A collection of musings, articles and news about romance fiction.


The Productivity Commission and Parallel Importation Restrictions

From an Author’s perspective…

To get the intro over and done with: the Productivity Commission is looking into Intellectual Property Arrangements, and has released a Draft Report outlining proposed changes. These changes include copyright and Parallel Importation Restrictions (PIRs).

First of all, what is Parallel Importation?

Put simply, parallel importation is a non-counterfeit product imported from another country without the permission of the intellectual property owner – also known as ‘grey goods’.

For example: a company launches a product. Country1 sells it at one price (Price1), and Country2 sells it at a different, higher price (Price2). A parallel importer can purchase the goods from Country1 at Price1, then import the goods into Country2 and sell it for less than Price2.

The aim is to create affordability in products, and is of benefit to the consumer by pushing down the cost of goods as Country2 sellers compete with the price-setting of the parallel importer.

How does this relate to books?

For example, if my Australian book, Runaway Lies, (edited, copyedited, proofread, cover design, marketed, etc by Harlequin Australia) was also available in the U.S. market for a cheaper price, then a parallel importer could purchase that U.S. version, import it, and sell it here in Australia, at a cheaper price than that set by Harlequin AU.

It’s a win for Australian readers, right? Um, maybe not so much. (We’ll call this Myth #1, and come back to it.)

Currently, the Copyright Act 1968 states that copyright is infringed by a person who imports an item into Australia (without the licence of the owner of the copyright), for the purpose of selling, letting for hire or by way of trade offering exposing for sale or hire, the article, or distributing the article for the purpose of trade or any other purpose that will affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright.

This means, at one point, the Australian Government saw fit to offer protections to Australian authors, publishers and the Australian culture. (We’ll call this Red Flag #1, because we’ll be coming back to it.)

What are Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs)?

Currently, if an Australian publisher releases a book, booksellers must buy that book from the publisher (and their providers, e.g.; printers/book packagers). They are not permitted to purchase or import a cheaper version from overseas. There is an exception, and that is if the book is released overseas and still is not available in Australia 30 days after its release – or if it’s for a customer’s personal use, single copies can be purchased. Presently, Australian publishers have committed to having the book released in Australian within 14 days of an overseas release.

If we look at the international markets, Australia simply does not possess the economies of scale. That is, in the USA and UK there is a higher population, so more copies are printed. The more copies you print, the lower the item cost. In Australia, our population is lower, so our print demand is lower, ergo our item cost can be higher.

In the argument supporting the repeal of the PIRs, references are made to how getting rid of PIRs has worked in Canada and New Zealand. I have tried to find the data and reports to support this, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful. This doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means I haven’t been able to find it yet. But I did find something else…

*Myth #1* – cheaper books for Aussie readers

In the March 2009 Productivity Commission Research Report into Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books, Section 4.2 Evidence on the price effects states (and I quote):

While the PIRs potentially raise the prices of books published in Australia, assessing the actual magnitude of any such price effect is not straight-forward. To start with, it requires an understanding of the foreign sources from which book imports might be feasible in the absence of PIRs. Even where this is clear, the next issue is whether books could be sourced from these markets at sufficiently attractive prices to make them competitive with locally produced books.

Many previous studies of PIRs have relied on comparisons of prices in Australia with those in other, developed, English-speaking markets, particularly the UK and the US. Participants in this study also provided such comparisons, and the Commission has augmented these with its own analysis.

Even so, gaining a clear indication of the effects of PIRs through such analyses is difficult.

Even the Productivity Commission couldn’t prove their claim that PIRs make books more expensive in Australia. In fact, the report continues to state that when data was compiled in the Participants’ comparisons of Australian and US/UK current list prices, p76 (and I quote):

Taken at face value, the comparisons suggest that prices of many titles in Australia can be competitive with, or lower than, the price of UK or US editions.

The Commission did compile its own data, which conflicted with the above statements, but then stated (p81):

Taken at face value, the data provided by the Coalition suggests that substantial reductions in prices could eventuate were Australia to remove its PIRs. However, the Commission notes that, in these circumstances, foreign publishers would not necessarily supply Australian retailers at the wholesale prices they currently offer to booksellers in ‘cheaper’ countries. In the absence of PIRs, foreign publishers are just as likely to want to engage in price discrimination as at present.

Overall, it was found to be a bit of a mixed bag. Some books were cheaper in Australia than the USA and UK, some were more expensive, and some were about the same.

But wait, in the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report 2016, they state (and I quote):

The Productivity Commission re-examined the restrictions in 2009. Price comparison analysis found that, in 2007-08, a selection of around 350 trade books sold in Australia were on average 35 per cent more expensive than in the US.

Again, I’m no mathematician, but does that mean roughly75% were of a similar price or cheaper?

So looking at all of this, the assertion that removing PIRs will result in cheaper book prices isn’t borne out by the very people making the claim. The Productivity Commission is recommending the repeal of PIRs, yet can’t actually justify it from their own reports – although it hasn’t stopped them from cherry-picking the 2009 report findings in their references in the 2016 Draft Report.

My understanding (and it may well be flawed) is that PIRs apply to Australian content. Stories written by Australians and published in Australia by Australian publishers.

This does NOT apply to stories written by U.S. writers, published in the U.S., and then imported into Australia (or authors and stories written and published elsewhere). In other words, parallel importation can occur legally on these books – and yet we don’t necessarily see those lauded priced reductions in the market place.

*Red Flag #1* – protecting Australian authors, publishers and culture.

So what happens if we repeal the Parallel Import Restrictions?

Simply put, booksellers and importers can source cheaper versions from overseas markets and sell them to the public here in Australia.

That’s great, right? Cheaper books for readers. Here’s the thing – as mentioned above, there is no guarantee that the outcome, will in fact, result in cheaper books for the readers. If the books are in, say, the US, and the purchase is done in the US, then the money goes to….the US. There would be a small trickle down to the AU publisher, and an even smaller trickle down to the AU author (as a foreign, indirect sale). Not only that, but you do risk the ‘Americanisation’ of the Australian culture. (Please apply ‘isation’ to any other country this would be done through, I’m just picking the US to prove a point).

