Archive for the soapbox Category

Authors Gain Support

Posted in soapbox with tags , , on August 12, 2009 by belindajeffrey
July 31, 2009

AUTHORS and book publishers have secured significant backing from the ALP in their campaign against a Productivity Commission plan to reduce prices by removing restrictions on imports of books printed overseas.

View the complete article in The Age




Posted in soapbox with tags , , , , on August 5, 2009 by belindajeffrey

As a debut author, the thought that the Australian Government might scrap parallel Importation protection fills me with dread. There’s been quite a bit of response to this issue from prominent authors like Tim Winton, and they’ve quite rightly many issues, but I want to raise another few points. These are things that I feel will directly affect authors like myself, or writers who are still trying to get their manuscripts published.

To get a book published at all is no easy task. Ask any writer trying to crack the market place. It’s likened to winning the lottery. Sure there are the manuscripts that really might never see the light of day and just don’t meet publishing standards, but there are many, many manuscripts that are excellent and just have to find the right place, the right publisher, the right editor, the right time. Getting published can be a fine alchemy. If parallel importation is scrapped, then australian publishers will find it very difficult to compete in the market. The books they publish will have fight for space in bookshops against books that will be cheaper to buy. They will take on fewer books and getting published will be harder. How is this good for the cultural industry? It isn’t.

Ok, so let’s suppose you’ve broken into the publishing industry. You’ve got a book published here in Australia. It now has to be sold into international markets  – and this is no guarantee. Australian books have to compete with a large international market. So those authors who already have an international name will still have a market – even if their profit margins have reduced – but for an author like me who does not yet (fingers still very crossed here) have international publishing rights, my chances of competing in my own home market are going to be considerably smaller. Publishing houses have to work hard to get their books into bookstores. They have to spend money, invest time and personnel to promote and distribute books. Not all bookstores take on new Australian books. And the smaller the publishing house, the harder it is to see books in the bigger chains like Angus and Robertson Target, Big W, etc. You probably won’t find Brown Skin Blue in those places.

Now I am both a writer and a reader and I understand the desire to purchase cheeper books – and sometimes I do. But at the moment at least there is a choice. What consumers may not fully appreciate is that if the laws are changed, this will effect the breadth of books they have access to. It won’t be something noticeable. It will change over time.

Brown Skin Blue is very Australian. It does not just have references – like vegemite (which it actually doesn’t) that an American author might change, it is about Australia. The idioms, the landscape, the characters. I have been reviewed by nearly every major paper in the country and, with the exception of a line here and there, they’ve all been favorable (yes I’m thanking the reviewing Gods). My point is that a book like mine, that’s been well received in Australia, still has to find a market overseas. It is not a popular fiction title, it is not a thriller, it is not romance, it is not Mills and Boon – all of which are more marketable and likely to be found in bigger book selling chains. Yet that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for a book like mine, it’s just that the markets for books like mine are threatened by the proposed changes to parallel importation laws. The Australian Booksellers Association does not support lifting of parallel importation restrictions.

The hidden effects of these laws changing, in my opinion, are about what will happen to publishing choices over time. Publishers may not be so ready to take risks on edgier, experimental books. Or, indeed, books they think are sensational but have niche markets. This is not good for anyone. Even Mrs Jones who only reads Mills And Boon does not benefit from a shrinking culture.

I was selling my book at my children’s school fete on the weekend and an elderly lady came over to have a look. She looked at the cover, read the blurb. Smiled. And tottled over to the second hand Mills and Boon section to grab a handful for $1. Now I think that’s fine. But imagine if it were a different section of the market that was under threat. Imagine if it were category romance books that were threatened by this legislation and a different genre and style of books was going to dominate the market. Then she would not have access and choice to the books she would like.

This is an insidious attack on cultural expression. It may not be a public burning of books, but the effect over time might be the gradual erosion of something important, something valuable, something that should not be lost. We should be spending our time and resources looking at ways to protect and expand the book industry from all angles. Everyone benefits from great literature – even Big Bookselling chains. I am so disappointed that in this day an age – when we think we are such an enlightened people – we would even contemplate such an action. The only people thinking this is a good decision are those set to make an immediate profit in the short-term. It would be interesting to ask them what books they read and if they’ve looked at a broader future through the lense of their proposal. The money they may find in their pockets might buy them a shinier new car, or more stores. But it won’t, in the long term, be able to buy back what may be lost along the way.


