A couple of years ago Affirm Press publically made a stand in favour of Australia’s strong independent bookshop culture by not supplying paper versions of our titles to Amazon or the Book Depository. We got positive feedback from a number of store owners and it was very gratifying to receive that support, and to know that we were putting our money where our mouth was when it came to supporting local retailers.
Truth is, it’s been an enormous pain not supplying Amazon and Book Depository, and there were even additional costs for excluding ourselves from their feed. But the real hassle has been in the service we’ve been able – or unable – to provide our authors, many of whom have extensive networks of friends, family and professional associates overseas. Naturally, those networks always want to get hold of their friend’s book, but how and where? We always recommend buying the ebook, but people really still want the print editions. We’ve also sent a few books from the office but, man, those postage costs are a killer. The only alternative, when the rights to our authors’ books haven’t been sold in those territories, is for their friends to purchase books from an Australian online retailer and pay for the freight.
Just one example is poor Tony Atkinson, the 88-year-old author of A PRESCRIBED LIFE (an hilarious memoir about his time working as a footman for Queen Elizabeth II and waiter for Winston Churchill). Tony came to Australia for ten pounds in the 1960s but it was going to cost his friends even more than that to get his book posted to them back in dear old Blighty in the 21st century!
Tony couldn’t understand why his friends weren’t able buy his book without paying a king’s ransom on the flipping post. ‘It’s Book Depository, Tony, they don’t do anything for local publishing,’ we told him. ‘Well, can’t you get it published in the UK?’ he’d say. ‘It’s not that easy, Tony, sorry. There’s nothing we can do.’
Tony wasn’t alone in his frustration, and with more and more international interest for more and more of our titles – not a week goes by without a request from overseas – we’ve finally had to admit that there IS something we can do. And as of today, we have done it. Affirm Press titles are available on Book Depository with free postage anywhere in the world. Free postage. Completely mad, isn’t it?
We remain committed to supporting local booksellers in any way we can, without impinging on the success of our authors or just annoying the hell out of them. We informed Books & Publishing about this and consulted a few activists among the indie retailers about our change of policy and they understood our reasons for the change – we hope you do too. But we got some positive press when we announced this strategy a couple of years ago, so if you consider this an unreasonable backflip, feel free to let us know. Meanwhile, I’m going to call Tony with the good news.
All the best,