Publishing Ireland Trade Day 2016

November 17th, 2016 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Ireland Trade Day 2016

The fourth annual Publishing Ireland Trade Day took place on 11th November, the weekend of the Dublin Book Festival. The theme this year was #ReachingReaders. Irish publishers are small. Output varies from 1 or 2 titles per year to 20, and turnover is generally less than a quarter of a million per year. With this in mind, Publishing Ireland encourages the publishers to come together and support each other.

Bookshop at the Trade Day

Trade Day bookshop

First up was Kathy Foley, Content Marketing Manager at Twitter. Kathy highlighted the importance of Twitter for small companies:

  1. Your readers want to engage with you. 68% of people surveyed had already purchased a product due to seeing it on Twitter. Recommendations on Twitter come from people you admire and trust. It’s important to get experts/influencers to tweet about your books.
  2. The tools you need are already available to you: profile, cover photo, keywords in description, pinned tweet, and analytics. Have an overall strategy, and plan tweets.
  3. Hit the right balance. For every tweet pushing a sale, have 4 with general chat and interaction.

Next was a panel led by Peter O’Connell, a book publicist, on the ways of getting your books noticed by traditional media.

Barbara Feeney, a researcher for The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk FM, discussed how she chooses books to review for the show:

  • Catalogues (time-consuming)
  • Receiving pitches, books by post, press releases, reviews. Ensure email is targeted specifically to Barbara/the show.
  • The timeline is important. Authors are often booked for the show up to 3 months in advance.

They look for

  • an engaging author, who is a good communicator
  • a book that is relevant to their audience in some way
  • interesting, obscure, peculiar subjects.

They won’t interview someone that has just recently been on another show. If the author is considered an expert on a particular topic, they may be invited back to contribute to other discussions on said topic, which is further publicity for the book.

Panel discussion on using traditional media to market books

L-R: Kathy Foley, Barbara Feeney, Peter O’Connell, Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle is Assistant Literary Editor with The Irish Times. Doyle encouraged publishers to pitch their book to him for review, but to think of the story around the book, for example, does the author have an interesting background or life story? Unusual inspiration for the book? Such a story may lend itself to a feature instead.

Provide them with the book one month before publication. In order for a review to coincide with an author TV or radio appearance, they need to know about it 2 or 3 months in advance.

The following panel, chaired by Eoin McHugh from Transworld Ireland, focused on the relationship between publishers and booksellers.

Alyson Wilson, Commercial Manager at Waterstones, outlined a brief history of the chain. She’s much more positive about their position now, compared to the days staff had scripted sales pitches for customers and the goal was every shop had all the same titles at the same prices. Now they have freedom to choose titles and promote ones they are excited about. Waterstones pay for all their promotions. They no longer charge publishers for prime positions.

Wilson purchases Irish titles for Waterstones and is delighted with the range she has to choose from. But she would like more of the following:

  • Debut authors
  • Beautiful, original writing, packaged beautifully. Here she singled out Tramp Press as experts.
  • Rediscovered classics
  • Popular Irish history for the general reader, not academic standard.
  • High-quality art books.
  • More about contemporary life, particularly for Irish people in their 20s.

And less

  • Mid-list fiction
  • Dated covers, particularly on children’s books.

Wilson would like Irish publishers to focus more on distribution, admin – metadata on Nielsen makes it far easier for her to order the books – and rebuilding direct relationships with booksellers.

Bob Johnson, founder of the independent Gutter Bookshop.


  • Pricing things at 99c. Go to 00 or 95c.
  • Certain formats work well – not weird sizes. There are some exceptions to this, such as Historopedia from Gill Books
  • Booksellers buy online. They need accurate, rich metadata.
  • Put info on your site like sales reps, distributors, marketers, etc.
  • Give up the focus on selling direct to bookseller. Wholesalers are the best way for shops to buy.


  • Irish publishers know their audience. The level and quality of books from Irish publishers have come on in leaps and bounds in the last 5 years, particularly in cookery and children’s.
  • Launches. They bring people in and increase sales.

Adrian White, writer and former bookseller.


  • Why ask writer for synopsis of book? They are too close to the work and are no good at the synopsis.
  • Royalties – pay them more regularly.
  • Why produce a paperback of a hardback that is not selling?
  • Copycat publishing. It sells but it’s depressing.
  • Discounting a premium product.

He has found the author experience humbling, having a whole team making your book better. White admires publishers, the way they can turn an awful manuscript into a finished book!

Ivan O’Brien, MD of O’Brien Press, outlined the new international system, Thema, that is replacing BIC.

Una McConville, Publishing Manager of Books Ireland, highlighted a range of potential funding options available to Irish publishers.

Samantha Holman, Executive Director, Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (ICLA)

Samantha outlined how copyright law comes trickles from the international law, through to EU directives, down to national law. We live in changing times in terms of copyright. When it comes to the EU Court of Justice, they cannot be lobbied nor advised so it is impossible to influence their decisions, which can often negatively impact publishers. For example, the recent EU decision on e-lending.

At the moment, Irish government are revising their current copyright law. This seems ill-timed as the EU are also revising their copyright law. The same happened in 2000, and resulted in much of Irish law not being in line with EU law. History seems destined to repeat itself.

There is also a discussion on extending the availability of content from ‘print disability’ to ‘all forms of disability’. This is hard to argue against, but in reality, how would that work?

And finally, the keynote speaker, Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller.

Jones’ speech was in part summed up by his observation that ‘Publishers have flirted with digital, but woken up with print.’ He mentioned the print revival of the past year that no one foresaw – these include colouring books and adult Ladybird titles, amongst others. They got the forecast of digital growth wrong. 20% of book content is consumed digitally. The technology hasn’t changed the book world like it changed music and media. While acknowledging the drop off in digital, he still admitted there are opportunities in it.

Publishers were never interested in readers before, but that is all changing now with the likes of Amazon and the availability of social media. However, he warned that publishers need to distinguish ‘the signal from the noise’. Just look at Amazon reviews. This insider consumer role in publishing is new and difficult to determine. The more publishers learn about their consumer, the less they trust their instincts, warned Jones. Data is vital, but shouldn’t constrain.

Jones, referring to the Jellybooks analytics, put the question to the publishers, should data be used to sell more books? Or to change books? He argues that we need to know less about the reader and more about what they buy. There are now more books produced and sold, more independent presses, and more readers than ever before.

New digital formats may emerge. The publishing industry is flexible and adaptive to changes. Publishing is always ‘about to collapse’. But publishers are great innovators. Accessing markets is easier now. Tools are cheaper. This leads to a growth in start-ups.

Jones’ upbeat, yet tempered, parting message was ‘Back yourselves. Back authors. Back books. As always. Then we might be ok.’

Overall, a very engaging and informative day.

Art piece of a steam train made of paper coming out of a tunnel/book

My favourite piece of artwork on display

by Claire Furey