RTE Liveline Self-Publishing in Ireland | Analysis and Review

English: Photograph of Joe Duffy, RTÉ presente...
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It’s always a very heartening experience for me to hear or meet self-published authors gathered in one place at a particular time, whether that space is face to face, or listening to the experiences of so many Irish self-published authors on Tuesday afternoon on Joe Duffy’s national Livelineprogramme on RTE. You can find the podcast of the full programme here. It’s not too often that a national broadcast station will hand a whole 75 minutes over to the subject of self-publishing and books. I think we are pretty lucky here in Ireland. We have a vast amount of local and community radio stations, a vibrant culture very open and aware of all fields of the arts. There are a vast variety of subjects highlighted at local and provincial level regularly permeating all the way through all national levels of the broadcasting airwaves.
I said last week – in previewing Joe Duffy’s programme on self-publishing – that this was the second run up to Christmas that he has chosen to do this particular feature, but I was reminded by someone today that it is in fact the third year. I should also point out Tuesday’s Liveline programme, which goes out 5 days a week between 1.45pm and 3pm in Ireland on RTE Radio 1, was just one day this week when Duffy did a great deal for all authors and publishers throughout the Irish publishing and book selling industries, as well as many areas in the world of arts.
For now, I want to concentrate on Tuesday’s programme. It was nice to hear a few familiar voices and names getting some attention on the airwaves – for them – they deserve it with a creative product of sometimes many months and years.
I’m not going to name check the 20 or so authors who got on air with Joe Duffy and shared their wonderful experiences of writing and self-publishing, because to comment or single out a few would be unfair to the many others authors who didn’t manage to get any airtime on a very packed schedule. I have listed all the authors who submitted their books for inclusion on the Liveline programme at the end of this piece – those who were lucky to get on air, and the ones who did not. 
For a few authors, their self-published book may be the only one they will ever publish, and they will be content with that. For many, writing and publishing books is not just a casual passion, and I was actually surprised how many said in the programme that they were on their second, third and fourth self-published books. The self-publishers I worked with when I first started out a few years ago as a publishing consultant are very different to the self-publishers of today. While today’s self-publisher may still have a lot to learn about the publishing industry as a whole, what remains important to them all is how to express their story and share it with readers. It is admirable they should hold that core and heartfelt philosophy (I wish more publishing housesunderstood it), but ultimately, self-publishing is now a part of the greater industry, and you must understand the core ways the business wheels turn.
In light of that, I was heartened to hear on Liveline that self-published authors – certainly in Ireland and the UK – are becoming a much more discerning community. It’s something I have steadily found over the past year to eighteen months. There was a time when I had to ask authors to think long and hard about self-publishing – and consider all the reasons why they were doing it – but now, I’ve authors contacting me saying that they have decided not to self-publish a printed book. Instead, self-published authors are entering self-publishing via digital publishing through platforms like Kindle and Smashwords. Two years ago I was cautioning authors that perhaps Kindle was the wisest and safest way to dip their feet in the publishing waters. In simple terms, I still believe Kindle publishing is one step back from true or print self-publishing. It’s an area right now where too many lines of distinction are blurred. True self-publishing and using a POD service, as well as digital and print publishing, should only make authors nervous or unsure if they do not understand the critical differences between those paths. None of those paths should be confused because they are all distinct paths in their own right. This article is not the place to tackle those great differences. I’ve spoken at great length on TIPM about what true self-publishing is, as well as warning authors not to confuse digital publishing with self-publishing. Many large publishing houses utilise the technology of digital publishing – it is not a sole facet or path exercised by self-publishers, though sometimes you could be forgiven for believing that.
I want to focus on the 79 authors who submitted their self-published books to Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme. Sadly, but understandably, Joe only got to speak on air to less than a quarter of the authors who submitted books to his researchers. For that reason I spent a little time taking a look at all the self-published submissions over the past couple of evenings with the purpose of understanding a little of what path those authors took to self-publish their books, and crucially, I wanted to see if it tallied with my own experience of authors I have worked with as a consultant from many places and circumstances. I also wanted to understand the Irish experience in a wider context globally – something I have not done in any specific way up until now. I don’t offer anything below as definitive statistics on self-publishing everywhere, but I do believe it offers a valuable and general insight into how self-published authors think – right now, as 2011 draws to a close – and perhaps the philosophy and attitude of self-published authors well into 2012.
