On 1st July, my debut novel, Letters to Leonardo was released by Walker Books Australia. What a fantastic time it was for me. The Cyber Launch was a blast, the blog tour was a whirl wind, but it didn’t take long to come back down to earth.

Less than two weeks later, the Productivity Commission released its findings on the removal of Parallel Import Restrictions, and since then, I’ve found it hard to celebrate my novel’s release – all I can think about is that the industry I’ve wanted to be part of since I was seven year’s old, is now in jeopardy.

Since the Productivity Commission’s latest report there have been so many lies and misinformation being circulated by the print media on the debate  of the proposed removal of parallel imports on books.

Being passionate about books and writing, I have made two submissions to the Productivity Commission and attended the roundtable discussion in Melbourne, but the future plight of Australian authors seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

We are fighting the likes of Dymocks, Coles and Big W, and many members of the print media seem uninterested in accurately representing our story.

The Parallel Import Restrictions currently in place prevent overseas publishers from flooding our market with cheap imports of Australian books. These books are likely to be of inferior quality and would result in little or no income for Australian publishers, authors and printers. USA and UK are currently protected markets so if they want to publish books by Australian authors they purchase the rights from the Australian Publisher and author who receive income from the overseas sales.

This income not only helps support the author (Australian authors earn an average of $11,000 per year) in their difficult quest to make a living, but it also allows Australian publishers to nurture new authors and bring in important works from overseas, thus exposing us to cultural diversity. Industry experts in both the USA and UK have expressed disbelief that we are even considering subjecting our book industry to an open market.

The move to abolish Parallel Import Restrictions is not supported by authors, publishers, printers or most booksellers. It is being pushed by Dymocks, Coles, Woolworths and the chains who stand to make the most profit. They are the ones who will be able to import in huge numbers – thus gaining big discounts.

They will be able to charge discount prices for which the author may earn no income and the local independent booksellers won’t be able to compete – and will go out of business. They will be able to import cheap books that won’t be printed to our high Australian standards.

This is sort of like the current push to put independent service stations out of business. And on the subject of service stations – weren’t we told that petrol prices would go down when self- service came in?

None of this even takes into account the cultural ramifications of putting our publishing industry in the hands of America – a culture that is not the same as ours. Do we want our children to be reading about faucets, moms and opossums?


This the sort of misinformation that the Coalition for Cheaper books is deliberately spreading and some members of the print media are printing it without verifying its authenticity.

That consumers will save $200 million per year on purchase of books if PIRs are removed.(THESE FIGURES HAVE NOT BEEN SUBSTANTIATED ANYWHERE!) Even the Productivity Commission agrees that there is no guarantee that prices will come down – and there is no obligation on the retailer to pass any discounts on. In fact, evidence suggests that the reverse will happen if PIRs are abolished – and that prices will go up. 
That authors are self-interestedly disregarding the interests of their readers. That it is greed that is driving our objections to the abolition of PIRs. This rumour is being perpetrated by the CEO of Dymocks who earns at least five times as much as the author yet they constantly charge more than the recommended retail price on book. On a $10.00 book, Dymocks earns at least $5.00 while the person who wrote it gets $1.00 and if the book is illustrated, author and illustrator earn 50 cents each.
That the Australian culture in books won’t be affected. It is already proven that when books are printed in the USA the language is changed to suit.Our children will be reading about Moms, faucets and diapers instead of mums, taps and nappies.
That abolishing PIRs in New Zealand has not had an adverse affect. This is so untrue. The New Zealand Society of Authors made submissions to the Productivity Commission asking them not to abolish PIRs because of their own experience of the resultant devastation to the industry.Since PIRs were abolished,  book distribution warehouses in NZ have closed down. Publishers and independent booksellers have gone out of business and new authors have struggled to get published.


I have wanted to be an author since I was seven year’s old. For the last twenty years, I have taken whatever work I can that still allows me to write, but for the most part, have been financially supported by my husband who admires my passion for writing and books.

I am not crying poor – I am doing what I love to do – but I want people to know what the reality is for most authors.

And even those successful authors who are earning good incomes and speaking out against the removal of PIRs; they are not doing it out of self-interest – the money doesn’t matter to them – they are doing it to protect people like me – new authors whose careers are at risk before they have barely started.

