Sunday, December 20, 2009

Music from another Country: Reader reactions

Now that my book Music from another Country has reprinted and been read by quite a number of people, I have been receiving reader feedback. Mostly, this has been very positive and even when it hasn't been, it has been constructive.
It is gratifying for writers to receive readers' comments on their work. One card said: "I sat up in bed the other morning, and cried as I finished your beautiful book. It made me think about relationships that I've had and secrets that I keep . . . Thank you." That helped make the years of writing the book, the research and the many rejections before the book was finally published worthwhile.
And the indignant reader who was put out with me because she started crying on the train when she was reading my book has started me off on a story about a woman who starts crying on a train while reading a book.
There are some storylines on Music from another Country that some readers may find confronting, but I don't apologise for that. No-one has to read the book. But I hope those that do find it was worth it to persevere.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Anita's New Book Manhattan Dreaming

My friend and buddy the multi-talented Dr Anita Heiss took me out to lunch yesterday as a sort of personal farewell from my role as Executive Director at the Australian Society of Authors. I tried to pay my way, but Anita insisted, and so we enjoyed a very pleasant chit-chat and meal in the air-conditioned space of Cafe Otto in Glebe. It was a 43 degree Celsius day, so the air conditioning was very welcome, if environmentally unsound.
I couldn't help but remember that I was sitting just a few doors down from 67 Glebe Point Road, where Gay Liberation had its headquarters in 1973 when I turned up at the door and my life took the course it has. That was a major change, and my relocation to Armidale to teach writing at the University ofNew England in 2010 will be another one.
It's a relief to have friends like Anita to help keep everything in balance. Her new book, Manhattan Dreaming, is out from Random House next year. I'm looking forward to reading it. Anita has so much style and wit in her writing. You laugh even as she's (metaphorically) slapping you about the head.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fear Factor: Terror Incognito

Picador India have just published Fear Factor: Terror Incognito (ISBN 978-0-330-46233-4) edited by Meenakshi Bharat and Sharon Rundle, with an introduction by Yasmine Gooneratne, which includes my story "The Liberation Centre". The book will be published By Picador Australia in March at $24.99.
Also included in the books are works by Devika Brendon, David Malouf, Kiran Nagarkar, Salman Rushdie, Thomas Keneally, Andrew Y.M. Kwong, Temsula Ro, Susanne Gervay, Janhavi Acharekar, Meera Kant, Sujata Sankranti, Jaspreet Singh, Rosie Scott, Neelum Saram Gour, Denise leith, Gulzar, Guy Scotton and Tabisha Khair.
The book is an attempt by Indian and Australian writers to react to the impact of terrorism and tyranny on the world. The works are strikingly diverse and, as Meenakshi notes in the editors' foreword, an "assertion of a shared humanity".

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A little garden in spring

Our garden in spring is a special oasis for us. It might have planes flying overhead and be within coo-ee of the Sydney CBD, but it also has cool, green corners, nesting birds and sleeping lizards.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Amended Google Book Settlement the Way to Go

Revised terms for the Google Book Settlement were announced in New York on 13 November.

The revised terms follow on from October 2008 when a broad class of authors and publishers, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and Google announced a settlement agreement that proposed to unlock access to millions of out-of-print books in the U.S. and give authors and publishers new ways to distribute and control access to their works online. If
approved by the Court, the settlement will:
• Generate greater exposure for millions of in-copyright, out-of-print books, by enabling students, scholars, and readers to search, preview, and purchase online access to these works;
• Open new opportunities for authors and publishers to sell their copyrighted works and to maintain ongoing control over the ways those books can be displayed;
• Create an independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry that will locate and represent rightsholders, making it easier for everyone, including Google's competitors, to license works;
• Offer a means for U.S. colleges, universities, and other organisations to obtain subscriptions for online access to collections from some of the world’s most renowned libraries;
• Provide free, full-text, online viewing of millions of out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries; and
• Enable unprecedented access to the written literary record for people who are visually impaired.
On November 13, 2009, the parties to the settlement filed an amended agreement, having carefully reviewed the submissions filed with the Court, including that of the U.S. Department of Justice. The changes made to the settlement were developed to address many of these concerns, while preserving the core benefits of the agreement.
Areas of change are summarized below, and a broader list of changes can be found
in the supplemental notice.