If there was one single thing that struck me about the 79 authors featured from the Liveline 2011 feature; it was how many of the authors fell under the commercial radar. The most important thing a self-published author needs is to have their book featured, listed, stocked in as many venues and platforms as possible. I won’t pretend I wasn’t a little disappointed in this respect when I checked out a lot of the books. Of the 79 books, all of them were eventually found somewhere, online with a search of retailers, just listed on a POD publisher’s bookshop, or with a small news piece tucked away in a provincial paper; and quite a few books confined just to the author’s website. Three of the 79 books I found in two local bookstores (physical) [Search undertaken over two days in Dublin City bookstores and suburbs. Not bad for self-published books, but not altogether very convincing! However, 31 of those 79 books on Joe Duffy were listed as unknown publisher and had no representation on almost all of the online retail sites – major as well as independents. [I found this pretty shocking!] That means the author did not really consider online sales, and instead, most likely chose a local printer and concentrated on family, friends and their local community.  And that’s okay if this was a reflection of the author’s modest or humble aspiration for their book. In fact, one of the authors interviewed was in this category. Yet, the author sold (according to his words – and some national and local coverage verifies this) that almost 15,000 books were sold. This was one of the two books I found in my local bookshop. This is the critical area of self-publishing that is difficult to monitor – a local book with massive sales. It’s an area a large publisher’s marketing department struggles with. Those 31 books above are unknown, simply because they didn’t show up in any sales database I looked in, didn’t choose to go with a large POD company like AuthorHouse, or any ASI company. The author didn’t publish with any of the big or small POD services, but instead choose to use localised printers and take all of the marketing on themselves.
Over the past ten years, I’ve heard a lot of figures thrown out about how self-published books, on average, and at best, sell between 50 – 200 copies. I’m not disputing those figures. My second and third self-published books fell within those figures after the first print run in the 1990’s. But those figures and estimates are based on analysis now on services like CreateSpace, Lulu, Wordclay, Café Press, and other such companies, but self-published books don’t dance to the industry tune of sales monitoring because sales are generated at local level, sometimes with books without ISBN’s and POS barcodes, outside of the print on demand system, sold in independent shops not monitored by publishing’s big brother. There is a false perception that every shop in every part of the world is run like Target or WalMart in New York, or Eason in Ireland. Most authors live in places like Clonmelon, Como Springs, Chudovo and Chang Jiang. They don’t do WalMart or anything like it, and getting books people want moves them toward an online source. A word search placed online – when used in the right place – is more efficient sometimes than a journey or a phone call.
Let’s take a look at some figures:
Original Writing
The Varsity Press
Paragon Publishing
Pen Press Uk
The Poet’s Press
As you can see, 31 went direct to a printer and did not used a recognised POD publisher or assisted/vanity publisher, choosing a more true-self-publishingoption direct with a printer. A number of the books I checked from this group did not have an ISBN number, suggesting any sales would have been predominantly localised or from the author’s website. What is clear to me is that what we perceived as old-style vanity publishers have long gone, joined the POD subsidy group, or reverted back to what they always were – printers! The second group of 21 are the authors who went the full self-publish route – creating an imprint of their own, even a company or organisation name and using marketing strategies of their own with whatever skills were available to them, or, of course, some could have employed professional book market and PR services.
The next group is interesting – Original Writing – a self-publishing service based in Smithfield, Dublin, Ireland – over the past few years has developed a number of self-publishing services, North and South of the country. I’d say we now have about six serious contenders here in Ireland, but Original Writing has grown and developed to clearly become the service company of choice by Irish authors. I reviewed them about 2 – 3 years ago and it looks like about time I revisited that review. Clearly, authors feel they are doing a lot of things right when it comes to their books. That is their perception – not necessarily mine.
The DIY self-publishing option with companies like CreateSpace and Lulu also provides a strong option for many authors, and both of these companies are reflected in the Self-Publishing Index rankings. ePrint is another Irish printer offering some self-publishing services.
The Varsity Press is a company I need to look at more closely, and again, even in a small country like Ireland, high calibre companies like BookLocker, Matador and Pen Press register on the scale. But the most interesting showing on the above chart is iUniverse – one of the older stalwarts of self-publishing services bought up by self-publishing commercial giant, Author Solutions Inc. It’s interesting that one of the older brands should outshine services like AuthorHouse and Xlibris. I’m not sure whether this says more about iUniverse, and what it specifically offers, or the brand is known much longer within the self-publishing community than other Author Solutions’ brands.
What would be even more enlightening is a snapshot such as the above in the UK and USA to validate my general findings, but I’d suggest we would need at least 1000 UK authors and 10,000 USA authors to reach any definite conclusions. I’d offer up the view that UK authors might use POD/assisted services a little more than Irish authors, but such services are used even more in the USA – simply because there is a lot more diversity of choice than this side of the pond and many self-publishing providers are US-based.
