The Irish players at the forefront of new publishing

Ireland is punching above its weight in the world of New Publishing, with Irish people leading the charge in this fast-changing, global industry, Celine Naughton reports

Orna Ross

Bestselling author Orna Ross from Murrintown, Co Wexford is founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and named by The Bookseller magazine as one of the Top 100 People in Publishing in the World.

ALLi is a global organisation made up of one-third people in the UK, one-third USA and one-third the rest of the world. When I set it up in 2012, publishing felt like a divided industry, with trade publishers decrying self-published books and self-publishers predicting the downfall of publishing. Because I’d trade-published and also self-published, I knew there are countless paths from author to reader and all are valid.

Successful indie authors must think global and digital – and I don’t just mean ebooks. POD (print-on-demand) is a cost-effective way to publish p-books and Amazon’s Whispersync technology now syncs audio and ebooks to work in tandem, so people who like to listen to a book in their car or while out for a run can pick up the story on the same page on their tablet or smartphone when they get home. Technology has democratised publishing and is improving literacy worldwide, which is hugely exciting for me.


At a recent conference of Novelists, Inc. in Florida, three out of seven of us invited to speak at the First Word Day were Irish. It struck me how much Irish people are making their mark at the very highest levels of this new era in publishing. I think it's not so much due to our literary culture as the fact we have an open economy, a young, open-minded population and emigrants all over the world. We're used to thinking globally.

Richard Nash

Richard Nash, from Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, is a serial entrepreneur and publishing consultant whose accolades include being named by Mashable as the # 1 Twitter User Changing the Face of Publishing; by Utne Reader as one of 50 Visionaries Changing Your World; and by The Bookseller as one of the Five Most Inspiring People in Digital Publishing. He’s lived in New York for 27 years.

It was helpful not being American. It gave me enough distance to see the place objectively and be able to observe and reflect on what I saw. In the same way, knowing nothing about publishing when I set up as an independent publisher after 10 years as a theatre director gave me the freedom to try new things.

There are currently at least as many speakers from Ireland doing the global circuit of publishing seminars as Australians or Canadians, so we're definitely punching above our weight. We're at the leading edge of publishing because we're not fully insiders. Like the great novelists who never felt fully at home in the English language, we've used that gap productively. It also helps that we're not from technology either. The greatest limitation of engineers is that they solve engineering problems, and in many ways, what is critical within culture is to have a mode of thinking that's not very engineering-like.

It helps to be slightly crazy too - I know I am! It’s always okay for the village to have one fool, like John Hurt’s character in John B Keane’s The Field. The fool has an insight that nobody else can see.

The Irish also have a history of migration. We go where the opportunities are, and today’s diaspora is just as opportunistic as previous generations who travelled to industrial Britain and America to find work.

Right now, publishing is not seen as enormously attractive to those who want to be at the cutting edge of technology. However, Irish instincts are steeped in storytelling and culture. We’re not put off, like the technologists who consider publishing dead and buried and with O’Leary in the grave. We know better.

Orna O’Brien

Orna O’Brien from Donnybrook, Dublin 4, is conference manager at the London Book Fair (LBF) and heads up several committees, including the Quantum Conference, Charity of the Year International Awards and the Literary Translation Centre.

London is the cultural capital of the world, and Dublin is the storytelling capital of the world. It’s not a cliche. Irish people really are warm, empathetic and like to engage people, which explains, possibly, why we shine in the publishing arena.

I love my job, because no day is the same. The heart of my role comprises four conferences and 200-plus Insights events we have at LBF each year. This could mean meeting the YouTube vlogger sensation Alfie Deyes one day and the CEO of a major publishing house the next. It's really energising.

I travel quite a lot. I was at the Frankfurt Book Fair recently and shortly afterwards went to China to chair two seminars at the China Children's Book Fair. The LBF is a mature exhibition, and the Chinese wanted our help to get their seminars off the ground. I was delighted to lend a hand. Irish women love to help, after all. If you want directions, we'd walk you to the place!

It’s a very exciting time to be involved in publishing. The lines are blurring with the proliferation of devices and media, but regardless of whether it’s a book, game, TV show, film or video, intellectual property is at the heart of the matter. Pronouncements about the death of the book are ill informed. Life is not either/or, it’s about co-existing. Digital publishing is just another platform. Pixels or paper? It’s horses for courses! The book is not dead. The story continues, in many different forms.

Mick Rooney

Dublin man Mick Rooney is a publishing consultant and editor-in-chief at The Independent Publishing Magazine. He lives in Amsterdam.

For me, New Publishing is primarily the impact of digital on the industry and reflects the continual shift in the landscape. Now anyone can be a publisher and the tools they require are easily accessible.

In 2007 I founded The Independent Publishing Magazine, an online news and resource site for authors and publishers. One of the big features of the magazine is the reviews we do of publishing service providers. After a year I began a publishing consultancy, primarily for authors looking to self-publish. I’ve been a writer since my teens and I began self-publishing books before being traditionally published. I think writing runs through the Irish blood and we know how to tell a good story; that’s what makes us successful in this sphere.

Too many authors choose poor or expensive publishing services or are entrapped by vanity presses. My number one tip for any aspiring author is to do your research before embarking on your publishing project.

Gareth Cuddy

Gareth Cuddy from Cork is CEO and founder of Vearsa, the leading e-book data management platform that allows publishers to distribute, track and analyse sales of their e-books worldwide. With a growth rate of 3,007 per cent, the Cork- and New York-based company has scooped the runner-up prize in this year’s Deloitte’s Fast 50 awards, as the second fastest-growing company in Ireland.

My wife bought me an early eReader in 2008. I had no background in publishing or technology, but I was so blown away by the potential, I quit my job as a bar manager, got a bank loan and started the business.

Today's digital ways of delivering great stories or learning new things are almost limitless. Publishers and authors need to think of books as content that can be broken up and sold in any format rather than bound, paged products. For the first time ever we can distribute these stories anywhere and if that means someone wants to receive it in sub-Saharan Africa by text message on an old Nokia phone, it is the publisher's responsibility to make sure that can happen.

Irish people are at the forefront of this new era in publishing, not least because we speak English as a first language and are great natural storytellers. Sales are all about making personal connections, often through stories, so no wonder we’re doing okay!

Eoin Purcell

UK Leader of Publishing, Amazon

Amazon declined our request for an interview.