International Scope
As revised, the settlement will only include books that were either registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or published in the U.K., Australia, or Canada. After hearing feedback from foreign rightsholders, the plaintiffs decided to narrow the class to include only these countries, which share a common legal heritage and similar book industry practices. British, Australian, and Canadian rightsholders are joining the case as named plaintiffs and will also be represented on the Board of the Book Rights Registry.
In addition, clarified the wording in the agreement has been clarified to make it clear that works that are for sale as new internationally are considered commercially available and thus Google will not display any of their content by default.
Google remains interested in working directly with international rightsholders and organisations that represent them, including those in countries excluded from the settlement, to reach similar agreements to make their works available worldwide. Authors and publishers from around the world can also enter into promotional and revenue-generating programs through Google's Partner Program.

Unclaimed Works
The amended settlement agreement requires the Book Rights Registry to search for rightsholders who have not yet come forward and to hold revenue on their behalf. The settlement now also specifies that a portion of the revenue generated from unclaimed works may, after five years, be used to locate rightsholders, but will no longer be used for the Registry's general operations or redistributed to other rightsholders. The Registry may ask the court after 10 years to distribute these funds to nonprofits benefiting rightsholders and the reading public, and may provide abandoned funds to the appropriate government authority in compliance with state property laws. The Registry will now also include a Court-approved fiduciary who will represent rightsholders of unclaimed books, act to protect their interests, and licence their works to third parties, to the extent permitted by law.
As with the original agreement, nothing in the amended settlement limits anyone's ability to use unclaimed works.
As Google first announced in September 2009, any book retailer will be able to sell consumers online access to the out-of-print books covered by the settlement, including unclaimed books. Rightsholders will still receive 63% of the revenue, while retailers will keep the majority of the remaining 37%. This provision has been explicitly written into the revised agreement as a Google obligation.

Access Models
The amended settlement does not change the primary access models outlined in the original agreement, including enabling readers to preview and purchase books, selling institutional subscriptions to the whole database, and giving libraries free access at designated terminals. Under the revised agreement, possible additional access models to which Google and the Registry might agree in the future have been reduced and are now limited to: print-on-demand, file download, and consumer subscription.
The amended agreement also enables the Registry to increase the number of terminals at a public library building, and it clarifies that rightsholders can choose to make their books available for free or allow re-use under Creative Commons or other licenses. Rightsholders can also choose to modify or remove restrictions placed on Google's display of their books, such as limits on the number of pages that users can print.

Pricing and the Non-Discrimination Clause
The amended settlement clarifies how Google's algorithm will work to price books competitively. The algorithm used to establish consumer purchase prices will simulate the prices in a competitive market, and prices for books will be established independently of each other. The agreement also stipulates that the Registry cannot share pricing information with anyone but the book’s rightsholder.
In addition, the amended settlement removes the non-discrimination clause (commonly called the "Most Favored Nation" clause) that pertained to the Registry licensing of unclaimed works. The Registry is free to license to other parties without ever extending the same terms to Google.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A change for me: Goodbye and Hello

Shortly I will be moving on from my position at the Australian Society of Authors. After five and a half frantic, busy but rewarding years, I have accepted the position of Senior Lecturer in Writing at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW.
This will mean some personal and physical change, but I am looking forward to this new stage in my career.
I look forward to working with my students and my colleagues in the academic writing community. I'll be continuing with this blog.

A Win for Australian Territorial Copyright

On 11 November, the Competition Minister, Dr Craig Emerson, announced that the Australian Government was leaving the parallel importation restrictions on books into Australia unchanged. In doing so, the government confirmed Australian territorial copyright, and Australian authors breathed a sigh of relief, their 16.5 month battle to preserve a national marketplace for their works finally won.
This victory was won through the quiet, unheralded actions of individual authors, who wrote to and telephoned their elected representatives to make sure their point of view was heard above the noisy din emanating from the so-called Coalition for Cheaper Books (really a coalition for greater profits for Woolworths, Wesfarmers and Dymocks) and the free-market troglodytes of the Productivity Commission and their hangers-on.
Congratulations to all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Worthwhile Culture?" -- sure, but tell me what it is first

