PIRs – MORE ON “THAT” 1% LEVY – by Sharyn Lilley

Dymocks has sent material to the Labour Caucus meeting suggesting that a 1% levy on publisher’s sales could fund up to $15 million for grants for writers to write those culturally significant novels. http://www.theage.com.au/national/dymocks-says-levy-could-fund-writers-20091026-hgr4.html .

This intrigues me. I notice they make no mention of book sellers contributing to this levy, but they do mention that there could be losses amongst sales assistants if their version of change is not put through, and put through now!

A job loss is hard to bear no matter what you do. But massive job losses in the printing industry will be extremely hard to absorb as many will occur in small communities who rely on this work for their survival

In the course of discussions with other people on forums both for and against this proposal, I’ve learnt that most people accept it as a retail store’s right to routinely charge as high as 80% for goods in their stores, citing the risk the retailers take in stocking product; electricity, wages etc. So I’d like to do a layman’s look at how these things stack up.


If accepted by an agent, the agent approaches the publishing house on the author’s behalf, making it a solicited manuscript; slush pile readers for those increasingly rare publishers who will accept unsolicited manuscripts – Baen Books in the US have a 3 year wait on manuscripts in their slush pile; contractual lawyers, specialising in intellectual copyright; an editor assigned to work with the author to get the story ready for being printed. A copy editor to look for any grammar mistakes – feral commas and such, and typos; artwork commissioned for the cover; typesetting and layout designers.  There are the costs of housing the publishing house, rent or rates, editors, marketing team, web site developers, receptionists, electricity , phone calls, postage, wages, advances, royalties, payroll tax, business tax, accountants etc. This is before the book even looks like getting to the printers, where it has to be printed, proofed, any final adjustments made, then finally it is ready for printing (Wages PAYE and business taxation, paper stock, presses, cover stock, inks, finishes collating and binding, electricity, phone calls etc), and then to the distribution agent (warehousing; electricity, phone calls; transportation – fuel, vehicles, insurance, sales reps, PAYE tax, business tax etc.)


Book sellers receive a percentage of the RRP on each book they sell. This doesn’t mean they can’t then add extra to the RRP, overcharging does happen. They also have to have premises, involving rent or rates, electricity; accountants, or taxation agents for business and PAYE tax; store fittings (book shelves) electricity, phone calls; franchise holders are automatically in the parent company’s website, otherwise use of a web developing company’s service; sales assistants wages.

Oh, and that ‘risk’ the retail side takes in stocking books? If they don’t sell them they are sent back, and they get fully reimbursed for any ‘risk’ they may have taken. So you tell me, gentle reader, who best can afford to contribute to a levy for Australian books?


3 thoughts on “PIRs – MORE ON “THAT” 1% LEVY – by Sharyn Lilley

  1. If we wanted the levy at all, you mean? I’m pretty sure most Australian writers don’t want a government-run, tax-funded charity to support them. They’d rather be able to sell their work to Australian publishers.

    And that means retaining PIRs.

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