International Sales Director Andrew Brewer: A Visit to Australia

Australia is large and a very long way away from the US and UK. These are well-known facts about the country. Less well-known, but common knowledge at the Press, is that Australia is a vibrant English-language book market, with a flourishing independent bookshop sector. Book sales are not dominated by online vendors. This is a very distinctive feature of the market there and makes it especially attractive for any English-language publisher, and especially one with global ambition.

But to return to the first point: Australia’s distance from our main centres of production means our books arrive there with a considerable freight cost applied. The result is an uncomfortable price fit with the local market. In addition the higher prices on our books actively encourage buying around, so individuals frequently take advantage of offshore online vendors, like The Book Depository in the UK (who offer free freight around the world). As a consequence, a proportion of our sales to Australia do not register in the ANZ territory at all.

Nevertheless, our sales and distribution partner in Australia – Footprint – have done a consistent job getting Princeton books into bookshops there, both chain and independent, and I travelled to Australia to judge this at first hand in February. Like the books, I also arrived with a considerable freight cost applied. It was my good fortune to be accompanied by Sarah Caro who, as well as joining me for some of my meetings, was there on the lookout for future authors among the local academic community. Sarah also found time to fulfill another of our global Princeton duties – adding to the Princeton in the World series:

 

We visited Melbourne and Sydney. There were many displays of Princeton books to be seen. Here are some highlights:

Readings Bookshop, Melbourne. This is a great bookshop, close to the university. Bright, modern, lively, with knowledgeable and engaged staff.

More from Readings. The Ancient Wisdom series was a constant bookshop companion throughout the trip, showing up in virtually every store we visited. We already know it’s a great series, but in distant locations like Australia, a series like this has great value for the way it extends the Princeton brand.      

Ai Weiwei books stacked up at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

The HIGHLIGHTS wall at the lovely Kinokuniya store in Sydney, where we see more Ancient Wisdom on display (middle drop, third shelf down).

And here is Ai Weiwei’s Humanity (bottom l/h corner), playing its part in the Crazy Good Asian promotion at the front of the Kino store:

 

Along with our visits to accounts, we were invited to the opening of the new campus bookshop at the University of New South Wales, where author Marcus Zusak gave an entertaining speech (he’s also a very friendly guy). Another striking element of the event was hearing the vice-chancellor of the university tell the audience that books and bookshops were central to the university’s vision for their students; this is an enlightened viewpoint!

The Future:

One result of the higher prices applied to Princeton books, and the buying around among consumers to better the local price, is rather flat sales year-to-year, which do not map onto our overall international sales growth.

So what are we doing to address this? One strategy is to experiment with locally produced editions of our books specifically for the ANZ market. The first such experiment will be John Quiggin’s Economics in Two Lessons. Quiggin is at University of Queensland, and his Zombie Economics did well for us in Australia. Because the trade market there has a strong preference for new titles in paperback, we will produce our edition of Quiggin in paper, priced at the level the market expects. It will be an interesting trial run for a programme we hope we can extend steadily over time.

In the longer term, we would also like to print more of our titles closer to the ANZ market. China is the obvious location. Production in China should reduce to some extent the cost-to-market for our books. Australia represents a wonderful opportunity for our books to sell, whilst also offering significant challenges. We look forward to establishing ourselves more firmly in the bookselling world there.