The Coalition for Greater Profits, urr, sorry, Cheaper Books in the form of bookseller Dymocks has come up with a marvellous suggestion in the last stages of the debate regarding the restrictions on the parallel importation of books.
Dymocks has put forward the concept of a 1% levy on publishers' sales to raise $15 million to fund new Australian writing grants. Sounds great! Authors should be enthusiastic about this. But wait for it -- there's a rider.
Dymocks proposes these grants be for 'culturally worthwhile books'. There's a rub and a half! A Pom could argue that there won't be any books funded under such a scheme, since there's nothing worthwhile in Aussie culture. Myself, I'd argue that such a definition would cover books such as "Brutal British Governors of Australian States", "Knitting patterns my Nonna taught me", "Plaster and metal ceiling panels, bosses and straps for Federation houses", "Aboriginal languages of New South Wales with CD-ROM", "The history of Cornish immigrants to South Australia", "Netball for boys", "450 recipes for roo: How to eat and save our national emblem", "Up on a Hill: A history of St Patrick's, Goulburn", "Best Australian Bush Ballads", a manga series featuring my favourite villain Killer Koala, "The Banksias: Botanical illustrations of the complete species (in five volumes)", "Australian automobiles 1924-2000", "Tiwi football", "Diseases of Australian livestock and native animals (with online resources)", "My first writing book (with teaching materials)", "Alitji in the Dreamtime -- Alice in Wonderland in Pitjantjara and English", "Fishtails in the Dust: stories and poems by Central Australian writers", "Australia's corporate crooks" and "Jeff Thompson's favourite fast balls".
The trouble for Dymocks is that most of these titles (or similar versions) have in fact been published by the Australian publishing industry at one time or another. That's the great strength of the industry, that it can and does produce such culturally worthwhile and relevant titles -- and its a strength Dymocks ignores in its pursuit of greater profits.
You'll notice I haven't included many fiction titles in my list of culturally worthwhile books. Would fantasy, romance, crime, or science fiction cut it as 'culturally worthwhile'? Would The Book Thief and Tales from Outer Suburbia (just awarded major prizes in Germany) make the grade? The Book Thief isn't even about Australia.
The Literature Board of the Australia Council offers about $4 million in grants (including the ASA managed Emerging Writers and Illustrators initiative) to writers and publishers for work in development or of marginal viability for a publisher.
What does Dymocks propose in addition that would be culturally worthwhile? They give no clues except that phrase 'culturally worthwhile books' but I'd hazard a guess they mean books such as those some of our stuffier and more remote (at least from Australian culture) critics (mostly in Melbourne) consider "literature", whatever that is. These books may be supremely worthy in the confines of Carlton, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that such books are perpetually in search of an audience. Would providing further funds for their publication help them find such an audience? Surely, that is the problem that must be addressed.
But Dymocks is drumming here to obscure their own shortcomings. There is no shortage of books being published in Australia that can be considered 'culturally worthwhile'. They come not only from the largest of our publishers but also from the smallest. It is the smallest publishers though who have the greatest problem in putting their wares before potential readers and Dymocks and its practices are largely to blame.
If Dymocks was serious in its pursuit of 'worthwhile culture', the company would do better by guaranteeing that it will stock all the books of Australia's small publishers and make them available Australia-wide without charging them for shelf space (which happens for many titles from major publishers -- those books don't get up the front of the shop without a price being paid) and actually contributing some promotional funds to assist in bringing them to the attention of readers. In doing this Dymocks would actually be performing a service and a function that a customer expects of a bookshop.
In today's climate, one of the problems that small publishers such as those in the Small Publishers Underground Networking Community (SPUNC) face is marketing and distribution. Dymocks is well-placed to assist these publishers. But it does not do so. Why? Dymocks is only after the cream, the short tail, of the publishing market. It stocks best-sellers from the largest publishers and "special orders" those of our smaller publishers.
Try buying Fishtails in the Dust or Tiwi Football (both real books) in Dymocks George Street or one of the Melbourne stores. Yes, the special order desk will be able to find it in Books in Print, but there'll be a special order surcharge and it isn't in stock etc., etc. Same for Aboriginal Languages of NSW (another real book, though it doesn't come with a CD-ROM) and my own book Music from another Country, which is stocked by independent bookshops but special ordered by Dymocks, so I know Dymocks customers are asking for it, but, hey, let's not have Dymocks give their own customers what they want, eh -- after all, there's all those Stephanie Meyer books over by the door in piles ...

One thing we should read into Dymock's statement though is their valuation of the Australian publishing industry at $1.5 billion. The publishers value it at about $2 billion, which, if you add in the educational sector (mostly unknown to Dymocks) is about right. Dymocks wants to endanger that amount of value-added business in Australia to enhance its own profits. Doesn't sound right does it.
Certainly doesn't sound 'culturally worthwhile'.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Music from another Country wins praise

