Calling All Authors

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 We’re looking for the best unpublished writers to meet with members of our team in Rathgar for one-to-one pitches.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 or to make a booking email

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.

Continue reading “Calling All Authors”

16 Lives Guest Post – From idea to publication: Lorcan Collins series editor & author gives his perspective…

For the past few years I have been planning and working on a collection of books called 16 Lives which will be published by The O’Brien Press in the build up to the Centenary of the Easter Rising. 16 Lives will consist of sixteen biographies of the men who were executed after the momentous events of Easter Week, 1916.

I first came up with the concept in 2008 when I was already writing and researching a biography of James Connolly. Around this time I began to consider the relationships between the various leaders, how they were connected and who introduced them to each other. It suddenly dawned on me that there was a gaping hole in the biographical information available on all these individuals. There was plenty on Pearse and Connolly but little or nothing on some of the others. The idea of 16 Lives was to address this issue rather than to wait and hope that someone else would do it. I was reluctant at first about the project and I was under the impression that most publishers would shy away from undertaking such a mammoth task. Thankfully O’Brien Press seems to like a challenge and after a meeting with the publisher and editors we laid our plans. It was a great stroke of luck that Ruan O’Donnell was available to come on board as series co-editor. Ruan has written extensively on Irish history and is a mine of information. He also agreed to write the biography of Patrick Pearse. This means that the first book in the series will be Connolly and it will be closed off with Pearse. There’s something quite balanced and neat about that.

The past few years have been quite busy for me especially as I had to wear a few hats. As I’ve been running the 1916 Walking Tour in Dublin since 1996 I’ve been busy doing tours, researching and writing on Connolly, working on 16 Lives and juggling family life. I can’t thank my wife enough for her support through the difficult writing process. At one stage she booked me into a hotel for a week to concentrate on finishing Connolly, it was exactly what I needed!

One of the difficulties Ruan, myself and O’Brien Press faced was comissioning and confirming the authors for the rest of the series. We needed to maintain a level of secrecy and yet explain to potential authors the concept of 16 Lives. There was a little luck involved too, certainly on my part. I was conducting a 1916 Walking Tour and I got talking to one of the participants, Brian Hughes, who came across as very knowledgable especially on the Irish Citizen Army. It transpired that Brian had written his thesis on Michael Mallin. So, no better man for writing a biography of Mallin. Another night someone introduced me to Honor O’Brolchain. I knew Honor’s grandmother was Joseph Plunkett’s sister and we discussed her book All In The Blood. Honor told me she was researching and writing a book on Joe so she kindly agreed to conisder publishing it with the 16 Lives series. Ruan, who is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Limerick had a phd student, Laura Walsh, who was researching and is now writing the life of Tom Clarke. He also had colleagues that he was able to encourage to join up, Angus Mitchel (Roger Casement) and John O’Callaghan (Con Colbert). Another couple of people who are related to their subjects were secured by the publisher, Helen Litton (Edward Daly) and Mary Gallagher (Éamonn Ceannt) are two worthy participants in the project. The prolific author T Ryle Dwyer will tackle Thomas MacDonagh and Cork’s own Meda Ryan is the best person to write the biography of the only executed Cork volunteer in 1916, Thomas Kent. Roisín Ní Gharbhí has already unearthed a very interesting side of Willie Pearse and hopes to bring him out of the shadow of his larger than life brother. My walking tour colleague and Trinity academic John Gibney is busily writing and researching on Seán Heuston. Conor Kostick who previously co-wrote a book with me on the Easter Rising will be collaborating with me again as we are co-authoring Michael O’Hanrahan’s biography. Brian Feeney, raconteur, politician and author of Sinn Féin: A Hundred Turbulent Years, will no doubt produce a great work on Seán MacDiarmada. Another prolific writer and well known Galweigan, William Henry, who I have known for some years is researching the life of John MacBride, which I’m very much looking forward to reading.

One of the more rewarding tasks, for me personally, was the picture and image research. We needed a decent stock of good qulaity images so for the past couple of years I’ve been quite active in this area. We ended up with three big photo albums full of images of the destruction visited on Dublin in 1916. Kilmainham Gaol, the Pearse Museum and the NLI proved to be a huge and generous resource. The fact that three of our authors are directly related to their subjects is also a great bonus as they have ready access to family images that have never been published before now.

