Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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ASA calls for JobKeeper extension amid ‘slow and long’ Covid fallout

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) has called for an extension of the federal government’s JobKeeper payments beyond the end of September for creators who currently can’t access the scheme due to the delay in receiving royalty payments.

The recommendation is one of several in the ASA’s submission to the Senate Select Committee on Covid-19, which was established to inquire into the government’s response to the pandemic.

The ASA is also calling for increased funding to the Australia Council ‘for recovery in the literature sector’, an ‘urgent expansion of the Australian lending rights scheme to encompass digital formats, particularly in light of the substantial increase in digital loans (ebook and audiobooks) from libraries during the pandemic and beyond’, as well as ‘active support from Government for “buy local” and “support Australian stories” messaging in the Covid-19 recovery phase’.

The ASA requested that the government remove tax on all major literary prizes in Australia and is calling for a Parliamentary Inquiry into the future of Australian literature.

‘We have not yet been able to quantify the full economic impact of Covid-19 on authors and illustrators because so many of the consequences are still ahead of us,’ the ASA said. However, the organisation explained, ‘Our view is that there has been an immediate loss of income from cancelled appearances at schools, libraries and festivals; cancelled promotional tours and launches; cancelled or deferred workshops through the State and Territory Writers Centres (a significant employer of writers through their workshops); and the evaporation of casual work as teachers in schools and some universities which many authors use to supplement their income.

‘Even more significant, however, is the looming decline in royalties … In our view, the fall-out from Covid-19 for writers and illustrators will be slow and long.’

The ASA cited the closure of many bookshops during the pandemic, and the reduction of international rights sales as a result of cancelled book fairs. ‘Very limited international travel will have stunted the ability of books with international appeal to reach their potential,’ the ASA said.

‘We’re forecasting cash flow issues for many smaller publishers whose businesses are run on extremely tight margins … With market uncertainty and lower publisher reserves, we can expect more cautious, “safe” and celebrity publishing, and fewer risks on unknown authors.’

The ASA pointed to the likelihood that the market would be crowded in the latter part of the year due to deferred titles and that this would be to the disadvantage ‘of all but the most high profile authors’.

‘Authors are paid last in the publishing supply chain … our expectation is that royalties in late 2020 will be low, but also, possibly paid late or not paid at all in some instances,’ the organisation said. ‘We’re relying on the complete recovery of bookstores across Australia to drive strong royalties for authors and illustrators, in a recession.’



Category: Local news