Original Writing – Interview with Garrett Bonner

When I started out two to three years ago researching the area of self publishing, it didn’t take me too long to discover a vast amount of companies in the USA and England—from the business powerhouses of iUniverse, Lulu, Xlibris, Authorhouse, Createspace, Infinity and Wordclay—right down to the great many small micropresses offering self publishing services to authors. Around the time I was beginning my research and preparing to amass material to launch this site, an Irish company called Original Writing had just set up business and launched in the Republic of Ireland.

My attentions over the past few months have turned to Irish based publishers using print on demand technology. What has already struck me very soundly in a short space of time—while Ireland remains a small market, a hotbed of literary talent, and self publishing here, like the USA and England, is growing ever-stronger—there are still only a handful of companies in operation.

I caught up recently with Garrett Bonner of Original Writing, one of the few publishing companies operating in Ireland and providing Irish authors with self publishing services. In the following interview, Garrett talks about the place Original Writing has in self publishing, what it offers authors, and some of the reasons why there remains only a few companies in Ireland.

Garrett, let me first thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the site and sharing your experiences and views on self publishing with Original Writing.

Q1. Can you tell us about your position with OW and why, as a publisher, you chose to enter the self publishing area of the industry rather than focus on a more traditional publishing model of business?

I am the Sales and Marketing manager in Original Writing. Before I took up this position I had not worked in publishing but when the job was offered to me I felt that I had to take it as it seemed like a great opportunity to get into a growing section of a very interesting industry.

Q2. Self publishing companies and authors who choose this publishing path are often tarnished with a negative ‘vanity published’ tag. Many author guides and yearbooks are filled with warnings about submitting manuscripts to vanity publishers. Several US vanity publishers like Vantage Press, Dorrance and British publisher, Excalibur, came to particular prominence during the 1970’s and 1980’s filling many inches of small-ad columns in newspapers and magazines. However, along with this new found prominence, came the stories of authors remortgaging homes and ending up with a garage full of unwanted books. How do you feel that self publishing has developed since then and what stigmas have you encountered in the Irish publishing industry, book retailers, and traditionally published authors?

{Matador, a British self publisher and partnership publisher became the first ever to be included and endorsed in the annual ‘Writers & Artists Yearbook’ a few years ago.}

It is true to say that Self publishing has been seen in a negative light over the years but I feel that this tag is starting to disappear. In today’s world it is getting harder and harder to get published by a “traditional” publisher, they are not willing to take a risk any more. They are looking for celebrities and well known people that will guarantee sales and profits. As a result of this you can now find many quality titles out there that have been self published.

In relation to authors having to spend a fortune to self publish, that is just not the case. We charge a fee of €1595 that includes 100 copies of your book as well as the design, layout and other aspects of publishing. If the author wants to purchase additional copies of their book then we will make them available but we will never advise someone to buy more books that they think they can sell and if they are talking about ordering crazy numbers of books we will advise against this.

Q3. What do you believe sets OW as a self publisher apart from other companies who offer author services?
The quality of the books we produce is excellent and the backup and advice that we give to our authors is excellent.

We will not publish everything that is sent in to us. If someone comes to us with a book that is not in a proper state and will not look good on the market we will tell the author to get it proofread and to come back to us.

Q4. In the US and the UK, self publishing companies seem to ‘pop up’ ten to a dozen every few months and then quickly vanish. Aside from actual digital book printers and book packaging companies – why do you think there are so few self publishing companies operating in Ireland?

{Two other recognised self publishers in Ireland at the moment are Choice Publishing, based in Co. Louth, and Checkpoint Press, in Achill, Co Galway.}

I would say that the main reason is money. It is not an industry that can sustain too many companies because we have a relatively small market and the fact that there are a few established companies makes it a relatively unattractive industry to enter.

Q5. Your website explains that you use digital print-on-demand technology to produce your books. One of the world’s largest digital print-on-demand printers is Lightning Source US & UK providing 80% of all print and book fulfilment services to self publishing companies. Do you use their services or indigenous Irish printers?