In July this year, after working for more than ten years on my YA novel, Letters to Leonardo, it was published by Walker Books. This book involved more than 30 drafts, around 2000 hours work and one million words on paper.

Finally, when I feel I am starting to make it as an author, the rug looks like it is going to be pulled from under me. Publishers like mine, won’t be able to stay economically viable by taking risks on new authors like me. To survive they will have to focus on the tried and true – the bestselling authors – the established ones. So what happens to writers like me – who dreamed of being authors all their lives?

What makes me even sadder about all this is that my 10yo is a very talented writer, contemplating the possibility of a similar career, yet how can I encourage him when the jobs just might not be there?

For my ten years work, I will earn under $6,000 if 3,500 copies of my book are sold – and this is a standard print run for a first time author. Dymocks will make at least five times that – and our government will make the same money as I do through their 10% GST.


We have seen so many manufacturing businesses move overseas because of economic rationalisation.

Many Australian publishers are owned by overseas companies who could very well ditch their Australian branches if PIRs are removed and it becomes more economical to do everything from their overseas head office. This would not only lead to huge job losses in Australia, but the whole content of our literature would change.

The point is that the people accusing us of greed earn five times as much as we do for what we create – and authors are now copping a lot of vitriol because of the campaign against us by Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspaper and Don Grosvnor the Dymock’s CEO.

Rupert Murdoch has been pushing the abolition of PIRs in his newspaper, The Australian, yet has failed to declare his conflict of interest – and the fact that he owns organisations who are part of the campaign to get rid of Parallel Import Restrictions. 

Dymock’s CEO claims that authors are ripping off the Australian reader, but as a matter of interest, here’s how Dymocks prices compare with A & R on the books that were on the front of  The Australian on Wednesday:

Finger Lickin Fifteen $22.99 $21.50 $32.99
Breath $20.99   $24.95
Breaking Dawn Not available $16.25 $29.99
The Scarecrow $22.99 $22.90 $32.99

 If A & R can sell them to the Australian public for that price, why can’t Dymocks? Who’s really ripping off the Australian Public?

Don’t believe the propaganda. Do you really think these big companies want to save YOU money on books? Look at the facts and decide for yourself.

If you don’t support the abolition of Parallel Imports on books, write to your local politician. Make your vote count.

If you are not sure who your MP is, or how to contact them, or how to address them etc, look at this website which contains all that info! 

or refer  or for more information on this issue.




  1. Well said, Dee. I am glad that you’ve made the comparison between A & R and Dymocks.
    If Dymocks really believe in making books chepaer, who oh why are they pricing books avod the RRP. If A&R can sell them att RRP, why can’t Dymocks?

  2. The entire campaign by the so called ‘coalition for cheaper books’ has been based on the assertion that removing PIR’s will result in cheaper books for Australian buyers. To illustrate their point they have presented a few price comparisons for us plebians to absorb and by doing so, come arround to their way of thinking. What they won’t tell you, but i will, is that their selective price comparisons are a sham! The illustrious My Grover, CEO of the behemoth that is Dymocks, recently used Tim Wintons award winning novel ‘Breath’ as an example of over priced books in Australia. He stated that consumers could buy Breath from a UK website and have it delivered to your Australian address for $14.70 Australian. The retail price for this book in Australia is $24.99, giving you a $10.29 difference. WOW! Thats a big difference isn’t it. What Grover won’t tell you is that his cosy little bed partner in the ‘Coalition’, BigW, is selling the exact same book for $16.21, which minus GST (there is no VAT on books in the UK), is a few cents more than the UK website price.
    It is deceptive and misleading behaviour like this that highlights the true motives behind the coalitions push for the removal of PIR’s. The full transcript of Grovers claims regarding Breath can be seen at
    Louise Adler also has some interesting points to make in her recent article in the Australian.,25197,25796693-7583,00.html

  3. Great article, Dee! I have added a link to your blog and also to Sally Murphy’s on my blog. We need to enlist some people power to get this message across.

  4. It seems to me that this whole argument lacks some basics.

    I listened to Don Grosvner on The Book Show (Radio National) along with Mike Woods (the Commissioner) and also to Lousie Adler being steamrolled by Bob Carr on Late Night Live. I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts along the way.