I'm blowing my own trumpet, but if I don't nobody will.
That's not quite true.
Gary Dunne has praised Music from another Country as follows: "Music from another country is a really good read. It's the story of young Alex uncovering various family secrets, with flashbacks to both his brother Kieran in Darlinghurst in the early 1990s, and their grandfather Neil, a Lancaster pilot in World War II. Jeremy deals with Kieran's HIV death in the same way he deals with the events that scored Neil his Victoria Cross. Vividly descriptive, his style leads you to an emotional response, rather than tells you what you should be feeling. The result is a surprisingly gentle tale, but with an emotional sting, about the universality of courage and love." You don't have to accept my word for this. Go to Gary's website to see for yourself.
In the entry below this one, I've noted what Kerryn Goldsworthy had to say about the book in the Sydney Morning Herald. I'm also receiving wonderful feedback from readers and this has been posted on the Fat Frog Books website.
The book is now available at The Bookshop Darlinghurst; Gleebooks in Glebe; Better Read than Dead in Newtown; Eltham Bookshop in Melbourne; and Charles Darwin University Bookshop in Darwin.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Music from another Country launch

Libby Gleeson AM holds the US edition and I hold the Australian edition, which is cheaper!
Artwork from Taylor Galleries in the background.

Derek Dryden of Better Read than Dead bookshop, Newtown, sells copies of Music from another Country. He was pleased with sales, selling out his stock. The book is also available at Gleebooks, Eltham Bookshop in Victoria, the Bookshop Darlinghurst and Charles Darwin University Bookshop.

My book Music from another Country was successfully launched on 10 October, 2010, at Taylor Galleries, 116 Smith Street, Summer Hill, by Libby Gleeson AM. Libby Gleeson did a wonderful job launching the book and I am very grateful to her. Many thanks Libby.
I was delighted that my sister Kim (with husband Leigh) and brother Nicholas (with wife Edwina and daughter Penelope) could attend. The book has a close relationship with my late parents so it was important to have family about on this occasion (and every occasion).
It was also an honour and a pleasure to have Jack Mundey and Mick Tubbs in attendance. Jack is a very special hero of mine. Meredith Burgmann added to the historical flavour -- all of us seventies rebels.
As too were my mates Peg Trompf, Ron Austin, Terry Batterham and Gary Dunne. Wonderful to see them there.
Publishing colleagues included Penny Martin (whom I worked with at McGraw-Hill), Desney King and Maisie Keep (both of whom I worked with at Harcourt Brace), who designed the much acclaimed cover of the book. She also took photographs for me on the afternoon.
The literary world was represented by Susanne Gervay, Elisabeth Holdsworth, Angelo Loukakis, Robert Dixon (Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney), Peter Kirkpatrick, Tim Sinclair, James Bradley and Mardi McConnochie (with baby daughter Annabelle), Ian MacNeill, Chris Pash (whose The last whale is reprinting! Wonderful news Chris and it is a fine book from Fremantle Press), Jill Dimond, Michael Green (with wife Joan and just off a plane from Paris), and a host of others.
And so many friends and supporters turned up as well. I was overwhelmed. Thanks very much to all of you who came along to this event. Without you all it wouldn't have been the success it was.
I asked my friend William Chen of Simply the Best Restaurant, Five Dock, to cater for the event which he did and it was a great pleasure for me that he was able to take time out to attend the event along with his wife and mother. Thanks mate!
The book was reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald's Spectrum section of 10 October, 2010, by Kerryn Goldsworthy who described it as "a moving story about masculinity, families and courage".
Thanks to Shelley Evans, Robert Kitchen and Sandra Jones for assisting so nobly with the catering needs. As we love to say: "I love youse all."
Thanks to Max Taylor of Taylor Galleries for hosting the event.
And last, deepest thanks to my wonderful partner for the support and assistance not only at the launch but in all my writing and in life. Without you, I am nothing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

News from Berlin: Poetry

I am currently in Berlin where I am on a scholarship with the Goethe-Institut brushing up my German. Unfortunately, it needs a great deal of brushing up. Here, I've managed to meet with people at the Literaturwerkstatt, which is situated in a complex on Schoenhauser Allee in former East Berlin called the Kulturbrauerei. That's the picture above.
The complex is a former brewery that is now home to all sorts of artistic endeavours, as well as a bicycle tour company.
Literaturwerkstatt aims to encourage the translation of poetry and seeks poets willing to have their work published in the original language on the site as well as translated into other languages. They encourage poets to co-operate in the process and actively seek more Australian poets able to offer their own poems as well as translate the poems of other into other languages.
Unfortunately, it is not a paying process at this point. However, a number of Australian poets are already involved.

Music from another Country launch

Music from another Country will be published in Australia on 1 October. It will be launched in Sydney on October 10 by Libby Gleeson AM at a function at Taylor Galleries in Smith Street, Summer Hill, at 3 pm. ISBN 978-0-9590350-3-2. Available from Better Read than Dead, Newtown; Gleebooks, Glebe; Eltham Bookshop, Melbourne; Charles Darwin University Bookshop, Darwin. Price $23.95.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

US Authors support Australian Authors in territorial copyright fight

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) has been heartened by the unanimous support of the board of the Authors Guild in the USA for the maintenance of the current restrictions on the parallel importation of books into Australia. The Authors Guild joins the UK Society of Authors and the New Zealand Society of Authors in support of the retention of territorial copyright in Australia.

