After a long, hot summer, the sun has finally lowered the temperature from scorching to a low simmer, there’s a brisk chill in the morning air, and schools are throwing open their gates once more: September is here. This, among other things, means that Culture Night is almost upon us. Culture Night is a relatively new venture for us here at The O’Brien Press. We participated for the first time in 2017 and we had so much fun at our Pitch Perfect event that we’re doing it all over again this year!
Pitch Perfect is a unique opportunity to pitch directly to The O’Brien Press. We’re looking for the best unpublished writers to meet with members of our team in Rathgar for one-to-one pitches. This year, we’re on the lookout for children’s & YA fiction and non-fiction again, but we’d also like to see humour and sports (particularly GAA) books for adults. Places are limited so if you’ve got a great book idea (and think you can pitch it in ten minutes flat) we want to hear from you! For full details please see https://culturenight.ie/event/the-obrien-press/ or to make a booking email firstname.lastname@example.org.
But if you’ve missed the deadline for Pitch Perfect, don’t despair. The O’Brien Press is open to submissions all year round and all potential bestselling ideas are welcome!
Here are some top tips and a little advice to help you make your submission stand out from the crowd – in all the best ways.
What We’re Most Excited About
- Historical Fiction for Children: A quick look at our website should tell you that we just love a good historical novel. We’d advise aspiring authors to have a look through the list and see if they can spot a time period not covered by existing titles, a story not yet told, or a different angle on a historical event.
- Children’s Fiction: We’re looking for great stories across all age groups, from picture books to Young Adult Fiction. Any genre can capture our attention – contemporary stories, humour, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, and adventure.
- Children’s Non-Fiction: We’re open to almost any topic or theme – although we do ask that it has some particular relevance for Irish children.
- Diversity: We’d like, as much as is possible, to see a diverse range of characters appear in our fiction submissions – in terms of background, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical abilities, etc. We love great stories with lots of interesting characters that reflect modern life!
- Adult Non-Fiction: We are always looking for clever non-fiction ideas, and we publish on a wide range of subjects. Always good for us are humour, sport, photography, Irish history and other Irish-interest titles.
What We Love to See When We Open the Envelope
- An author that has read the submission guidelines: It sounds really basic, but this is literally the number one thing we’re hoping for when we open that envelope. We don’t enjoy turning down submissions, but if we open a collection of poetry for adults or an erotic novel…they’re an automatic ‘no, thank you’. The O’Brien Press does not publish either of these genres. So please, read the submission guidelines. We’ve done our best to make them as clear and as detailed as possible.
- A good story: It’s both as simple and as complicated as that. We want to pick up a submission that has us racing to our email to ask for the rest. We want to care about the characters and be desperate to know what happens next. Regardless of genre or the age of the intended audience, everyone who picks up a book is looking for a variation of the same thing; a good story. So send us something that you would like to read, because if you want to read it, chances are somebody else does too.
- Something we didn’t know we were looking for: Anybody working in the book trade long enough knows that the instant you think you’ve seen it all, something comes along to prove you wrong. Whether it’s a fresh, new approach to a (supposedly) tired trend or an idea so brilliant that we can’t believe no one’s thought of it before now – surprise us!
How to Write a Good Cover Letter
- Tell us about your book: But don’t go too heavy and try to sell us on every aspect of your book at once. You’re going to be giving a more detailed outline of your entire book in the synopsis, but think of this as a teaser. Give us the two-line pitch.
- Contextualise your submission: List your influences; tell us authors you admire and enjoy reading. Let us know which books you think yours would sit nicely alongside. It doesn’t have to be one of ours. We just want to know what you enjoy reading and where your book might fit in the market.
- Give evidence that you read in the genre you’re submitting: This is especially important in children’s books submissions. The landscape of children’s literature has evolved drastically even in the last twenty years. There is a wealth of children’s books available and many children read across a range of authors and genres so, if you’d like to write for children, try to diversify your reading too. Talk to children’s booksellers and librarians. If you want to write fantasy for the 10-14 age group, we guarantee you they can recommend at least five books you should read before you even think about putting pen to paper.
- Tell us about yourself: You obviously don’t need any qualifications to write a great book – fantastic writers have existed for a lot longer than universities have been offering Masters in Creative Writing! But if you have attended any course, are part of a writing group, or been published before (either in books, magazines, or online) this is useful information for our editorial team to have. So, introduce yourself. Getting to know you is as important as getting to know your work.
So, now we’ve covered what we look for in a manuscript and how best to approach your cover letter. Down to the nitty-gritty stuff; how to actually submit!
Our full submission guidelines are available on our website: www.obrien.ie/submissions
We do advise that you read them carefully before submitting, but here’s the short version;
If you would like to submit your work to us, please send a cover letter, synopsis and first three chapters to us by post at the address listed below. For children’s picture books or other submissions under 1000 words, please submit the work in its entirety.
The O’Brien Press
12 Terenure Road East
We will only accept submissions/proposals, via the post. Please do not email your work to us.
Finally, the difficult part….
What to do if your submission is unsuccessful
We know it’s really tough to have a publisher turn down your work. But that is by no means any reason to give up. It is important to wallow for a bit – never skip this step. This is one of the best ones. It includes indulging in high quantities of caffeine, sugar, commiseration chats with friends, and general license to gnash ones teeth for a few days. But it’s equally important to pick yourself up from the debris of ice cream containers, sweet wrappers, and tear-stained Kleenex and try again.
Whether that means putting your manuscript in a drawer for a few weeks before pulling it out again to re-write, re-work and re-submit, or starting a whole new project from scratch – it doesn’t matter. Keep trying.
Aoife Harrison, September 2018