A Little Overview Of The Irish Book Market

A Little Overview Of The Irish Book Market

In case you’re wondering, I made this image. In Paint. That’s why it’s so bad. But I didn’t steal it

Recently, I’ve been using book sales data from the Top Ten Fiction Bestseller lists published by the Sunday Times, in an attempt to illustrate book-buying behaviour.

I focused on UK data, because it’s such an important market and it carries a much bigger stick. But today I’d like to have a look at the Irish bestseller lists on their own, because some little trends and patterns emerged which may be useful to any author thinking of self-publishing. Ireland was often used as a ringfenced product test market (ask Cadbury’s), so trends can often become more apparent here than in a much bigger country.

That said, the Irish market can look quite different to the UK market, because we love our Irish authors here – almost slavishly so. When a popular Irish author releases a new title in hardback (or trade paperback) it will generally hit the top 10 more or less immediately, regardless of what’s lighting up the market across the Irish Sea.

But when it comes to paperbacks, we go for the international bestsellers every time, and the release of a big movie adaptation of a book can send sales of that book into the stratosphere.

How Many Book Sales Make A Bestseller?

This shows how many sales you’re going to need at certain times of the year, in order to shoehorn your way into the Irish Top Ten. It looks like a ridiculously small amount in Ireland – sometimes just 250 would do it – but our population is of course much smaller.

I’ve crunched the numbers for both Ireland and the UK, and we buy similar numbers of bestsellers per head of population, although fewer in Ireland, because we seem to spread the love a little more amongst mid-list (and Irish) authors.

A Little Overview Of The Irish Book Market

In the UK, from June to October, 2.47 top ten bestsellers were bought per 1,000 head of population, per week. In Ireland, 2.29 bestsellers were sold per 1,000 people, but we bought far more of them in hardback format than in the UK: Irish people bought 0.96 hardbacks (generally new releases) per 1,000 people per week, but in the UK, this was only 0.62.

Now for the meaty bit. There’s a lot of juice running out of these tables, so you might want to keep a serviette handy.

A Little Overview Of The Irish Book Market

Note: Look at the number of paperbacks which were sold to reach the #1 spot in June. This skyrocketed with the film adapatation of The Fault In Our Stars, which multiplied sales of the book almost fourfold. And in October, we see a spike again with the release of the Gone Girl film. The moral of the story is – if you’re releasing a work of fiction, don’t time it to clash with the release of the screen adapatation of a major bestseller.

On a more positive note, it can take as little as 250 sales to get into the Irish Top 10 in certain months of the year. Think about it: if you get everyone you know to buy your book in the week of your launch (from participating booksellers, obviously), you could find yourself in the position to say you’ve written a “Times Bestseller”!

What Happens Once You Hit The Top Ten?

Most hardbacks have a bestseller shelf life of about 4-6 weeks. The paperback bestseller lists, however, are a mixum-gatherum of titles released 3, 6 or 12 months ago, along with the odd title from 3 years ago which has just seen a screen adaptation and is back in the bestseller list for the 4th time. This bestseller list from the end of June includes release dates and shows what I mean:

A Little Overview Of The Irish Book Market

Dodgy Advice Incoming**

The way I see it, if you’re relatively well-known in this country, you can chuck out a hardback in the big months, get all your journalist besties to give you a nice write-up in the national papers, and your book will almost definitely make the list.

But in the paperback market, you’re competing with the Faults In Our Stars and the Gone Girls, not to mention the Stephen Kings and John Grishams, so be prepared for a slow burner and don’t expect too much.

What About Non-Fiction?

For non-fiction, the Christmas market is your oyster. So get that self-help pocketbook or your humorous sideswipe at Irish fathers out in September or October. Work on your press release, and be prepared to use whoever your uncle-in-law met in the Palace Bar for favours in order to get publicity.

It’s not pretty. But that’s book sales.

I’m off now before I give you serious data overload, and you all leave, and never come back. That wouldn’t be pretty either.

As always, observations, diatribes or witticisms in the comments are even more welcome than a good book on a rainy day.

**Note: All advice must be taken at your own peril and should only be imbibed with a stiff drink. So there.

  30 comments for “A Little Overview Of The Irish Book Market

  1. Sally
    November 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Excellent information, as usual – thank you. I’m not sure of my ground here, but I think the bestseller lists use the number of books bought by participating shops or wholesalers, rather than the number sold by them. So for a relatively unknown author, they wouldn’t buy many to start with even though they might sell all those they have, whereas with a well-known author they could by hundreds but possibly have a lot left on the shelf – so lucky well-known author could be a bestseller without selling any books (although, of course once they become a ‘bestseller’ people think they should buy they book and so it becomes a bestseller). But now I’ve confused myself and that might be what you said, so I think I’ll go for a lie down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 26, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      I knew I had too many statistics… sorry about that, Sally, but they were mounting up, and if I didn’t get them out, there was going to be a messy accident. 😉

      Regarding the book sales count, you might be right – I hadn’t heard that before – but if the books stays on the list for more than 1 week, I doubt there’s much difference in the figures, even though it seems a terribly shoddy way to count sales. I think the main point is that you have to be well-known before you start. You’re not going to get national media publicity, let alone a distribution deal to participating booksellers for your book, unless you’re either famous already or you’ve won a major competition. The only thing is that in this country, it’s at least a less remote possibility than over the water on either side.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. November 26, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Doesn’t matter for me, when Naptimethoughts releases a novel, the WORLD buys it immediately. I have many personal fantasies supporting this hypothesis.


    • November 26, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      This is indeed a most infallible hypothesis. Its very sturdiness makes me tremble. Tell me, once you release the novel, will there be a wine and cheese reception? Just in case I’m looking for scraps from the table of Irrefutable Success?

