The writing trade is not a lucrative one. The median income of established professional authors is €12,000, down 29 per cent since 2005, academic Fiona O'Connor reported recently.
But the typical median income of all writers is less than €4,000 and declining yearly.
Writers not being paid for appearances at literary festivals caused controversy earlier this year. Now, an Irish publisher has hit on the idea of charging would-be authors for submissions.
Sean O'Keeffe, publisher of Liberties Press, announced on its website that he is introducing a charge of €100 per manuscript, except when submitted by a recognised literary agent.
Justifying this, he writes: “There are approximately 100,000 new books published in English every year, with a further 600,000 self-published – many of which never see the light of a bookshop.
“In this environment, the publisher provides a unique service to the author: editorial, promotion, design work, as well as attention and care. Unfortunately, these things all have to be paid for – and the traditional retail book trade remains a challenging commercial environment.”
In return for their €100, writers’ manuscripts “will be considered carefully, and a report, of at least one page, will be sent to the author, providing a critical assessment of the manuscript, comments on commercial possibilities, and suggestions for next steps (including, where appropriate, publication by Liberties Press)”.
“I am not aware of any other publisher that operates in this way, and there may be some authors, and other publishers, who disagree with our approach,” says O’Keeffe.
“They are, of course, free not to send material our way. However, we have a hard-earned reputation as an innovative and successful publisher, and we believe that in a few years, this will be standard practice among publishers.
“We receive hundreds of unsolicited submissions every year, and if this policy results in the number declining, that will be no bad thing.
“We hope it will encourage authors to think carefully before submitting material to us, and to value the work we do.”
O’Keeffe is no stranger to controversy.
In 2015, he published Numb, the "memoir" of a British war correspondent who purportedly committed rape, murder and other crimes.
It soon emerged that it had been written several years previously as a novel by former Fermoy solicitor Colin Carroll.
The Red Line Book Festival
The Red Line Book Festival, now into its fifth year, returns to south Dublin from October 12th to 16th and boasts a wealth of workshops and performances.
There are 40 events across 12 venues including the Civic Theatre and Rua Red in Tallaght, Pearse Museum in St Enda’s Park, local libraries and Rathfarnham Castle.
Highlights include Readers’ Day with writers Anne Enright, Marita Conlon-McKenna, Joseph O’Connor, Catherine Dunne, Myles Dungan and Katie Donovan in conversation with Dermot Bolger; and Trouble is Our Business: An Evening with Ireland’s Finest Crime Writers – Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes and Alex Barclay in conversation with Declan Burke.
Carousel Aware Prize for Independently Published Authors
The winners of the inaugural Carousel Aware Prize for Independently Published Authors will be announced on Tuesday, October 25th, at 7pm, in The Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square, Dublin.
The award’s aim is to provide a platform to showcase the cream of Irish self-published authors, bringing them to the attention of book shops, distributors and the media.
The judges for the various categories include Claire Hennessy, Louise Phillips, Jax Miller and Tony Canavan.
To see the shortlists and for more details, visit writingcap.ie
Irish Writers Centre’s Publishing Day
The Irish Writers Centre’s Publishing Day series is taking to the road. In association with Prof Joseph O’Connor and the University of Limerick, and supported by Words Ireland, this one-day seminar takes place on Saturday, October 15th.
It is suited to writers of all genres and forms who are seeking to get published. Writer Sarah Moore Fitzgerald will provide quality advice on editing and redrafting your work; Brian Langan, of Transworld/Doubleday, will discuss the editorial and submission process; literary agent Jonathan Williams will present on agenting and rights and writer Donal Ryan will reveal all about his journey from aspiring novelist to published author.
Free secondary education
Writer Brian Leyden wrote a lovely, evocative essay for irishtimes.com marking the 50th anniversary of the introduction of free secondary education in Ireland – I was a pioneer of free education, a protégé of Donogh O'Malley.
However, as reader Rita Larkin pointed out, the then minster for education announced the measure in the Dáil in November 1966 but it only came into effect in September 1967.
So Brian, if you’re reading this, see me after school...for a year's detention.