Being an Irish author is more of a Grimm fairytale than a Cinderella story

From The Irish Times:

Signing with a publisher is the ultimate fairytale for every new writer. We slave away like modern-day Cinderellas on our manuscripts, not entirely sure of what our happy-ever-after will entail, but still we long for the day when we can squeeze our toes into that glass slipper.

However, a recent article by Donal Ryan on the harsh realities of being a published writer in Ireland has put paid to the fairytale notion of big advances and handsome royalties. Ryan revealed that for the first contract he signed he earned a sobering 40c per book, which left a lot of people asking, where does the rest of the cover price go?

Most people outside of the industry assume that once you have a contract and your book is in the shop window, you’re on the pig’s back, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Traditional publishing is a bit like fight club – nobody really knows what goes on because nobody talks about it. So for new writers, it can be a bit of a blow to discover the truth.

. . . .

 When I began submitting my debut novel back in 2013, while quietly humming “Some day my prince will come”, my expectations of the publishing contract were embarrassingly Cinderella-like. I may not have been expecting a gilded carriage, but I assumed that they would take care of everything and more importantly, take care of me. This is why I am so glad that I didn’t get that publishing deal, because I would have naively left everything in the hands of the publisher.

. . . .

 Becoming a self-published author has forced me to take sole responsibility of my writing career by learning everything I could about this industry from the ground up. If you want to be an author, you have to focus on the long game and I’m not sure that traditional publishing can give authors that kind of luxury anymore.

. . . .

 There is still a lot of snobbery around self-publishing and while there are those who still view it as the poor relation, statistics show that the popularity of indie books is on the rise. A new report from Enders Analysis found that 40 of the 100 top-selling ebooks on Amazon US in March 2016 were self-published.

. . . .

 The publishing world is in flux. More and more, we are seeing traditionally published authors moving into self-publishing. Polly Courtney, author of Feral Youth, decided to ditch Harper Collins because of what she felt was their chick-lit marketing approach to her books. Claire Cook, author of Must Love Dogs, left her publisher and her agent once she realised she could earn more through self-publishing: 70 per cent royalties on ebook sales compared to the standard 25 per cent a traditional author receives is hard to ignore.

. . . .

 Traditional publishing is positively glacial in its approach to change. Digital publishing is a fast-paced environment and Amazon has responded to that. They have even created their own imprints for agented authors, showing that they can evolve and respond to the market. I believe it’s time for traditional publishers to do the same and put the author at the centre of the industry. Authors need a fair return for their work and it just doesn’t seem right to me that they are at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to earnings. And yet, that is how the publishing industry is structured.

Link to the rest at The Irish Times

7 thoughts on “Being an Irish author is more of a Grimm fairytale than a Cinderella story”

  1. “40 of the 100 top-selling ebooks on Amazon US in March 2016 were self-published.”

    WOW! I guess I never let that sink in until now….

    “the popularity of indie books is on the rise” LOLOLOLOL yeah, I would say so. Indie publishing is still very new compared to traditional and 40% of the top 100 is a LOT.

    • That was just in March. I wonder if the numbers would be different in any given month? Maybe higher, maybe lower.

      One thing for sure, publishing is changing, and this must be accounted for when one decides to write a book. The gilding needs to be scraped off the vision, and reality faced. Or else, don’t complain that the fairy tale isn’t nearly as rosy as one thought.

    • Sadly, it’s more common than not. There seems to be some fantasy about what being a writer is like, and despite having lots of data out there, it seems people only like the Internet for Instagram and Facebook updates.

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