There is a slight difference in language. If an Australian story is bought by the US arm of the publisher, than it’s ‘converted’ –we’re talking footpath vs sidewalk, favour vs favor, realisation vs realization, etc. So essentially you’re importing an Australian story with Americanisms. We’d be bringing in our own stories with a foreign influence in the language, and possibly even some of the cultural references…

But the slow transition to the adoption foreign cultural elements and assuming them as our own will be the least of our problems (although this is pretty major, in my mind). We then have the issue of Australian publishers receiving less reward (mind you, they found the author, they edited, copyedited, proofread, designed cover and marketed the book, so most of the costs were borne here in Australia). The Australian author then receives less.

Less income means Australian publishers can afford to publish less Australian books. Australian authors will receive less money, and less Australian authors will get published. If less Australian books are published through Australian publishers, you will see the decline of the Australian publishing industry. That means all those jobs and businesses involved in the publishing industry (and we’re not just talking about the big multi-national publishers) will slowly disappear. Thomas Keneally gives a great breakdown of what that truly means in this article in the Financial Review.

Eventually, you will see less and less Australian content in the bookstores, and more and more US and UK content. Incidentally, the US and UK are NOT considering repealing their territorial copyright – so why, in all that makes clear and logical sense, are we?

Basically, this will lead to job losses. This will lead to revenue loss to international markets. This will lead to a loss in an industry that doesn’t receive much in the way of subsidy from the Government (if any) – unlike cars, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, and this will lead to a level of cultural bankruptcy in Australia.

I have seen various remarks within the media about these arguments from authors as being at best emotional, and at worst hysterical. This shows a very clear ignorance of what is truly at stake here, but not only that, it shows a very clear ignorance of the position of a ‘creator’. When you are modifying laws to decrease an author’s earnings, when you modify laws that will effectively remove an author’s property from that author’s ownership without their consent, this is how it directly affects an author:

You take away my capacity to earn money for my family to:

  • Put food on the table,
  • Put clothes on our backs,
  • Put a roof over our heads,
  • And educate our children.

I work. I pay taxes. I support other businesses by doing my work and paying taxes.

This is important, not emotional. This stuff really MATTERS.

To try and put it into perspective: If the construction industry were able to import cheaper labour from overseas to replace the Australian labour force – despite there being people ready, willing and able to do the job here, there would be a hue and cry over the loss of jobs and revenue to the international market. Why is the book industry different? Why is it that the Australian voice, the Australian culture, is so underrated and undervalued?

New Zealand has already done this, and so far, I can’t find any reports, articles, etc, that states that New Zealand book prices have decreased due to this action (or decreased, period). That’s not to say there’s no evidence, I’m just saying that as yet, I can’t find it, and the Productivity Commission haven’t sited it, either. What we can see is that New Zealand book prices are more expensive than Australian book prices. We can also see that since PIRs were repealed in New Zealand, their book industry has shrunk. Drastically.

The proposed changes in the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report 2016 are not fair. They’re not innovative. They’re based on unsupported facts that are contrary to those presented by parties directly affected by the changes, and their conclusions are fundamentally, breathtakingly flawed.

Currently, submissions are still open, so please, if you want to see and read Australian books, written by Australian authors and published by Australian publishers in Australia, please submit your response. Submissions close Friday, June 3rd.







The Productivity Commission and Term of Copyright

From an Author’s Perspective…

Term of Copyright

To recap: The Productivity Commission in Australia is considering making changes to Intellectual Property Arrangements. Some suggestions in the draft report have some merit. For example, the sharing of information from pharmaceutical companies to help advance research, instead of each company or research institution recreating the wheel. Some suggestions, I fear, don’t. One of the proposed changes looks at copyright, and I’m going to present my understanding of the whole scenario.

*WARNING: this is a very involved and lengthy post.

So, firstly, what is copyright? In Australia, copyright applies from the moment an idea is created. There is an automatic protection applied to all creative works. Please note, that’s not the idea itself, but the documentation, planning, preparation, implementation, production, etc of that idea.

For example, as soon as I start writing a novel, I have copyright of that novel. That means I own that novel, it’s my baby. I’ve spent considerable time and effort (and perhaps cost) in creating that story. That means I, as the owner, can exercise certain rights. For example, I can sign over those rights to a third party (publisher). These rights may include (but aren’t limited to) producing the work in print and digital format, and selling it in….say, Australia. I can specify that, because it’s my work. If a publisher then wishes to sell the ‘work’ in…Estonia, then I can sign over foreign rights, also, and receive recompense. I can sign over rights for the ‘work’ to be adapted into a TV series or movie (from my fingers to God’s ears), or a play – interpretative dance, if I wanted to. But that’s because it’s my right to do so. Copyright means I can sell it, perform it (and be grateful I don’t), publish it, adapt it and communicate it to the public.

So, that’s copyright in a nutshell. There’s a lot more to go along with it, and if you have a spare few hours, you can read the rest of the Copyright Act 1968 for shits and giggles.

At present, the Copyright Act stipulates that I own my work (you know, that work that I spent hours, days, weeks, months and years on) for the duration of my life, and for 70 years after my death. In effect, it’s an asset, that I can will to my family and heirs. Like any other asset – a diamond necklace, a house, a claptrap car that holds more sentimental value than monetary value…it is tangible property. So, if I die, and my contract is in effect with a publisher, those royalties that my ‘work’ earn will be paid to my heirs, and so on, until the end of the contract term, my rights revert, or seventy years pass.

From what I can learn, the Berne Convention set the minimum international standard to life plus 50 years (and Australia has signed this). As per the current AU-US Free Trade Agreement 2004 (and I dare you to read that for shits and giggles), we extended our copyright from author’s life plus 50 years to the term of the author’s life plus 70 years.

So, my first novel, Viper’s Kiss, has a copyright of 2010. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s say my age was 30 (no, that wasn’t my age, we’re doing a hypothetical here). The average age of a woman in Australia is 84.3 years. That means, operating on best case scenario for me, that the Viper’s Kiss copyright is due to expire in 2134 (feel free to check my numbers, I’m a writer, not a mathematician).

Another hypothetical: I’ve written some books, it caught the eye of a Hollywood studio, and they decided to make a movie out of Viper’s Kiss. A few years down the track, there’s a remake, maybe even a computer game (yes, it’s a fantasy, but stranger things can happen). This means that I could quite reasonably earn an income from that book well into the future, and if I died, that income could be inherited by my heirs – like portfolio shares, or the rental and sales from a property development.

