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How I Got Published Without an Agent – Derbhile Dromey

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Derbhile Dromey

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Two publishing deals were struck in the week running up to Easter 2011. One was splashed all over the media, a €500,000 struck by agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor, the queen of the zillion-euro book deal. The lucky author was Kathleen McMahon, a radio reporter with the national Irish broadcaster RTE.

The other was the deal that I struck with an independent publisher called Book Republic. Let’s just say that mine was somewhat more low-key. No advance and no fanfare, apart from the trumpets myself and Book Republic blew on our social media pages.

I can’t lie. When I started to send out my novel, The Pink Cage, I wanted a deal like McMahon’s. Certainly, I felt I needed an agent to make sure I didn’t get ripped off and that my novel found a good home.

But while I was sending it out, I proofread a book for a local author called Brian Kennedy who was self-publishing a sports book called Blow it Up Ref! Listening to his story and the stories of people who contributed to a Liveline radio programme dedicated to self-published books made me think again.

I wasn’t quite ready to shoulder the burden of self-publishing and still hankered after the stamp of approval of a publisher. But I realised that there was a middle-ground – independent publishers who would bear the cost of publishing a book and help me bring it into the world.

So I adopted a two-pronged approach. I still sent to agents, but I also began sending to independent publishers. It was on this very site, with its treasure trove of writerly information, that I found Book Republic.

A look at their book list and submission guide made me realise that they could be a good fit for my novel. So I sent it off and got a dizzyingly swift reply, saying that they were interested in publishing me.

My immediate concern was ensuring that I wouldn’t be ripped off. But how did I accomplish this without an agent? Fortunately, there are other great advice channels. You can hire an independent consultant for a one-off fee. They’ll review your contract and equip you with the tools to negotiate with the publishers yourself. Or for just €50 a year, you can join the Irish Writer’s Union and one of their representatives will give you pointers.

I wish McMahon well. I met her when I did an internship at RTE and found her exceptionally kind. But a few things struck me when she was talking on Morning Ireland. She didn’t know what was going to happen to her book or what currency the deal was in.

My deal gives me a sense of ownership over my novel. I get a lot of say in the cover design and in the editing process. I know exactly what royalties I get – and the terms are very fair. Because there’s no agent’s cut, I get to keep more of what I earn. And I will play a big part in selling it. And I have the satisfaction of knowing that I found the publisher and negotiated the terms myself.

So do I have regrets about not paying an agent? Absolutely not.

About the author

(c) Derbhile Dromey, 2011

For more from Derbhile, check out her Facebook and her Blog

Derbhile Dromey is a freelance writer, originally from Clonmel. Co Tipperary, but now living in Waterford. She holds a BA in English and History and an MA in Journalism. Her work has appeared in the Irish Independent, Irish Examiner and numerous trade magazines. Five essays about her life as a visually impaired person were broadcast on Lyric FM’s Quiet Quarter slot and one of them found its way into a book called The Quiet Quarter, Ten Years of Great Irish Writing. (New Island). She was shortlisted in the 2011 West Cork Literary Festival Short Story Competition and her work will be featured in an anthology, From the Well. She is getting married this year. When she isn’t writing, she worships at the altar of music, eats and drinks well, walks on the beach and does silly voices.

If you need a publishing consultant to review your literary contract, contact us at contact@writing.ie and we’ll put you in touch.

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