A Donegal Table in Dublin

Our sales rep Sarah, took on the challenge of recreating a Donegal Table in her home in Dublin and this is how she got on! 

I love to cook and believe there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down to a home-cooked meal with family and friends so when The O’Brien Press set the challenge of recreating A Donegal Table in Dublin, I jumped at the chance! Like Chef Brian McDermott I grew up in a big family where the kitchen table was the focal point of the family. It still is and we regularly land in on my parents for a big feed! When we were kids my mam did most of the cooking and it is from her we learnt to bake – making our own pastry and filling it with delicious jam made by my nanny with whatever fruit was in season – blackberries picked from hedgerows, strawberries from the patch in the garden or rhubarb from the neighbours. When my mam went back to work, my dad took up cooking and I remember spending Thursday afternoons listening to Ronan Collins and helping get the spaghetti Bolognese ready – very exotic for an Irish family in the early nineties!

Whether you live in Dublin or Donegal there is no denying the unifying nature of food – it brings people together and, like Brian, I cherish those childhood memories and love creating new ones around my own kitchen table. With this in mind I roped in my sister, her husband their daughter Rose to recreate a Donegal table in Dublin. Continue reading “A Donegal Table in Dublin”

The Cover Design of The Woodcutter and his Family

Emma Byrne takes us through the fascinating design process that created the eye-catching cover of Frank McGuinness’s upcoming novel.

This is a novel that chronicles James Joyce as he lies on his death bed. A writer’s thoughts on his life, his children’s thoughts on their famous father, and a final story to defy them all.

Given the breadth of James Joyce’s life, and more importantly his work – a bridge, as it were, from an older tradition to a newer one – I felt that a cover inspired by the old technique of letterpress had an intriguing potential.

Letterpress was the normal way of printing text in Europe, from its invention in the mid-15th century by Gutenburg, until the late-19th century.  (The Chinese had invented ceramic moveable type in the 11th century.) Much like our digital revolution and the huge opportunities brought about by social media, Gutenburg’s moveable type changed the dissemination of information forever. Texts were no longer written by specialist scribes for the select few. Words, knowledge and ideas, could be printed and seen by many. It was an invention that brought great power.

I had used a letterpress in college, and as a budding typographer was impressed by the sheer discipline, patience and respect it gave me for letterform. Today, anyone can type an essay on their phone, if they wish, but creating something in letterpress is a game of control and endurance. Fitting letters – wood or metal type – into a chase (a metal frame) is sometimes like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. So, we use furniture (metal, wood or resin spacing tools) various em-spaced leading in different lengths –to fit the letters into the chase. Continue reading “The Cover Design of The Woodcutter and his Family”

On the Road with Sarah Through Ireland’s Ancient East

Rep on the Road

Our sales representative, Sarah Cassidy, tells us all about being on the road, exploring Ireland on a daily basis and Ireland’s Ancient East.

The job of being a sales representative for The O’Brien Press involves visiting bookshops and other retail outlets throughout Ireland. One day you can be in Belfast and the next Galway or Waterford. It is a great perk of the job to be able to visit every corner of the country, particularly when the sun is shining, the sky is clear and Ireland’s breathtaking scenery is at its best. Some days the Atlantic Ocean is so blue I think about pulling the car over and going for a paddle but I soon remember I’m in Ireland and the likelihood of my poor toes being frozen off is quite high! Instead I grab my lunch from the car, perch on a nearby stonewall and listen to the sound of the rolling waves as I munch on my ham sandwich. Feeling energised by Ireland’s natural beauty (or the bucket of coffee I picked up at Barack Obama Plaza), it is back to the car and on the road again to the next customer.