Important to note: once copyright expires, the ‘work’ effectively enters public domain, and others can copy and recreate the works without compensation to the rights holder.

Eg; Jane Austen’s works are in public domain, hence anyone can pretty much pick her novel, package it and present as their own work. (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, etc., but at least Ms. Austen is listed as a ‘co-author’).

The Productivity Commission has specified the following argument:

Numerous studies have attempted to estimate the ‘optimal’ duration of copyright protection. Landes and Posner (2002) argue a term of around 25 years enables rights holders to generate revenue comparable to what they would receive in perpetuity (in present value terms), without imposing onerous costs on consumers and suggests that a term of around 25 years is sufficient to incentivise creative effort.

Methinks 1) somebody has forgotten the minimum standard as set by the Berne Convention, and 2) somebody has neglected to truly look at the cost of books in the market, and author earnings. Certainly, print books attract a higher price, but bear in mind the author receives a percentage only of this price (I outlined ‘standard’ contract values in my previous Productivity Commission and Copyright article)…

Let’s look at print books. We’ll go with a standard of 5% (because it’s easier to work with, and some contracts fluctuate between 4-6%). Let’s go with Australian work, sold in Australia (calculating international sales can be diabolical). And I’ll be putting my hand up and saying yes, there are a number of mechanisms that factor into this, and costs, discounts, etc that can have an affect, but let’s keep it simple, for argument’s sake.

On average, an Australian adult working full time earned $1556.30 per week, as per ABS figures. I’m not even going to address the gender pay gap, as that will just make us all teary. Anyway, average annual income would be $80,927.60. Best case scenario, it took me about a year to write a book (let’s not count the weeks and months of editing, copyediting, proofreading, graphic design and marketing discussions and strategic planning performed by the publisher). If my book sold for full recommended retail price forever (and it doesn’t. It goes on sale, it gets distributed through third and fourth parties, etc), but for argument’s sake, best case scenario. For me to get an average income, at 5% of a standard recommended retail price of a book (approximately $29.99, give or take). That’s roughly $1.50 per book.

This pretty much means I would have to sell 53,952 books. The average print run in Australia is about 3,000 books.

I might need to legally change my name to JK Rowling. To put it plainly, this scenario is NOT AN AVERAGE REPRESENTATION. It’s difficult to obtain figures of numbers of books sold for bestsellers. I’ve seen varying reports of 3,000-5,000 within 24hrs on Amazon, to 4,000-9,000 in the first week to reach the New York Times Bestseller list – but nothing substantiated. Basically, you need to sell a LOT – and if we all reached bestseller figures, well, then, none of us would be bestsellers. BUT, seeing as most authors won’t reach the bestseller lists, it makes the average fall far shorter.

But wait, we now have e-books, with a massive potential for sales, right?

Did you know some books are actually sold at $0.99? (Some are even free, so I don’t class this as a sale, but giving the book away). So we might have higher royalty rates in the digital market, but the sales price is considerably lower. The Author Earnings website has reported on sales figures for some time, and are worth checking out, but their stats show average cost of Big 5 ebooks is in the $9.00-$9.99 range, and for indie/self-published authors its lower at $3.00-$3.99 range. If we look at Amazon pricing and royalty structures, it’s even more of a quagmire to calculate, but you get my drift. It’s going to take a looooooonnng time to sell the amount of books for an author to consider this a ‘just reward’ for the creator – as specified by a judge of the High Court of Australia in a 2009 case.

*Admittedly, this is looking at one single book as having the earning capacity equivalent of a year’s salary, which is not quite the case for most writers. My point is, writers love to write, and if they could make a good living out of it, they would do so. Most writers, based on sales, can’t live solely on their writing income.

We presently have a market that is chipping away at the price of a book already, and minimising the earning capacity (and cost vs value of books is a discussion best saved for another day). With the erosion of book prices in the digital market, and the slowdown of print book sales, authors are already facing a marked reduction in earnings. Fact.

The Productivity Commission is making the following recommendation:


While hard to pinpoint an optimal copyright term, a more reasonable estimate would be closer to 15 to 25 years after creation; considerably less than 70 years after death.

Copyright/Book writing 101 for the uninitiated: ‘creation’ is when I start writing the book. If it takes me about 1 year to write it, it can be another year or so before that book hits the shelves, whether that’s in-store or online (lots of editing, proofreading, cover design, etc). So, already I’m looking at 2yrs down out of my 25yrs.

Using my previous hypothetical and adapting it to the proposed change, my first novel, Viper’s Kiss, will have its copyright expire in 2035. At the grand old age of 55 yrs (and this is based on the earlier hypothetical, and by no means implies anyone aged 55 yrs or older is considered ‘old’), that book won’t be mine, anymore. In effect, something that I worked hard at to create will be taken from me within my lifetime. I will no longer receive the ‘just reward’ from it, and anyone else can use it as ‘theirs’, even if I keep producing books and readers want to find my earlier works…

Sorry, but that totally sucks. That would be like a builder designing and building a home, and after 25 years, the government hands the keys over to the public and invites them to move in. That would be like me taking an Elvis song, recording it and selling it as mine.

It would be like me breeding and owning a milking cow, feeding it, nurturing it, administering to it, paying vet bills, etc, and having the potential to create earnings into the future for me and my family- from it’s milk, and then from it’s meat, it’s leather, etc, and then after a certain time the government removes the cow and offers it to anyone who wants it, along with the future earning potential. Basically, depriving me of the reward that comes from the initial hard work. That. Sucks.

As I mentioned above, authors are actually earning less for their work, and now the government is wanting to introduce a mechanism that reduces the length of time we can receive recognition and reward for our work. In effect, reducing our earn-out capability by taking something that belongs to us away from us. This word has been bandied about in various blog posts and articles, and it’s a powerful word, so I didn’t want to use it without realising the full impact of it:


Pretty much all of the Australian states have a similar definition.

In essence, stealing is dishonestly appropriating property belonging to another person without their consent with the intention to permanently deprive that person of their property.

To be clear – I do not give my consent to have my ‘property’ removed from my ownership within my lifetime, and my heirs.

There are mechanisms where parts and/or all of my material can be requested for use.

