Ireland

www.IrishPublishingNews.com Launches

Irish Publishing News Screenshot

Irish Publishing News


Last month I announced that I had rolled out an experimental service aggregating news links for Irish Publishing. Today, after much meddling and experimenting, I finally pushed Irish Publishing News to its own site: http://www.IrishPublishingNews.com

I liked the experimenting and I’ve figured out a few things while I was at it:

1) There are less blogs about books and publishing in Ireland than you’d think. If I’m missing someone or some organisation you think should be included, let me know I’m very keen to improve the quality and sources for Irish books and publishing.

2) One widget is better than six widgets when it comes to WordPress. By that I mean, pruning widgets that operate at cross purposes is a sensible move.

3) Design is important but function is nicer. I’m still unhappy with the look, but the site generally does what I had hoped it would and that is a pretty good place to be.

4) Most things can be built-in WordPress and for free! It really is a tool for champions. Yes it requires some basic knowledge, especially when digging deep into the back-end, but it pays off.

Still, I’m sure this iteration will be an experiment much like the others. This new version of the site offers numerous advantages over the old add-on site:

    1) It allows me to build an archive of links day by day
    2) It allows me to build up the news and features categories more effectively
    3) It brings the power of RSS to the blog section properly rather than by proxy
    4) It is just neater

I hope you like the change. Remember to update your RSS feed too.
Eoin

Publishing Success In Ireland, Part Four

The Companies
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.

ICM Top 10 Including Country

ICM Top 10 Including Country

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,
Eoin

Take Unge’s Survey on Books

Getting Data
I got an e-mail from a UCC Student, Ugne Rauckyte, who needs ppeople to take an online survey on Books and bookselling in Ireland. The goal is below and I think it is pretty important that we get as much data as possible about the Irish market, because we lacks an awful lot of it. Please take some time to do the survey!

I am a masters student in UCC conducting some research into the bookselling industry. This survey is aiming to find out the new trends and changes in consumer preferences and tastes in the bookselling industry. All responses are 100% anonymous and will be kept confidential. I would be very grateful if you could take a few minutes to fill out the questionnaire. Your help is very much appreciated.

The poll is here!

Damn it is rainy today, if you happen to be inside near a computer watch our minister for finance trying to save his version of NAMA on rte.ie/live!
Eoin

Publishing Success In Ireland, Part Three

Eoin Purcell

Bestseller!

More on Category & Average Selling Price
So the bones of the category analysis makes it look like Fiction is the way forward. Before we decide if that is a real picture of events we need to dig a little deeper. For one thing we need to look at a critical piece of information, the Average Selling Price (SEE NOTE 1).

What is Average Selling Price (ASP) & Why it is important?

    1) ASP is the average unit price that a book sold at. In other words, revenue generated by sales, divided by units sold. This doesn’t mean every book sold at that price, many would sell for more, many for less but the AVERAGE price it sold at is what we are after.
    2) ASP is important because it give you a sense of what discount a book was sold at (EG if the RRP €14.99 but the ASP is €11.49, then it is very likely at least one market player is selling the book at a fair discount to RRP)
    3) From a publishers perspective if you see a book selling at a low ASP relative to the RRP, then you can guess that the publisher gave a decent sales discount to the retailer in order to see that book selling at a hefty discount.

A challenge to our fiction first thinking
When you dig into the ASP figures you can see that each fiction unit sold is worth considerably less than each unit of many other categories sold. This comes to light very dramatically when you look at the Top Ten Categories for 2008 by ASP.

The Top Ten Categories By ASP

The Top Ten Categories By ASP

What crops up there is quite amazing:

    For one thing only one of the top ten categories by revenue appears and that, Food & Drink General, at number 10.

    For another you can see that many of these categories are populated by low volume titles. The entire Architecture category is made up of one title. Which gives the interesting result that it generated the best return per unit in the whole Irish Consumer Market. Quite an impressive achievement.

    That list also cries out, special interest (or niche) Local History, Names & Genealogy for instance has a juicy ASP as does Natural History: General. These are categories that are unlikely to face stiff competition but are equally difficult to break into without niche links, know how and knowledge.

    Here is a nice one for you, National & Regional Cuisine is made up of two titles, both published by Avoca, who must be in effect, Ireland’s most successful self-publishers.

So, is it time to write fiction off?
Is Fiction all flash and underneath no action? Well yes and no. Clearly on a unit by unit basis, selling fiction is less remunerative. As Ivan O’Brien commented on Part II of this series that:

Non-fiction is split into heaps of sections, while fiction is only in a few, so it’s apples-and-oranges time. I guess the sums that would be worth doing would be to take, say, the top 1000 general fiction and top 1000 non-fiction (using the major heading rather than subdivisions) and seeing what the distribution of sales and revenues would be … without doing the sums, I would expect that fiction is dramatically skewed towards bestsellers, with non-fiction giving a meaningful return much further down the chart

To some degree he is right. General & Literary Fiction titles account for 45% of the top 100 but only 8% of the titles between 900 and 1000. Even at that they held their own account for about 8% of the units and about 7% of the Revenue for those 100 titles. It is still quite a skew away from fiction towards that end of the list.