Tim Winton, Miles Franklin, Parallel Importation

Posted in soapbox, Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 2, 2009 by belindajeffrey

Check out the video of Tim Winton accepting his Miles Franklin award. He uses the opportunity to advocate for the preservation of Australian publishing and culture. The video link is here on my site. What do you think? Leave a comment.


Saving Aussie Books

Posted in soapbox on August 2, 2009 by belindajeffrey


I’ve copied a post directly from the Saving Aussie Books website and urge you all to follow the link and sign the petition.


The Federal Government is currently considering the implications of allowing Parallel Importation of Books into Australia.

If you are concerned about this threat to the Australian publishing industry and all its associated industries, please spread this Petition against the Parallel Importation into the community.

It can be sent or delivered to the Government using the address below.

  1. Print off the PDF file on this site – PETITION (Technical difficulty – check back shortly).
  2. Collect as many names and signatures as you can.
  3. Remember to collect back the finalised sheets

A forwarding address will be put on this website in the next day or two. So hold on to your signed petitions until then. And keep checking this blog for information.

FURTHER INFORMATION ON PETITIONS on the Australian Government site.


Parallel Imports

Posted in soapbox with tags , , , on July 31, 2009 by belindajeffrey


This is my first blog about parallel importation – but it won’t be the last!

In a nut shell, the Australian Government are seriously looking at scrapping restrictions on parallel importation in the book industry. What this will mean is that Australian bookshops will be able to import cheaper mass produced books from overseas – aka America – instead of having to purchase books through the Australian publishing market. So if a book is published here – be it an Australian or international author – bookstores will be free – under the proposed legislation – to buy their copies from overseas. This means:

1. Australian publishing houses may not be able to survive financially.

2. Books will have Auatralian culturalisms Americanised or Enlishised.

3. The chances of an author like myself ever getting published will be very, very small – compared to now which is still small.

4. Authors which do not already have an international publishing contract – very hard to get – will not be able to compete at all.


The only people the change in legislation will benefit are the big bosses of multinational book companies who profess to be motivated by a desire to provide cheap books to the Australian consumer, but want larger shares of profits in their pockets. But at what expense?

Check out the website run by Sheryl Gwyther and her merry band of superstars.

Saving Aussie Books

And at last an MP is speaking out about the whole issue. Lets send him letters of support.

Author MP derides book import moves.


World Gone Mad!

Posted in soapbox with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2009 by belindajeffrey

Honestly, what is wrong with the world!

By now you’ve probably heard of the Australian author that was recently jailed in Thailand for the apparently defamatory nature of three sentences, referring to the Thai royal family, in a book that sold – wait for it – 10 copies! I know.  This is serious business, people. Those kind of distribution figures can change the opinion of an entire nation!

I am constantly amazed at the stupidity which undermines our ‘oh-so-evolved’ world. Where is the proportion between action and consequence? You can be jailed for three years (he got off lightly) in a Thai jail for  writing 3 sentences in a book that sells 10 copies. I recently heard of a child hurting themselves in a backyard and suing. I was told Elastics are now banned at schools (remember that good old game). They can flick someone in the eye. Hello, I’ve seen more damage done with an open hand or a fist!

A man once told me that he used to do charactures of people in the city. He had an area of concrete less than one metre square, that he had to insure in case anyone had a heart attack sitting in the chair while he drew their portrait, or tripped on the path.

Litigation is frigging insane!! We teach our kids to take responsibility for their own actions, but as soon as they grow up, the law all but says ‘if you can make someone else take responsibility, then good. Pocket some money!’ My son loves football, yet he’s not allowed to bring his ball to school and play. Football is banned. When I was a teacher, one child pocked another child in the ear with a  crayon. It was a terrible, unfortunate accident, no question. But there was an outcry for  crayons to be banned. I’ve also seen accidents with sharpened HB pencils. Oh my God, what about scissors? And paper cuts? 

But what is happening to Harry Nicolaides is no laughing matter. It is truly tragic and traumatic. And so unnecessary. Because here’s the really insane part. Had the Thai authorities not arrested and jailed Harry then no one – other than the handful of people that read his book – would ever have known about the comments, or spent a moment of their lives thinking about the Thai royal family at all! Now, thanks to the media, the whole world knows. I hope his book sells millions. That would be justice.