With a population of just under five million, Ireland might have some of the best writers in the world ( four Booker prize winners, four Nobel Laurates and that’s just the start) but due to its size, it has a small home book market and, as a result, trade publishing options can be limited. Smaller independent presses have limited lists, and limited marketing budgets, and can only take on books that pose little or no risk – there is no room for experimentation, and this means that many brilliant books don’t get their chance. As a result there is a strong and healthy interest in self publishing – both in digital and print, and Irish writers have had some inspiring success stories. Self publishing has changed the publishing landscape, giving great writers a means of expression – and today’s self publishers are following in the footsteps of the greats – of James Joyce and Seamus Heaney, whose early works were self published.
Indeed, some genres simply don't sell in substantial enough numbers in trade print in Ireland to justify publisher investment. If for instance you write adult Sci Fi or speculative fiction, you are going to struggle to get a publishing deal in the Irish print market. But, while the Irish market is small by global standards, the world market, even by intergalactic standards is very healthy size, and this is what led Eliza Green, Science Fiction author of The Exilon 5 Trilogy to self publishing. She was also keen to focus on marketing and wanted to be able to respond quickly to the challenges and opportunities presented by her tech savvy readership – as she explains: “I self published to give myself control over my work. By going this route, I’ve been able to adjust my strategies in line with current market trends. Adjusting prices often, having an email sign up list and hanging out on sites where fans are has worked incredibly well for me.”
Looking outward is part of the Irish psyche so seeking markets beyond our shores is an easy concept for Irish writers to grasp. When Catherine Ryan Howard wrote Mousetrapped – a memoir of her year in Disney (with a liberal dose of NASA thrown in) she had great feedback from Irish trade editors but the subject was too niche for the market. Then she discovered Lulu and ultimately Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace and her problems were solved. As one of Ireland’s first and most successful self-publishers, Catherine was an early adopter of social media and used this to her advantage, “For me Twitter has been the best success. It's allowed me to connect with readers across the globe and writers here at home who are great for support – when you self-publish you're by yourself so it's great to have other authors you can talk to. Twitter is also full of interesting links, tips and data, so it's also where I learn what to do and what not to do. I always say it's the best thing I've ever done for my books.”
Hazel Gaynor has proved that self publishing can lead to greater success – as well as hitting the bestseller list in the New York Times, her debut The Girl Who Came Home has recently won the historical fiction category at the Romantic Novel Awards. She knew from the get-go that her novel had a global audience, and after set backs with traditional publishers, Hazel took the plunge on her own. “For me, it was all about timing – publishing The Girl Who Came Home to coincide with the Titanic centenary – and a really great cover. These two things, combined, helped to get the book noticed. From there, it was all about great reviews and recommendations. Self publishing was a huge success for me, and a launch pad for my writing. A year after self publishing, I was offered a traditional deal for the same book, and one other, A Memory of Violets, which has just been published. I'm so glad I took that leap of faith!”
The Irish are naturally adaptable and, with a diaspora of some 70 million, predisposed to thinking in global terms. They are taking on self publishing just as they tackle other challenges, with a smile and a steely determination to make their mark – watch out for more international success stories.