Friday, September 23, 2011

Why the price difference?

If you look at the back cover of Hal Junior, or search out the various catalogue pages on the web, you'll discover a discrepancy in the price. The UK price is 5.99, the US price is $6.99 and the Australian price is ... $16.95. Woah! I thought we were at parity with the USD?

A small part of the difference can be explained by the higher printing costs in Australia. (Australian minimum wages and commercial rents are much higher than the US.)

The other issue is distribution. In Australia, stores, schools and libraries usually buy from distributors at 40% off the cover price. Distributors buy from the publisher at 55% off the cover price. So, a shop pays $10.17 for a $16.95 book, including about $1 GST. The distributor pays $7.62 including about 70c GST. In each case the difference is their gross profit.

Take the GST off the 55% discount price and you come back to $6.90 or so, which is the US retail price. Given printing in Australia costs almost twice as much, you can see that authors make less selling a book for $16.95 in Australia than they do selling the same title for $6.99 in the US!

You may ask yourself why Australian shops don't buy direct from publishers. Some do, but for accounting and transport reasons it's easier to buy from two or three sources. (This is a HUGE country with a tiny population of 20-odd million.)  It's not just books either ... this system applies to most products in Australia.

Okay, so what if authors sell their books direct to the public? They could sell them for $9.95 and make more than they would selling at $16.95 via a shop!

Nice idea, but distributors and shops aren't going to carry and promote a book if authors undercut them by a huge margin. (When I signed a contract for my previous series there was a clause forbidding me from selling copies myself.)

Plus I'm supposed to be writing books, not packing and mailing them.

So what's the solution? One is to go out and invent a teleporter, so books can be moved around the vast Australian continent quickly and cheaply. A slightly less complicated answer is to keep the price at $16.95 but offer free postage. (Alas, postage in Australia is expensive too.)

It's not an ideal situation, and you can see why online shopping has caught on in Australia in such a huge way. You can't open a newspaper without seeing an article on the suffering of retailers, or the enormous rise in parcels handled by Australia Post.

I hope that goes some way towards explaining the price discrepancy. I don't like it either, but I have to work within the same system.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

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