The following is one of many letters I have sent to senior politicians and public servants regarding the ineligibility of self-published authors to enter the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. This, like many others, has been addressed to the First Assistant Secretary of the Prime Minister's Department, Sally Busser.
Should any of you agree with my thoughts, start writing to the PM. After all, it is 2012!
Thanks for your reply. I also am pleased that the PM's Award now has a poetry category - an issue I've been lobbying for ages. However, with great respect, you did not answer my question which is on every self-published author's lips. I'm sure one of your staffers prepared your email. But you are the First Assistant Secretary!
Question: would you see a time in the near, or far distant future, when tax-paying self-published authors will be permitted to enter the PM's award?
1. I have spoken to many senior people in the industry in Australia (FAW, ASA, Wheeler Centre, VWC and other writers organisations in Australia; including senior staff in the Prime Minister's office. The latter gave me some fairly poor reasons as to why self-published authors cannot enter the PM's award. Basically, their assumption is that self-published authors write and prepare poor quality books that are not worthy of entry. That is a fallacy. I, like many other serious and professional writers, have worked dilligently to produce a product that is professional in every way - paying professional editors to appraise my work prior to publication. We must be professional because writing, and being accepted as an author, is a tough gig.
2. All books entered in the PM's Award should be judged on their merits. It's that simple. So, if certain entries contain grammatical errors or typographical errors, then let them be judged accordingly - they will not cut it if they are poorly presented. As I pointed out to a very senior member of the PM's office who had a family background in publishing, "If a book looks like a fully bound book, has an ISBN number and CIP number from the National Library, then one can accept it as a book. Manuscripts and documents in plastic folders are clearly not deemed to be a book."
3. I have recently entered my self-published book in the following major book contests; none of which discriminated against self-published authors:
WA Premier's Book Awards - 2 categories.
Miles Franklin Award - 1 category.
Commonwealth Book Prize - 1 category.
Environment Award for Children's Literature (The Wilderness Society) 1 category.
SA Premier's Award - 3 categories.
Children's Book Council of Australia, Book of The Year Awards - 2 categories.
CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature - 1 category.
2011 National Literary Awards - 2 categories.
In the coming months I will also be entering the 'Age' Book of The Year Award and Victorian, NSW and Queensland Premier's awards.
4. Sally, I would not be the least bit surprised if an author or writer's organisation soon lodges a writ against the PM and her department via the ACCC / National Competition Council and or The Human Rights Commission in the Federal Court, claiming: discrimination, denial of natural justice, restrictive trade practices, unfair practices, restriction of free competition, lack of equal opportunity etc. An inability to enter the PM's Award also infringes upon certain conventions of the Internationl Labour Organisation (ILO). I'm sure a successful OR unsuccessful claim in the Federal Court would not offer the PM's Award any kudos.
5. I have read the BISG report and summarised the recommendations. However, one of the main issues for authors is that they receive 10% of the RRP of their book. Thus, a $30 book will make the author $3.00. Yet, the distributors and booksellers receive a larger slice of the pie - a pie they did not bake. In short, booksellers and distributors feed off and scavenge from the abilities of authors. Publishers and authors are at the bottom of the food chain. Seems terribly inequitous to me, and others - as per the comments in recommendation 19 of the Book Industry Strategy Group (BISG) which mentioned two salient points:
a. The low level of remuneration for authors
b. Fluctuations in their remuneration
6. Sally, for a country of 22,000,000 people, we have a plethora of writers and creative people, as we have had since the 26th of January 1788. We, all of us, but especially you guys who are paid to make decisions, must ensure that all forms of creativity are encouraged in this country. In doing so, we will become a world leader in literature - not only in sports. I guess one suggestion would be to establish an Australian Institute for The Arts; similar to the Institute for Sport which pumps heaps of taxpayers dollars into sporting men and women who do very well financially - during and after their careers ... thank you very much.
The fact that self-published authors cannot enter our Prime Minister's Literary Awards is an appalling slap in the face.
I and others who made submissions to the BISG and the National Cultural Policy would be interested to know if these specific points I've raised are a high priority for your department? They certainly are for us.
Thanks for listening.
I'm Clancy Tucker