The Rock of Cashel

It is not just Ireland’s coastal roads that offer beautiful scenery; the countryside and rolling hills that are often dotted with the ruins of castles and monasteries can be so vibrant and green in spring and summer, riotous with russet and gold tones in autumn and captivating coated in early morning frost in the depths of winter. This year in particular, the O’Brien Press reps gained a new appreciation for the countryside and the sights that can be found on the eastside of our beautiful island. We have been selling Carsten Krieger’s fifth book with The O’Brien Press, Ireland’s Ancient East. Filled with fantastic photographs and captions from this talented photographer, Ireland’s Ancient East is the perfect book to guide you around the east side of the country. Linking the Stone Age period with Saint Patrick, the Vikings with the Normans, Ireland’s eastern counties are abundant with monuments and relics that bring to life the stories of our ancestors. Whether you are an armchair traveller or looking to get out and explore the delights of our ancient east, this book is a great place to start! We put it to the test as we took to the roads to sell our autumn list. Continue reading “On the Road with Sarah Through Ireland’s Ancient East”

Children’s Books Ireland Conference 2014

The O’Brien Press is delighted that Sheila Agnew, author of Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan, will be part of the Debut Writers’ Panel at the Children’s Books Ireland Conference 2014. She’ll be joining Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (Back to Blackbrick) and Leslye Walton (The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender) to talk about the exciting, and sometimes painful, learning experience of publishing a first novel! This session is at 1.30pm on 24 May and is chaired by Bob Johnson of The Gutter Bookshop. If you’d like to attend, check out the official conference page and booking form here.

Our take on ‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce

DublinersOur wonderful designer Emma Byrne gives her thoughts on designing the jacket for our new edition of Dubliners by James Joyce, which was published last year as part of Dublin One City One Book 2012.


When something like Dubliners by James Joyce comes across your desk for a new jacket and design concept, it really deserves a little more attention. How do you represent the visual shell of one of the most famous books in the English language? Indeed.

All of life is here in this collection of fifteen short stories. The characters of these stories, these ordinary Dubliners lives, loves, triumphs and failures are observed with a sharpness and empathy that few writers have ever achieved.

Father Flynn in The Sisters, Jimmy Doyle trying to better himself and failing in After the Race, these, for me, were just two ‘windows’ on these Dubliners’ lives that convinced me that using the ‘window’ as a metaphor might be the approach to take. The stories centre on Joyce’s idea of an epiphany: a moment where a character has a special moment of self-understanding or illumination. The initial stories in the collection are narrated by children as protagonists and, as the stories continue, they deal with the lives and concerns of progressively older people. This is in line with Joyce’s tripartite division of the collection into childhood, adolescence and maturity.

There I had my two design elements:

1.The tripartite division of the collection of short stories into childhood, adolescence and maturity. This is achieved by splitting the word ‘Dubliners’ in three. Also within the book three photographs break up the main body of text.

2. A ‘window’ looking onto Dublin of the period hidden behind the letters. As the stories look deeply at their characters, the image used is College Green in 1914.

What did you think of our cover?

For more information on Dubliners click here.

Throughout the month of June receive a 20% discount on all our James Joyce books when you buy online at www.obrien.ie!

Happy Bloomsday!


Marketing & PR Internship


book-loveAlways wanted to work with books? Fancy seeing what it’s like to work in a publishing house? Well now is your chance to find out! The O’Brien Press is offering an unpaid marketing and PR internship for our busy autumn season.


This position would be ideally suited to graduates who are seeking to gain experience in publishing, and in the area of marketing and publicity, in particular.

Candidates should be:

  • Highly organised
  • Able to work as part of a team and on their own initiative
  • Able to handle a very busy and time pressurised working environment
  • Proficient in MS Office (Word, Excel) and Outlook. Experience with InDesign and/or social media for business would be a bonus

Further details are available on request.

Please send applications to Ruth Heneghan at ruth@obrien.ie. Closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm on Wednesday 19th June.


O’Brien Press announces the acquisition of Brandon Books at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2011

Here it is folks! Our big announcement at Frankfurt, as seen today in The Bookseller and Book Trade publications…

The O’Brien Press, Ireland’s leading independent publisher, has announced its acquisition of distinguished Irish press Brandon Books, a year after its founder, Steve MacDonogh, died suddenly, leaving Brandon leaderless.

This important deal includes the purchase of the Brandon name and a significant number of their key titles, their contracts and book stock. Brandon Books will continue trading as an imprint of The O’Brien Press as of October 2011.