We use an Irish printer for all of our paperback books and an English company for our hardback books. I would prefer to use an Irish company for the hardback books but unfortunately the prices being charged in this country are not competitive and I was not too pleased with the quality of the couple of hardback books we did get done here.

With paperback books we could get them produced for a cheaper price in the UK but I would prefer to deal with an Irish printer.

Q6. Does OW exclusively concentrate on online distribution channels (Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Powells, Waterstones, Eason online, etc), or do you also consider pursuing more traditional ‘brick ‘n’ mortar’ retail placement on behalf of the authors who publish through OW?

We send out information on all of our publications to bookshops and libraries throughout the country and as a result we do get quite a few orders from these. Some of our titles have been picked up by Easons Distributors and some others are in Hughes and Hughes. You can never guarantee that books will be picked up by traditional bookshops but we do try to get them in there.

It is usually easier to get books into shops that are located close to where the author is from and as a result we normally target these shops more than others.

Q7. Do you employ screening of manuscripts which arrive into OW, and as part of your author publishing packages – do the manuscripts undergo any form of editing?

We do look through the book but we do not offer any editing service. We will not put out a book that is riddled with mistakes as it will not be bought by the public and it will not look good for us or the author.

Q8. OW’s company motto is:
Your book. The way you want it.

How much input do you actually allow an author into their book from design to production? There could be a danger in allowing an inexperienced author too much say and control on critical production decisions like graphics, illustrations, font type and size and overall layout – rendering the final book product expensive and beyond a profitable selling price.

We do allow the authors to have a large say in how the book will look but we also let them know if we think that something that they are suggesting is not going to work. It can be difficult to do this as a lot of authors come to us with a firm idea of how they want the book to look and we always try to explain that we have published quite a few books in the past and we know what works.

We find that the authors that have crazy ideas for their books are normally not trying to sell large amounts of the book and just want it for family and friends.

Q9. Do you encourage signed authors to pursue instore book placement and marketing enterprises to further their sales? What kind of pre and post production support do you provide authors in regard to marketing and selling their books?

We do try to help authors as much as possible, but in truth, most of the marketing and publicity has to be carried out by the author. We normally advise them to start locally and see if they can build it from there. There is no point in self publishing a book and expecting to be invited on to the Late Late Show to publicise it. If you want national exposure, then you will have to start with the local newspapers and build it up from there.

Q10. Is the contract you offer to authors a non-exclusive contract, allowing them to retain future commercial book publishing, film, dramatisation rights etc? Do you allow authors to retain ownership of the finalised print ready PDF book files?

The contract is non-exclusive. If someone is lucky enough to get a massive offer from a traditional publisher then we will not stand in their way.

Q11. OW launched ‘Write4all’ in 2008. Can I take it that this forum is intended for writers to exchange views on writing and showcase or test new work for feedback?

You can indeed. It is a new service that we felt was needed in this country. There are a few similar sites out there but none of them are Irish and it is good to get feedback from people from a similar background not just someone from the other side of the world.

Q12. What development plans can we expect for OW this year? Has OW considered ebooks or any other additions to their services to authors?

We are going to offer more marketing facilities to our authors and each author will have a new page on our site where they will be able to put more information about themselves and extracts from their books.

We have not offered ebooks in the past but it is something that we are looking into.

We are constantly developing new relations with bookshops around the country and this means that more and more of our books are finding their way on to the shelves of shops.

Q13. In the current economic climate, how do you see self publishing and broader traditional publishing changing, in particular those who publish through print-on-demand methods?

The current economic downturn is difficult for everyone but we hope that people will always feel the need to get their material out to the general public. Writing can be a great form of escapism.

I would say that traditional publishing will become even more celebrity driven as the publishers will not be willing or able to take risks on unknown authors.

Over the coming months, I intend doing a comparison of Irish self publishing companies which I will post on this site. Again, thank you to Garrett for the interview.

You can check Original Writing and their writing forum out for yourself at the following link.


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