Working with O’Brien Press on 16 Lives has been very rewarding. I’ve been working for myself for a long time and it was unusual for me to suddenly have colleagues. None of us have been involved in a project of this type before so it has been fascinating to see how people have pulled together. Although myself and Ruan are series co-editors, each individual author also has an in-house editor; Susan Houlden (who edited my book on Connolly with great patience, dilligence and skill), Ide Ní Laoghaire, Helen Carr and Mary Webb are all gearing up for a busy few years ahead. The months leading up to Christmas 2011 were very busy for all concerned as the deadlines for the first three books, Connolly, Plunkett and Mallin approached. The busy period culminated with a gathering of all the 16 Lives authors and editors. It was a great night, seeing and meeting each other, in many cases for the first time and it gave a great sense of cohesion to the whole project. I also felt that all the authors could get a grasp of collective nature of this project – it meant that the authors could get to know each other and would feel enthusiastic about sharing and exchanging research.

I hope 16 Lives appeals to the general reader as well as the serious historian. All the books will be very well researched but they will also be accessible. I hope the events of Easter Week will catch the attention of the new generation and ensure that the legacy of these men and women who gave so much will live on. We all really hope that younger readers will enjoy and collect these books too. Emma, the in-house designer for O’Brien Press has done a magnificent job on producing these books. It was Emma who came up with the idea to splice a large image into 16 strips and place one on the spine of each book. That way if they are all lined up on a book shelf they will produce an image. But I can’t tell you what that image is…you’ll just have to collect all 16 Lives!

James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett and Michael Mallin are onsale now in all good booskhops and online at
For more information click on the link 16 Lives or visit

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Where's Larry? by Phillip Barrett, Image: The O'Brien Press

As a St. Patrick’s Day gift from O’Brien Press, we’ve given you a very special sneak peek of our forthcoming book Where’s Larry by Phillip Barrett!

You can follow Larry the Leprechaun around Ireland, and see if you can find him in Newgrange, at The Rock of Cashel and at The Cliffs of Moher! But it won’t be easy: he is hiding in the middle of Irish dancers, traditional musicians, climbers, tourists, hurlers and many others.

See if you can you spot Larry in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on O’Connell Street!

Keep your eyes peeled for Where’s Larry? in shops in June!

Guest Post: Award-winning author Joe O’Brien on his journey into another world …

A blog post from beyond……..

While writing the latest Alfie Green book, Alfie Green and the Chocolate Cosmos, for some reason after nine books in the series, I felt the urge to write a fantasy adventure novel for older kids …Yes, I had written three older novels based upon a football crazed character namely Danny Wilde, but fantasy fiction is my first love and I wanted to write something that all the Alfie fans could pick up and read when they felt that they had outgrown Alfie…

I began creating new characters (and one in particular, the most important character in every story – the main character) and that’s when Joshua Bloom first came to life. A thirteen year old boy who was raised by his uncle Henry and Aunt Nell in the quiet and most unadventurous town of Charlotty.

Joshua is a curious character who after discovering magic and mystery in the library of the long lost general Edgar Pennington, then finds himself on an adventure of a lifetime in pursuit of the answer as to where the general had disappeared to. This journey is not only a journey of a new world or magic or new friends and dangerous adversaries but it is also a discovery of Joshua himself – his bravery that he never knew he had, and most of all, his past his present and his destiny that awaits him.

Almost everything I write usually themes around other worlds – magical and dangerous worlds, with enchanting and dark characters. I absolutely love to the bones the concept of being able to find oneself discovering a new world that is so different to the real world and then going on an adventure of a lifetime – an adventure filled with danger and excitement and magical new experiences that would never ever be found in the world we live in.

All of this can be found by just picking up a book and turning page after page and as a writer I understand that in order for your reader to really believe whatever it is you have written, then you must write with complete passion and whole hearted enthusiasm, so that your feelings of excitement and anxiety and fear and sadness, and everything else you felt while writing the story, entraps the reader with every page they turn.