Authors Guild Director Paul Aiken said: “It’s hard to believe a country would choose to devalue its publishers' backlists in this way, forcing publishers to compete against cheap imports for the very titles they had chosen to invest in.”

Aiken went on to say: “It would have to lead to a shrinking publishing industry in Australia, since most publishers are so dependent on their backlists. This would be bad for all authors who are published in Australia, of course. In the long run, it would also be bad for Australian readers, who would find themselves increasingly dependent on the exports of foreign publishers, who would have little interest in nurturing Australia's literary culture.”

With this international support, the Australian Society of Authors reiterates its position that there should be NO change to the current restrictions on the parallel importation of books into Australia. We call upon the government to dismiss any recommendations to this end in the yet-to-be released Productivity Commission report into this matter.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Parallel Importation of Books inquiry

The Productivity Commission has reported that it has now delivered its report on the parallel importation of books into Australia to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry. Senator Sherry is new to his role, thanks to a recent Cabinet reshuffle resulting from the resignation of Joel Fitzgibbon as Minister for Defence and the promotion of the former Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen. However, it is expected that the details of the report will be made public in the week beginning 13 July.
What authors must do in the interim -- and indeed after the release of the report (which is unlikely to offer us much succour) -- is to continue to lobby the Prime Minister and Cabinet to retain the current situation. The best way to do this is to write real letters to the PM expressing your own point of view on keeping the current provisions of the Copyright Act relating to the parallel importation of books into Australia in place as they represent a acceptable balance for creators and consumers.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Farewell to a loyal and beloved friend

He was 17 and very sick for the two days before his death on 31 May. But his life was very good for the rest of it. He was very spoilt and very loved and we miss him heaps.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Parallel Importation of Books into Australia: States and Territories say "no change"

In a communique from its sixth meeting in Brisbane on 29 May, 2009, the Council for the Australian Federation (CAF), which comprises all State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers and is currently chaired by the Honourable Anna Bligh MP, Premier of Queensland, announced it had discussed the Productivity Commission’s consideration of existing parallel importation restrictions in relation to books. CAF reiterated that the States and Territories do not support any changes to the present arrangements. Removal of current regulation would damage Australia’s culture and creative industries and have adverse effects on employment for very little benefit. States and Territories agree the Productivity Commission’s report should be discussed at the next COAG meeting.
Chaired by the Premier of Queensland, the meeting was attended by Premiers from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania and the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The Premier of Western Australia joined the meeting by telephone. The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory was an apology. Treasurers also attended the meeting from Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Society of Editors NSW 30th Anniversary

I'm delighted to have been asked to deliver the address at the Society of Editors NSW 30th Anniversary Dinner. I was an early member of the Society, and President in 1986, and I have very fond memories of it.
The Dinner will take place on Tuesday, 7 July, 2009 at 6.30 for 7 pm. The location is the Italian Village Restaurant (Florence Room).
Tickets are available from the Society of Editors NSW.
My address was later published in Blue Pencil and is available here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Music from another Country

My book Music from another Country is now available. You can order it online through The Bookshop Darlinghurst. Or order it from your local bookshop -- it won't always be in stock so the shop needs to order ISBN 978-0-9590350-3-2. I hope you enjoy it.

More Alice Springs Writers Festival/Sydney Writers Festival

I so much enjoyed the Alice Springs Writers Festival. I remember it keenly. For me, it was a better experience than the recent Sydney Writers Festival, which has become such a big occasion in which writers tend to feel a bit lost.
In Alice, while the crowds and the events were small, us writers were able to talk together easily and communicate about common concerns. It helped that we were all isolated in the Centre. The country definitely was influential. I doubt anyone who was there will forget the Sunday evening reading by Arnold Zable at Simpsons Gap. We sat or lay on the sand of the dry river, listening to Arnold's words. Roos came up behind us in the dusk to listen too. Overhead the stars sparked in a clear sky. Words were the only sound echoing from the rocks.
Then the readings around the candle circles in the dark. Powerful stuff. I can still hear Yvette Holt's poems. I know I returned inspired.
While I enjoyed the Sydney Writers Festival , it didn't leave me with the same feeling. It didn't charge my muse. Maybe that's because it's really the Sydney Readers Festival. It's not for writers, it's about writers.
Alice was for writers. May there be more festivals like it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Legal Matters Seminars Sydney and Ballarat

