Vol 1, No. 4 ISSN 1442-0023
From the Director's Desk
Just when you thought it couldn't get any busier, it does.
I suppose it has something to do with my being away in North America for five weeks. I mean, someone's got to do it, right? The readings, the workshops, the research on the next book. IP now has some new friends in bookshops, libraries even a distributor for our work.
The climate over there for literary publishing seems to be fairly good. The Americans do things pretty much as we do, only bigger. One example is bookshops. One chain I hadn't heard of back east is called Borders. Take Gleebooks, multiple it by four or five, add a pleasant cafe where you can browse and sip cafe con leche to your heart's content, and you have the average Borders. It's a mega-store specialising in books and music - and not just mass market material. I found several bookcases worth of poetry, contemporary as well as classical, in the shop in Akron, Ohio hardly regarded as a centre of culture on the American scene. Mind you, I was the only one looking around in it, and there were no Australian authors represented, but you've got to start somewhere.
You'd think that the mega-shops like Border's and Barnes & Noble would have driven independent booksellers from the landscape, but it isn't true. I read at a pleasant one called Mac's Backs Paperbacks in the heart of Cleveland Heights, which has a loyal suburban clientele. Another stop was at Cat's Impetuous Books in Kent, Ohio, which had a reading room with character upstairs. I got to sign my name on the ceiling, along with other itinerant authors. And, yes, book sales were brisk.
At the Cleveland State University, they actually have a room at the library reserved for poetry readings and for visiting authors plush furnishings, poetry books on the shelves. Very civilised! The library has a special section devoted to contemporary poetry. Rather than trying to avoid it, they're actually looking for new work to add.
I also stopped in Seattle, Washington, home of Elliott Bay Books. Again, this is a large independent, which supports a lively reading program for visiting authors. There's something on literally every day of the week. And the bookshop actually promotes the titles it stocks. There are shelves of new works, prominently displayed, often with reviews written by the staff. I stopped in a few times, and the place was always packed with shoppers, not just browsers a good sign!
In February, I'll be travelling to Spain, courtesy of the Australia Council and the University of Barcelona, to give a paper on New Publishing and to read from my latest work at the Changing Geographies: Australia in the New Millennium Conference. My ticket for an invitation was doubtlessly my Hemingway in Spain and Selected Poems, but I also hope to promote my new books, Letters We Never Sent and Triangles.
As subscribers to this newsletter will know, Letters is to be published in digital form as well as in print. To this end I've been offered a Leighton Studio Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada in April-May 2000 to prepare a hypermedia version of the work, integrating the text with graphics, audio and video. I hope to bring back many good ideas for future applications to IP digital projects.
Have a look at the item about IP's Go Digital! Program, which offers authors digital production of their work as well as opportunities to market and sell their work from the IP site. If you're an author with work to promote, you owe it to yourself to investigate the advantages of Going Digital!
As we move steadily toward the holiday season, on behalf of IP, let me extend best wishes to you and yours, with high hopes for prosperity and success for the New Millennium even if we are starting the celebrations a year early.
It's hard these days finding anyone who thinks the GST will be good for them. The Government, perhaps. And even that is qualified. There are dire predictions about the sand under the footings of the Government's balance sheets.
But one things we can be sure of is that the GST will do nothing to improve the cash flow of authors, booksellers and publishers. Not that anyone else seems to care.
Our reading of the situation so far, without regards to the supposed "hundreds" of amendments yet to be considered by Parliament, is that the GST will make life harder for the cultural industries. On the face of it, it would seem that the costs to publishers will not increase, since we can claim "input tax credits" for items that other businesses charge us GST. It remains to be seen how GST will affect the price of paper, binding, packaging, shipping even before GST is applied. Remember, only the GST component itself can be recouped. If the cost of raw materials and services increases before the tax is applied, then publishers will have to increase the price of their products.