Just ask. Don’t take – because it’s rude, it’s offensive – and it’s NOT FAIR. (Will look at the Fair Use proposed change in another post – it’s a doozy, and yes, it’s unfair).

I want the option to exercise my right of ownership, as I’m currently entitled.

So this is one issue I have with the recommendations made by the Productivity Commission’s draft report on Intellectual Property Arrangements. I’ll be looking at authors as consumers – the beneficiaries of this report – as well as Parallel Importation Rights, etc. – time allowing.

Please feel free to comment, and if you think I’ve misunderstood these conclusions, or that my conclusions are flawed (and yes, I took a very, very basic approach to some of the calculations), please feel free to educate me – because I think it’s important to understand this draft report and the ramifications for authors. Submissions to the Productivity Commission close Friday, 3rd June. If you’d like to make a submission, click here for instructions on how to do so.


The Productivity Commission and Copyright from an Author’s Perspective

The Productivity Commission is currently reviewing current IP laws in Australia, and has compiled a draft report with proposed changes. Intellectual Property (IP) also covers copyright, so there are somethings I wanted to address, from an author’s perspective. Time allowing, I’ll hopefully write a series of these posts addressing each point (be warned, it’s an involved and lengthy response).

The current copyright law in effect for Australia is the Copyright Act 1968. So…fair call, it’s probably way overdue for an overhaul. Technologies have been created that greatly effect copyright. For eg; video – now superseded in some domains admittedly, but recording television shows to video and hard drives wasn’t really around when this act was drafted. There are some exceptions that have beend added, but again, this is generally before digital publishing and e-books, or iTunes, streaming, blogging, torrent, etc.

What is copyright?

In a nutshell, because the Copyright Act 1968 is quite long and involved, copyright for an author:

  • Activates as soon as I start writing a novel. I don’t have to register it with an agency, I can copyright it myself (using that c in a circle symbol), and voila, that piece of work is mine.

This means I can:

  • sell it
  • perform it
  • publish it
  • adapt it
  • communicate it – because it’s my work, and I can do with it as I please. When I sign a publishing contract, I sign over certain rights (not all), for a certain period of time (not forever), and there is a mechanism (difficult to exercise with some contracts, admittedly) to obtain those rights back, if I wish.

Some things that can’t be copyrighted:

Ideas: ideas can’t be copyrighted. Your idea has to be tangible for it to draw copyright, and even then there are limitations.

Eg; if I have an idea for a book, it’s not copyrighted. If I write the book, then the words are copyrighted. I can create a story, for example, of a young girl torn between a vampire and a werewolf, but I can’t use any characters from the Twilight series, nor can I copy swathes of that novel and convert to my own means (that would be plagiarism, incidentally).

Facts: known facts are not copyrightable, but the expression of those facts can be. For example, if I write a book that includes facts about PTSD, this is not copyright infringement – they’re facts. The facts themselves aren’t ‘owned’ – but the medical reports, essays, articles etc. that those facts are written in are copyrighted material.

E.g.; a calendar is not copyrightable, as the calendar itself is a widely recognized work, and nobody knows the author of the very first calendar ever. Same with the time, distance and weight tables, etc. These are known facts, with no actual ownership attached.

Titles and Names: titles, names, short phrases and slogans can’t be copyrighted. That includes titles for books, movies, songs, or a character’s name, or even my own name. Some work can be trademark protected, e.g.; store/business names, but generally speaking, particularly with writing books, just because I use a John or a Matt or a Melissa doesn’t mean I own those names, or that nobody else can use them.

Please note: using a name in a work is different to using a character. I can write about a guy named Tony Stark, but I can’t write about the Tony Stark from Marvel’s Iron Man series. Not that I would, though, because I highly respect and value that team and their creative work. Author Paula Roe and I created a workshop, with notes on writing the Alpha Hero vs the Alpha Hole. Although we thought up this term (on a plane trip from a conference, as a play on words for A-hole or arsehole, ‘scuse the French), this doesn’t – and hasn’t – prevented others from using the term.

There are other un-copyrightable things – e.g.; fashion, works created by the U.S. Government (but AU, UK and other governments can and do employ their copyright protection to some works), but those listed above are what largely affects me as an author (or technically, a creator or inventor of literary works).

Now that we know what copyright covers and doesn’t cover (in principle), let’s look at some of the proposed changes:

I have to quote the Productivity Commissions Draft Report here, just so I don’t get it wrong. The Productivity Commission states (and I’m seriously trying not to laugh, because it’s so unfunny):

The evidence (and indeed logic) suggests that the duration of copyright protection is far more than is needed. Few, if any, creators are motivated by the promise of financial returns long after death, particularly when the commercial life of most works is less than 5 years.


Er, no. No, no, no, and hell no. I can’t begin to imagine how they came to this conclusion.

An author spends considerable time and effort writing their work. Fact. Some authors write on spec – this means they’ll write their story (or at least a partial manuscript which consists of the first 3 chapters and a synopsis), and send it to the publisher in the hopes it will be picked up. This means that while they are doing the work, they aren’t actually getting paid for the work. Some writers will attract an advance, if they’re lucky, which means they’ll get an up-front amount that will have to be ‘earned out’ through sales. If this is the case, they won’t see any royalties from a book until they have ‘sold out’ their advance amount.

Writing a book can take months (in some cases, years). When it’s completed, if a publisher does decide to publish it, a contract is drawn up, and the author signs over certain rights (not all) for a certain length of time (not forever). These ‘leased’ rights include digital publishing, and as far as I’m aware, in this current digitally advanced climate, the only time a digital book is NOT for sale is if it’s been actively removed from the retail space by the publisher (or retailer). A standard royalty rate for works can be from 6% of cover price for print copies (there are contracts that will offer more or less, and depending on whether it’s sold direct or through a third party or even another country) or 30% for digital copies (again, just a run-of-the-mill amount, this can vary). An author’s main source of income will be the sale of their books, and as you can see, a lot of books would need to be deemed a ‘workable income’ for an author. Many authors don’t reach that level, and subsidise their writing with full or part-time jobs, as their book sales aren’t enough to be their primary source of income.