Sydney, 22 May 2009
Ballarat, 29 May 2009

A typical day at the ASA brings questions about contracts. There are queries about terms, rights, digital contracts, and of course the legal jargon. A different publisher will present a different contact, and you need to clearly understand your obligations and entitlements. Be informed before you sign. Prepare yourself for the legal challenges involved with getting published at this customised workshop. In addition to contracts, other topics covered in this half-day workshop include:

• Who owns copyright? Intellectual property rights
• Copyright protection and moral rights, copyright territories
• Copyright permissions
• Reaching other markets: licensing your rights
• Winning negotiations with your publisher
• Services to the creator – PLR, ELR and CAL
• Avoiding defamation: being clear and careful.

The ASA’s popular Legal Matters workshop has been held in various capital cities and regional venues. Here are some participants’ comments on the benefits of a Legal Matters workshop:

‘You can read things till you're blue in the face, but sometimes they don't strike home till you're part of a discussion about them. The interactive nature of it and the differing concerns of other authors was a big plus for me.’

‘More confidence to read and negotiate terms of contracts.’

‘Lots of good solid information!’

‘Adds to understanding of a very complex area.’

‘Interaction with a variety of writers … made it additionally interesting as different points came up.’

: 22 May 2009, 2-5 pm
Venue: Australia Council, Rover Thomas Auditorium, 372 Elizabeth Street (cnr Cooper Street)
Cost: $55 ASA members, $187 non-members. Non-members pay the member's rate plus $132 – the cost of Affiliate membership. We encourage non-members to join and receive all the benefits of ASA membership.
Download your registration form here.

: Friday 29 May 2009, 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm. Afternoon tea provided.
Venue: BEST Community Development Conference Centre, 28 Victoria Street, Ballarat, VIC.
(03) 5329 1500
Download your registration form here.

For further information phone 02 9318 0877 or email Kris Clarke.

Sydney Writers festival: So you want to be an author?

I will present my popular half-day workshop ‘So you want to be an author?’ This workshop is a must for those who want to understand the big picture of the publishing industry and other issues of vital importance to writers.

Workshop outline:

Why be a writer?
• The book is dead. The cultural context for a professional writer.
• Despite a lot of comment to the contrary, books, publishing and reading are actually doing very well.

The book publishing industry in Australia: An economic background to being a professional writer in Australia
• Value
• Number of books
• Number of publishers
• Imports versus Home-grown titles

Know your rights: Copyright, contracts and other contentious issues
What is copyright?
• How does copyright work?
• Why is it important?

Know your market: Opportunities for writers
• Getting the words down: Tips for creating your manuscript.

Presenting your work to a publisher or agent
• Do you need an agent?

Date: Wednesday 20 May 2009, 10.00 am - 1.00pm
Venue: State Library of NSW, Target Room, Macquarie Wing, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW
Cost: $70 concession price for ASA members, $80 non-members

To register, phone the Sydney Theatre Box Office on 02 9250 1988.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Perfect Timing; Co May Dung Lac (Vietnamese Translation)

My book Perfect Timing is now available in a Vietnamese edition from Vietnam Literature Publishing House (Nha xuat ban Van hoc, 18 - Nguyen Truong To, Badinh - Hanoi - Vietnam. Phone: 84-4-8294684, 84-4-8294685. Fax: 84-4-8294781). It sells for 20,000 Dong.

Eye of the Storm: Alice Springs Writers Festival Northern Territory

John Maynard, Kate Grenville, Jeremy Fisher, Andrew McMillan and Kenny Laughton before their history panel at the Alice Springs Writers' Festival.

Tanya Heaslip reads from her mentored work in Alice Springs.

I spent May 1 to 4 in Alice Springs at the Northern Territory Writers Centre Eye of the Storm Festival. What a great event for central Australian writers.
I was able to work with Tanya Heaslip, winner of an ASA Mentorship on one session as well as chair another panel on 222 years in the telling with Kate Grenville, Kenny Laughton, Andrew McMillan and John Maynard. I was also on a panel on Pathways to Publication which looked at the strengths of Australian writing.
During the festival I went to the launch of Fishtails in the Dust, a compilation of extraordinary writing by central Australian writers from Ptilotus Press. It's well worth its $35 price. You may have to ask around for it, though. Dymocks Alice Springs have copies, but distribution outside the Centre has been tricky.
Contact the Press if you are having trouble finding a copy. A percentage of sales goes towards the Indigenous Literacy Project.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Contractual advice for Comics creators and graphic novelists

