The An Post Irish Book Awards were presented in Dublin last night and a highlights programme of the festivities will be broadcast tomorrow night on RTÉ.

Fresh from a successful evening in Dublin 4 the Director of the Awards Alastair Giles took time out over breakfast this morning to chat with us about what it was like in 2018, working with a new sponsor and writing the next chapter in the story of the Irish Book Awards

Entertainment for Business: It was great to get An Post on board once Bord Gais Energy had indicated they were to step away from the headline sponsorship, has their arrival had an impact?

Alastair Giles: Yes, emphatically so, particularly in relation to their sponsorship activation plans where their #Readers Wanted campaign has scored big with the entire book trade and the general public.

An Post were not only interested in associating with the awards; they were serious about expanding their reach and spreading the gospel about the value of reading in general. 

Did the conversation start from them or was it an approach from you?

My company Agile Ideas, project manage every aspect of the awards event, TV and campaign. We also oversaw the sponsor search and negotiated the deal with the help of Onside Sponsorship in Dublin. 

An Post was one of only a very few companies we targeted because their Irish heritage matched our objectives.

The An Post CEO, David McRedmond, is an ex-bookseller and we invited him to the dinner last year. We suspected that the awards would be attractive to him once we’d pointed out the sponsor benefits to him and so it proved. 

In terms of the rollout of the Awards this year, what did you do differently to previous years?

The #ReadersWanted campaign was a major step-up.  We had always wanted to make the awards more than an annual party for the trade. Our ambition was to turn the event into more of a generic campaign to promote books and expand sales in a tough market-place. 

So, to have a headline sponsor helping us pursue this objective from the get-go was a massive bonus and what’s more, our ‘official media partner’ RTE have also upped their game in terms of promoting the awards as part of their cultural offer.

Exposure and reach are well up this year, so, we hope to see it bear fruit in terms of Christmas awareness of Irish books and by extension of Christmas sales.

Has it been a strong year for publishing in Ireland?

Yes. We have much to celebrate this year: the Irish book trade is full of energy as we head into Christmas 2018, completing our fourth year of growth with sales increasing by a heartening 7 per cent so far this year.

Some of the publishers have reported growth in adult sales outstripping YA fiction but that this is likely down to phasing of the bigger authors, would that be fair?

Yes probably. The big, brand-name authors in YA have not been as prolific this year.

How has the volume of voting been this year as opposed to previously?

Way up, on account of the #ReadersWanted and RTE media campaigns and the increased interest this has generated on social media.  This is really encouraging.

We had 100,000 votes cast this year, that’s twice as many as in 2017.

It’s year one of a three-year deal, has this been about learning about each other or did you hit it off straight away?

Everyone says it’s a marriage made in heaven since both of our businesses involve the dominance of the written word but certainly you could tell pretty quickly that we were on the same wavelength. 

Working with people for the first time can be challenging, but with An Post there were no issues.  Their approach has been refreshing and made for a very positive joint campaign.

How does the Irish Book Awards compare to others across Europe?

In the UK, there are numerous awards and prizes so having anything other than the Man Booker Prize stand out is very difficult.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that, in Ireland, the An Post Irish Book Awards is now THE moment for the Irish publishing industry.

What makes it unusual to the UK is the depth of feeling for books and reading in Irish culture.

The media coverage is blanket and audience for the TV Highlights show is astonishing. If the same percentage of the population watched a show like this in the UK, the viewing figures would be in the millions, which is simply unheard of.

Across Europe as a whole, the literary world is reflected simply in other literary prizes, not for such a wide spectrum of individual award categories as here in Ireland. So in many ways, the awards are unique.

Did you enjoy last night?

The Awards Dinner has become the major event in the literary calendar with Taoisigh and Presidents as guests of honour.

We had novelists, poets, historians, sports stars, politicians, journalists, TV personalities, publishers, librarians and booksellers in the room last night and the winners were just brilliant.

No other literary project reaches all sectors so comprehensively.

What has been your favourite Book of 2018 from Ireland and if different from further afield?

For many people (including the An Post CEO) it’s been Sally Rooney’s Normal People which emerged as the winner. For others, it has been Notes To Self by Emilie Pine.

Whichever way you view it, 2018 has been an extraordinary year for the strength of female authors having their say… and saying it so eloquently.

Last nights Awards recognised that in every way.

 

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Image Credit An Post Irish Book Awards

Get Connected to the Business of Entertainment in Ireland by joining us as a Member and enjoy the many benefits of a Daily News Digest, keynote events throughout the year where we share and learn together and the opportunity to have us tell your story.   Contact us by email for more information

Are you involved with an initiative that deserves to have its story told to our influential readership in the sponsorship, arts and entertainment sector? Send your news to us today.

Image Credit An Post Irish Book Awards