    First up, I don’t support the argument that PIRs should be removed. It’s fundamentally absurd that an accountant (Mike Woods) should address a cultural economic question without balanced arts knowledge input. His ignorance of writers’ needs for publishing and its economic structure was amply demonstrated in his interview, and his absurd notion that writers needed Government Subsidy.

    It has been said by many that ‘we want cheaper book prices’.

    Not one person I’ve heard interviewed, blog post or newspaper column I’ve read has indicated exactly what is meant by cheaper books. How much cheaper do we want books? 10%? (Easy, one stroke of the GST pen.) 25% (Also easy, halve the retail margin.) The point is, the claim is fatuous because it has no stated object. Don Grosvner couldn’t say how much, Mike Woods could say how much. So if these people pushing for cheaper books can’t say how much cheaper, then the argument itself is moot. That clearly is not what the inquiry is about.

    Some have said they want the same prices as the US and UK.

    Have these people looked at disposable incomes and compared those? When it all boils down, they may very well find that many of our book prices are very similar in terms of affordability. I was in Borders San Francisco last year and stocked up on a lot of books. Not because they were cheaper, but because they were not available in Australia. By and large, most books were priced the same: many were more expensive when our dollar plunged to 70cents during my three week stay.

    Another issue that has been ignored by all parties in this argument is that of volume production costs.

    We either support our local printers or we don’t. Print is one of those things that reduces in costs per item as volumes increase. Large printers, printing large volumes in the US and UK (Lightning Source is a good example) can offer much cheaper print because their volumes are so great. They buy paper stock and consumables cheaper, their financing costs for print machinery is cheaper, their real estate costs per print is cheaper, and their overhead is cheaper than a small Australian printer who faces exceptionally high real estate and financing costs, labour, and higher stock and consumable costs.

    Mike Woods suggests that printers (and other suppliers) need to be ‘more competitive’.

    To an accountant, competition is based on how cheaply something can be achieved. The fundamental flaw in Australian economics policy is the rampant ‘deep pocket’ syndrome: If you can buy more, we will sell it cheaper.

    This skewed — and encouraged — practice allows the market pressure of money to disbar activities of otherwise viable entities. It has sent many businesses broke because they foolishly underestimate the costs of providing high discounts, and of accelerating future purchases. It is one of the reasons why Western Australia lacks credible cultural enterprise.

    The booksellers margin is another area not well investigated in the commission’s report.

    Anecdotal reports suggest that booksellers receive 45%-50% discount margin, and a Sale-or-return policy to boot. Compared to the Music Industry’s 27.5%, and general retail margin of 33.3%, this is patently absurd. It is this practice that has lead to the ridiculous idea of a ‘coalition for cheaper prices’.

    Say a book has an RRP of $24.95 (including GST = $2.27). The retailer (say Myer) is offered 50% discount = $12.45, meaning the retailer’s buying price is $12.50. (GST accounts for $1.13.) Myer offer the book at $16.21, a margin of 29.7% — a realistic retail margin for a store with an overhead structure like Myers. A specialist bookstore marking up 50% would then retail the book for $18.75.

    Clearly publishers need to change the pricing of their books., and eliminate volume discounting as a practice — on a SOR basis, it does nothing to increase real sales.

    If Authors are paid according to the RRP printed on the cover, with allowances for non-royalty stocks, and remaindered discount, then a smaller RRP and a higher Author Royalty rate will solve all problems, leaving authors with the same income, and level the playing field.

    The key is to take some of the predatory marketing practices out of the supermarkets and support the specialty book stores. A simple ‘no’ to heavy volume discount requests will go a long way, and will, in the long term, cost publishers very little in terms of volume sales. It may in fact increase them.

    Authors need to have more control over the ultimate value of their property.

    Another area of great concern is the Americanisation of our language and culture. I hate it. I hated the idea that the movie, The Castle, had the Commodore removed and replaced with a Chevrolet something. The American publishers’ and producers’ arguments are that the ‘American public wouldn’t relate.’ Sorry, it’s simply not true.

