PUBLISHING DAY SEMINAR AT THE IRISH WRITERS’ CENTRE, JULY 7TH
This one day seminar started with Ciara Doorley, editorial director of Hachette Ireland emphasising the importance of hook in a story and of getting others to read your work before sending it out to publishers: fine tune it and avoid too much back story; push the story forward through the dialogue, Ciara urged. She claims to like big concept novels displaying strong emotions with meaningful relations. It is heartening to hear she reads the writing submitted to her first before looking at the synopsis. Hachette Ireland (formerly Hodder Headline Ireland) are linked to Hodder and Stoughton, Little Brown, Octopus and Orion in the UK. A disappointing element in Hachette is that they only receive submissions through an agent.
Gareth Cuddy was up next. Cork based, he is the CEO of what he claims is Europe’s leading eBook company, ePub Direct which works for traditional publishing companies but not for individuals— Original Writing, a partner, would cater for independent writers. While he was good on the technical elements, he had no magic formula on how an individual writer can become known among for example 600,000 other ebook authors at Amazon. A disturbing aspect to ebooks is that they are treated as software and therefore, unlike physical books, are subject to 23% vat in Ireland.
After lunch Cliona Lewis, the publicity director of the Penguin group, gave a realistic overview of the publishing scene in Ireland. Sales of fiction for example are down 14%. She emphasised the importance of regional radio in getting your book known, and urged the aspiring author to try to create a unique selling point for his or her work—what is quirky or eccentric about you, the media will lap up. She emphasised the importance for a writer to engage in social media. She particularly singled out Twitter which is used by a lot of journalists. A disappointing revelation about reading habits in Ireland is that many Irish readers tend to shy away from Irish published books and prefer to purchase from foreign imprints— a sociological study of the whys of this would be interesting. Could it have anything to do with the oft-claimed opinion that we Irish rarely speak good of one another? Penguin Ireland is linked to Penguin in the UK, Australia and Canada and can sell rights to Penguin in the US. Cliona ended on a salutary note, pointing out that Penguin Ireland accepts unagented, and unsolicited manuscripts
Emma Walsh, a publishing consultant and literary agent, also emphasised the importance of letting a new book cool down for a while and getting other people to look at it before sending it to a publisher. She mentioned the websites Authonomy and You Write On as outlets for peer reviews; there is a risk here, however, in that it appears the copyright of your work cannot be safeguarded. As regards the vital timing, she pointed out that you promote a book near publication and not six months before as the public memory is fickle and the big bookshops will only allow a six week window of opportunity. She graciously offered a free telephone consultation if you agreed to donate to Temple Street Hospital and you may email firstname.lastname@example.org for the phone number.
Crime novelist Arlene Hunt concluded the evening. She has turned down a two book deal with Hachette Ireland to form, with her husband, her own publishing company, Portnoy Publishing. While her list is full at the moment, she will take on two new writers a year starting again next January. She presented herself as a woman of great drive and energy and saw such qualities as prerequisites for success in this very competitive market.
The seminar was well attended with an international mix and writers commuting from the four corners of Ireland.