Irish Writers' Union

Comhar na Scríbhneoirí


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We offer advice and information to our members on various levels.

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Can the IWU help me?

All reputable Irish publishers take submissions from the IWU very seriously and generally problems between Irish writers and publishers can be resolved satisfactorily.

While such results cannot be guaranteed, a writer who is a member of the IWU and obtains our representation will generally fare much better than someone acting on their own.

Over the years, our advice has saved individual Irish writers tens of thousands of euro.


Is my contract a good one?

Compare it to the IWU’s model contract here

Detailed contract advice is available for IWU members.


What kind of advance should I expect?

This depends on the nature of the book, the popularity of the author, and other considerations.

It can vary from none for short run books aimed at a very small market to tens of thousands of euro for a major publication (and some three figure sums if it is destined for the international market).

There are two important points to keep in mind with regard to advances.

Firstly, if the publishers are genuinely enthusiastic about your book they will be happy to offer a reasonable advance.

Secondly, given that it takes a long while for the first royalty statement to come through, the advance is disproportionately more valuable than the royalty.

For specific advice on the advance you have been offered and whether it reflects the best practice in the industry, join the IWU and seek our opinion.

(Please note advice can only be offered to current members of the IWU)


What can I expect from royalties?

As with the advance, the royalty that a writer can expect will vary considerably depending on the type of book, the extent of anticipated sales and the standing of the author.

Royalties are typically set out against a sliding scale of sales, so for example: 10 percent on all sales up to 5,000, 12 percent on sales of 5,000 to 10,000 and 14 percent thereafter.

In recent times, publishers have generally moved to paying royalty on the net price of the book, that is, the payment they received from the distributor/shop, and not on the cover price of the book.

Since the collapse of the net book agreement, there has been a race towards major discounting by the leading publishers, which means royalties being paid on net prices have fallen.

There is nothing wrong with contracts making payments on net prices rather than cover prices, in many ways it makes more sense, but you should be aware what this means.

Given a book selling for €10 will usually be sold to the distributor for €5, not to mention further discounting or three-for-two offers, then a ten percent royalty means 50 cent per book, not a euro, comes to the writer.

You should not be shy of asking the publisher about their expectations of the price per book that your payments will be calculated upon and asking for a more generous royalty, should it fail to match your expectations.

Again, the IWU has a great deal of experience of royalty levels and can offer specific advice to members on this subject.


Should I contribute to the costs of publication?

Basically, no.

Any serious project is one where the publisher and writer expect to gain some return from their efforts.

Sadly, there are many ‘publishers’ who take advantage of a writer’s desire to be in print and attempt to charge editorial fees and demand subventions.

A reputable publisher, however, assigns an editor to the project at their own expense and does not ask for subventions.

There can be exceptions to this in the world of academic publishing and specialist publications, but these are usually instances where an institution offers the subvention, rather than the individual author.


I feel that I am owed payment, can you help me obtain this?

Probably.

No reputable publisher will deny payments once any errors or oversights have been pointed out to them.

The IWU has a good professional relationship with Irish publishers, which typically leads to amicable settlements of such issues.

Dealing with international publishers can be more difficult, although here the writers’ organizations in other countries have been very helpful over the years.

The least favourable situation of this nature arises when a publisher goes out of business, although even under these circumstances good representation makes sure that writers have as much of a voice as other creditors.


Should I be entitled to consultation about the cover?

Generally, yes.

It all depends on what the contract states about the author's right to be consulted.

Insert such a clause if it is not there already.

Usually, the publisher will retain the right to make the final decision, unless the author is an illustrator or has the appropriate design skills.


Can a publisher remainder or destroy copies without telling me?

Sadly, this can happen, sometimes in breach of the contract, but by then it is too late to save the books.

A reputable publisher making the decision to remainder books will offer them first to the author in accord to the contract and only after the author has had first refusal are the stock sold off or pulped.

In this scenario, it is advisable for the writer to obtain a reversion of the rights to the book in case it becomes a viable title again in the future.


A publisher has failed me in regard to publicity, can I do anything?

The publishing industry is hectic.

Let us suppose you are with an Irish publisher who is publishing 60 books a year.That means their PR department has less than a week for each title. Typically, the publishers have developed a standard approach with regard to press releases, launches, and so on, and once these are done with, your publicity drive is over. Writers are advised to ask the publisher at the time of negotiating the contract what publicity they can expect and if the response seems unsatisfactory, say so.

Most publishers will be glad to hear ideas with regard to publicity and if you can agree them, it will be worth putting such ideas into the contract.


Should I agree to a Print on Demand contract?

Print on Demand is a useful technology for keeping books with a small audience in print at a time when bookshops do not keep a rich and varied backlist.

It is very suitable for academic works and works of poetry.

But, in all cases, what the writer must look for is a reversion of rights paragraph in the contract.

Print on Demand should not mean that the publisher has indefinite rights to the work.

The IWU has agreed with CLÉ - the Irish publishers’ organisation - that in principle the rights to the work should revert to the author when sales and stock are below a certain level, mutually agreed at the time of the contract.


I’ve written a book, can you help me get it published?

No. We are an advocacy body and a representative body for authors.

There is excellent advice on how to get published in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which is updated every year and includes details of Irish publishers.



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