As an author, I’m constantly instructed to ‘build my backlist’. Basically, this means keep producing stories. If a reader reads my latest book, they might like it enough (fingers and toes crossed) to go searching for my previously published books to purchase/read. This has happened to me (thank you, readers!), and I have done it to other writers whose works I’ve read and have decided I MUST read more. Invariably, these books may have been written more than five years earlier. Especially for a digital book, purely because it costs much less to store an electronic file than it does to print, freight and store a hardcopy. My own publisher often re-prints authors’ books, so it’s not unheard of to find a print version of a book that’s been written ten or more years earlier.

Another point raised on Page 114 of the draft report states (and I quote):

  •  literary works provide returns for between 1.4 and 5 years on average. Three quarters of original titles are retired after a year and by 2 years, 90 per cent of originals are out of print

Oh. My. God. Seriously? No. Wrong. Wrong. Dead wrong. I’m an author who wrote my books in Australia and have sold them both nationally and internationally. I still receive ‘returns’ for my first ‘literary work’ published in 2011. Admittedly, I’m still a relative newbie to the publishing landscape, and only just clocking up to that 5-year mark now, and yes, I earned far more in the early days when this particular work was released than I earn from this particular work now, but I find with each release of a new work, readers are going back for the old works (again, thank you, readers!). Five years and counting, Productivity Commission.

There doesn’t seem to be any consideration for the digital editions of works. Does out of print include digital versions? Because this is so wrong, I’m still reeling. In this day and age, books are produced in both digital and print formats, which means ‘literary works’ still provide returns, ongoing. I’ll let you know when it stops, but it hasn’t as yet. None of my works have been ‘retired’, but the Productivity Commission seems to believe this is the average lifespan of a book. On one hand, I’m giddy that as per their conclusion, I’m not an average author. On the other hand, I’m saddened and frustrated as I know many other ‘above average’ authors this assumption applies to, and the disadvantages inherent to all of us if the proposed changes go through based on inaccurate information are considerable to our potential ability to produce an income.

So, in my view, some of the conclusions the Productivity Commission has based their proposed changes on are severely flawed. Books are still viable after 5-7 years of publication, and still a much-needed source of income for an author.

This is my first argument (and there are many), against the proposed changes by the Productivity Commission – others including the proposed changed to the term of copyright and the Parallel Importation Restrictions – but I’ll leave those for another day.

Please feel free to comment, and if you think I’ve misunderstood these conclusions, or that my conclusions are flawed, please feel free to educate me – because I think it’s important to understand this draft report and the ramifications for authors. Submissions to the Productivity Commission close Friday, 3rd June. If you’d like to make a submission, click here for instructions on how to do so.




Wednesday Wisdom

There are some sayings, some mindsets that are valuable, instructive, or just plain funny. Here’s mine for today:

Harder LuckierThis saying is attributed to George Player, a South African golfer, and it’s one that I and my family truly believe in. You can blame Rachael Johns for this post, as we were discussing this very thing recently, and to an extent laughing at our own naiveté with our twenty-twenty hindsight goggles.

If you want to accomplish something, if you want to succeed at something, then you are going to have to work hard for it.

When I started writing, I desperately wanted to be a successful author. I had visions of my success – not least of which was walking on the red carpet for the film adaptation of one of my novels, and having a cleaner – a cleaner, I tell you. I could pay someone to scrub my dunny.

There is nothing so frustrating, though, as to have a dream, and then expect it to happen – only it doesn’t. Even when it seems within touching distance. When you’re sending off manuscripts, and you’re getting rejections – and I’m not talking ‘we loved X, Y, and Z of your story, we just don’t think it’s a good fit for us at this time’ kind of rejection. No, I’m talking that little slip (they’re not even going to waste a full letter-length piece of paper on you!) that has a polite, uniform message on it that you hope was at one stage touched by a person, but you’re not sure…

It’s frustrating when you see others who started writing at the same time as you receive their first contract, who attended their first writer’s conference with you, achieve the success you want for yourself (and yes, we are most pleased for our successful writing colleagues, but it still chafes like the blazes, let’s be honest).

It’s frustrating, and it’s so tempting to jump the gun, to dive into that self-publishing pool, and swim, because we know, damn it, that the writer inside us is bursting to be read.

  • Let me be clear – I’m not dissing self-publishing, or authors who self-publish, or those who are considering that route. I’m self-published. I think it’s a fantastic medium – and guess what, it’s also a lot of hard work. I love the concept, and some authors do it, and do it brilliantly, so no dissing self-publishing here.

At my first RWA conference in Brisbane, one author, C.C. Coburn, stood up, because there were a lot of folks, like me, who believed they were writers just bursting to be read, and were considering options because, hell, they deserved to be successful after all the work and effort they’d put into their writing, and she made a comment that has always stuck with me.

“You need to earn your stripes.”

She went on to say that those authors we admire, and who we all aspire to be, they worked HARD. Nobody was an overnight success. They learned their craft. They got rejected (or not), but each and every one of them worked on their craft, improved it, honed it, and that’s how they go to be so ‘lucky’. So each time I don’t immediately succeed, or if things don’t pan out the way I’d hoped, I think to myself, ‘this is me earning my stripes’.

So, for those who desperately want something – whether it’s a publishing contract, or great marks, a university degree, a six-figure salary, or world peace, hang in there. There is a path for you to walk, a journey you must undertake. Every rejection, every knock back, every failure, gives you the experience and lessons that prepare you for your greatness. Work hard. Get lucky.

What are you working hard towards? Feel free to share, no judgement here!

What to do post-conference…

NSOP BallroomWe all go to these conference events with high hopes and a nervous stomach – and some of these events can seem like a blur – so many people, so many sessions, so many – oh, good grief – so many drinks, so many really good tidbits that can help you with whatever problem or challenge you face. Afterwards, though, it can feel like a bit of a drag – the exhaustion, the overwhelming sense of what has happened, and what you have to do next to get where you want to go with your business, career, life, etc. Here are a couple of tips that I’ve developed over the last several conferences I’ve been fortunate enough to attend.

