We asked members of Publishing Ireland to comment on how they are responding to the Coronavirus.
“As regards to my own business, we are releasing ebooks as normal and putting extra effort into marketing them. We are also able to continue trading through our website, though stock is limited and we are offering a free ebook to customers who will have to wait until after lock down for us to supply their order for a print book. We have some print books just printed that could not be released due to the lockdown. Publication of these will be deferred to the summer at the earliest. Some summer titles have been deferred to next year and we have a pared back autumn list for what will likely be a very crowded marketplace. We have retained our full staff (courtesy of the government’s wage subsidy), but we expect very challenging times as a result of the drastic reduction in income during the current period. We hope that Frankfurt will go ahead, but intend to make alternative arrangements for Zoom meetings should it be cancelled. It’s not a replacement for human contact, but we are determined to make the best of it.” Mariel Deegan, General Manager, New Island Books
The current crisis is extremely alarming, however, it must be said that there is a comfort that comes from the fact that we are all in this together. I am heartened by the ability of human beings to collaborate, be flexible and compassionate as well as by team members’ and authors’ resolve to create and keep the show on the road. Nicki Howard, Director, Gill Books
More than ever, small independent publishers must think of new ways to make sure authors’ work reaches readers. The only way we can achieve this is to support the entire Irish book industry, from artists to fellow publishers to booksellers and distributors. The Lilliput Press has created virtual book tours to highlight spring titles and direct readers to bookshop websites. We continuously look for new ways to connect with readers and fellow trade professionals online. Lilliput Press
‘It was extremely troubling to see the book trade grind to a halt and at the moment it’s hard to know what the long-term effects will be or when things might return to some sort of normality. It’s a case of hoping for the best, really. On a positive note, it’s been heartening to see how upbeat our colleagues and authors have been whilst working from home. Our schedule will, naturally, be affected to some extent but we’re still moving our production list forward and that’s encouraging.’ Irish Academic Press | Merrion Press
‘The impact on our business has been dramatic and unsettling; conversely, it has also highlighted some very positive things, both about our own operations and our industry. Obviously the main challenge has been the loss of bookshop revenue, and the immediate impact this has on our cashflow. This has been compounded by the postponement of titles that both our team and our authors had planned and prepared for, in some cases for more than a year. The effect on our schedules and balance sheet would have been a challenge on its own, but this has been underscored by an understandable anxiety for the safety of our staff, our colleagues and their families. However, like everyone else, we have tried to respond as best we can. In advance of the lockdown, we had run trials on fully remote working, and the transition has been surprisingly smooth. We are very fortunate in that we have a magazine side to our business which has remained relatively stable, and this is now supporting our book publishing. As we return to normality, we hope to see our book programme returning the favour. If we are to find positives in this situation, what stands out is the speed and commitment which our staff have shown in adapting to change; the empathy and understanding which our authors have shown in the face of the postponement of their titles; and the deeply collegiate nature of the industry in which we are lucky enough to work’ Ronan Colgan, Managing Director, The Wordwell Group
Reading has never been more important than in a crisis like this. But with all the shops closed, all school, library and festival events cancelled, all revenue for publisher and author alike has come to a shuddering halt. Initiatives by Public Libraries, An Post and RTE Jr, in particular, have been great for the book-starved public. Government support has been vital to keep us going at all, but it will take a long time to get any type of normality. Publishing is very low margin business, and the medium-term implications for our company, and Irish culture, are likely to be enormous. Our amazing team are committed to continuing to make Irish voices heard, but it will be a long and challenging struggle. Ivan O ‘Brien, Managing Director, The O’Brien Press Ltd
‘Messenger Publications is continuing to prepare books for publication as normal. Almost all staff are working from home, and all are being paid their full salaries. However, we have been unable to supply bookshops and online retailers, such as Amazon, for the past month since our trade distributor closed. Our only income comes from modest sales through our own website. Time sensitive books will have to be written off. This is going to mean a very difficult year financially.’ Cecilia West, Messenger Publications