Publishing : Australia vs Overseas… and the pandemic

Will I be able to afford to buy my favorite new release post-pandemic?

Does the U.S. economy have a monopoly on publishing economy? What do forecasters say for writers in America and Australian the face of the pandemic? Are our futures safe?

With today’s reach via the internet, authors can reach international markets with e-book sales easily; and shipping costs may impact sales for hardback or paperback copies, but that too can be circumvented by stocking large online resellers, or subscribing to print-on-demand services. If you are self-published, you have complete control of these revenue streams, but for traditionally published there is a quagmire of International law around sales and distribution that your publisher handles. Measured with a sharp eye on cost/benefit analysis whether your book will perform well in certain regions. It’s all a very intricate web of research, finance, legal rights, and marketing. So does it make sense for Australian writers to court American publishers for their debut with a traditional publisher considering USA has a double the market share compared to their home country?

It’s an interesting topic that gives me a headache if I think too much about it – because of all the moving parts. I know some published authors here in Australia mention that it’s hard to break into the U.S. market because they’re viewed as sub-par (depending who you talk to) and compared to Australian authors who have signed in the States and performed really well in all markets. Much of the information I’ve garnered is anecdotal, but it is from working writers, published authors, so there has to be a grain of truth to the snub Australian authors face when trying to break into overseas traditionally published markets. Or it may simply be that you are a big fish from a small pond entering the ocean… you are lost in a fierce amount of competition in turbulent currents with little or no experience on how to navigate those riptides. You not only have to have skill in writing, but a great team with connections on your side to catch the tide in your favor.

Okay enough with the sea analogies.

Given that the U.S. market share is the largest in the globe, (followed closely by China) there is potential to earn the most income from breaking into that market. So comparing authors (of any nationality) published in America to those of their Australian counterparts is like pulling up to a Mercedes Benz at the traffic lights and find your sitting on a scooter. Same amount of work went into the finished product, but you just didn’t have access to the market (and subsequently, the funds.) The average Australian author earns an average salary of A$13,000 (US$10,007) compared to an average author from the USA – US$51,170 (AU$66,473). That’s a huge difference in ratio of income to market share! What has me alarmed is that an updated figure for Australian Authors earnings after the impact of the pandemic reported by Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas and Charlotte Wood (when discussing the Federal Arts Package) recently have estimated the average income at as low as $AU 3,000 ($US2,319). No matter which way you look at it, the average Aussie writer is living WELL below the poverty line if they rely on this medium for their sole income. Despite the larger challenges, it’s looking like breaking into the American market is highly lucrative and worth the risk.

That research further shows that “among 33 OECD countries, Australia ranked 26th in the level of investment in arts and culture from all three tiers of government. The OECD average was 1.11% of GDP compared with Australia’s 0.77%.” So not only are Australians earning near the lowest income from writing in developed countries, it is also investing even less in supporting and developing this sector. I see incentives from writing groups here in Australia, and read great content getting published, but it honestly does not get enough hype and marketing overseas… we have such incredible talent, but when I look at market studies and government support for the industry, it makes me want to pack a suitcase and relocate to the States.

Many of the papers and studies I’ve been reading pre- and post-Covi-19 pandemic paint a fluctuating economy. Bookstores closing, yet book sales rising… it’s all very confusing. I feel it’s more like luck guiding our careers. Take a punt and cross your fingers to hope for the best. But above all be consistent and don’t give up… stay in the fight until you get your break.

So, putting aside all the technical jargon, let’s ask readers these questions:

  • Do you care about the nationality of an author when you buy their book?
  • Do you intentionally seek out foreign published works when looking to pick up a new book or rely on advertising materials or suggestions from the likes of Goodreads and Amazon?
  • Do bloggers or friends help you decide on your next purchase?
  • How much does cost come into play when you buy a book?

Because, honestly, the global market would not be sustainable if consumer behavior changed. If American readers branched out of regional sales in the publishing industry – and they can afford to because the cost price would be negligible – it would open doors for a truly global market. But does that mean the average U.S. reader holds the future of the global market in their reading choices? What do you think?