1) Rest, refresh, rehydrate.
We spend so much time darting from one session to another, or sipping cuppas in the breaks, or drinking at the social networking events, and cram so much into the limited time we have at these conferences, making sure we see/talk/pitch/network etc., that our bodies deplete in both energy and hydration. Get the rest, get refreshed, and rehydrate – that will put you in the best position to harness all that motivation, insight and advice you gained through your experience and direct it to something that is productive.
2) Email your new contacts.
Whether it was at the buffet, in the lift, or sitting next to each other in a workshop or discussion – hopefully you made at least a couple of new contacts. If you can remember their names, chances are you can find them on the internet. Send them a friendly wave through cyber-space (no stalking allowed). It doesn’t have to be much, something along the lines of ‘I really enjoyed meeting you…’ can make a major positive impact on the other person, but it also builds on the networking foundation you established at the conference. Follow them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook – if they’ll let you and don’t think you’re a stalker – these people could become your strongest friends, and your best communication network and brains trust. Also, keep an eye on any social media channel that discusses the event you attended, and feel free to add your comments to the conversation.
3) Go through your notes.
If necessary, type up all of those handwritten scribbles you call notes and try to put them into some sort of order. Go through the program and check over any notes you’ve written for the sessions you attended. Organise them into some sort of logical notebook – or perhaps just a point-form takeaway list. Not only is it neater and easier to find, but it has the added bonus of reaffirming those points you so wanted to remember.
4) Make plans.
So you’re all fired up – you’re rested, you’re refreshed, you’re rehydrated, you’ve established contact with new friends and you’ve organised your notes… and you’re itching to get back to work. What stood out from the conference that makes you want to DO? If you’re really lucky, there were a number of great take-aways from the conference. Make a list, prioritise, but write down your action plan. Those who write down their goals are 33% more likely to achieve them.
Do it the S.M.A.R.T. way – make your plans specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal Examples:Smart Goals
I will finish my 70,000 word manuscript by December and submit to XXX editor at XXX publisher.
I will tweet once a minimum of once every workday, and run a contest to build my following by an extra 10% by January 2015.
I will have my website up and running by November 1st in time for Nanowrimo.
You get the idea. Don’t forget to take stock in a few months to assess who you are doing with your goals.
5) Deliver on your promises.
If you made any kind of overture or promise – e.g.; yes, I will send you the partial manuscript, Madame Editor – then DO it. If you promised to send someone the notes you took of a particular session – then DO it. If you promised yourself to set up a savings account so that you can start your next year’s conference fund, then DO it. And – bless your soul – if you decided to volunteer for any role in the organisation, then DO it.

Attending a conference can be exhausting and exhilarating – and expensive. Make sure you get a return on your considerable investment by taking something away from the conference and USING it. Whether it’s a new way to approach a task, a new friend who is in exactly the same position as you, perhaps even a valuable mentor – these aren’t just social occasions, these are your opportunities to build the future you dream of.

Writing 101: CONFLICT LOCK

When creating character and story goals and conflict, there are generally two ways to go about it:

Protagonist and Antagonist  wants the same thing (hero/heroine vs villain).

Variation: Protagonists want the same thing (hero vs heroine).

Protagonist and Antagonist want different things, but by one accomplishing his/her goal, the other does not (ie: in direct conflict and at risk).

Variation: Protagonists want different things (hero vs heroine).

Conflict Lock

I wish I could claim this tool, but I’m not that clever. I first heard this from Fiona Lowe, who had been inspired by Jennifer Crusie, and I’ve also seen Bob Mayer explain it, so I will pass this fantastic nugget on to you, and urge you to visit the sites of those authors for more information on the craft of writing. Again, there are so many different ways a writer can reach their goals, I’m merely recommending what I’ve found has worked for me in the past…

The Conflict Lock is a diagram that can help you create sustainable conflict for your characters, and draft out your plotline. Or, if you’re struggling halfway through the book, it’s a good way to find out whether you have enough conflict for a novel – or a short story. Or if your conflict is weak, it is a way to help figure out how to bolster it.

Simply put, a conflict lock shows you whether one character’s goal BLOCKS another’s.

BASIC Conflict Lock

So, how do we create the conflict lock?

Step one: Draw four squares

Step two: Label one row for Protagonist (Hero and/or Heroine), and one row Antagonist (Hero or Villain)

Step three: Label first column ‘Goal’ and second column ‘Conflict’.

Step four: Write in your characters’ objective in the GOAL column, and what is preventing your character from achieving that goal in the CONFLICT column.

If your protagonist’s conflict is born from your antagonist’s pursuit of his/her goal, and vice versa, then you have a CONFLICT LOCK.

Here is an example from my first romantic suspense novel, VIPER’S KISS:

VK Conflict Lock

My heroine, Maggie Kincaid, is mistakenly identified as the lethal ‘Viper’, and finds herself on the run, determined to clear her name. My hero, Luke Fletcher, believes – along with everyone else – that she is the Viper, and is in pursuit.VipersKiss

For Maggie to remain free, Luke doesn’t achieve his goal. If Luke apprehends Maggie, she doesn’t achieve her goal.

If you draw a line from my heroine’s goal to my hero’s conflict, you will see that what she is doing is the source of his conflict. If you draw a line from my hero’s goal to my heroine’s conflict, you will see that what he is doing is the source her conflict.


In essence – one cannot achieve his/her goal because of the direct actions of the other.

Good luck and get writing!




Writing 101: Internal vs External Conflict

What is internal conflict? And what is external conflict? Why is conflict in storytelling so important? How do you create good conflict?

As covered in my previous post, Conflict Basics, there are two basic forms of conflict: INTERNAL and EXTERNAL.

Internal Conflict
Internal conflict is the struggle that occurs within your character, and is driven by your character.
They have a want, need or desire that arises from their experience (motivation), but in order to fulfil that want, need or desire they must face and conquer this inner demon. This is where they confront their self-concept and either grow or fall. Internal conflict is emotional, and it’s psychological.

This conflict is subjective; it belongs in the mind and heart of your subject (character).

External Conflict
External conflict is the struggle that occurs outside of your character – the external happenings that drive your character to act and react. In other words, external conflict is the plot. It’s the stuff that HAPPENS that makes your character DO.

This conflict is objective; it deals with things external to the mind and heart of your subject (character), for all to view.

Simply put:

Internal conflict stems from your character’s goal.

External conflict stems from your story goal.

Your character may have an external goal that can be on display for all to see, and then will have an inner, emotional goal that s/he may or may not be aware of. To really test your character, and to provide growth for your character as well as a compelling read for your reader, these goals provide the conflict.

For example:
External Goal: Heroine wants to find her father’s killer.
External Conflict: Killer doesn’t want to be found.

