Guest Column: Finding Opportunity In Change

FROM: Vanessa O’Loughlin, Inkwell Writers Courses.

Things are changing in publishing and Irish publishing in particular is finding itself in a state of flux. Reduced Arts Council grants are adding to a global recession and hitting book buyers pockets.

These changes along with the eBook phenomenon are rocking an industry that last felt the fear of the unknown when paperbacks were introduced by Penguin in 1935. Then Allen Lane, the director of The Bodley Head, was returning from a meeting with Agatha Christie when, standing at Exeter Station with nothing to read, he saw the ‘potential of good quality contemporary fiction made available at an attractive price’, not just in traditional bookshops, but also in stations, tobacconists and chain stores. It was a revolution in a time when to read quality fiction you either had to have a good income or a library card. And it’s not unlike the revolution we are seeing today.

So what does all this mean for writers

On the down side, mainstream publishing houses are cautious about taking on new talent, are instead sourcing work from established writers with established track records. But is it all doom and gloom? Not at all, Julian Gough in a recent blog post said:

The only area where Irish writing is thriving in Ireland itself is on the internet, because it’s a direct connection, writer-to-reader.

He’s right that Irish writing is thriving on the Internet, right about that direct connection – but it’s not just through blog posts.

Wherever there is change there is opportunity – and today the opportunities are there for writers all over the Internet, both in Ireland and on a world platform. Today an Inkwell Writer won a competition run on Twitter run by Mills and Boon – her prize? A pile of books and an editor chuckling at her desk. The same writer was asked earlier this week for her full manuscript only hours after she had submitted a partial to Wild Rose Press, an American e- publisher. And she’s the second Inkwell Writer to have been asked for a full manuscript by Wild Rose Press this week!

Writers all over Ireland are reaching what Malcom Gladwell calls the tipping point – that point at which things begin to happen.  It takes huge dedication and many hours of work to get there, but when they do, things start falling into place like they did for Stuart Neville. Neville placed a short story on and it was spotted by legendary US agent Nat Sobel – his book The Twelve has been described by James Ellroy as “The best first novel I’ve read in years.” and by Ken Bruen as “The book when the world finally sits up and goes WOW, the Irish really have taken over the world of crime writing. “ Released as The Ghosts of Belfast in the US, Neville is just back from his US tour.

Romantic fantasy writer Ruth Long has just released her third book with US e-publisher Samhain and has landed a contract with super agent New York based Colleen Lindsay. When Colleen announced on Twitter how impressed she was with Ruth’s manuscript there was immediate interest from three mainstream international publishing houses.

So while Irish Publishers find their niche in the new market place, writers are ideally placed to benefit from the changes in the industry. There are writers getting published on Kindle who found it difficult to land a terrestrial publishing deal – not because they weren’t good enough, but simply because there are only so many print titles that can come out each year. As Kindle best selling author Elisa Lorell says in a recent blog post:

Amazon Kindle has changed the reading landscape and rattled the publishing industry. Just like Napster and iTunes did for indie musicians and the music industry….e-publishing has made it possible for an unknown author like me to be recognized.

Irish publishing is changing, but so are Irish writers, and as William Pollard said:

Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.

About The Author
Vanessa O’Loughlin is a writer, busy mother of two and the Director of Inkwell Writers Workshops. Inkwell brings bestselling authors to facilitate intensive one day fiction writing workshops in the comfortable surroundings of Fitzpatrick’s Castle Hotel. Inkwell’s aim is to get the aspiring writers who use their extensive services published.