Tag: Children’s Book Council of Australia

Do writers need to network? Do crackers need cheese?

Gone are the days when a writer could sit up in a proverbial garret and stare out across the rooftops, alone and isolated, glumly waiting for the muse to visit. Not that the garret situation was ever the case for most writers – but you get my drift.

It is necessary to network if you want to get your writerly presence out there in the marketplace. In the area of Children’s and Young Adult writing, support organisations that promote books, like the Children’s Book Council of Australia and Book Links are well worth joining. Join writing organisations like the Australian Society of Authors who run workshops in different capital cities and have a newsletter.

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) if you write for children and Young Adults. Go to their conferences. Not only do you meet up with writing friends from all over Australia, you rub shoulders with the country’s best children’s books’ editors, publishers, authors and agents. And if you are lucky, you could be chosen to give a short 3-minute pitch of your latest manuscript.

As long as you don’t mind speaking in front of a roomful of attendees and are prepared for very honest, no holds barred opinions from the publishers !

Be an active member of your State’s writing centres. Here in my home state, the Queensland Writers Centre has many social occasions where you can meet publishers, agents and other writers. NOTE: Don’t dare lug along your 80,000-word manuscript. But, if the occasion arises and your instincts say it’s the right time to do it, and the publisher/agent sounds interested in what you do, have your 1-sentence pitch ready. Then if questions come, be able to answer them succinctly. But know when to stop.

Attend book launches in your city – support your fellow writers and they will do the same for you when it is your turn. It’s also a great way to meet up with other writer friends.

An on-line presence is essential these days, especially if you are a regional or outback writer. Here, in Australia that could mean you live thousands of kilometres from the coastal cities.

Blogs and Twitter are fun and useful. Not that I do too much twittering – it’s addictive and not that useful just on a computer. Besides, I have to leave time to do some real writing done.

I use WORDPRESS.COM as my blog provider. I love it! It’s user-friendly and full of excellent features. You can also use it in place of a website if you want. WordPress.org is a site you pay for but it gives you a lot more features.

Facebook is a wonderful way to meet other writers in Australia – in my case, its authors who write children’s and YA books. I think we must be one of the most closely-knit (in terms of Facebook) community of writers in the world with so many of us Facebook befriending and meeting at writing conferences across the continent.

This is all part of your PLATFORM – yeah, more new jargon. But it’s all to do with helping you and your work to stand out amongst the many thousands of writers in this country and across the globe. I won’t dishearten you by including the numbers of hopeful writers just in Australia alone.

Do you blog regularly? Is it an attractive site? Do you support other writers’ blogs and leave comments? Do you have an appealing website; one that is easy to navigate?

I love blogging – usually about writing, but also about the things that I feel strongly about and/or topics that might interest others.

There are many links to other writers’ blogs on my site. They have linked my site to theirs too. I have chosen many because they offer good writing, helpful advice and entertaining insights into their lives as writers. Here’s the link to what fellow children’s and YA author, Dee White says about NETWORKING.

A future blog will check out some of my writerly friends and give you a little peek into their worlds.

PS How do you network in the world of writing? Any more suggestions?

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If we don’t fight we lose….

The debate about the threatened lifting of restrictions on the parallel importation of books simmers in the Australian publishing world.  Expect it to escalate if the Federal Government’s Productivity Commission makes public a decision to allow the abolition of territorial copyright on June 30.

Many book-loving Australians remain unaware of this issue, not realising it will affect them too – by the probable lack of choice of Australian books and by higher prices for those books. How do you explain the intricacies of this issue to those who are interested in our concerns? I’ve written this blog entry in an effort to help.

What is Parallel Importation of Books? Parallel importation would allow Australian booksellers to import Australian books from the US and the UK, irrespective of whether they’re already published in Australia. These books may be produced cheaply in the US, but that’s before they’ve had freight charges and GST added.

There’s a reason both the US and the UK prohibit parallel imports into their countries. Why allow it to happen here?