The news is worse for authors. Unless they can convince the ATO that they are a bona fide business, and not writing as a 'hobby', authors will be liable to pay GST on all their tools of trade and for any services they receive from agents or publishers. Self-publishers who are not granted a registration number may find that bookshops become increasingly reluctant to stock their books. Why? Our understanding is that a business cannot claim an input credit for goods produced by someone who is unregistered, yet it seems that those people must still charge GST for their books and remit the amount to the ATO. The bookshop would either have to charge two lots of 10% (actually almost 20.5%) to recoup the GST paid to the author and the GST owing to the ATO or absorb the first 10% to keep the cover price down. Alternatively, authors will have to charge less for RRP to ensure their book remains competitive. There's a fair bit of speculation in this, and things may yet change for the better once the Government comes to its senses regarding the effect of the GST on the cultural products of this country, but the signs at this point don't look good.
The ASA believes that authors who do not register for the GST will still be able to claim any GST paid as a "legitimate income tax deduction", and we hope that's so, but there's a logical problem with this. If the Government disallows hobby-authors from registering to claim input tax credits, why should it allow them deductions on their tax returns? There's a real danger that the label of hobbyist could be applied to disallow any sort of compensation, whether it be for GST paid or purchases made in aid of the hobby. Or the rules may be tightened to ensure that authors can deduct expenses only from income earned in pursuit of writing. Stay tuned.
For publishers, the GST will certainly not be cost-neutral, either. We can expect a chilling effect on sales for several months at least until people adjust to the fact that the GST is here to stay, and that if they want to read they will have to pay the extra amount for what they buy. A loss of cash flow for even a short period of time would be devastating for small publishers. The impulse may be to charge more for books to compensate, but this wll only prolong the coming ice age. By far the most dramatic change will be on the administrative side, setting up new processes for recording, reporting and paying GST. Increased accountant's fees. New software. More person-hours spent on tax-related matters. More time taken to adjust the costing of projects to ensure unit prices reflect the actual cost of compiling with the new system. The Government promises to allow businesses immediate credits for any expenses related to compliance with the new system, but this only means a business will not be out of pocket. It will take more time to set up and maintain the compliance system, and this will likely fall on the shoulders of already overworked staff.
But the accountants and lawyers will be smiling all the way to the bank after they've set up their own systems!
The best advice we can give is to be informed about the new system and to position yourself, as much as possible, to take advantage of the benefits it offers (however few they may be for people in this industry!) and to minimise your chances of being victimised by it. And keep lobbying the politicians on both sides of the House to reconsider their decision to apply GST to books and services provided to authors by the publishing industry.
In the meantime, don't give up your day job as a ploy to convince the ATO that you should be entitled to register for the GST. In fact, there seem to be hundreds of lucrative new jobs on offer by the ATO in what is bound to become the GST Compliance Industry. A change of job can be as good as a holiday. And there might even be a story in it!
So what's the State-of-the-Union with regards to digital publishing? With respect to technology, tomorrow is already here. Even small publishers can afford to publish online or CD versions of print work. With expertise and some added capital, they can invest in the hardware and software needed to produce digital work from scratch.
Bill Gates has forecasted that by 2008, 90% of all texts will be published in digital versions as well as or instead of in print. There's an analogy brewing here. While it's true that most people still prefer to read "real" rather than virtual books, publishers may decide to apply the squeeze as Apple did in the case of floppy disks. Rather than waiting for the floppy to die a slow death, Apple simply stopped including them in their new hardware. Voilá sales of zip drives took off.
It's only a matter of time until literary publishers do the same thing. Without government grants or subsidies from authors, publishing poetry, short fiction and experimental novels makes no sense on the balance sheet. "Print on Demand" remains an option, but that reduces the profit per unit sold even more. In reality, it only makes sense for projects that will eventually sell thousands rather than hundreds of copies.
The advantages to authors as well as publishers of going digital are many. Rather than having a shelf life of six weeks in some bookshops, a digital work can be stored indefinitely. So work need not ever go out of print. Creating new editions is considerably less expensive. And work becomes available for promotion and sale globally and much more quickly than if it has to go to print.
In the digital environment, literary work is no longer subject to the cost restrictions imposed on printed versions. Authors can introduce colour, sound and video into their work instead of relying solely on 100% black on white text. Collaborations are possible between text-based artists and artists working in other modes of expression. And the final products may very well be more commercial, given society's aversion to text-only work, evidenced by the erosion in sales of such work.
Publishers can reduce costs on all fronts. Editorial. Print management. Warehousing. Shipping. Experimental work suddenly becomes less risky to take on. Digital piloting of work of unproven commercial benefit becomes a real option. Distribution becomes a breeze, particularly when work is sold via online stores, where the customer pays and downloads digitally.