Publisher and founder of The O’Brien Press, Michael O’Brien, noted that The O’Brien Press looked forward to welcoming many of Brandon’s writers to their new home at The O’Brien Press and commented:

‘Steve was a man of many talents. From a small base in beautiful Kerry, he created an international literary press. He was a lifelong friend and colleague.’

Brandon Books has been a leading imprint in Ireland since 1982, during which time it has established an international reputation for both fiction and non-fiction. It has enjoyed a colourful and often controversial history and its list includes bestselling authors such as Alice Taylor, whose 1995 book, To School Through the Fields, quickly became the biggest-selling book ever published in Ireland.

Looking forward to 2012, Ivan O’Brien, Managing Director of The O’Brien Press, commented:

‘We will be focusing on fiction of literary quality and will actively seek out new original talent, bringing to our Brandon imprint the care, flair and fresh thinking that has helped O’Brien become Ireland’s leading independent publisher. Of course, we will continue to publish established authors like Alice Taylor, Gerry Adams and Sam Millar. Brandon authors will benefit from our worldwide literary agency network and from our in-house design, editorial and production management.’

The O’Brien Press, founded in 1974, is an independent, award-winning book publisher with almost 600 titles in print. With over 500 active translation agreements in 50 territories, O’Brien Press has built a reputation for books of quality and integrity both at home and abroad.

 Visit the Brandon Website to see their excellent list.

O’Brien Press author is named first ever Laureate na nÓg

Siobhan ParkinsonIrish children’s author Siobhán Parkinson was named the first ever Laureate na nÓg in a ceremony in Dublin yesterday. A new initiative by the Arts Council, with the support of Children’s Books Ireland, the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Poetry Ireland, the honour was awarded to Siobhán by President Mary McAleese. A multi-award-winning children’s author, Siobhán has published many books for children and her work has been translated into many languages. Among her most popular and award-winning books are Four Kids, Three Cats, Two Cows, One Witch (maybe), which was described by Robert Dunbar as ‘one of the best Irish children’s books we’ve ever had’, Sisters … no way! and Amelia among others. Congratulations to Siobhán from all at The O’Brien Press!

Another year over: what have we learned?

Happy Christmas!So it’s the official end of 2009, when the last of the stock is still piled up in the shops as people scramble to fill those stockings! Several autumn reprints, and a few titles out-of-stock for the last week or so, mean we must have been doing something right, but it’s been one heck of a year. The main memories of 2009 will be of change and pressure to be a part of that change: a transformed economy meeting a rapidly transforming book world.

As what are now called “traditional publishers” we have to read the writing on the wall: we may have had our obrien.ie domain for 20 years now, and a commerce-enabled website for over 10; we may have developed and enhanced databases and workflows to reduce repetitive tasks; we may have half a dozen staff who connect to the office either solely, or largely, via VPN (ie over the internet); we may even be supplying all of our title information in the new-fangled Onix format (if you don’t know what this is, you don’t care: believe me) but the full impact of the digital world is certainly upon us — people are now buying content digitally, so we have to become a Content Company instead of a Book Publisher, and we have to do it fast.

This blog has been running for a year now, and I would not have thought when I started it that, by now, we would:

  • have developed custom web gizmos for the site (see the flashy new caroussels on the homepage!)
  • be trialling a range of .ePub conversion tools, including custom software, to enable our books to be sold through a range of new channels, whether e-readers or on-screen
  • be building our own iPhone application (and no, I won’t tell you what it is. You’ll have to be patient …)
  • immerse ourselves in quite the degree of blue-sky thinking that we are doing

Many of the old-fashioned things that publishers do have stayed the same: publish a great book and people will buy it. Build a marketing model, or an export sales structure, and great things can happen (more on this in the New Year, when we can go public) but given what 2009 has brought, I wonder what O’Brien Press (and the rest of the publishing world …) will look like come the holidays next year: answers on a postcard, please!

Happy holidays to one and all: and make sure you read a good book (I can recommend a few …)