Internal Goal: Even if it’s just proving to herself, she wants to achieve something important.
Internal Conflict: She’s doesn’t feel good enough, smart enough, committed enough, to succeed.

Another way of phrasing it is subjective vs objective. Subjective is belonging to your subject, their inner emotional needs and fears. Objective is the object s/he is working toward, externally.

Why is conflict so important in a story? As mentioned before, without conflict, there is no story.
Conflict creates story, drama, tension, suspense.
Conflict makes things HAPPEN.
Conflict challenges your character and gives him/her the opportunity to grow and/or change.

GMC Chart
Goal, Motivation & ConflictDebra Dixon created a GMC chart in her must-have craft book; GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. I’m merely paraphrasing here, but I thoroughly recommend you add it to your reference shelf. You can find this magnificent resource here.

Basic GMC Chart

In a previous post, the Four W’s of Character Development, we touched on the Who, What, Why and Why not. We’ve also looked at your character’s self-concept, as well as motivation. By combining all of these elements, we can start creating a solid Character Plan that can build a solid foundation for plotting your novel.

Looking at what we’ve learned so far, here is a basic Character Plan I use when I’m creating my character and starting the plotting process (we’ll add to this plan over the next few weeks, come back and visit for the full version).

Basic Character Plan
By defining your goals and motivation, uncovering your character and story conflict is organic and therefore believable – and sustainable. When you start plotting and planning your story (regardless of whether you’re a pantser, plotter, or plotster), if you have no idea what your character wants, neither will the reader.

By creating good conflict, a solid obstacle that prevents your character from getting what s/he wants, you create a story where the outcome is in doubt. Readers want to see your character work hard for his/her goal, and the stronger the conflict, the harder your character must fight. The harder your character fights, the more we, as readers, cheer them on. By giving your character good, solid conflict, you can create a character that develops a believable journey to their own pure essence (character arc) – but that’s another post!

Good luck and get writing!

Writing 101: Conflict Basics

What is internal conflict? What is external conflict? What other types of conflict are there? How do you set up conflict in a novel? How do you sustain that conflict?

If you’re just starting out with writing a book, conflict is one of the most important – and most challenging – elements to grasp.

I love conflict (only in my books, of course). I love the way it can put your character through the crucible, and have them emerge as a purer essence of themselves. I also love the potential for drama in humour that conflict can create. Conflict is such a critical aspect of writing, and it’s such a huge topic, I’ll cover it over a number of posts. This first post will look at conflict basics – what it is, and what it isn’t, and the two main categories that conflict falls under.

So…what is conflict?

Simply put, conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces.

Think…Two people applying for the same job…Cinderella and the stepsisters fighting over Prince Charming…Taylor and Brooke wanting Ridge…or cops and robbers – one wants to apprehend, the other wants freedom…

Conflict then becomes the basis of suspense: which force will triumph?

Without conflict…nothing happens. We can pick up our bat and ball and go home, because nothing is happening. No crimes or mysteries to solve. No relationships to resolve. Police are superfluous. So are superheroes (I know, gasp).

Conflict drives the plot of your story. In the beginning, something happens and creates a story question. For example, in a romance, boy meets girl. Story question – will they somehow get their Happily Ever After? Conflict: Boy doesn’t like girl. In a murder mystery, someone dies. Story question – will the detective figure out who the murderer is? Conflict: Murderer frames another suspect for the crime. In a fantasy, the Least-Likely-To-Succeed must complete their quest. Story question – will they find their Holy Grail or enable/disable the prophecy? Conflict: The evil witch is sending her minions out to destroy the Least-Likely-To-Succeed.The conflict is the issue that immediately prevents that story question from being answered within that first chapter – and keeps us reading.

Good conflict creates doubt in the reader. Doubt creates curiosity, and with that comes suspense. If the conflict is simple, if resolution is easily conceived and thus easily achieved, then it doesn’t really create doubt – and we stop reading. If it’s obvious from the start that Boy likes Girl and Girl likes Boy – well, they will get their Happily Ever After. If it’s obvious who the murderer is…well, then there’s no mystery. And if the evil witch and her minions are disorganised and ineffectual, than Least-Likely-To-Succeed…succeeds. End of quest.

Note: Conflict is not an argument. It’s not based on a misunderstanding that can be cleared up if only your characters would really talk: You ran away because you left the iron on, and not because you’re afraid to commit? Ooooh. Great. Let’s get married. (End of conflict, end of story.)

So…how can you create conflict?

Well, as stated earlier, conflict is the complication that prevents your character from obtaining what they want. It’s the begetting of trouble.


For example: She wants children – but doesn’t have a suitable partner who can get her pregnant. No partner = conflict. Story question: Will she get her children? He wants the promotion – but so does she. Rivalry = conflict. Story question: will he get the promotion, or will she? Superhero wants to save the world – but supervillain wants to take over the world. Opposition = conflict. Will s/he save the world?

Over the next few posts, we’ll look at internal and external conflict, and the different variations of conflict, and ultimately how to use conflict with plotting.

For now, good luck and get writing!

Writing 101: Character Self-Concept

This post will be a short one, but I felt self-concept is a key building block when starting out with character arc. The self-concept of your character (this can also feed into character conflict, which will be covered in our next post) is how your character views him/herself.

How does s/he think of themselves? This is not who s/he is, or how others perceive them, but rather how s/he perceives him/herself… It’s not the whole truth, it’s their self truth.

Your heroine might be an exceptionally capable, efficient boss in a high-powered executive role – while she might actually see herself as the Plane Jane/Ugly Duckling who believes she can’t be successful in the looks department, so must work doubly hard to prove her smarts… or perhaps she feels her life is out of control, despite her control and efficiency that others see.

Or your hero might be an undercover agent who believes that as he has no personal connections and he’s always playing a ‘role’ that others don’t really see him for who he is, he’s invisible, and perhaps – less than human. Or that he’s just a mouse running in the wheel, with no real impact on the world around him – there’s always another criminal to take the place of the criminal he’s just caught, so he’s less than effective , while others may instead see the capability and justice he delivers, in the lives that he saves – or the lives that he ends.

With the self-concept comes great potential for growth (character arc). If our heroine feels out of control and less than attractive, one arc that shows real development would be her gaining that control, and realising her self-worth, that beauty is relative, that she doesn’t need to continually try to prove something, she can be content, proud, etc.