So where do you want to go from here?
The first step is to try out the technology on your existing work. IP, in its new Go Digital! Program, will assist authors to digitise their work. This will make it easier to promote and sell to a global market.
The plan works like this for authors: you provide us with an electronic version of your text, which we convert into an Acrobat pdf file. What's pdf, you say? Briefly, it's a file format that can be read by any computer, whether it's on Windows, Mac OS or what have you. Pdf files can be easily downloaded from a web site, attached to an email, or "burned" onto a CD, with no loss of quality from the original.
Once we've authored the pdf, we announce its existence to the world through our web site, our email circulars and IP eNews. Potential buyers visit the site, have a browse through a sample, then, hopefully, place their order online, which will be easier once IP has launched its new eStore watch this space!
Yes, you say, but will anyone actually buy my work? It's true that most people still prefer the feel of a physical book. Other than not producing physical books, the best way to convince readers to go digital is to make the digital version more attractive than the physical one.
IP can help in this arena, too. If the work is mostly text-based, we can fit quite a bit on a CD. An average book of poems, including a four-colour cover and preliminaries takes no more than a megabyte of space. Which means that we could theoretically publish 650 books of poems on a single CD! Even if we add some multimedia elements such as audio, we would still have lots of room.
This means that it's feasible to market anthologies of books on a single CD, or to invite buyers to choose whatever contents they want on a particular CD. We would charge them full-price for the most expensive digital book they want, then a discounted price for the others. The more books they buy, the bigger the effective discount. At the end of the day, they can have many digital books for the cost of a few printed ones.
IP is offering places in its Go Digital! Program to authors, whether or not they have published with us. They can either approach us now with details of their project or wait until we spell out the fine print early in the New Year. Of course there are costs involved with authoring the digital versions, promoting them on the web site and distributing copies to buyers, but we think the benefits of being in there at the outset make this a good investment. And we can tailor packages to individual tastes and budgets.
So, by all means, get in contact with us and stake your part in our digital future!
While in Ohio, David Reiter met with Mark Klemens, publisher at Balcones International Press (BIP). David ran across BIP while still in Australia, because they had published MTC Cronin's latest book, Everything Holy. The temptation to find out what would compel an American publisher to take on an Australian writer, even one as talented as Margie Cronin, was too great, so David asked for a meeting. He and Mark hit it off and signed an agreement that will see the two publishers distributing each other's books in their respective markets. For our part, we're pleased, in the first instance, to be promoting and distributing Margie's fine book. And of course all of IP's titles are now available for order from BIP's offices.
Having a foothold in the North American market is of course only the first step to take advantage of being there. In 2000, we plan to extend our database of contacts with libraries and academics and individuals interested in Australian writing. We invite any of those to subscribe to IP eNews to keep abreast of the latest and greatest on the Australian contemporary writing scene. Simply send a message to eNews@ipoz.biz, with "Subscribe" as the subject.
As we've mentioned before, we're more than pleased to consider feature articles (short & sweet!) on relevant topics for publication in IP eNews. Also consider writing a feature for our e-publishing forum, which will free up the Editor to address other pressing tasks!
[Editor's Comment] Margie Cronin's latest book, Everything Holy, was shortlisted for the 1999 Age Book of the Year Award and the new Queensland Judith Wright Calanthe Award. IP is pleased to be acting as distributor of this fine poet's work, so we invited her to tell you something about her poetics.]
write poetry? How not to write poetry? I never knew the answer to the first
question and I no longer know the answer to the second. But some important
thoughts: I write poetry because, for me, it is a way of being
in the world. In that world (this world?) I express, communicate, make sense
of some things, am bewildered by others, I relax, I am stimulated, I understand
and I am baffled. I also eat, sleep, walk, have sex, clean, cook, go to
the toilet, cry, laugh etc etc. Poetry takes care of all that. Poetry cares
for none of that. It is an interaction of what is instinctive and intuited
with what is presented and expected; of awe with what is taken for granted;
of all that is not fully understood with all that is not fully understood.
