The Irish publishing industry posed a question this March: how could we create a promotion that would run in the book trade (ie shops) whose key message would be about Irish Publishing?
With so many irish writers published abroad, it is very easy for people to miss the fact that there is an industry in Ireland (called publishing) that is full of a whole range of skilled people who are, in some sense, important to Irish culture — editors, designers, publishers, marketeers etc. There IS something different about a book being produced in the country where most of its readers are based, and we all believe that this message needs to get out there! We knocked our heads together, and Great Irish Book Week was born. It all developed extremely quickly
- a decision was made that it had to feature new books, which meant that …
- it had to be in the autumn, but there is huge pressure on bookshop space in autumn …
- so we talked to lots of booksellers and picked a week
- all Irish publishers would be invited to participate and submit their titles
- a panel would select 30 titles from the submissions, subject to a few rules (no more than 2 from any publisher, be sure to include poetry, Irish language titles, …)
- the selection would try to reflect the full range of diversity that exists in Irish publishing
- copies of a free sampler book would be produced and distributed, with posters, stickers etc, to every bookseller who would take them!
So how did it go? Well, given the timeframe, I would have to say very well. All the key milestones were met:
- the publishers bought into it
- the selection process ran smoothly
- the booksellers bought into it
- we got some great media coverage
- the sampler books was created, and posters etc designed and produced
- a website with all the info (and a freely browsable version of the sampler book) was created (www.greatirishbookweek.com)
- packs were distributed, and many booksellers had great displays
There were some hitches, but nothing critical, and the whole promotion showed that, as an industry, we can work quickly, effectively and in a co-ordinated and innovative manner. The profile of Irish publishing was raised, and 25,000 copies of the (extremely eclectic!) sampler have been distributed to booklovers the length and breath of the island — and when they leaf through these books and happen upon a title that they never would have looked at before, there’s another book sold and another small step in the continued success of a native industry!
Credit is due to all who put their time and energy into this, to the booksellers for agreeing to take part long before it was obvious that this was going to work, and to all the publishers for creating such interesting books: my shopping list has certainly got longer since I browsed through the selection.