When the Productivity Commission takes its findings to Federal Government at the end of June, they may follow their Draft recommendation – i.e. to limit Parallel Importations Restrictions to 12 months from the date of first publication of a book in Australia. But this too will badly affect authors’ territorial copyrights because sometimes it takes a year for a book’s sales to pick up.

How will lifting the PIRs affect the Australian publishing industry? Lifting the restrictions, even after 12 months, would risk turning our vibrant, world-class and thriving publishing industry into a series of warehouses for imported books from overseas, especially Australian books that have been remaindered in North America.

Most submissions to the Productivity Commission agree on one thing – lifting or watering down the PIRs will be a direct threat to all aspects of the Australian publishing industry.

For the majority of Australian authors, the news is bad: we’re lucky to get 10% royalty per book now in Australia – being forced to write for an overseas market to survive could mean less or no royalties; and as publishers cut costs here, they will be less inclined to support and nurture developing authors (like myself) and new authors.

Who is behind the push for lifting the PIRs? Over the past ten years there have been a number of attempts to lift these restrictions in Australia – this is the latest.

The biggest group behind this recent move to re-examine the laws is the hastily put-together Coalition for Cheaper Books, whose spokesperson is Don Glover, head of Dymocks Books. The others are the multi-national retailers Woolworths and Coles, and their offshoots, Kmart, Target and Big W. Also implicated by their public comments are free-marketeers like Alan Fels and ex-NSW Premier, Bob Carr, and this week, ACT Education Minister, Andrew Barr. Note: Bob Carr also serves on the board of Dymocks.

Recently, Dymocks sent a ‘help us to get you cheaper books’ petition to their Booklovers’ Loyalty customers. They got 16,000 signatures to push their case for lifting the restrictions on Parallel Importations, which they presented to the Productivity Commission. Nowhere on that petition did Don Glover provide information about the negative effects upon Australian publishing of his proposed ‘free market’. And nor are the Productivity Commissioners quoted where they admit there is no guarantee that most books will be cheaper if the restrictions are lifted.

Franchisee owners of Dymocks’ stores face a dilemma. They don’t want a war with authors – most of them probably have a genuine love of Australian books. They feel threatened by Coles and Woolworths who have no knowledge or commitment to Australian books and who constantly undercut the authentic bookshops’ prices.

How will lifting the PIRs affect Australian book readers? Removing PIRs risks flooding the market with inferior imports; ensures the loss of Australian experiences, content, ideas, references and landscape in Australian-authored children’s books especially; and an increasing use of Americanised spelling like color and organized; terms like faucet instead of tap, vacation instead of holiday, Thanksgiving in books written by Australian authors.

But there is something even worse – the dumbing-down of Australian-authored children’s books to suit the American market. If the restrictions are lifted these versions will be sold in Australia.

Warning: blog author’s personal opinion alert … Recently I’ve seen an example of how a vibrant and clever Australian picture book in the hands of the American market has become more literal, almost bland in its pared down text. Page by page, sentence by sentence I compared the Aussie version next to its American twin, not that you could call them twins – the US version is more a flavourless facsimile of the original.

It’s great that the US publisher recognised a superb Australian authored and published book, and I salute my author friend for making inroads into an overseas market, but why not tell the story like it is? Australian children understand its subtlety; does this mean American children can’t? What do you think?

What can we do? The protection offered by these Restrictions will be lifted if people don’t speak out, so the time to act is now:

  • Go to the Productivity Commission’s website. Read some of the articulate, informative and passionate submissions written by authors, publishers, booksellers and many others. You owe it to yourself as a reader and to the future of Australian books. http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/books
  • Talk to the manager and staff of your local, franchised Dymocks’ stores – tell them your concerns about the negative effects on Australian books and authors if the restrictions are lifted.
  • Write short and sharp letters to newspapers/online and paper
  • Write to politicians – the final decision is in their hands.

For more information:
Recent Australian Society of Authors’ submission to Productivity Commission

Award-winning Australian author, Richard Flanagan’s closing address at the Sydney Writers Festival

This article appeared in the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s (Qld Branch) newsletter 2009/2