You’d imagine that being an Irish chart, the figures on the Irish Consumer Market would reflect that and we would see a lot of Irish companies dominating the market. It’s not a bad concept, I can see why it appeals, it is however, somewhat unfortunately for Irish publishers, just plain wrong.
For instance of the top ten titles in 2008 only two of them are listed as published in Ireland and they are published by Transworld Ireland and Penguin Ireland which, although they employ Irish staff and publishes Irish writers, is owned by International behemoths, Random House and Pearson. The image below shows this.
Inclusive or Exclusive
That pattern is repeated numerous times through the top 1000. 668 of the top 1000 markets are listed as published in the UK. That’s not the half of it either because a full 92 of the top 1000 are published by what might be called Irish Imprints of international publishers.
Don’t get me wrong here, these companies all employ impressive publishers, editors, publicists and sales reps and work with great Irish authors. But one should always call a spade a spade. Ignoring the different set up does no-one any good. They have distinct advantages even if those are only perceptional or brand preference issues.
I also need to be carful there because that figure includes Gill & Macmillan (G&M). I’ve been told before that including G&M in the International Imprints bracket is unfair (On the basis that Macmillan only own a share in the region of 50% of the company) so to give a full picture with G&M the figure is 92, without G&M it is 60 (which goes to show how strong a force they are in the Irish Market). I’ll leave the choice to you how you like to count them, but for me, I think it fairer to consider them part of the International Imprint group if only because they operate under a similar if not exactly the same structure.
In any case a full country-by-country breakdown looks like this.
State – Books Published in that state
Unknown – 2
Australia – 5
United State of America – 7
United Kingdom – 668
Ireland (Including International Imprints + G&M) 318
Ireland (Excluding International Imprints + G&M) 226
Ireland (Including G&M but not International Imprints) 258
So, at best, Irish published books account for just a shade under 32% of the ICM Top 1000 in Ireland. When you exclude International Imprint & G&M that brings the figure to 22.6% even if you include G&M and leave out the International Imprints it still only gets you a shade under 26%.
I think that is something of a worry. Native publishers (at the broadest definition) only just breaking towards 1/3 of the market. Sure we have a huge market right next door with large publishers and effective media saturation through UK Press, TV & Radio but you would imagine that Irish Publishers could appeal more effectively to Irish readers.
In another sense, it is hardly that surprising. All areas of our culture, from video games, movies and opera to sculpture, painting and high fashion are dominated by outside forces, why should reading, books and publishing be any different.
Units & Value
We’ve not yet looked at the figures for sales or units! So let’s do that now.
State – Units – Value – % of Whole Top 1000
Ireland (Most inclusive) – 1,252,405 – €14,781,707.41 – 27.7%
UK – 3,400,705 – €38,048,969.06 – 71.3%
USA – 19,984 – €254,414.93 – .48%
Australia – 13,044 – €181,931.94 – .34%
Unknown – 5,043 – €84,514.57 – .15%
(Note: the rounding is a little off here)
The most inclusive figure then, under-performs on a value basis, even its paltry 32% of titles figure. When you consider things from this perspective, the notion that publishing success then requires an author to move abroad to an international publisher, is not then without some foundation. As a strong proponent of Irish publishing, as a fan of many of the books published by my peers in all of the various types of publishers bring books to the market here (be they International Imprints or native Irish), that is a little hard to accept. But accept it I must.
Of course one needs to be cautious. These represent raw figures for titles, units and revenue, and only for the Top 1000 at that. Some sales will have been missed simply by happening in non-traditional outlets or independents not tied to the Nielsen system. In any case, on this basis I think we have more than enough data to write a solid wrap up in the fifth and last part of this series.
It gets you thinking, the data gets you thinking,
2 thoughts on “Publishing Success In Ireland, Part Four”
Two questions arise:
1. Does the weak showing of Irish published books matter?
2. If so, can anything be done about this market fact or do we simply have to accept it?
1. I believe it does matter culturally that authentically Irish voices can scarcely be heard without going through an anglicising filter. However sympathetic, British publishers and British editors don’t listen to Newstalk, or go on the Luas, or follow GAA or know anything about Ballyseedy or what schools our Supreme Court judges attended and why that matters. It is a question of voice and a national conversation; and in my opinion fundamental to a properly functioning civil society. Recent months have vividly shewn how sorely we need to improve the depth and quality of public debate.
2. The Arts Council’s mandate is to support literature and artists. We need also to support publishers. The Canadians addressed this problem in the 1980s during a scare about US infiltration of Canadian culture. They devised an excellent scheme for supporting locally owned publishers according to sales. The scheme is simple to administer, avoids the moral hazard of simply supporting the production of books no-one wants, and importantly leaves the publisher to perform the crucial gatekeeping function.
Both points are well made and well answered and I’d find it hard to disagree with either of them!
On the other hand I find it hard (admittedly from an ideological perspective rather than any other driver) to agree with any scheme that would directly support businesses even if they do add cultural value!
Thanks for engaging!