      Liked by 1 person

      • November 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm

        I may allow a select few to my irrefutable success reception. If you’d like to be on the list, better start sucking up now.


        • November 26, 2014 at 9:50 pm

          Dammit. My vacuum cleaner’s broken. I’ll have to start sucking up next week. In the meantime, can you please ensure at the reception that there are organic vegan gluten-free low GI raw food options that I can make fun of?

          Liked by 1 person

          • November 27, 2014 at 12:07 am

            Only the best for those who pander to my humongous ego.

            Liked by 1 person

            • November 29, 2014 at 7:25 am

              Sooo, I change my name to Maeve O’Flaherty and I write a book about a miserable Christmas in Ireland, and kerching! Yes? Right, I’m on it.


              • November 29, 2014 at 10:03 pm

                Yes, all of the above. It would also help if you had a drink problem, and unresolved issues to do with your mother. But one thing at a time, I suppose…


                • November 30, 2014 at 10:29 am

                  I’m sure I’ve got those already – I must be a best-selling author and I just haven’t realised it


                  • November 30, 2014 at 10:47 am

                    Could you ask your local publican slash therapist? They usually know these things.


                    • November 30, 2014 at 5:37 pm

                      That is a very good idea – I’m off


  3. November 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Interesting stats Tara and I love reading them though it does hurt my brain after a while. Next up – how to do well on kindle 😉
    I agree, the numbers aren’t huge in Ireland but it also shows that it can be hard to sell 250 books in a short time. I know my book might have hit the bestseller charts last Xmas if I had had it in bookshops but selling from own website doesn’t count.
    I’d better knuckle down, finish book and then work out what month to publish. I’ve done sod all re sending out press releases or trying to get book into gift guides for Xmas but feel I should have done! Having said that, TG4 are coming to interview me tomorrow so I hope they mention the book in the interview 🙂


    • November 26, 2014 at 9:41 pm

      Agreed, Lorna, it’s hard no matter what the target is. I’m not sure if a self-pubbed book has ever made the fiction top ten. It seems more likely in the non-fiction top ten, but it’s still hard. And then, when you consider the fact that that the accompanying royalty cheque for getting into the Irish bestseller list would be for about €6.20, it puts it in perspective!

      The only way to do it is to write more books and build an even bigger following… what you waiting for? I want to see that on my desk by next week 😉 The very best of luck tomorrow – that’s a great coup! Will you promise to tell us when it’s televised?


      • November 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm

        Yes, I need to get focused and get that next book done!
        TG4 cameras were here for 3 hours – all for 5 min of footage! It’ll be about 2 weeks but I will let you know 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. November 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I’m over the big water, and I find your stats fascinating. Makes me almost want to move to Ireland! I think I might be able to sell 250 books in one month if all my FB friends, blog followers, and twitter followers buy the book. Too many of my real life friends are expecting freebies!


    • November 26, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      It’s not all rainshine and roses in the tiny Irish pond, mind you. It’s easier to be a big fish but it can be bloody hard to get out of it. You could be the no.1 bestselling author in this country, and just about earn enough money to buy a sandwich for whoever it is in your life who’s bringing home the bacon!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. November 27, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    The Irish are clearly much stronger, holding up more hardbacks than the average Brit. What’s wrong with September? Not everyone goes back to school, but it looks as though there is a long shadow from school days and no one wants buys fiction much… or they spent all their money and on holidays and lost the taste for fantasy.


    • November 27, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      September was a weird one, Hilary. It might be the case that there’s a hangover from holidays, where people still have books left over from their pre-holiday book-buying binge, that they didn’t get around to reading. But without a major release (either from a blockbuster author or a film tie-in) it might just be that there was nothing in September to boost sales on an extraordinary basis. In a small country, these things can have a disproportionately large impact.


  6. December 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Tara, I think your site’s got beautiful design and such interesting pieces, so I’m following! 🙂
    I really enjoy your posts and look forward to your next.
    Feel free to check out my writing about publishing: publishinginsights.org


    • December 11, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      Thanks, Sherry! Sorry for the delay to your comment – WP thought it was spam! Thanks for visiting.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. December 23, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog….. An Author Promotions Enterprise! and commented:
    AUTHORS – Here’s a market you may like to consider – but get some Guinness quaffing and shillelagh swinging practice in before trying it out 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Diana Stevan
    December 23, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Tara, my mind swam when I read your Irish market numbers. How I’d love to tap into that!

    I’m not an Irish author but half of my debut novel, A Cry From The Deep, a romantic mystery/adventure, takes place in Ireland, around Killybegs in Donegal County. There’s also a trip to Galway in there. My husband and I toured Ireland in 2006, and some of what I’d seen made its way into my time-slip story. It has a Claddagh ring of significance and a female ghost from a previous century who haunts Catherine, an underwater photographer, while she’s covering a hunt for one of the lost ships of the Spanish Armada.

    I’ve made the bestseller list in my local bookstore on Vancouver Island :), British Columbia, but as you say it’s the big names that can dominate a list. I’ve had some word that I might have an interview coming up in the Irish Times. I’ll have to wait and see. Maybe that’ll help raise the visibility of my book on Amazon and in beautiful Ireland.


    • December 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      Sounds like a novel of epic proportions, Diana! A great read all round… I hope you do get your interview in the Irish Times- that’d be a coup indeed & you’ll be well on your way to the Irish bestseller list! Good luck!


  9. December 24, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    There’s a lot of readers, including me, that love anything Irish. It’s in our blood


    • December 24, 2014 at 10:41 pm

      I can’t pretend I’m not delighted it might have brought you here, Dannie! Glad you stopped by!


  10. December 24, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    Liked by 1 person

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