Personally, every time I buy a new hardback or paperback in Australia, I’m looking at needing to spend on average $AU25.00 ($US19.50) no matter what the country of origin. If I purchase online or instore… that puts buying physical books into the category of a luxury item when comparing it to the unemployment benefits we receive in this country. Just to put it in perspective. Obviously there are cheaper options, like waiting for a sale, buying second hand, borrowing from the library, or purchasing an e-book copy. But it means as a reader, my access to the market is limited. As an avid reader (and writer) that depresses me.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Reckoning’ by Magda Szubanski

Enlightening personal history of identity, country and family.

Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, War, History

No. of pages: 400

Magda Szubanski’s childhood in a suburban migrant family was haunted by the demons of her father’s life in wartime Poland. At nineteen, fighting in the Warsaw resistance, he had been recruited to a secret counter-intelligence execution squad. His mission was to assassinate Polish traitors who were betraying Jewish citizens to the Nazis. The legacy of her father’s bravery left the young Magda with profound questions about her family story.

As she grew up, the assassin’s daughter had to navigate her own frailties and fears, including a lifelong struggle with weight gain and an increasing awareness of her own sexuality. With courage and compassion Szubanski’s memoir asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.

Magda Szubanskiis one of Australia’s best known and most loved performers. She appeared in a number of sketch comedy shows before creating the iconic character of Sharon in ABC-TV’s Kath and Kim. She has also acted in films (Babe, Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet, The Golden Compass) and stage shows. Reckoning is her first book.

Magda Szubanski is an impressive woman and a magnanimous writer. Her style is beautiful, melancholic, and haunting. I was bursting with pride and envy upon reading her memoir – her writing skills are first class.

I’m not big on memoirs or autobiographies, but frequently pepper them in my reading schedule because I like to take in a wide breath of writing styles and subjects. ‘Reckoning’ first attracted me because Magda has been the one Australian actress/comedian that has been a constant with me throughout my life. I was always amazed at her work, her humour, her skills in all the endeavours she put her hand to. Then as I started to get into the memoir, I discovered that we were kin on so many other levels. Her father is Polish and served – and survived – the war; my partner is part Polish, descendant from the royal family, and served in the NZSAS, and some of the atrocities he has lived through quite frankly scare the bejeezus out of me. Magda counts herself as a part of the  LGBTQIA+ community as do I, and issues pertaining to identity, coming out, admonishing over labels and perception I can fully relate to. The loss of loved ones – check! And trying to navigate the world as a woman in male dominated industries… need I say more. Though in having said all that, ‘Reckoning’ heavily deals with history and identity of a country which was just about wiped off the face of the earth. A people who only have a history of pain, death, and displacement.

Reckoning’ is a lot to digest. It’s full of a time of humanity at its worst, mixed together with Magda coming to terms with her families role in that period, and, like a heavy sweater, something she drags around with her, trying to fit in today’s society. So I had to put this down a lot. It was emotional, difficult, and confronting subject matter. Distinctly Australian and nostalgic. But also triggering. It brought up all my insecurities again, as Magda faced hers,  and had me reliving precious childhood memories that I don’t even have the opportunity of sharing with family again because they have all passed on.

We also get snippets of her professional acting career; and not really a behind the scenes feel, but a glimpse into her emotional and mental states around those events. I loved how this is not anything like the memoirs I’ve recently read from other famous female actors and comedians. In comparison those are fluffy, feel good pieces, where ‘Reckoning’ is a soulful powerhouse.

This memoir feels more like a love letter to her father, and the Polish people. It’s about her discovering her heritage and using that as a lens to confront her own identity. Though this writing was completely unexpected, I can say with all honesty this memoir is the best of this genre I have read to date. The only down side is that it may isolate some younger readers and can get a little bogged down in history. But this is definitely a memoir I will be recommending to everyone.

Overall feeling: I stand with you…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Women in Writing – has the pay scale equalised with their male counterparts?

