Thursday, August 16, 2012

The French Battle Amazon. My Writing Expenses.

Those Communist French.

I read recently that the French government fixes the price of books so that French bookshops, including those online, cannot discount books by more than 5% of the RRP.  On further investigation I found this article in the New York Times.   French legislators even dictated to Amazon that its publishers can charge whatever they like on Amazon. It seems this law has helped bookshops prosper in France. It also seems to have affected the uptake of ebooks in France with them being only a lowly 1.8% of the market.

The fixing of prices by the French has benefited French Bookshops and probably French authors with higher royalties.  I have been trying to find out the actual price of the average just released paperback in France. The price would probably still be cheaper in France than here in Australia due to their much larger market where the cost of producing a book can be spread over more sales.

My Expenses Were how Much? 

I have been completing my tax return. In my previous tax return I had not bothered making any deductions for my writing income except for $20 worth of telephone calls.  But this year, after another government department demanded I create a profit and loss statement, balance sheet and depreciation schedule for my writing business, I did so.

I needed to revive long forgotten accounting skills I learnt during a never used economics degree, and excel skills I learnt a decade ago. I also spent a lot of time studying the information on the ATO site and made six phone calls to their surprisingly helpful staff.

I found my expenses were considerably more than just $20 worth of telephone calls. There were also printer toner cartridges, pens, pads, folders, a percentage of depreciation of my computer equipment, a percentage of my broadband connection, a new cheap camera, 60% of a new cheap printer, and home office expenses of 34cents per hour. The grand total was $485.

I have changed from thinking earning my writing income only cost me time.

And if You Have Been Wondering…  

No, I have not finished writing my novel. Just get off my back, my muse is being crushed by all the guilt. I have just written a few thousand more words over the past few weeks and I am halfway through chapter 48. Interestingly, the POV character in this chapter is having a hard time convincing those around her that they’re all deluded and she isn’t. A bit like I have felt when attempting to communicate with people this week. Perhaps I did die in a train wreck on Monday (my train from Melbourne was delayed after it hit a car pushed onto the track by hoons). Either that or a full moon is affecting an awful lot of people. But anyway I know perfectly well how my misunderstood character is feeling. 

And if you really must know, I have written 96,300 words. Will I crack the 100,000 before the world ends on December 23rd?


Anthony J. Langford said...

Wow, that's a massive book! yeah, you'll get there.
Are the French trying to bankrupt their authors? Are their readers going off shore to buy cheaper books like people here?

I supported National Bookstore Day last Saturday by buying two books by Australian authors. It cost me almost $70. Paperbacks. That's pretty crazy.

The other day I wanted a Bukowksi book I hadnt read that was first published 20 years ago. Do you think I could find a reasonably priced copy here? No. I had to go off shore. Again. I don't like doing it, but sometimes...

(How about a post on internet ordering from Aussie bookstores? Some such as Readings in Melbourne are free, and others charge $7 for one book).

Graham Clements said...

According to the article in the NY Times the French bookshops are doing just fine, for every one that closes one opens, not like here. Book sales in France have increased 6.5 percent over the past eight years, so I gather their authors are doing fine too. And they have not lost all those sales to ebooks that Australian bookstores have. I think the French care a bit more about their culture then we do - with all the subsidies listed in the article.

I have been using the Book Depository more and more. I recently bought Aussie author's Adrian Bedford's latest from them, because the book is not published in Australia. I also find it much easier to get backlist novels from the Book Depository.

If you mean postage in regards to internet charges - the Book Depository has a deal through the Royal Mail which means that Australia Post can't charge them for delivery. Economies of scale definitely help Amazon, so does treating their warehouse workers like slaves and paying them low wages - as mentioned in one of my previous posts.

I am also reasonably sure that the French paperback is cheaper than ours - but dearer than the US version. Again it all comes down to the size of the market. Australian bookstores are servicing a smaller market.

Readings is pretty well know, so maybe their economies of scale make it more affordable for them to charge nothing for internet sales. Maybe they can force publishers to wholesale the book to them at a cheaper price.

I have huge issues with the Australian online site Fishpond whose site invariably crashes on me. I gave up on them after sending them an email telling them of the problem and getting a not very useful response of try firefox - which I had already said in the email that I used (explorer, google and safari all crahsed).I swapped computers and it still crashed.

Graham Clements said...

Two other things that make books bought from overseas cheaper are the exchange rate - if it dropped back to historical levels than that price of books we get from Amazon would rise 35%. Two, no GST. In fact Amazon does not pay any sort of sales tax in the US. Then their are bricks and mortar costs for local bookstores. So it is no wonder Australian bookstores charge a whole lot more.

Anthony J. Langford said...

For sure I understand importation issues, so why then are Australian books so expensive? They should be cheaper. They are not doing Australian authors any favours.
No one wants to see books drop to some international levels of $10-15 a book. But $32-35 is just nowhere near competitive anymore.

When competition comes along, the game changes. Publishers have stuck to the old models.

I think $20-$25 would see more people buying. They have to make short term sacrifices for long term goals. Or soon there will be no bookstores left. Not like there was at any rate.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

The Australian books are more expensive than the overseas book for all the reasons I have listed: the exchange rate; the GST; bricks and mortar costs of a bookstore; the pathetic wages Amazon pays its warehouse staff; economies of scale, ie, the larger the market the more sales and therefore the less the margins need to be and the more the cost of a producing a book can be spread over sales. All those reasons can easily account for books coming from overseas being 30 to 60% cheaper. And then you have Amazon loss leading discounting on top of that.

I think you are being ripped off by your book shop too. The last 6 books, not on special, that I have bought at three different bookshops in Wangaratta and Melbourne have ranged in price from $16.99 to $24.99. All were recently published. Three were by Australian authors including the cheapest one.