Recently Vanessa O’Loughlin chaired a Getting Published panel at Listowel Writer’s Week. John Walsh of Doire Press joined the panel as an independent voice with Editorial Director of Hachette Ireland, Simon Trewin, then of United Agents (London) and Faith O’Grady of the Lisa Richard’s agency. As the publishing landscape changes with the growth in independent authors and publishing houses, and the effect of digital publishing, John Walsh spoke to writing.ie about starting a small indie publishing business:
“Doire Press took its first small steps in 2007 but actually did not start out as a business. I had received a Publishing Award from Galway County Council Arts Office for my second poetry collection ‘Love’s Enterprise Zone’ and around this time my present real-life and Doire Press partner Lisa Frank was visiting me. (See ‘The Way Things Happen’ in my debut short story collection ‘Border Lines’). Lisa had done her MFA in Creative Writing in 2005 in Oregon and was interested in a career in writing and publishing. With all the ingredients ready for mixing we decided to publish my second collection ourselves. Once we discovered we could do it, there was no stopping us.
Lisa and I also run the performance slam and spoken word event ‘North Beach Poetry Nights’ in The Crane Bar in Galway and we came up with the idea to publish the annual winner’s debut collection. So Miceál Kearney’s ‘Inheritance’ became our second book in 2008. Miceál’s ‘Inheritance’ is a power-book of raw poetic energy. It continues to sell well and we are proud of it.
From 2010 on we began to take ourselves seriously as publishers. We widened our scope to poetry collections from people whose work we admired, people who had not yet been published but deserved to be. This includes Gerry Galvin’s ‘No Recipe’. Gerry had been a very successful chef and restaurateur, running the internationally famous restaurant Drimcong House in Moycullen, County Galway. On my visits there I had often noticed the poems framed on the walls in the men’s toilets. They caught my eye because this was unusual and because they were good. When I later met Gerry at various workshops, I asked him about this and found out that the poems came from his own pen. He had enough poems together for his debut collection which sold out its first 500 copy print run very quickly. Other collections came from Edward Boyne, ‘The Day of the Three Swans’, and Susan Lindsay ‘Whispering the Secrets’.
In late 2010 we branched out into fiction with Salmon poet Susan DuMar’s short story collection ‘Lights in the Distance’. The following year we published Gerry Galvin’s culinary thriller ‘Killer a la Carte’ and Jim Mullarkey’s ‘AND’. Our latest short story collection due out July 2012 is Celeste Augé’s ‘Fireproof and other stories’.
What have Lisa and I learnt from all this?
That it is extremely satisfying to be doing something you love to do, that opening the door into the literary world for writers who deserve it is a gratifying experience, and that creating beautiful books, even in this day of the more and more all-prevalent e-book, is rewarding in itself.
We also know that if our object is to make money, then we’d better get real jobs. There is no two ways about this. So far we have always covered our costs but most of the profit from one book is pumped into the next. We are thankful to both Galway City and County Council who have given several of our writers Publication Awards. This makes life a lot easier for us. And we are currently hopeful that we will receive funding for our next books from the Arts Council.
Marketing is our biggest hurdle and headache. We are not, I repeat, we are not marketing types but we have to force ourselves to get out there and do it. We dream of the day when we can take on someone to do the marketing for us. Because marketing means sales. This is why it is important for us that our authors realize that their work really begins once their books come from the printers. They are in the frontline and we encourage them more and more to get wise to the social networking world, something we are only learning about ourselves.
There is a lot more to say but I hope I have given you some insight into our small indie publishing world. Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is that WE get to choose who we want to publish and we know we can take the risk. In the end it is only OUR heads that will roll.”