It is the essential mystery of humaness - all that I am capable of as an
intellectual and emotional entity who desires to make ever more
meaningful and wondrous images to push out into the conversation of life
- in my own words, words that never lose their mystery and do not desire
to, for truth is, by its very nature, mysterious. It is a constant and yet
everchanging joining of what I do not know and what I do; a way to learn
how to be whilst immersing myself fully in being.
in this process - for it is a process - I attend to as much as I can and
when I become aware of how much I have seen I am even more aware of what
I have missed, what it is that I might not know, what I might (will) never
know. That must go into poetry: the missing, the silence, the looking at
the knowing of oneself that acknowledges the incompleteness of all things.
And the contingency of the self and of the world is at the core of life
and thus, at least for me, of poetry, for it is in realizing that one is
a part, that all connections are made possible. Poetry is the celebration,
and also the exploration, of these connections (and lack of) and it makes
its way in the world by bumping and pushing and eliding and slipping and
wavering. I went looking for it and its way of life one day when it become
clear that I could not make sense of life and it has never disappointed
me. But then, I have never given it a hard time. I do not bad-mouth it and
I enter its sensibility easily and without complaint. All of its harsh and
beautiful musics I let straight to my heart - it can seep right through
the flesh if
you know the proper way to eat it! Dont ask me where the words come from - other peoples I can guess at (and will probably be wrong, but it doesnt matter); my own are less my own than what I could ever guess.
You heard about them here first isn't that why you subscribe to IP eNews?
IP will be releasing three new titles by April, 2000.
Letters We Never Sent is David P Reiter's fifth poetry work. It melds the poetic 'voices' of Paul Gauguin, in his self-imposed exile on Tahiti, writing back to his wife Mette, agonising over his life as an artist, his role as a father, and his tortuous relationship with Vincent Van Gogh. Interweaved with Gauguin's narratives are those of Ronald Symes, a British journalist who similarly turned his back on England to look for...what? A contemporary persona travels between Tahiti and the Cook Islands and other ports of call to reflect on related themes, establishing that Gauguin and Symes' concerns are timeless.
Just when you're getting comfortable with the flow of things, Reiter introduces 'Internet' sections, written during the process of composing the work. Just as the click of a mouse can send you instantly into uncharted waters, these sections play, like jazz improvisations, on the main themes of the work.
The ABC was so impressed with Letters in an earlier draft that they commissioned Reiter to adapt the Gauguin/Van Gogh sections into a radio play. The resulting script, Paul and Vincent, was broadcast twice on Radio National's PoeticA program.
Letters will be ground-breaking in more than its poetics. The print version will be published in April in a limited edition, but, for those of you who can't wait, there's good news you can order the digital text version now!
IP is offering the complete text via electronic download, or on CD-ROM. Now. And if you're the type of reader who still prefers the feel of a real book, there's more good news if you order both now you can have the print version for a substantial discount after the launch date.
A relatively new voice on the Queensland writing scene, Moss is quickly gaining a reputation for her maturity of vision and incisive use of language. She's one of that rare breed of writers equally at home with spoken word and page-based texts. Her terseness of phrase recalls Emily Dickinson, and the two authors share a fascination with the subject of isolation and the pressures it brings to bear on the poetic mind.
A Deep Fear examines our inner-most feelings and anxieties in fresh contexts and from unexpected angles. You enter the world of the depressed and marginalised but leave with new insights.
Upcoming from Glass House Books is R D Morrison's novel Last Journey. Already an author of novels for older teenagers, Morrison shows concern and sensitivity for the young in this intriguing and unusual adult work operating on more than one level. He explores such enduring questions as whether we truly choose our destiny or whether it is chosen for us.
Retired Sydney doctor Gabriel McLeish joins with a group of his elderly friends to make a difference by opening a refuge for homeless children in the Sydney harbour suburb of Manly. The "Pilgrims" as they call themselves as quickly drawn into the world of paedophiles and drugs as criminals try to put a stop to their efforts. Will the Pilgrims prevail in what Gabriel finally sees as "an unending...struggle between good and evil"?
[Editor's Note: While enjoying a good cup of coffee at the Border's Bookshop in Akron, Ohio, our Director struck up a conversaton with Professor Manoucher Parvin. When Professor Parvin discovered that he had written Hemingway in Spain and Selected Poems, he produced a copy of his own poem that he had recently read at an international festival on Hemingway, which we are delighted to reproduce below.
