Part 1: The Writing Process
7 February, 2017
The first talk in our Life Cycle of the Book series was dedicated to the process of writing. Ivan O’Brien chaired a panel consisting of Sam Blake (pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin), Ronan McGreevy, and Anna Carey. Ms Blake is the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and Writing.ie, as well as the author of the bestseller Little Bones. Mr McGreevy is a senior journalist with The Irish Times and the author of Wherever the Firing Line Extends: The Irish on the Western Front. Ms Carey is a freelance journalist whose debut novel The Real Rebecca won the Irish Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year award.
First to speak was Ronan McGreevy, who explained the inspiration behind his non-fiction work Wherever the Firing Line Extends: The Irish on the Western Front. McGreevy then went on to describe the research that went into writing non-fiction, as well as his difficulties and successes in finding an interested publisher. He closed with a final piece of advice for anyone interested in writing non-fiction: “Don’t let the research overwhelm the writing.”
Next up was Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, aka Sam Blake, who spoke of her process in writing her debut novel, Little Bones. Blake spoke of “lightbulb moments,” or sudden flashes of inspiration in which she was able to determine an important aspect of her book. In writing her first novel, she explained, she had the luxury of time, which then disappeared when she received a three-book deal that came with deadlines.
The final speaker of the evening was Anna Carey, whose journey as a writer began when she was still young and would rewrite her own versions of stories that she admired. When studying at Trinity College, Carey wrote for the Trinity News, which further expanded her love of writing. She began her first novel, The Real Rebecca, as a response to a request for diary-style books for teens released by O’Brien Press.
Following Ms Carey’s talk, the panel answered questions from the audience. All three speakers expressed their agreement for having multiple editors review a piece of writing, and that maintaining a good relationship with an editor and publisher was essential in order for a book to be successful.
Kelly Meehan Brown of University Times released an excellent write-up of the event, which can be read here.
Part 2: Getting Published
14 February, 2017
The second talk in the series consisted of panellists Faith O’Grady, Declan Meade, and Deirdre Nolan. Ms O’Grady is a literary agent with the Lisa Richards Agency and has been working with a variety of award-winning authors for 20 years. Mr Meade is the founder of Stinging Fly magazine, one of best-known Irish magazines of literary fiction. Ms Nolan is the Commissioning Editor of Gill Books (formerly Gill & Macmillan), the largest indigenous publisher in Ireland.
Declan Meade spoke about some of the qualities he looks for when considering pieces for publication in Stinging Fly. He even admitted that he has a list of yays and nays to consult! He stressed the importance of writers having a developed voice and ensuring that they devote adequate time to pieces they submit for publication.
Deirdre Nolan and Faith O’Grady spoke next, each discussing their own respective experiences of publishing and sharing advice for authors. O’Grady emphasized the importance of cover letters when seeking representation from a literary agent. Nolan recommended that writers devote time to researching the appropriate place in the market for their work and use that as a guide for which publishers to contact.
The panellists then took questions from the audience, covering topics such as royalty rates, agents fees, and the impact of the Brexit vote on publishing. All three panellists agreed that quality was overwhelmingly the most important aspect when considering a piece for publication/representation.
Part 3: What Publishers Do
21 February, 2017
The third talk in the series was designed to explained the publisher’s role in bringing a book into being. The panellists were Emma Byrne, Brendan Barrington, and Paul Neilan. Ms Byrne is a graphic designer and artist who has worked with a variety of publishers to create numerous covers and illustrations for books. Mr Barrington is an editor at Penguin Ireland as well as the founder and editor of The Dublin Review. Mr Neilan is the Sales Manager at Gill Books and has been working in the publishing industry for 25 years.
Brendan Barrington offered insight into the relationship between the author and the editor. Barrington explained that the role of the editor goes far beyond revisions and corrections. Editors are a crucial source of support for authors.
Emma Byrne discussed her role as an artist and illustrator in the process of publishing a book. Covers and illustrations are essential in creating the full “experience” of a book for readers.
Part 4: Reaching the Readers
28 February, 2017
The final talk of the series covered how a book is promoted once it’s been published. The panel consisted of Martin Doyle, Assistant Literary Editor of The Irish Times, Sue Cahill, producer and presenter of Talking Books on Newstalk Radio, and Maria Dickenson, former head buyer at Easons.
The panellists discussed a variety of topics related to promotion, especially the author’s role in promoting their own work. Sue Cahill offered a number of tips for authors speaking on radio, such as the importance of speaking well and even things as simple as not wearing clothing that will make lots of noise during the broadcast.
Overall, the series was a great success! Thank you to all of our panellists, attendees, and those who helped promote the series on social media. We were even trending on Twitter!