Women in Writing has the pay scale equalised Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I was looking into the gender pay gap, chiefly in writing as a career, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Keep in mind that writing can include journalism, copywriting and marketing, book writing, technical writing, and the list goes on…

Drawing on general statistics from governing bodies and research biometrics we can conclude that writing does not suffer the gender pay gap as much as other pursuits. In general the figures show female writers are looking at 97-99 percent of a male counterpart’s wage. Though more media focused professions tend to see a larger gap, close to 80%. A prime example of this is in 2017 when Lisa Wilkinson abruptly departed her position as host of Channel Nine’s Today Show after almost a decade when the network refused to match her pay demands to that equaling her male co-host Karl Stefanovic.  Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/2017/oct/18/australia-gender-pay-gap-why-do-women-still-earn-less-than-men

Women in Writing has the pay scale equalised Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Though, when doing research for this article I was gobsmacked at how much of a gender pay gap still exists on a global stage across all sectors of employment today. I could get very emotional about the injustice of it all and go on a rant, but I’m focusing on the facts I’ve gleaned within the writing community because it directly affects me. Publishing seems to be a much more accommodating environment for female careers. But if you want some interesting general facts about the gender pay gap check out this article: https://www.aauw.org/2019/04/02/8-surprising-facts-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

For general take home pay across all industries, I have found typically there is less of a margin of difference for differing sexes wages here in Australia compared to other countries. And it also seems skewed towards industries that are dominated by men, run or managed by men. Like favors like it seems. In industries dominated by female staff we see more of a balance, except in the retail sector where women typically earn more than men for the same job.

For contrast, I canvased over fifty writers that I know who have published 2 or more books in Britain, America, and Australia with an equal representation of genders to get a view if there was a gender pay gap in authors. Covering traditionally published fiction, Non-fiction, and differing genres. There were some interesting findings – but this may not represent the community at large because of the sample size, opportunity, how much independent effort the author undertook to boost sales – there are so many factors that can influence the results, but it’s a nice litmus test into my favoured profession.

Technical writers in non-fiction favor men over women (but I have a feeling this was due to professional qualifications and time in the industry. But that could also mean that men were favoured over women for opportunity and career advancement. It’s such a microcosm of a niche it was hard to get a handle on what the landscape was like.”

Women in Writing has the pay scale equalised Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Women dominated YA and romance fiction and tended to not only get higher signing bonuses, but produced more novels per year on average, thus being seen as a better investment for publishing houses.

Men skewed higher than women in thriller, adventure, and horror genres. This has to do a lot with famous authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, and Clive Cussler to name a few, paving inroads and publishing houses wanting to emulate their success.

Science Fiction and contemporary novels came up and even odds. As did historical fiction.

Though when you look as historical non-fiction male authors dominated the field and drew in much larger signing bonuses and sales figures (you know what they say – history was written by old white guys.)

There is an increasing trend in feminist literature that is seeing some great in roads to a completely female dominated genre with great rewards.

Memoirs and Autobiographies were interesting to look at. Ten years ago it was mostly dominated with male writers pocketing huge bonuses, but it seems to be swinging to a more female dominated market. Though they are not getting the kind of bonuses the men saw in the past, but that has more to do with economics and the industry that it does gender and opportunity.

Children and middle grade books were also dominated with women and their income was actually higher than those offered to their male counterparts.

I think overall the trend I see is in more serious and factual based writing we see men getting the professional notoriety and opportunity – and that also being reflected in their offers and income streams. Whereas women dominate in the creative, touchy-feeling genres, or genres reaching into childhood and female literature.

Sarah Connell and Julia Flanders

The industry is also still going through even more change with profiles like Ursula LeGuin and J.K. Rowling getting accolades for their body of work and many contemporary female authors having their novels optioned for film and television, we are seeing the gender pay gap getting mostly obliterated, and more opportunities being afforded to women. As to opportunity for people of colour and those who don’t conform to gender norms, to those of a variety or sexualities. It’s great to see such diversity and equal opportunity spreading throughout the industry – and have that reflected in the amount we get paid for our craft.

I wish I could discuss specifics and figures, but a key part of getting information for this article was keeping personal financial information private. Fair enough. I’m just greatful for the opportunity.