Our hero could realise that what he does is important, that he is important, that there is a ripple effect with his actions, and that people do see him, see what he does, and appreciate it – particularly those effected by the criminals he brings to justice.

With the self-concept comes great opportunity for challenge, for raising the stakes, for creating conflict. For example, our heroine who is extremely efficient, yet feels out of control; what’s the worst thing that could happen? She could actually find herself in a situation where she has no control whatsoever. And then? Perhaps she could actually lose control of herself – she could cry, she could rant, she could hit.. Things she would never have thought herself capable of, and possibly dreaded.

Our hero feels invisible and inconsequential – what’s the worst that could happen? What if his cover is blown, and the criminals see him for who he really is? Or that someone’s life depends on him and he has to strive, has to succeed, it becomes vital for him to be effective, to be powerful, and to have some impact with his actions.

For ways to outline and plot your character’s self-concept, feel free to download the Character Self-Concept Worksheet.

Someone once said – put your character up a tree and throw rocks at them. That’s what challenging your character’s self-concept is like – each time you throw that proverbial rock that hits the character at their core self-concept, they hurt, they heal, they recover – or they dodge. And maybe get hit by the next one. Either way, your character is forced to act and react, and consequently change. So, to add extra dimensions to your character, challenge his/her self-concept. Put them up that tree. Throw rocks. Then set fire to that tree – put your character through that emotional ringer.

Get writing, and good luck!

Writing 101: Motivating Your Character

Character motivation can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing. It’s where you get to ask, over and over, ‘but why?’ – and not get slapped for it. Creating motivation for your character is not only a great brainstorming exercise that encourages your muse, it’s also critical to developing a believable plot – or at least, a plot that your reader is prepared to believe. Without proper motivation that suspension of disbelief comes crashing down.

As mentioned in a previous post on the Four W’s of Character Development, motivation is a fundamental aspect of building your character. Motivation is what drives your character, it’s the engine that gets that vehicle moving.

Motivation gives your character credibility, depth, and will create that emotional empathy with your reader.

So, it’s important. Don’t scrimp on the motivation. When you establish clear motivation for your character, s/he can literally get away with murder, in the eyes of your reader.

One way to create motivation out of the ether for your character (and we’ve mentioned already that there are so many different methods writers can use, what I suggest here is merely what works for me) is to drill down to their core belief system, and their internal and external needs.

Harking back to my Year 8 social studies lessons, needs are what MUST be met in order for you to 1) survive, and 2) grow/develop. To explore it further, we’ll look briefly at the psychological theory put forward by Abraham Maslow in his paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation”.  Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic of physiological needs must be met before one can focus on any higher level needs.

For example; a body needs food, water and shelter from the environment, and will pursue those needs until they are met. If they are not met, then the person may feel anxious, stressed – and deficient (hungry, thirsty, cold, wet, etc).

Once those basic needs are met, the individual can then focus on other needs, such as security – is the shelter safe from attack, are the members of my family/tribe/group safe, am I wounded/avoiding danger, etc.

At each stage when a need is met, the individual can build upon and lift their focus to the next stage of ‘need’, such as social, belonging, family, etc.

Maslow described our hierarchy of needs as:

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

  1. Physiological: those things needed for our physical survival.
  2. Safety: those things needed to make us feel secure, safe, comfortable.
  3. Love/belonging: those things needed for us to feel engaged, accepted, loved, welcomed, etc.
  4. Esteem: those things that make us feel respected, recognised, worthy, and reflected in our self-respect and self-esteem.
  5. Self-actualisation: the realisation of our full potential, the drive for accomplishment and self-improvement/self-mastery.

But how do we relate this to our writing, and specifically, to our character?

We’re going to start with what our character NEEDS.

Motivation is WHY your character thinks, feels, acts and reacts the way s/he does.

I’m going to break motivation into two basic tracks –

  1. Deepest Desire
  2. Fundamental Fear

Deepest Desire

Primary Motivation: what does your character want, seek, crave, desire? These are the deepest, darkest seeds – qualities and requirements – that your character needs to feel safe, secure, comfortable, content and able to grow.

Nature vs Nurture: The age old argument; evolution versus environment. What has your character experienced – major life events, traumas, pivotal people, their culture – how have these aspects influenced the person your character has become? These aspects include; religious beliefs, language, family, education, ethnicity, socio-economic background, intellect, appearance, etc.

Self-Concept: How does your character see him/herself? What perception or view do they have of themselves as a self-truth? Note: this may not be the actual truth of their personality, but it is their SELF truth, what they truly believe is the case. We’ll cover Self-Concept in greater detail in a separate post. How does your character see him/herself, particularly in view of their deepest desire?

Make a list of twenty. Then make another list. You’ll find the first list are obvious needs and motivators. In the second list, there will be some things that may surprise you, intrigue you – and be a great, realistic, believable, compelling motivation for your character.

Newton’s Law of Motivation:

For every deep desire, there is an equal and opposite fundamental fear.

Each Deep Desire will have an equal, opposite and reactive Fundamental Fear if the desire (need) is not achieved.

Deep Desire vs Fundamental Fear

Fundamental Fear

Primary Motivation: what does your character dislike, fear, shun, hate, and is repulsed by? These are the deepest, darkest seeds – qualities and requirements – that your character fears and prevents him/her from feeling safe, secure, comfortable, content and able to grow.

Nature vs Nurture: The age old argument; evolution versus environment. What has your character experienced – major life events, traumas, pivotal people, their culture – how have these aspects influenced the person your character has become? These aspects include; religious beliefs, language, family, education, ethnicity, socio-economic background, intellect, appearance, etc.

Self-Concept: How does your character see him/herself? What perception or view do they have of themselves as a self-truth? Note: this may not be the actual truth of their personality, but it is their SELF truth, what they truly believe is the case. We’ll cover Self-Concept in greater detail in a separate post. How does your character see him/herself, particularly in view of their deepest desire?

Make a list for each track.  Make another list. Write as many deep desires and fundamental fears you can think of for your character, and select what works for you.

Then create the backstory for your character – how they developed these deepest desires and fundamental fears – you now have motivation that adds depth to your character – and possibly to your plot (but that’s another post!).

Feel free to download a Motivation Worksheet.

Good luck, and get writing!