Photos: Josef Szekeres
Recently, I attended Supanova in Brisbane along with Jozef Szekeres and Julie Ditrich, who are the ASA's Comics/Graphic novels portfolio holders. I gave a talk offering advice on contracts that was well received. It was my first time at a Supanova event and I found it very interesting and stimulating and I'm looking forward to more.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Parallel Importation of Books: What authors must do now

The Coalition for Cheaper Books -- a front for Dymocks, Woolworths and Coles -- has used the Dymocks Booklovers email list to call for support for its campaign to destroy writing and publishing in Australia. Authors must react to this to help defeat any moves to change the current restrictions on the parallel imporartation of books.
Remember, these restrictions are not unique to Australia. They exist in the UK and the USA and Canada and most other book markets. Australia is not a special case of a protected market. It is part of the norm of the trading of rights in publishing.
In this context, for Dymocks to ask "Do you you want cheaper books?" is a very simplistic ploy -- who doesn't want any purchased items cheaper? Who wouldn't answer "yes" to such a question?
But what the Coalition for Cheaper Books fails to state is that the Productivity Commission's interim report into the restrictions on parallel importation of books did not find books were more expensive in Australia. The report in fact notes that Australian publishing is "flourishing". Despite this it proposed destroying territorial copyright -- the right authors have to contract in their own markets. The Commission agrees that this would lead to 'a reduction in publishing activity’, ‘authors would generally face reductions in their income’, ‘lower royalty payments’, ‘would likely result in some authors exiting the market, and might discourage some others from entering it’, ‘new or undiscovered authors would find it more difficult to gain attention in an open market’, and there would be ‘difficulty for all new authors in obtaining local publication.’ Nevertheless, the Productivity Commission still champions the discredited philosophies of "free markets", so it's willing to allow the destruction of Australia's literary culture for an unproved hypothesis that books might -- just might -- become cheaper in Australia as a result.
But the Productivity Commission is driven by economic theory after all. There must be a economic problem that their proposed solution will fix. Perhaps bookselling in Australia is in crisis? Booksellers must be having trouble making a buck, so the Productivity Commission extends them some help.
But, no, the Coalition for Cheaper Books is not claiming that business is bad. On the contrary, business for Dymocks is doing very well, as Director Bob Carr claimed on 17 March on page 21 in the Inner Western Courier. The problem, though, is that Dymocks operates on a 2% margin. This isn't good enough for the company's shareholders so to improve it they want Australian writers out of the way and Australian publishers subjugated.
Did I hear someone whisper "greed"? Isn't this the same attitude that brought about the gobal financial crisis? Dismiss any regulation in the marketplace in pursuit of greater profit? Do I see a coincidence of views between the Productivity Commission and Dymocks -- profit is good, culture is bad?
To be fair, the Productivity Commission devotes considerable time to cultural issues and recognises the importance of Australian authored and published books. The Coalition for Cheaper Books does not.
Theirs is an arrogant attitude Australia's authors must resist. On 16 April, Brisbane authors are planning to picket Dymocks' Queen Street store to highlight this arrogance.
The fight must now be taken past the Productivity Commission. Australian authors and lovers of Australian literature must now write -- and I mean write real letters -- to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who ultimately will decide what happens.
What should happen is nothing. The Productivity Commission hasn't found any real problem. So, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
I urge you to write to the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Treasurer Wayne Swan, the Assistant Treasuer Chris Bowen, the Minister for the Arts Peter Garrett and other members of Cabinet calling on them to reject the Productivity Commission's report.
Write to your local MP too. To send your letter to their electorate office, find their address at: If you don’t know what electorate you’re in and therefore who your MP is, go to:
You can send letters to the Prime Minister and Cabinet (or your local MP) to Parliament House:
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Get writing!

Monday, March 23, 2009

If it ain't broke ...

ASA responds to Productivity Commission interim report on restrictions on parallel importation of books

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It’s a tried and true maxim – and why the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) rejects the findings of the Productivity Commission into restrictions on parallel importation of books. The Commission’s draft report calls for an open market for books 12 months after publication and abolition of the current 90-day rule governing resupply.

“Why in the face of recession would any government accept the wishy-washy changes proposed by the Productivity Commission?” said Dr Jeremy Fisher, ASA Executive Director. “There’s no evidence they’ll produce more Australian jobs or reduce book prices. The system behind Australia’s most successful and self-sustaining creative industry definitely ‘ain’t broke’. The Productivity Commission report proves that. What’s more, even Dymocks Director Bob Carr, who is in favour of removing the restrictions on importation, says ‘business is booming’ even in the face of global financial crisis. So why tinker around with a going concern?”