There was also a skew in the results with certain publishing houses. Some were more generous in their signing bonuses than others. But in some of the cases where I was privy to a lot of information, I can see everyone was judged on their own individual merit and what they could bring to the table in the arrangement. So while the overall figures still show the men being offered larger signing bonuses in certain categories and as the bigger earners overall, there was a balance for writers across the board. I think the industry will balance out even more in the near future as we see staffing changes and old attitudes pushed out of the industry.

The take home summary of my research shows that even though the gender pay gap in writing and publishing is one of the smallest in comparison to other industries, there is still a lot of work and attention needed to bring it to an even, open opportunity landscape. It’s great that we can even have these types of discussions. I know if this topic was brought up when I first started writing I would have been tsk-tsked out of the room. For me personally when I applied for jobs, or put in a submission for work, my worth would also include my appearance. If I was too attractive, I couldn’t also be intelligent. If my qualifications exceeded those of the interviewer, I was seen as a threat. Such a delicate rope we walk in the social-political climate. But with more ‘woke’ attitudes, more exposure and open discussions on equality, and deconstructing discrimination we are seeing a more accepting, global movement for equality. And that gives me hope for the future… and for my writing career.

 

What have been your experiences in the gender pay gap? Do you know of any writing-centric experiences or statistics that can add to this topic? I’m interested to build a better snapshot of opportunity and remuneration afforded women writers.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Sunshine, Star Wars, predators and pirouettes all in one afternoon… by Casey Carlisle

Your breathing resembles sounds made by Darth Vader… and try as you might, you can’t silence the noise as you stare at a predator, sinuating in a languid fashion toward you with hungry black eyes.

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It may sound like a line from a horror story, but in fact I was having the time of my life – I thought, since posting about many of the research trips I’ve been involved in under the ‘HeadUnderWater’ tag, this time I’d post about something more recreational…

Stealing away a Sunday on a friends sailboat (how’s that for alliteration), we headed for secluded waters along the Great Barrier Reef to make the most of the sunshine and high visibility waters. There is nothing like cruising along the ocean with a warm salty breeze playing through your hair while enjoying a good book!

Our Skipper, Paul, knew of a great dive spot for coral canyons – a fantastic spot to get an eyeful of the plethora of marine flora and fauna. I’d been visiting small reef crops, grass beds and sandy Bay floors quite frequently and was really looking forward to the experience.

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This day, the water was freezing (because we were close to the outer edge of the reef) and I donned a full-body wet suit. There were five of us on the dive, including two avid underwater photographers (hence the brilliant photos) I met for the first time. As they flippered excitedly about, my buddy, Jasmine and I were content to wade along the canyon wall, ogling and admiring the various familiar species and coral formations. I couldn’t help thinking how amazing this would look during a night dive under a blacklight.

A highlight was the visitation of a curious Grey Nurse shark, meandering in the periphery for a while before heading off to more appetising morsels. Our site consisted of a series of shallow canyons cutting into the edge of the reef that often have large schools of fish and numerous turtles (and the occasional shark). Along the ridges between the canyons, groups of big fin reef squid swim in vertical formation in the water column, rippling with changing colours as they reacted to our presence. I couldn’t help but think of Luke Skywalker zooming through the gully of the Death Star on his bombing run as I paddled in the anemone encrusted ravine. At least no one was firing pot shots at me!

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Taking a break from the fascinating biology, Jasmine and I amused the others with our take on an underwater ballet. And I’m sure if fish could laugh, that is exactly what they were doing, watching our clumsy attempt at pirouettes and jetés in the viscous water. I may admit to many photos being taken of our performance, but then I’d be asked to post them here – so let’s just leave it to your imagination.

Swimming down and out over the gently sloping sand towards 18 metres, you can see some large scattered bommies, each with their own individual makeup of species and each worth a visit – if only we had the time… Jasmine, with her charade to return to the surface reigned in my curiosity.

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Waving to a scaly friend, who looked suspiciously like JarJar Binks, I made my way back to the yacht; looking forward to a hearty meal before heading back to solid ground. A lovely day with new and old friends on a boat aptly named ‘Hyperdrive’ all that was missing was a dog named Chewbacca and someone wearing their hair in side buns, Princess Leah-style.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.