    Contrary to Sally Murphy’s point, many Americans do want to read about Australian culture, understand Australian cultural icons and humour. Hell, one of the most popular shows on television (Myth Busters) among young audiences is so because of its Australian ownership and cultural approach to the subject. The irreverence that comes from the Australian production charms the hell out of the young American audience. Many Australian actors are now being cast in movies in roles that celebrate their Australian-ness.

    Moreover, young American readers are generally intelligent enough to understand the differences. And, in the words of the great Stan Lee, “if he or she has to reach for a dictionary, how is that a bad thing?”

    Australian writers (Andy Griffiths for example) need to simply say ‘no’ to changing Bum, to Ass; to changing footpath to sidewalk, carpark to parking lot, mobile to cell… It’s endless and it’s absurd. Many young American readers want their stories sooner rather than later, the same as our young readers. They get frustrated at having to wait because of the translation. But the power lies with our authors and publishers.

    A quick scan of my daughter’s bookshelf reveals many American novels published by Australian publishers (under PIRs) that are not the British editions — they retain the Americanisms. But my daughter writes in Australian. She has no problem understanding that Mom is an American term for Mum, and so on. I’m currently reading Tom Clancy’s The Teeth of the Tiger, published in Australia 2003, printed by Griffin Press in Australia, but it is American in its spelling and cultural iconography.

    It seems to me that the greatest power in this Productivity Commission’s report lies in the way it has energised the storytelling industry. It is perhaps a watershed moment, and if anything, demonstrates to publishers and writers that they have a vibrant future. Yes, we must resist the change to PIRs, because that won’t make one iota of difference. But we should also consider that there are real changes ahead.

  5. Some really balanced points here, bornstoryteller.
    I did just want to clarify that I don’t recall saying that Americans don’t want to read about Australian culture, and can’t see where I’ve made that claim above (though may have said something elsewhere which implied that. If so, I am sorry.) However, the fact remains that American publishers are unlikely to publish a uniquely Australian story unless they buy the US rights to a story which has first been published in Australia. Their focus will be, first and foremost, on US authors and their stories (and so it should be). However, buying the rights to republish something that has been first published in Australia makes sense because the bulk of the editorial and production work has already been done by the Aussie publisher. This is largely WHY publishers buy foreign rights. But, if there are less books pubished in Australia (which will happen if PIRs are scrapped) then there will be less Aussie stories told, both in Australia and overseas.
    And, as you point out in you Castle example, when Aussie stories are told overseas they DO get changed.

    your point about booksellers margins is spot on. 50% seller margin is too much – but this margin is driven by groups like DYmocks, not by the publishers and not by the authors. In fact, chains often demand much more than 50% – they want 70%.. If they were serious about cheaper books, they would sell at reduced margins. they wouldn’t be scared of this if, as they say, cheaper books will lead to increaseded sales.

    As an author, I’m being seen as greedy for wanting to defend the small amount I get (maxium of 10%, but more often 5%), but few people are describing the members of the Coaltion as being greedy for wanting to increase (not just defend) their 50%

  6. Bornstoryteller – oh, if only authors could stand their ground and say NO to US publishers who want to change their stories! It sounds great – but in most cases, it is unrealistic.
    Generally, the US publishers are the ones with the power. If an author stands firm, and refuses to allow their ‘football’ match to become ‘gridiron’, they just might say goodbye to their sale.
    In the past, the changing of text has been unfortunate – I feel sad for the American children whose exposure to foreign culture is so limited. But in the future, the changing of text will have far greater repercussions, as we see many of these books shipped into Australia to push the local versions off our own shelves.
    So should authors say no? Very difficult to do – when you know that hundreds are standing in line behind you, waiting to take your place.

  7. Kate Grenville in her submission to the Productivity Commission said: (when asked to de-Australianise her writing) “If I had said no, I would never have been published overseas.”

    With the removal of PIRs and diminished opportunities here, Australian authors will be forced to write for the foreign market in order to be published. That is a fact.

    So who will be writing stories for our kids? Stories about gumboots and thongs, footie and meat pies?

    Yes, children will still learn to read and they may even learn to differentiate between the spelling of Mom and Mum.
    But they won’t learn to dream.

    The stories that will arrive from overseas will be the stories that I grew up with.

    I never dared dream that an antipodean kid like myself could ever have adventures like the Famous 5, Heidi or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. They were all set in exotic overseas locations, places that I could not imagine and certainly never relate to.

