I don’t often focus on the business side of publishing, because I’m a writer, not a publisher, and not an expert at matters such as costs and distribution and so on; but something in the news has disturbed me as much as it has disturbed some of my fellow Australian authors.
An article in the Brisbane Times, available online here, reports that bookstore chain Angus & Robertson (A & R) are demanding a payment from smaller distributors and publishers if they want A & R stores to continue to stock their books. If the distributors don’t pay up, their books will no longer be sold in A & R stores.
Among those companies affected are Towerbooks, which distributes Carpentaria, this year’s Miles Franklin Award Winner, and Walker Books, who publish popular series such as Where’s Wally? as well as wonderful Australian authors such as Libby Gleeson.
So, come August 17, if you want to buy Carpentaria, or your children want Where’s Wally?, you may need to shop elsewhere than A & R.
As an author, this alarms me for two reasons. One is that it seems the chain is trying to stich up a deal which makes it even harder for new and lesser known publishers and authors to get into stores, at the same time dictating to their customers that they can’t access these books, and secondly that, if these distributors and publishers pay these hefty fees, these fees ultimately increase the cost of producing each book, meaning either higher priced books, lower returns for authors (who are currently fortunate if they receive 10% of RRP as their share) or that publishers will simply have to cut back on their production. They’ll take fewer risks with new authors and new titles.
In the end, it is the creators and the reading public who will miss out.
But wouldn’t it be wonderful if these distributors refused to pay? Because, in the end, if a consumer wants to buy Carpentaria or Where’s Wally? and can’t get it at A & R, they’ll go down the road to Dymocks or Borders and buy it there. Who loses out then? A & R.