BUT

General & Literary Fiction titles only accounted for 240 of the top 1000 Titles (24%), yet they accounted for 30.96% of the value and 32.86% of the volume. So despite that skew in favour of top selling titles, the Category still outperforms overall. That is worth something!

What does all of this teach us?

    1) That the ICM Top 1000 is heavily populated by Fiction titles (24%)
    2) That Fiction sells at a relatively low ASP (€ 10.71)
    3) That despite that, Fiction outperforms as a category in terms of Volume & Revenue
    4) That within the Fiction list, revenue and volume skew very heavily towards the top 500

None of that removes the attraction of Fiction. If anything it reinforces the idea that when you get Fiction right you can sell large quantities of it and because you are printing in higher runs, units costs are lower so even at a lower ASP it makes money. Still while the story must be fiction works at some level, we cannot ignore the subtext that I have hinted at: Non-Fiction can be very lucrative.

Part IV of this series will look more closely at Non-Fiction and why it is an attractive publishing sector. Part V will look at publishers and then, Finally I will wrap up with a conclusion that will mark art VI!
Still some work ahead of me!
Eoin

Note 1
It is important to remember during this phase of the analysis that Nielsen reports RETAIL SALES. If you want an accurate picture of what the PUBLISHER gets then divide the revenue figure by something like 2. This of course varies per title and by publisher but you’ll get a sense of the likely revenue from a sale if you follow that rule. To avoid confusion, I’ll continue the analysis based on the actual RETAIL SALES reported by Nielsen.

I’m looking for a writer with a huge interest in Irish History

Eoin Purcell

Do you write about the Famine?

I need a non-fiction writer who knows quite a bit about the Great Irish Famine who can write 7,500 -10,000 words by the end of September 2009.

I can’t reveal the project yet, but anyone who is interested should drop me a line with a sample of your writing and a short 1 page cv @ eoin{dot}purcell{at}gmail.com

If you don’t write about the Famine, but do write non-fiction about Irish History, drop me a line anyway, there are several projects on the way that might suit. Ideally I’d have this locked down by the end of next week. Feel free to share this blog post as widely as possible.

Windy day today,
Eoin

Dick Mulcahy: An enigma, even now!

Eoin Purcell

My Father, the General: Richard Mulcahy & the Military History of the Revolution

My Father, the General: Richard Mulcahy & the Military History of the Revolution


John Bowman’s Archive Show
John Bowman covered General Richard Mulcahy on its show today. Their archive link is here, but the show is not yet put up. The show includes some very interesting pieces with contributions from John A Murphy, Brian Farrell, Brian Nolan and several others.

The idea was to give a sense of this somewhat enigmatic figure from Irish history. He was after all an interesting figure in the 1916 Rising when he fought with the men of Fingal at Ashbourne (there is a good summary of that fighting here on the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour site) and he went on to hold the Rank of Commander in Chief of the Free State Army, not to mention a significant of not always successful career in politics. The General’s son. Risteard is publishing a new book (with Liberties Press) on his father’s life and career:

My Father, The General: Richard Mulcahy and the Military History of the Revolution by Risteárd Mulcahy is an in-depth biography of the often controversial and hitherto neglected figure and Free State leader. Featuring rare and unseen material from the family archive, this book is a marvellous insight into the man behind the uniform who played a major role in running the War of Independence.

The Executions
Even the Liberties site and the book description manages to reference the remaining core controversy of Mulcahy’s story and the one which overshadows his entire career (which is an impressive on):

His order to execute anti-Treaty activists found carrying guns made him a figure of controversy during the Civil War when a total of 77 anti-Treaty prisoners were executed by the Provisional Government. Despite the Free State government’s mandate being renewed in the following election, Mulcahy’s perceived severity during the Civil War was later to prove a stumbling block to his elevation as Taoiseach of the first Inter-Party government in 1948. Mulcahy selflessly stepped aside to allow John A. Costello to become Taoiseach of a coalition which, as leader of Fine Gael, Mulcahy had skilfully organised

What is remarkable about this is that Bowman’s archive show generally skirted over those executions that Mulcahy and the Free State government oversaw. In fact the only reference I heard was also by far the most chilling section of the piece in which Ernest Blythe defended mulcahy as an arch-realist who in the aftermath of Sean Hales’ killing had already selected the four Anti-Treaty Free State Men that were to be executed.