    I was a kid from ‘Downunder’. According to the literature that was available then (showing my age here), Downunder kids didn’t have adventures.

    Fast forward to today. My kids do dream, they do relate to the books they read and they read Aussie books.

    Are we doomed to be a colony forever? Are my nieces, nephews and grandchildren doomed to re-live my narrow literary childhood? And aren’t we failing not only them, but every child in the world who would like to read about what it’s like to be a kid in Australia having adventures?

  8. Born Storyteller,
    You clearly understand the issues involved here. It’s a pity our Productivity Commission and others don’t have the same insights.

    It was clear at the Productivity Commission Roundtable discussions in Melbourne that Mike Wood was considering things purely from an accountant’s view and looking at this issue as a way to reallocate disposabe income away from the book industry.

    One of the main points with the claim about ‘cheaper books’ is that there are no figures to substantiate that removing PIRs would make this happen.

    The Commission’s report refers to figures going back as far as 1989. Common sense would surely tell us that before making such sweeping changes to an industry we need more data to prove that it’s going to have a positive outcome – yet the Productivity Commission is looking at doing the research after the fact.

    You are right about the production costs and you’d have to think too that publishers may be forced to increase their prices for economies of scale reasons too.

    I agree that we authors need to stick to our guns when asked to de-Australianise our work but for new writers, it’s a matter of confidence. Something that isn’t helped when they are attacked by the likes of Don Grosvner in the media and copy ‘greedy author’ tags from the general public when some of them earn less than $5,000 per year.

    Changes are afoot in the industry. Let’s hope they are positive ones.


  9. You raise some good points here, Kim.

    Particularly with new authors, it’s hard to stand up and demand change. The first book I ever had accepted was by a New Zealand publisher, and is still not published. They wanted me to sign over copyright and would not negotiate at all. I stood up to them and said ‘no’ and now that manuscript languishes in my bottom drawer.

    Most authors lead such a precarious financial existence that it isn’t always easy to stand up for what you believe in – and can certainly turn out to be not very profitable.

    Nevertheless, we do need to show a united front and fight for our cultural and literary integrity.


  10. I agree.

    That’s why we must fight for ‘our stories’ so that our children and children all over the world can read about what it means to be Australian.


  11. I’m not sure it’s all that hard for an author to stand his or her ground on matters of content alterations. It may be, I haven’t had the luxury of being in that position, dare I say, yet. I can imagine how challenging it would be to withstand the enthusiasm of an agent or publisher waving a cheque (or potential cheque) before me. But I like to believe I would retain my faith, blind though it may be.

    Sally, the comment I referred to about US publishers not wanting to publish Australian work first, was on your own blog. If I misrepresented it, I’m sorry. In terms of mass markets, I agree US publishers are unlikely to want to publish Australian stories that have not first been published in Australia. But, I also believe (following a meeting in San Fransisco last year) that the tide may be turning. I am assured that there is growing interest in things Australian throughout cultural US consumers. This may have positive outcomes for Australian writers as US publishers search for different solutions to economic challenges. We can hope.

    I teach storycraft to Upper primary and Middle School children. Each of my students writes a story for publication, we edit and publish them in anthologies. I am insistent that my young authors write stories that evoke Australian character. The following is a section from my introduction of our most recent series…

    “…Our young authors are challenged to create a story that is a good read. They must engage the minds of readers who may range from younger than ten years to, perhaps, fourteen or fifteen and older. These storytellers often have to think beyond their own age, and construct images of character and place that lie outside of their personal experiences.

    One of the biggest challenges lies in finding stories that can come from some sort of home-grown sense of place. Although avid readers of books, and watchers of televised and filmed stories, they are overwhelmed by imported stories set in far-away places, and of creatures that have only ever existed in the legends and mythology of other lands. It’s a sad reality that, with very few notable exceptions, Australian children’s publishing is far from an exciting intellectual challenge for either reader or, it seems, writer.

    It is my opinion that the essence of a good read comes from the writer being able to impart a sense of a place he or she knows very well, and inhabit it with a motivated character we can all recognise through some strain of familiarity. I strongly advise all Born Storytellers to look in their own backyards, search their closets for skeletons, and excavate their findings with the same care and precision as an archaeologist unearthing a hitherto undiscovered relic.”