The graduation from writing young fiction for the 6 to 9 age group to older fiction of 10+  has been an exhilarating experience and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed creating the land of Habilon and its dark and dangerous places and characters.

So now that Beyond the Cherry Tree is in the hands of those who have been kind enough, brave enough and most of all, trusting enough, to pick it from the book shelf, I have only one last thing to say……..

Thank you and I do sincerely hope you enjoy travelling Beyond as I have done….

Joe O’Brien………….

Sally Launches to the Stars!

In celebration of the publication of the beautiful Sally Go Round the Stars, first-time author Claire Ranson shares her 10-year journey through rhyme and her experience of working with co-author Sarah Webb and illustrator Steve McCarthy to create this timeless collection…

As a first time author, I am thrilled beyond measure that my first book Sally Go Round the Stars, has finally made it into print in such a beautiful form. This book has been a long time labour of love for my co-editor, Sarah Webb and I, as we first came up with the idea of creating a collection of nursery rhymes about ten years ago. We gathered street rhymes, lullabies, songs and jingles from many sources, from dusty library books to the older generations of our families, but mostly from children and our own memories of the rhymes and poems that were important to us when we were children. It wasn’t possible for the book to be published at that stage, but when the O’Brien Press approached us last year to see if we would be interested in talking about a nursery rhyme book again, we leapt at the chance!

Interestingly enough, despite both having busy lives, and Sarah having published many books in the meantime, we both still had all the research that we had done, and had each added to it since the project had been shelved. Over the years, I would always jot down any new rhymes or versions that I heard and Sarah had done the same. Our only problem was in choosing which rhymes would make it into the book, as we had enough material for three or four books! The selection and editing process was very enjoyable, and although we mostly agreed on which rhymes should go into the book, at other times we were trading backwards and forwards to make sure our favourites were included. Ide, our editor at O’BP, was referee when the discussions got heated!

For a nursery rhyme book, the illustrations are, of course, all important, and we had very particular requirements for the illustrations. We were enormously lucky to get Steve as our illustrator, and I am just blown away by his fantastic illustrations. I love the quirky inventiveness of his pictures and they bring a fresh vision of the familiar rhymes.

As the book is published, it is a very exciting time, and we hope that readers, both young and old, will enjoy sharing the book as much as we enjoyed creating it.

Sally Go Round the Stars is available now from all good bookshops and priced €14.99!

Guest Post: Author Natasha Mac a’Bháird on updating The Irish Bride’s Survival Guide

Author Natasha Mac a’Bháird has seen her fabulous Irish Bride’s Survival Guide evolve through many different editions since it was first published in 2005. As the world changes at a pace, so too do the traditions and logistics of wedding planning. The newest edition of the book, published in March 2011, has many new and vital bits and bobs added to it. In this month’s guest post, Natasha looks back at past editions, what’s changed and gives her insight into keeping a book as detailed as this one, up-to-date for the modern bride…

Have you heard of the phenomenon known as ‘the curse of Hello’? It refers to the unhappy history of loved-up couples featuring in photo spreads, the picture of wedded bliss, only to announce their separation within months (or in a few cases days) of the magazine hitting the shelves. Among those to fall victim to the curse were Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett, and Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley.

The first time I updated my book, three years after the first printing, I joked to my editor that it seemed celebrity marriages were being struck down by the curse of The Irish Bride’s Survival Guide. She was horrified, pointing out that her own wedding story was included, but I quickly reassured her that it was only celebrity couples who appeared to be susceptible to this curse. Jennifer Aniston’s promise to make Brad Pitt his favourite banana milkshake had to come out (who would have thought that a few short years after those vows he’d be one half of Brangelina and a father of six?). Out too was Ryan Tubridy and his unusual engagement announcement. And Brian McFadden and Kerry Katona succumbed to the curse even before the first edition went to print – I had included their story in my first draft, but had to take it out when they separated.

For the third edition, I took out Paul McCartney and Heather Mills and replaced them with Vivienne Connolly and Mark Dunne; for the fourth edition, Vivienne and Mark (sadly separated) made way for Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman – I hope to goodness they make it to the fifth edition, or I’m going to start feeling responsible.