ASA Chair Dr Anita Heiss commented: “However, we are profoundly grateful the Commission has concluded these restrictions are important to maintaining our national culture. It’s about time our culture was recognised for its own intrinsic value, and we’re not measuring everything as an economic commodity.”

“Now let’s get parallel importation off the table and move on,” Dr Fisher said. “It’s great that our industry has received this attention, but it’s misplaced. What we need now is an industry tribunal or commission that can implement some standardisation – and we’d be interested in seeing that in author-publisher agreements – but can also come up with unified responses to Google and changes in the supply chain”.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lucy Springer Gets Even, and some new readers

My partner is not a great book reader. He happily admits that most books bore him. But recently he read a whole book in a couple of days, even taking it on the bus with him to and from work.
The books was Lucy Springer gets even (ISBN 9781741755831 , Allen & Unwin) by Lisa Heidke.
What was its appeal? It was funny and fast paced. It was entertaining. It wasn't trying too hard to be anything but a light diversion. It doesn't have a deeper meaning or a sub-text or message. It's just written to be read for the pure pleasure of it. And ain't that a good thing.
It is true that Lisa Heidke is a friend of ours, from the time she worked as Marketing and Sales Manager for me when I ran Harcourt Brace in Australia, but this isn't the reason why Lucy met success. Other friends have not been so lucky with their books.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Legal Matters for Writers Seminar Fremantle

A typical day at the ASA brings questions about contracts. There are queries about terms, rights, digital contracts, and of course the legal jargon. A different publisher will present a different contact, and you need to clearly understand your obligations and entitlements. Be informed before you sign.

Prepare yourself for the legal challenges involved with getting published at this customised workshop which I am leading.

In addition to contracts, other topics covered in this half-day workshop include:

• Who owns copyright? Intellectual property rights
• Copyright protection and moral rights, copyright territories
• Copyright permissions
• Reaching other markets: licensing your rights
• Winning negotiations with your publisher
• Services to the creator – PLR, ELR and CAL
• Avoiding defamation: being clear and careful.

The ASA’s popular Legal Matters workshop has been held in various capital cities and regional venues. Here are some participants’ comments on the benefits of a Legal Matters workshop:

‘You can read things till you're blue in the face, but sometimes they don't strike home till you're part of a discussion about them. The interactive nature of it and the differing concerns of other authors was a big plus for me.’

‘More confidence to read and negotiate terms of contracts.’

‘Lots of good solid information!’

‘Adds to understanding of a very complex area.’

‘Interaction with a variety of writers … made it additionally interesting as different points came up.’

Date: 27 February 2009, 3-6 pm
Venue: Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre, Old Prison Hospital, Cnr Knutsford St & Hampden Rd, Fremantle WA
Cost: $44.00 ASA members, $176 non-members. Non-members pay the member's rate plus $132 – the cost of Affiliate membership. We encourage non-members to join and receive all the benefits of ASA membership.

Our thanks to the Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre for their support.
Download your registration form here. For further information phone 02 9318 0877 or email Kris Clarke.

Apropos Poetry Perth 25-27 February 2009

I shall be taking part in a number of panels at the Apropos Poetry program in Perth from 25-27 February 2009. The program has been organised by WritingWA who should be contacted if you are interested in attending.
The program features masterclasses, advice on how to get published, and other professional aspects of writing poetry.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sasa Stanisic in conversation with Jeremy Fisher at the Goethe-Institut Sydney

Saša Stanišić

I'm looking forward to talking with my German colleague 28-year-old Saša Stanišić about his new book on 3 March at 6.30 pm at the Goethe-Institut Sydney. "How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone" is his fascinating and compelling debut novel. Saša Stanišić was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1978. As a 14-year-old, he and his family were forced to flee from civil war to Southern Germany.
In this strongly autobiographical work, Saša Stanišić describes his carefree childhood, the incomprehensibility of war, the family's escape and new beginning in Germany and his current search for the remains of his past. The novel is a dazzling kaleidoscope of human feelings, full of tragic and funny anecdotes, in which family and contemporary history, war and daily oddities join dramatically.
Saša Stanišić will read – in German and English - from his debut novel. In a subsequent discussion with me he will speak about the impact of war on a childhood, the inner world of memory and his incredible novel that touches the heart.
Saša Stanišić has been writing and publishing since 2001 . How the Soldier repairs the Gramophone was nominated for the German Book Prize 2008. In addition, Stanišic won the Adelbert von Chamisso Award of the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Bremen Literature Promotion Prize and the Kelag Audience Award at the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition.
Those interested in attanding should contact the Goethe-Institut Sydney on 61 2 83568320 or email