    Born Storytellers is a serious program that makes a serious difference to young people’s writing. Once they get their heads around the idea that they can find as much magic and adventure in Australian context as they can writing about the same things from borrowed contexts of other lands, they rise to challenge. But they do have to be shown how it’s possible. The point here, is that we have to find the strength within to resist cultural bastardisation at all levels, because if we don’t, we will wind up with none.

    I’m not convinced Kate Grenville’s comment about “…never being published overseas…” is necessarily accurate. She may not have been at that moment, but she can see no farther into the future than can the Productivity Commission see book prices coming down. I can’t see Secret River being anywhere nearly as engaging if it were re-positioned into US geography, culture or language. I don’t think you need to first be intimately familiar with Australian culture or idiom to be affected by the power of its story.

    John Cleese managed to resist the reformatting of Fawlty Towers, and huge American audiences are the better for it. I’d be curious to know if Peter Carey’s work is Americanised in US publications. If so, how would Thief, or My Life as Fake actually work? Thief is so international in its staging, but so colloquial in its delivery.

    Sometimes it takes perseverance for what you believe in. And I for one will persevere.

    And Dee, thanks for providing this excellent forum of discussion.

  12. Bornstoryteller – your storycraft classes sound wonderful! Children are so lucky when they find a teacher passionate about what they are teaching, and suddenly, they are capable of more than we thought possible…
    I find it sad, however, that our ‘authors of the future’, (and who knows, they might be sitting in your classes!) may not have much opportunity for publishing their stories when they’re older. It’s hard to get a foot in the door of publishers now – but I think it will be ten times harder if we lose our PIRs.


  13. Born Storyteller,

    I wish my youngest son who loves writing had a teacher like you. It’s inspiring to see you expanding young writer’s horizons instead of limiting them, as so often happens.

    And it’s wonderful to see someone so passionate about encouraging kids to tell their own stories.

    If we are able to keep PIRs in place, some of your storytellers may go on to become great Australian writers.

    Thanks so much for your valuable contribution to our discussions.


  14. Kim, I know it all looks a little bleak with the upcoming slaughter of PIRs, but I think publishing will become a different model than it is now. I believe there will be a return to authors taking more control of their work (already is in many respects), and publishing companies will need to accept the fact that they ultimately will no longer hold the whip hand.

    I know PIRs have helped small independent publishers stay afloat, but they haven’t stopped them picking bad stories to publish. And we have those publishers who are determined only to publish form their own back yard, and they find bad stories too. Making money on a popular title from elsewhere to fund local investment is a noble cause, but it’s still a questionable business practise.

    Future publishing businesses will have to look at different ways of moving forward. An that’s where I see our children heading. I think it’s an exciting future for them.

  15. That last comment was too rushed and ill thought out. I didn’t mean to imply that PIRs slaughter was a forgone conclusion, nor that I in any way support it: I don’t. It works and it provides benefits that flow on to local authors, which would not necessarily be the case without them.

    That being said, I think the way of the future lies in the hands to the creators, and they need management of a different kind. I strive for children who go through my program to understand very clearly what all the steps in an author’s commitment to publish are: write the story, review it, rewrite it, engage in the editing process, understand the technical aspects of print and production, launch the book, read from it, autograph copies purchased both by people they know and those they don’t. At present it’s simply publishing for record and books are not catalogued or issued an ISBN, but they have a book which will sit proudly on any shelf and stand up to the scrutiny of discerning readers.

    Our next step is to take some of those students who have produced work of an exceptional quality and been through the program twice, and create a Cream of the Crop volume that we release commercially. We’ll see how it goes this Christmas.

    Dee, It seems to me that your son already has an excellent teacher/mentor in his mother.

  16. Thanks Born Storyteller,

    Sounds like you are giving young authors an excellent grounding.

    Good luck with your Cream of the Crop publication. Sounds like a great project.


  17. I’ve followed this debate with interest and do not want it to be even harder for Australian writers to earn a living.

    However, I have never heard a satisfactory response to the notion that “Australian musicians do not seem to have been affected negatively by the deregulation of music CD imports, so why should Australian writers be worried about such changes”.



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