Thoughts
I’ve yet to read the book and right now I’ve got to say it is only moderately high on my list, but two points seem to come clearly out of the discussion today and the book description. One is the need for a rigourous, unquestionable account of Mulcahy’s life. Something both he and many of the other early Free State leaders lack. Secondly that Mercier’s forthcoming series on the military history of the Civil War will be enormously valuable in bringing that period back into the public thoughts so that we can finally lay to rest some of the lasting myths and resentments that remain alive in some minds, even now (though admittedly to an enormously lesser extent that in the 1950s and 1960s when active participants in the conflict remained in positions of authority).

A good radio day Sunday,
Eoin

Publishing success in Ireland, Part One

Eoin Purcell

The bestsellers at London City Airport - DSCN3939 From Flick User Larsz

The bestsellers at London City Airport - DSCN3939 From Flick User Larsz

The votes are in and the numbers have been crunched
You have to love Polldaddy for that. It might have been nice to poll a few more votes given the rather huge traffic the post got but then, you never expect everyone who actually arrives to take action. Based on a sample of 91 in an incredibly unscientific study here is what I know readers of this blog think about success in the Irish book market:

1) A remarkable 82% believe that sales have to be 4,000 or above before they would be considered a success
2) A paltry 12% think 1,000 is a good marker
3) Most amazingly a full 21% voted for over 10,000 units as a measure of success.

The results from the Polldaddy poll

The results from the Polldaddy poll

And where do I stand?
Well the Irish Consumer Market (ICM) has some great data sources, the most important being Nielsen Bookscan. I base my thoughts on success around the yearly Top 1000 titles. Did a book in year of release make it into that select group. And in case you think that it is not a select group consider these stats from 2008:

1) Value of the entire ICM in 2008 €165,357,704.81, value of the Top 1000 in 2008 €53,351,537.91 or 32.26% of the market

2) Volume sold in the entire ICM in 2008 13,952,693, volume of the Top 1000 wold in 2008 4,691,181 or 33.6%

3) Top 1000 ISBNS as a percentage of the recognised ISBNS in the ICM in 2008: 0.36% (ie there were 278,782 recognised ISBNS in the ICM in 2008)

So even though they accounted for only .36% of the books available to buy, the Top 1000 represented 33.6% of the Volume and 32.2% of the value. That is pretty select.

Some more context
Before I go into details, I’ll unpack that a bit. The Irish consumer market panel includes the large chains (easons, Hughes etc), most of the medium and small chains (Waterstones, Book Centres, Dubray) a flurry of independents and some of the Supermarkets. That has some peculiar effects. For one thing depending on the type of book you selling it can either grossly understate your sales (this is especially true for a very local title or for a title with an extremely heavy independent and local bookshop bias to its sales pattern. Equally, if a title is VERY commercial and likely to suffer heavy price promotion and discounts, the results tend to look better versus the rest of the market because unlike the majority of books, these titles tend to be bought almost exclusively from outlets that report to the Nielsen panel.

So with that in mind a general rule of thumb is to add another 30% to the sales of titles that fall into the local/independent bias to think in terms of REAL sales for those titles. I’m not going to do that here, but it is a useful piece of information (at least until more indies join the panel and begin to send data to Nielsen).

And the numbers per book?
Based on 2008 a book made it into the Top 1000 with 1,879 units of sales. The 1000 book in 2008 was Poetry Now: Ordinary Level. The top title sold 51,777 units and somewhat unsurprisingly was This Charming Man by Marian Keyes.

Admittedly that is quiet a range: 1,879-51,777. Anywhere within that is a very creditable performance. For instance:

The 900th Best-selling book, The Last Lecture By Randy Pausch sold 2,005
The 800th Best-selling book, New Europe By Michael Palin sold 2,194
The 700th Best-selling book, World War II: Behind Closed Doors By Laurence Ress sold 2,434
The 600th Best-selling book, The Irish Discovery Map of Wicklow, Dublin, Kildare sold 2,662
The 500th Best-selling book, Filthy Rich by Wendy Holden, sold 2,994
The 400th Best-selling book, The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford, sold 3,430
The 300th Best-selling book, Better Than Sex: My Autobiography by Mick Fitzgerald, sold 4,321
The 200th Best-selling book, A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern, sold 5,612
The 100th Best-selling book, The Diving-bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, sold 8,287

What can we take from this?
In short, the quantities, even in the top 1000 remain fairly small. In fact, you only get into double figures at the 75th best-selling book. You don’t see anything over 15,000 until the 43rd best-selling book. There are no titles selling over 20,000 until the 27th best-selling book and over 30,000 doesn’t happen until the 9th best-selling book.

Is there more?
But just looking at the raw numbers means very little. What genres lead the way in the Top 1000? Are their secrets hidden in the numbers? Which publisher has the best strategy? Is there an Irish publisher who dominates the list? What publisher operates outside the list? Well the next post in this series will look at some of those patterns and try and drill down into the best strategies ti adopt to achieve healthy sales and how to break through the noise and into the Top 1000.

This is fun is it not?
Eoin