Celebrity splits aside, other updates for the new edition (resplendent in its beautiful new green jacket) included some inspiring new Real Life Bride stories. Among others, these feature recession-busting tips from my baby sister, and a ‘mini moon’ story about the new trend of taking a short break after the wedding and postponing the honeymoon until later.

The third printing had already explained the changes in the civil marriage laws, allowing couples to get married in a wider range of venues. It seems crazy now to think that when the book first came out weddings were limited to churches or registry offices. Thankfully hotels, castles and other venues give couples a real choice these days.

This time too there were changes in technology to note – DVDs have pretty much killed videos by now, and Facebook is a new way to spread news and organise events. And of course all the websites had to be checked to make sure they were still current, plus I added in new ones I’d come across in the meantime which I thought would help brides to be.

When I was planning my wedding, I found it frustrating that there was no Irish book available on the subject. So I decided to write my own. While there have been lots of small changes in the wedding world since then, the basic purpose of my book remains the same – to take the stress out of wedding planning and help make it fun.

Now I just hope celebrities don’t take out an injunction against me including their stories in my book because of THE CURSE …

You can find Natasha Mac a’Bháird at: 

The Irish Bride’s Survival Guide by Natasha Mac a’Bháird (The O’Brien Press) is out now and available from all good bookshops and priced €14.99

Back from Frankfurt …


There have been no new entries here for the last few weeks and the reason why is very simple: the Frankfurt Book Fair. As the focus of the international side of the publishing year it takes a huge amount of time, energy and planning to make the best possible impact. Myself and Michael (seen above setting up our stand) are just back after a week of meeting and greeting the whole of the world publishing industry: publishers, agents, printers, e-book companies, prospective authors, illustrators, scouts and more.

There is no doubt that the fair was quieter than in previous years, with less people roaming the halls, but that didn’t mean we were twiddling our thumbs at all — we still had over 130 meetings between us, and have made some fantastic new contacts. One major change was that many meeting were shorter than before — if people were not interested in a book they were much quicker than usual to just say no: nobody has the time these days to consider things that they don’t really love. A few surprising things: given that China was the “special focus” nation, we were all expecting to have lots of Chinese visitors, but there was not a single one; after a meeting with one printer, I got up to leave only to be presented with a charicature of myself that had been sneakily painted by a hidden artist: the last time I had one of those done was about 20 years ago in Montmartre!

The big theme of the fair, in as much as there was one, was the importance of developing e-book strategies: various seminars and conferences were all presenting a range of options for changing the way we do much of what we do to make the most of the web and new reading devices: the future is now.


3 Catalogues: done and dusted!

Catalogue-2009-SchoolsSo this is the week when the curs’ed catalogues left the building and headed off to the printers. Of course, By The Miracles Of Modern Technology, they are available on the web before anywhere else: general catalogue (35 pages, 3.5MB PDF file) and children’s catalogue (45 pages, 5MB PDF file).

We have also been doing a special schools catalogue (24 pages, 5MB PDF) for the last number of years, which is sent to every primary school on the island of Ireland: many of our books have a substantial schools market even though they are not explicitly educational — the curriculum calls on teachers to use “real books”, as opposed to texts that are written strictly for educational use: a wise move, as these are often really boring and flat, while a real story will draw children into its world and allow the teacher much more room for spanning out to all areas of the curriculum. Our work to assist this can be seen on where about 400 resources have been created to back up our titles!

If you spot any errors, I don’t want to know!

The best (and scariest) time of the year

The books are starting to come back from the printers. This means that lots of things are set in stone: it is too late to make a change on page 30 to the book that is sitting on a pallet in the middle of the Indian Ocean or has just arrived in the warehouse from the printer up the road (and for the first time in quite a while we have just printed a complex book in Ireland, which we are thrilled about: take a bow, GPS Colour Graphics!). It also means that your stock is in, and the big questions of whether you are going to need more, did you print too many and did you choose the wrong paper come into sharp relief. Every book has to be examined in detail when it arrives — for something that looks so simple, a book is a very sophisticated product and there are many, many things that can go wrong, despite everyone’s best efforts.

Continue reading “The best (and scariest) time of the year”