Guest Column: No Parochialism Here
Jean Harrington is the Managing Director of Maverick House Publishers, a board member of Publishing Ireland, and the Irish delegate to the Federation of European Publishers. Maverick House is an independent, Irish, International publisher who commissions and publishes books for the world.
A recent poll on Irish Publishing News elicited a response from me, as it asked the question as to whether people believed Irish publishing was provincial. While I would have to agree with this sentiment in broad strokes, I felt it was important to highlight what Maverick House Publishers is doing in various international markets, and the approach we have taken to publishing.
Ireland has roughly the same population as Manchester, so we started looking at the global market as a long-term viable alternative to publishing solely for the Irish market. The UK was the obvious starting point, so we started distributing our books there with a certain degree of success. The next step was less obvious to many people: we opened an office in Bangkok and started commissioning books for South East Asia. The reasoning behind this was always simple: Ireland has a population of less than 5m, whereas 80m people pass through Bangkok airport every year. Do the math!
We now have different lists – our ‘Irish’ list, and our ‘international’ list, and we commission with various territories in mind. For example, this month we are publishing a book by an Irish author who is living in Thailand. Dead Drunk, Saving myself from alcoholism in a Thai monastery nicely straddles both markets.
We also recognise how different markets work and, with sales agents in over 25 countries, we have a good spread into various territories.
Many of our authors aren’t Irish; we have published Italian author Barbara Frale, a Vatican historian who wrote The Templars; the French Spiderman, Alain Robert, is also in our stable of authors as is the American actor Don Cheadle, as well as several Australian and British authors.
We have held book launches in London, Bangkok and Dublin – our next international launch will take place in Phnom Pen, in Cambodia, when we release A Shattered Youth by Sathavy Kim, who survived the genocide of the Khmer Rouge.
It is my experience that it is the Irish reader who is provincial, and that is why Irish publishing is mainly provincial. Of all the books that Maverick House has published, it is only ones of ‘Irish interest’ that sell well in Ireland. Non-fiction books by international authors on international subjects don’t do the same figures. On the other hand, books of many different topics by different authors sell in large numbers in Britain.
At book fairs, it is our ‘international’ list that generates the most interest. While Irish people are eternally interested in Irish subjects, the rest of the world is not that excited by them. Of course, the notable exceptions are the Irish fiction writers, who have captured audiences around the world, but I am strictly talking about non-fiction here.
Maverick House was given its name because we below in following our own path, rather than slavishly trying to keep up with trends. In this regard, we will continue to develop our international development, as many of the international markets we deal in are more back list driven, unlike Ireland which operates in a front-list and high-discount model.
As well as looking at international markets, we cannot neglect the developments in e-books, and we are constantly examining the trends in digital publishing. This year will see us release our first book developed specifically for the iPad. For further information on our activities, see our website, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.