Last weekend, the Irish Writers Centre held a full-day Publishing Seminar. The event featured talks from industry experts such as the Editorial Director with Hachette Ireland, Ciara Doorley; the Publicity Director of Penguin Ireland, Cliona Lewis; Literary Agent with Walsh Communications, Emma Walsh; the CEO of ePub Direct, Gareth Cuddy; and novelist Arlene Hunt.
The Writers’ Centre run a very good blog right here, and posted about the Seminar’s events for anyone, like me, who was unfortunately unable to attend.
According to Mary Russell, one of the attendees, the many topics of the seminar included the impact of the current recession — in layman’s terms, it means, “less advertising revenue for newsapapers and therefore fewer pages, therefore fewer book/writer features and fewer reviews.” The arts are usually hardest hit in an economic downturn, but with news like this from the Irish Times, it is not time yet for dismay — and this recession is not the first. Even Ezra Pound maintained that, “If a nation’s literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays.” Literature and the arts are integral to a nation’s independence and security. I cannot imagine the Irish writers, groups, festivals and readers allowing their culture to atrophy. We’re too proud of it, and rightly so: four Nobel Laureates in Literature, three Man Booker Prize-winners and more than ten shortlisted, and writers like Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and W.B. Yeats who each shaped the course of literary history and continue to influence contemporary writers — why wouldn’t we be proud?
Gareth Cuddy, CEO of ePub Direct, gave a PPP (purchasing power parity) at the seminar by announcing that eBooks sell at around £5.59 per copy. Compare that to a typical £7.99-£12.99 (usually €13.99+ in Ireland) for a paperback, and the boost in Kindle sales is surprising only in considering that it hasn’t already taken over the market. However, the debate between readers of eBooks vs paperbacks is still ongoing, as can be seen in this article from the New York Times. What is striking about eBooks is the open opportunity they give to authors who want to self-publish. Discussions surrounding eBooks inevitably include a discussion about the virtues of self-publishing, an issue already raised by the Alliance of Independent Authors on Facebook this week, which prompted some interesting feedback.
Emma Walsh, Literary Agent with Walsh Communications, explained at the seminar that it takes about four months to hear from a publisher after sample three chapters have been submitted. She only has four people on her books.
Conversely, Arlene Hunt, after she got her first book published, decided to set up small publishing company in order to self-publish her work, plus two books by other writers every year. The result was Portnoy Publishing, and the venture got a boost when Arlene and her husband got an order for 170,000 football-related books.
While I did not have the chance to attend the Seminar myself, the various blog posts and reports, especially from the wonderful resource that is the Writers’ Centre blog, emphasised the significance placed on having regular updates and insights into this industry that is so rapidly changing. Self-publishing is one of the new developments of the change, but as the Centre’s blog outlines so well, the important thing is to ‘Just. Keep. Going.’