For now – the roll call of Ireland’s self-published authors who took part in Joe Duffy’s Liveline show on Tuesday:
Recession busters’ business bible By Rory & Gerry Carron  Unknown
The Season by Mike Geoghegan   Original Writing
Home City by Nuala Lyons   BookLocker.com
A very different county by Robert Mulhern   Self-Imprint-Imprint
The Red carpet by Fran O’Brien   Unknown
Revive the spirit ‘Poetry & Art of our time’ by Michael McDonald   Unknown
Bankrupted by Brian O’Sullivan   Unknown
Negligent behaviour by Josepha Madigan   CreateSpace
Under the Avalanche by Anne McCabe   The Varsity Press
The dirty islanders by Dee Throwaway   Original Writing
A deadly greed by Adeline Bolton   BookLocker.com
The best laid schemes by Eugene Owens   Self-Imprint
The Heron’s Flood by Evelyn Walsh   CreateSpace
Poppy’s birthday Tea Party by Jillian Stout   Unknown
March away my brothers by Brendan MacQuale   Unknown
Murder in a sleepy town by Anne Crosse   Lulu
Xceptionalize: Success secrets for students by Kevin Kelly   Self-Imprint
The James Connolly story By Sean Farrell   Unknown
Natural health through wiser living by Mary T. Keane   Unknown
Earth angels are everywhere are you one? By Dolores Keaveney   Self-Imprint
The Rattler Mickey Byrne by Michael Dundon and The Byrne family   Unknown
Sabrehilt by Maxwell McCann   CreateSpace
Cranium Kid (The boy of the head) by David Byrne & Natalie McGlynn   Self-Imprint
Under Connemara skies Towards light by Martina Goggin   Unknown
Let’s read a story by Jerry Mulvihill   Original Writing
The Baron & Rosa by Baroness Rosa Kende   Original Writing
A Cat’s Soliloquy learning Japanese through poetry by Mitsue Jimi  Original Writing
It wasn’t me  The story of Pollux and Castor by Jill Ferreira Unknown
England is perfectly still by Trevor Carolan   Pen Press UK
Free Spirits Irish travellers and Irish Traditional Music by Tommy Fegan & Oliver O’Connell   Self-Imprint
Wise & Witty Words of Wonder by Don Kelly Unknown
Fat and Fed up No More! 7 steps to permanent Natural weight loss by Catherine Hassett   Self-Imprint
Open to love by Norah Clifford Kelly   Unknown
Northside 117 Views of The Liffey Bridges, paintings By artist Tom Byrne  Unknown
Eggshells & Broken Dreams by J.P Rodgers   Self-Imprint
Daisy thinks Big by Audrey Fitzgerald   Unknown
Psychosilly by Alan Murphy   Self-Imprint
Tales of old Ireland and Australia by Ned Egan   Unknown
Oh! Pére Lachaise The Trials and Tribulations of Oscar Wilde by Jim Yates  Unknown
Shh! ‘Don’t Tell;’ A true story of survival by Miriam Moriarty Owens Lulu
Karena the Fairy trilogy by Mary McShane   iUniverse
No Love Here A priest’s journey by Martin Gordon  Self-Imprint
Take it easy by Michael MacDonald   Self-Imprint
Singing the Blues The long walk back to happiness on Hill 16 by Paul Huggard  Unknown
Fifty Years behind the Counter by Kevin duffy   Self-Imprint
Take your Ease & Rest awhile enjoy some poetry from Renvyle by Daniel Sammon   Unknown
Coda  Journey of a freeborn clone by G.M. Ellerbeck   Unknown
Sacred Messages from Sacred Ireland by Jane Donald   Self-Imprint
Adam’s amazing adventures by Benji Bennett   Self-Imprint
Spirits of Wood Quay by Geraldine O’Connell Cusack   Booksurge
My great sporting memories from local Club to Olympic Games by Lorcan O’Rourke  Unknown
Kembali  Return of the mystic by Jan Taki   Self-Imprint
The Adventures of Pippy & Dippy The Outside World by Jim Bartley   Self-Imprint
The flight of a magpie by Billy Costine   Unknown
Your health and welcome to it by Cathy Breslin & Dr. Garvan Browne   Original Writing
A harvest of memories Rural Ireland from the 30’s to present times by Dick Jeffers  Unknown
Jack’s fantastic Journey by Emmet Boyle   Lulu
Love to change? Then Change to love by Marian Egan   Self-Imprint
Collected short stories by John M. Byrne   ePrint
Dandelion by Audrey Shanahan   CreateSpace
Twisters: Short stories with a twist in the tale by David Jones   Unknown
Under an Irish Sky, A John Morgan novel by Darren Darker   ePrint
Sometimes it just happens by Carol Fitzgerald   The Varsity Press
The Nymph’s cookbook by Adrian Boland   Self-Imprint
I have travelled this country, songs of Cathal McConnell compiled by Gerry O’Connor   Unknown
Gold Rays by Kathleen Maddy   The Poet’s Press
Crumlin Cookies by Nancy Looney   Unknown
W.B. Yeats Seanad Eireann speeches 1922 28 by Michael Manning Lulu
Soccer History Westport United 1911 editor Pádraig Burns  Unknown
Sleep with Buteyko by Patrick McKeown   Self-Imprint
String and Rindabytes Tales and poems on life, love and lunacy by Niall Herriott  Paragon publishing
Looking towards the past Topical Talks of the 60’s by Myles O’Farrell compiled by Ursula O’Farrell   Unknown
Show me the prisoner and I’ll show you a young man, a memoir by Patricia Farren   Matador
Snowstorm of doubt and grace by Ken & Caitriona Hume   Original Writing
Hy-Tuirtre Trials and Tribulations in a Ulster Kingdom by Patrick J Flynn   Unknown
The Ancestors within a search for soul purpose by Tom Hyde  Unknown
God’s little Errand Boys Christian clergymen who helped the jews come home by Yanky Fachler  Unknown
David Norris Trial by media by Joe Jackson   Self-Imprint
The Lobby Bar Music Through the Windows of Union Quay, Cork by Monica McNamara  Self-Imprint
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