This is a strange blog post to be writing. It was supposed to be the announcement of the release of my new book, Black Spot. I’ve been talking about it here for years now, from conception to writing to shortlisting in the 2016 Text Prize to its planned publication. I’d originally planned to release it in February 2018 but life and a hectic new job kept delaying it. It was eventually ready by the end of May 2018 (apart from the cover, which would be ready a few weeks later). And then came something that threw a spanner in the works.
It’s not often that government and business decisions affect me directly but this one did. The Australian Government decided all online purchases under $1,000 sold into Australia by businesses outside of Australia would be subject to the 10% GST. (Previously, only purchases over $1,000 were subject to the tax.) And in direct response, Amazon decided it would no longer sell or deliver to Australia from its non-Australian sites.
Amazon does have a local Australian site – amazon.com.au – but it has only a fraction of the items available for sale on the US site and the prices are often more expensive than buying from overseas, even when taking into account currency conversion fees and shipping. So few people in Australia have been using it. Amazon’s launch here has generally been considered a flop.
So what better way to sure up the local site than by forcing people to use it, even when they don’t want to? At least, that’s what the conspiracy theorists are saying. Amazon says they’re not averse to the idea of the tax, they just don’t think they should be the ones responsible for collecting it. Other companies who will also be subject to the changes, such as eBay, have decided they will continue offering their complete range for sale in Australia and begin collecting the GST as required.
For anyone who can’t get what they need on the Australian Amazon site and wants to continue shopping on Amazon US or Amazon UK, they will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to get around the geoblocking – Australians won’t even be able to view the site if it can tell you’re trying to look at it from Australia – and a forwarding company to receive the delivery in the US or the UK and then on-forward it to its final destination.
So why is this such a problem for me? Because I’m an Australian, because I’m a writer, because the majority of my readers are Australian and because the only place they can get copies of my paperbacks is Amazon US and Amazon UK (as I have published with CreateSpace). At least until 1 July. After that, they won’t be able to buy copies of my paperbacks at all unless they’re willing to go to all the effort described in the paragraph above. I won’t even be able to put a link to these sites on my blog because I, as an Australian, won’t be able to find the link in order to copy it.
As such, I’ve put my publishing plans on hold while I investigate other options: publishing with a different print-on-demand company that will mean my paperbacks will be available in Australia or maybe still publishing with CreateSpace but finally setting up that author website I’ve had on the backburner and selling them myself into Australia.
I don’t know what the answer is yet. I just know that self-publishing is hard enough and this has only made it harder.
Of course, when the time comes, I’ll let everyone know when and where the book is available for purchase. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions or solutions, I’d love to hear them.