Aside from numerous articles in the Social Sciences, Professor Parvin has written two novels Avicenna and The Journey of the Spirits, as well as Cry for My Revolution, Iran.]
Papa Hemingway in Persia
first said hello to me in Persian
When I was just a boy and pretending to be the boy
In his little book The Old Man and the Sea.
Now years have gone, and Papa is gone
And I am the old man, Santiago,
Adrift in America without a sail
Mourning for my revolution in Iran
The shinning catch of the people
Shark-chopped and swallowed all.
Hemingway a strange name to me then
First spoke in Persian to me.
Seasons, languages, and oceans later
I learned Papa spoke in English, too!
And in Russian, Italian, Swahili, and in Spanish
The language of the old man and the boy.
Ah, I so wanted to be that boy
That gentle curious, eager boy that earnest boy
Who asked as 1 was, and am still asking:
"Tell me old man about your experiences."
dreams, experiences, and disappointments later
1 ask myself who is this man,
This Papa, this god of the boy,
This American, this Hemingway?
Who says the unsaid that must be said,
No more and no less,
His fitted words always enough
And never enough.
What were his experiences?
see now that he saw the world as a battleground
As bloody fields of illusions, mismatches, and clashes,
As jangles in jungles
As tangles and temptations, and
Everybody, and everything
Dancing with death to the very end.
So Papa joined the melee
With his vivacious heart,
His focused eyes, and his powerful arms.
He watched the fistfights, the bullfights, and
The dogfights and played poker games.
He fished big and hunted big, while
Conquering women and mountains on the side
Safaris in Africa, Hangovers in Havana,
Good food, good booze, good bosoms, and good books too.
went to war, slept in trenches
His body torn by an explosion,
His mind seeing deep and deeper, and
His spirit ascending high and higher.
kept fighting, and fighting
Papa kept writing, and writing
For thrills, for love, for liberty, and
For life and for life and for life
Indeed he did.
he not, like Santiago's fish,
Ripped open by sharks
Did he not rip himself open?
Did he not expose his guts to us?
His doubts? His demons?
not his own truths bite him back,
Again and again
Prompting him to say:
"A man should be known by the enemies he keeps."
Papa fought to be Papa and not to be bulldozed, or
Bullied into what he was not.
old man of the sea said:
"It is better to be lucky than exact"
But, Papa was both lucky and exact
Papa was the hook, barbed and deadly
Papa was the bait sweet smelling and good tasting
Papa was the patient fisherman, Papa was the eager boy
Papa was the fish, Papa was the shark
Papa was the sail, the sea, the wind and the gull.
Papa was everything in the old man and the sea.
1 first discovered that in my life
I have also been the fish, the shark,
The hook, the bait, the boy, and
The old man and the sea
I wondered: Did Papa also realize
That he was all these things too?
Every one even the fish? Even the shark?
Did he not banish himself,
Before he would have been banished?
And so as he said: "Even the sea sleeps"
was the boy, I'm Santiago now
And Papa says hello to me in English now
Papa says to me that a man can be destroyed
But never defeated that is a Hemingway man!
But Papa I say, I am not a Hemingway man
I'm a man who chooses flight over death
If I am not dead I can come back
And fight again and again.
shall not kill for fun Papa
I am an accented man
I think and talk with an accent
I write and feel and even love with an accent
Papa I love you, but I am not a Hemingway man
I am not a Hemingway man
But you are, Papa insists,
Remember, you are also your own man!
Papa, you too, have an accent
But yours is a universal accent
Transcending history and geography combined
Yes, you are in exile too, Papa
No matter when, and no matter where you sail!
"How much did you suffer," the boy asked
"Plenty," the old man replied, while thinking,
"And pain does not matter to a man"
And "It is silly not to hope,"
Then he spoke to himself:
"You think too much, old man"
I gaze at the same sea and the same stars Papa gazed at
Oh, how I wish I could give him a hug a Persian hug!
I smell the temporariness of all things in the air
The temporariness of grief, of joy, of Gods and tangerines!
Is life a false impression?
Or, perhaps a mystery discernible?
I smell the unknown lurking
In the future flickering!