What is Publishing Like in Ireland?
- Are people buying less paper books in favor of eBooks?
- Do foreign authors have agents?
- Do any of their best sellers make it into our market?
I reached out on Twitter to find out. Roisin Meaney, author of over 10 books, graciously shares her experience below.
Guest Blogger, Roisin Meaney
Entering a First Draft Into a Competition
It was one of the few times in my life that I managed to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. It was 2002, and I had just dotted the last i on the first draft of my first novel, The Daisy Picker. I knew it was going to make a big splash as soon as it was published: I just didn’t know how to get it there. I asked my pal Judi, whose first novel had recently been picked up, what I should do next, and she told me that her publishers, a new fiction imprint of an established Irish publishing house, were running a competition to find the next bestseller. Clearly it was me they were looking for, so I got in touch and sent in my first three chapters as requested. Then I sat back and waited.
You’re Expecting to Hear That I Didn’t Win, But I Did
And now you’re expecting to hear that I didn’t win, but I did. Right place, right time. The prize was a modest cheque and a two book publishing deal. Of course it took another two years and several more drafts before The Daisy Picker was fit to call itself worthy of publication, but in the spring of 2004 it finally hit Irish bookshelves, and it went on to sell in the region of 5,000 copies. It didn’t turn out to be a bestseller but I was well pleased with it, as I’d only managed to persuade about 300 of my closest friends – OK, everyone I’d ever met – to buy a copy. That meant that more than 4,500 perfect strangers had liked the look of the book enough to buy it. I was a happy camper, apart from the fact that I had a second book to write.
Recruiting an Agent – Third Book Turned Down
I haven’t mentioned my agent. I recruited her right after I’d been given the news that I’d won the publishing deal. Not surprisingly, she agreed to represent me in return for ten percent of a deal I’d already brokered by myself, but I was too pleased with the idea of having an agent to pay too much attention to that. (At the time of writing there are eight literary agents operating in Ireland, north and south. I’m guessing their mailbags are rather large, given that every Irish person is born with a book in him/her, and about one in four manages to get it down on paper.) My agent offered my third book to the five main publishers of commercial fiction in Ireland, and one after another they turned it down very nicely. Back to the drawing board I went, hauling my dented self-confidence along with me.
Luck Turned with Book 4
My luck turned again with book four, The Last Week of May. Not only did Hodder Headline Ireland take it on, but when it came out in 2007 it went to number one in the Irish fiction charts, my first proper bestseller. To give you some idea of the smallness of the Irish market, it sold just over 200 copies that week. On the other hand, total sales were over 10,000, so I was going in the right direction. Onwards and upwards. The fifth book, The People Next Door, made it to number two – deprived of the top spot by Anne Enright and her Man Booker winner, The Gathering – and since then I’ve been hopping in and out of the charts with each book (on number eleven as we speak). I’m still with Hodder, who now call themselves Hachette, and I’m making enough to pay the bills, with a little left over for Champagne on special occasions and chocolate on Fridays.
Going Abroad for Bigger Markets
I’ve been lucky enough to land a few translation deals – you’ll find books with my name on them in several European countries, and two have also made it to the US and Canada. What I’ve learnt from this is that publishing in Ireland is pretty similar to publishing elsewhere, except that it happens on a smaller scale. With the rise in popularity of the Kindle and its buddies, and the consequent downturn in sales of actual books, Irish publishers are now offering e-book alternatives with each title they produce, and authors’ backlists are also being converted to e-format, just like everywhere else. Because of Ireland’s modest size, and consequently small number of readers – no matter how good you are, they’re only going to buy your book once – many Irish writers are looking further afield to find themselves an agent with publishing contacts among the bigger markets. I’ve recently split from my Irish agent and I’m looking meaningfully across the Irish Sea, roughly in the direction of London. Bigger pond, where I’ll be a smaller fish – but you never know, I might just hit the right place at the right time.
“Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Roisin. The thing that surprised me most was that there are only 8 literary agents in Ireland. Wow!”
Posted on October 1, 2013, in Blog and tagged Anne Enright, E-book, hodder headline, Ireland, irish fiction, Literary agent, London, man booker, publish, Roisin, Roisin Meaney, Twitter. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.