisted it so the writers look like precious artists who don’t want the battler Joes to bounce around Dymocks and buy their cheapie books. I hope that there will be some open protest letter to the papers signed by writers in Australia from all genres. xx

  19. “And plenty of journos are bitter, scorned, unpublished novelists anyway.”

    That’s crap, Kim: I don’t know any who are, and I’m not.

    But love your anger, your passion. And hi to Katherine -further up the thread!

    • I didn’t say “all”, Mary, and I’ve known a few; but point taken. This blog was always in danger of offending somebody, so I’ll take it on the chin.😉

  20. Hi, Kim,

    Agree with everything you said, except that Dymocks charges above RRP. If you lift the sticker on the back of any Dymocks book and compare the sticker price with the RRP printed on the back of the book, you’ll see it’s the same. At least, it is at my local store. Borders and A&R charge 10% over RRP.

    That said, Dymocks are still bastards and their arguments are worthless. I’m really angry they’re trying to justify their own money-grubbing tactics.

  21. You missed point 3 on why you’ll be paid less on a cheap US edition imported to Australia – it’ll then be a foreign sale. Eg: After everyone else (US publisher, original Aus publisher & agent) has taken their share I get 25c for a US sale of Nim’s Island. US copies sold in Canada return considerably less.

  22. Loved the passion in your post Kim. Agree with everything you said. You managed to convey everything a lot of us are thinking. I too am in the process of putting together my letters to anyone I can think of.
    Thanks
    tony

  23. I get worried when governments talk about doing something in the name of free trade. There ain’t no such thing. “Free markets” favour the bigger economy, at the expense of the smaller. Why would the big publishers pay big bucks to maintain a HQ in Australia, employ editors, designers, printers, marketers, etc when they don’t have to?

  24. Kim and all, I wanted to let you know about a FightBack group started today, in this war against authors and Australian books.

    It’s called Saving Aussie Books http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com
    (for the want of a better name) and will try to act as a conduit for all the links, contacts etc that we all need to take this battle to the Australian public and to politicians.

    We think that the anger and frustration spiraling around the writing communities can be harnessed – we have to let ordinary Australians know of the deceit of those who want to abolish the protection of Territorial Copyright.

    The final outcome will come from the Federal Government, so we also need to let them know our deep concerns.

    ‘Saving Aussie Books’ is open for comment and for short, concise articles about this issue and what it means for authors, publishers, printers, booksellers etc and for consumers in the long run. The purpose is to inform people of the issues and what we can do about it at this stage.

    If you’d like to add a short article to this site, please contact me (I’m just the administrator) Sheryl on sgwyther@optusnet.com – or place comments on the blog.

  25. ‘Writers need to eat.’ That was one comment posted by a writer on my Facebook site about this issue. It seems that authors are being brushed over and put at the bottom of the pile in this whole argument. Authors need to be paid adequately. There would be no publishing industry if it wasn’t for authors. (btw: word should have been spelt ‘biased’ in my post above. Didn’t notice until later what I’d typed.) I hate the fact that authors are so undervalued in the scheme of things. So much for readers getting cheap books. So much for the dollars that pass through the ranks and finally drip down to the author. Except that there probably won’t be any dollars left for the author if parallel importation of books into Australia is introduced. A fair go for authors is needed, even in the face of globalised economies. Why should authors have to put up with the stereotypical, socially accepted tag of the ‘struggling writer’? It might be the norm, but it’s not right. This isn’t negative thinking; it is simply stating the facts.

  26. Thanks for the rage and passion, Kim. I’ve been arguing solidly with a friend of mine about this issue for the last couple of days. I admit that I’ve not been convinced either way, but have been giganticly suspicious of Dymocks and the other retailers in support of ditching restrictions on parallel importation. Having once worked for the big ‘D’, I know that they don’t really care for books and writing as such, but for what makes the most money. I heard the phrase ‘poetry doesn’t sell so we don’t bother with it’ enough to make my teeth grind. I also am gobsmacked at the attitude that writers are greedy and just out for their own interests. As if most writers are somehow multi-millionaires. As if the big book retailers like Dymocks and Target (Target?!) are NOT out for themselves? As if they really care about books? Ha!

  27. There’s a new entry just up on the Saving Aussie Books blog – ‘Who’s Being Greedy?’ relates exactly to what Sue is saying. Time is running out to lobby your Local MP, and the particular MPs who will be looking over the PC’s findings over the next few weeks.
    We can all do something practical about this issue. And spread the word too by passing on our SAB blog link.
    Sheryl Gwyther

  28. Dear Kim
    I just finished reading THE AUTUMN CASTLE which I confess I stumbled across by accident. I liked it so much that, when I discovered you were from Australia, I thought I’d jump on the web & have a search & so found your blog. I’ve got to say I laughed my arse off reading your blood & guts view on the parallell importation topic, especially as I am probably guilty of being one of those “bitter, scorned, unpublished novelists” who masquerades as a journo. I even read it out to my husband.
    I cannot believe that the woman who wrote so lyrically about aspens turning bright yellow and a rural, medieval idyll like Ewigkreis can so deftly turn her hand to a completely real world bolloksing of the political and commercial worlds. You go girl! Somehow I admire your imaginative talents more than ever now as I know you’re not swanning around in a cape while buying the groceries. I hope everyone who respects and admires Aussie authors will shout out about the new laws.

  29. Kim, sorry they didnt show your interview in The Australian newspaper, but they do finally have a good article in The Weekend Australian (July 18 – 19) Weekend Inquirer section, pg 24, written by Louise Adler.
    PS. My letters have been signed, stamped and sent.

  30. Hi Kim,
    I saw this on the news and didn’t quite understand what was happening.
    I’m glad I read the article and I’d like to help. I don’t know exactly how to get the addresses for parliament members, but I’ll find out and send my complaint.
    Do you know if there is a petition for this?
    Thanks for any information.

  31. Not only will deregulating the restrictions on parallel importation create immense income issues for authors, but will also move funds out of Australia and into the pockets of overseas companies.

    What will be left for authors, who, afterall, are the creative backbone of the publishing industry (without them, there would be NO publishing industry). They have to make a living. No writer can live on creativity alone…they have family and financial responsibilities too.

    There has been no consideration given to authors, nor to the independent booksellers who will most likely be put out of business by the larger chains capable of buying in bulk.

    The other side of this political coin is that just because books can be sourced cheaply from overseas publishers doesn’t necessarily mean that the savings will be passed on to the consumer.

    I read that the larger chains such as Dymocks, Coles and Big W are professing to be the coalitian for bookselling in this country…at whose expense?

    I have to agree with author Tim Winton. He accused the Productivity Commission of being hostile to Australian rights and described this policy as the writers’ equivalent to WorkChoices.

    Where do we draw the line?

  32. Pingback: Really, really angry (be warned: swears) « Hexebart's Well | BookRetails.Com

  33. Pingback: Home Sweet Home | More on Parallel Importation Restrictions (PIR)

  34. Pingback: No future for books? « Aiden O'Hehir

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