News

On the fair treatment of writers... October 11 2016

In light of recent social media attention, the Irish Writers Centre would like to reaffirm that, as a resource and development organisation for writers at all stages of their career, it seeks to support, promote and inform writers through its programmes. While we support writers on broad issues of advocacy (such as fee rates), we would generally advise writers to approach the Irish Writers' Union (whose specific remit it is) to advocate on their behalf.

Therefore we fully endorse the statement made by Ruth Hegarty of Publishing Ireland in The Irish Times (11 October 2016), where she says:

'We would encourage any writer who is experiencing difficulties with their respective publishers to approach the Irish Writers’ Union for help.'

'All authors are entitled to royalty schedules and payments if in their contract.'

We believe that it is in the interests of the literary community at large that the basic principle of fair treatment as regards payment to writers is respected and upheld.

In regard to our own publishing initiative, the Novel Fair, the criteria in regard to submission, selection and invitation to publishers is reviewed annually and is amended at our own discretion, and as necessary.

From the Irish Writers Centre Team


Novel Fair: Walking on Eggshells October 06 2016


Catriona Lally

The deadline for Novel Fair 2017 is a mere two weeks away. With that in mind Catriona Lally reflects on her experiences of the Fair and how her novel Eggshells developed as a result of this.

It was at a launch at the Irish Writers Centre and I just happened to see a poster for the Novel Fair. I looked it up and thought that it would be a brilliant deadline; a novel can be the kind of thing that just sits on your computer for years. I really need some kind of structure and deadline to get anything done, so aiming for October and then for February to have it finished was fantastic. 

Mid-October is the deadline to submit the novel and you then have three months to complete it so that you’re ready for the Fair in February. My thinking was – worst case scenario I wouldn’t get picked but I would still have a completed novel that I could send out to publishers myself.

But then, after being selected as a finalist, we had a prep day two weeks before the Fair, and it was just brilliant to get feedback from the judges about what had worked, what was strong/weak but, in particular, on how to pitch the novel. That was the hard part for me, I really struggled to sum up the novel. ‘Where does your novel sit on the shelf?’ was the question that threw me the most as the agents and publishers want to know very quickly what’s your story and what your book is really about. They also want to know your influences as well, who your favourite writers are, etc. so they can see where you might fit in. 

Within each breakout group the other writers would try and come up with a sentence or two to help with your pitch, and the camaraderie was lovely. At this stage you’re all in it together and our novels were all so different. In my group there were two crime novels and another literary fiction novel so it really does seem that the Novel Fair has this nice mix of genres.

A previous winner, Kevin Curran, came along to the prep day and told us what to expect which was helpful in pointing out things that I hadn’t thought about. I was focused on writing the novel and hadn’t thought beyond that! We were also encouraged to think about longevity. Publishers and agents want to know if you have something else in the pipeline and Kevin had all of us warned that on the day most people would probably ask ‘what’s next?’. Even if you haven’t started writing it, you’re encouraged to tell them what you’re working on next.

The prep day was practical as well. Sarah Davis-Goff, one of the judges, asked us how much we thought the average debut author’s advance was. We’re all thinking in the tens of thousands and she reveals it’s more like €1,000. There were gasps from people. That was helpful to hear; there’s often talk about massive author deals but you have to think realistically – maybe don’t give up the day job just yet!

Exhilarating is probably the best word to describe the Fair. It can be exhausting because you’re ‘on’ the whole time – it’s your baby that you’re selling – and it’s intense too. I was very nervous for the first pitch but once it’s over you think ‘oh, okay’ and you see that the publishers and agents are humans too!

Some of them were very honest and said that my book wouldn’t suit their list fairly early in the conversation which is great – you don’t want to be led on. Most importantly the agents and publishers are simply interested in books, so even if the novel doesn’t suit them you can still chat away about literature and writing.


Novel Fair: an opportunity worth travelling 5,000 kms for! August 23 2016


With the deadline for Novel Fair 2017 approaching we spoke to Mairéad Rooneyall the way from Canadato get some inside tips! A two-time Novel Fair winner Mairéad chatted about her writing process and whether her experience of the Fair changed the second time around.

 Tell us about when you first came across the Novel Fair…

In 2012 I had just finished my novel and had reached the what-next moment. So I submitted to the 2012 Novel Fair and a few literary agents. But there were no bites. As it turned out the manuscript was not ready and the only thing to do was edit. I spent a year reworking the words and then submitted to the 2013 Novel Fair. That time I was lucky and got the call.

  • What was your writing process/routine for the first Fair?

At the time I was writing first thing in the morning. And if some days I could not write, I read around the subject of writing. Though a lot of time, I didn’t do either! When I got the call from the Novel Fair in 2013, it was a real boost and, in preparation, I concentrated on editing the first 10,000 words.

  • What was it like to receive the call telling you that your submission was successful?

Getting the call was great, a tiny taste of success! The manuscript was finished so there was no mad rush.

  • You’ve participated in two Novel Fairs so can we assume you enjoyed the first time so much that you came back for round 2?!

I don't know if enjoy is the right word! Both Novel Fairs were a bit nerve-wrecking. But they are a unique opportunity for a writer to have a one-to-one conversation with several agents and publishers – and all in one day!

  • You travelled from Canada for the Novel Fair this time. Did you plan to participate in the Fair again whilst you were living there or was it a last minute decision?

I wrote my second novel in Canada which took me three years. When it was finished I submitted it for the 2016 Novel Fair, but without any expectations. I just threw my hat in the ring.

  • As a writer, what have you gained from the experience?

The first time I ever sat with an agent or a publisher was at the Novel Fair. A lot of the agents/publishers shared their thoughts on the current market, and also on what types of novels they were seeking. Some made a comment, negative or positive, on my pitch/CV/story so all of that is useful for the future of my writing.

  • What advice would you give to a writer hoping to submit their work for the fair?

Work on the manuscript. Edit, edit, and edit again. Then pray for a bit of luck. Lots of luck!