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”

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”

It’s Still Storytime

As you can see in the picture, Crackle is still busily reading his O’Brien Press books! The fantastic Storytime promotion which we have been running with Rice Krispies is alive and kicking … When Hughes & Hughes closed their shops earlier this year it made things complicated, but we are delighted that the Hughes & Hughes shops in Santry, Ennis, Dundrum and Swords have re-opened, and they they will redeem your vouchers for books — or you can send the form, tokens and €1.50 per book to Kellogg’s Storytime Promotion, PO Box 9922, Dublin 15.

So cut the sides off those cereal boxes and get your hands on some great books for the summer.


New sales representation in Britain

We are delighted that, as of today, O’Brien Press books are now represented in Britain by the wonderful people at Frances Lincoln. Like us, they started in the 1970s producing books for adults and then started a children’s list too — though they made this change a little earlier than we did (1983, rather than 1990). This makes them a perfect match for The O’Brien Press and it’s great to have all of our books represented by the same people in Britain — for the first time in a very long while.

Having met the team there quite a few times, I am very confident that they will be able to find new avenues for our books in the extremely competitive British market and am looking forward to the adventure!


A book is the best medicine.

If you go into your local Unicare Pharmacy any time in the next two months you will see a slightly unusual display on the counter: a perspex counterpack with half-a-dozen copies of It’s Called Dyslexia, a new title from The O’Brien Press, produced in association with the Dyslexia Association of Ireland. It’s a child-friendly introduction to what dyslexia means and how best to manage it. It’s unusual to see books in a pharmacy, but dyslexia can be a hidden problem, so we felt that making the book visible and available beyond the bookshops was important.

The  books have only been on sale for a few days, and so far the results have been really good! Thanks to the lovely people in Unicare for taking a chance with this.


Old and New

The old and new worlds of publishing and marketing all happen at the same time these days: we have just launched An Irish Voice by Niall O’Dowd, a very influential Irish-American with links everywhere, who played a crucial role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, among other things. It’s a great book, but I’ll stop the sales pitch here! What I want to explore here is how the changes in the book world have impacted on how we have taken this title to market. In many ways, this title has been a textbook example of the traditional way to launch a book:

  • pre-sell to the book trade five months in advance with a good cover, advance information sheet etc
  • release the book in to the supply chain ten days before you start the publicity, to give the books time to make their way onto the shelves: there’s nothing worse than a customer leaving a shop because the book is still in goods inwards!
  • get the book into key reviewers’ hands, and ensure that all the authors friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues know about it in plenty of time to use their influence in the national print media: we got a string of fabulous reviews, particularly Tim Pat Coogan in the Irish Independent.
  • select a newspaper to have exclusive access to an extract from the book
  • get all the traditional broadcast media lined up behind it: Today With Pat Kenny, Ireland AM, The George Hook Show, Drivetime etc
  • get a high-profile person to launch it (you can’t get much more high profile than An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen!) and hope that the press will cover it. The event was great, both Niall O’Dowd and Brian Cowen gave excellent speeches and lots of influential people enjoyed mingling with each other. And even better (the day after a soccer international with Brazil) the Irish Independent had a picture from our book launch on their cover (as well as an inside story) instead of Robbie Keane!
  • get the author to sign stock
  • keep pushing for more stories, more coverage and a wider spread in the local media

And yet, current trends in the world of books are playing an ever-increasing role

  • the microsite is live: www.AnIrishVoice.com
  • this is our first ever commercial eBook: it is available (and copies have been sold) on the Amazon Kindle
  • other electronic versions are following quickly in its heels: more news to follow on this very soon
  • the media list contains an ever-increasing list of blogs, websites and other online opinion-formers (many of the enthusiastic amateurs) as well as the more traditional targets
  • the signed stock is being sold online (on our site as well as the microsite) in addition to via traditional booksellers.
  • the presence of the book on www.obrien.ie is enhanced with extracts and a video (produced in-house) of Niall talking about the book. Both as a marketing and sales tool, www.obrien.ie is becoming ever more important, and was responsible for 2% of our total sales last year — not to be sniffed at, and growing all the time.

And all this without facebook, twitter, Google AdWords, iPhone apps and enhanced Smell-O-Vision e-book! Marketing and selling a book is all about making connections with the reader effectively and efficiently: how much of this will look a little quaint and old-fashioned in another couple of years? How many more books will sell electronically and how many less physically (sadly, no more will sell via Hughes & Hughes: this family-owned Irish chain had some excellent shops and great booksellers, and will be sorely missed by book-lovers here. Our sincere sympathies to the 100 or so people who have lost their jobs — the latest victims of the Irish economic collapse. We are delighted that Eason have taken over the contract for the airports — great news for World Book Day)?


Snap, Crackle, Pop, Read!

I promised some exciting new promotions for the start of 2010, and we have just launched the first one: in association with Hughes & Hughes booksellers and Kelloggs, we are absolutely thrilled to be part of Rice Krispies Storytime. As you can see from the picture (taken in my local supermarket the other day: my first sighting in the wild after months of planning), every pack of Ireland’s Loudest Breakfast Cereal is promoting reading at the moment, with a selection of six O’Brien Press books on the front and back of the box. There is a lovely website to follow soon and an official launch at the start of February.

In time-honoured fashion, the cereal boxes have vouchers to collect and these can be redeemed against the books for a small postage and packing fee. One recession-friendly change to this pattern is that the Storytime books can also be collected directly (at no charge) from any Hughes & Hughes bookshop, where the books will be prominently displayed.

The books and authors involved are

This is the first time we have done a promotion in association with an FMCG company (fast-moving consumer goods ie the stuff you find in supermarkets!) What I really love about this one is that it’s Irish: many multi-national brands don’t seem to make any real effort to appeal to their local audience, preferring to rely on their international muscle to do most things on a multi-national level. Kelloggs, however, have arranged this locally with an Irish-owned chain retailer and an Irish-owned publisher to appeal to Irish kids, and have put a lot of thought and effort into it — well done them, I say.

Now, let’s get all our kids reading, seeing as it’s too cold for them to be outside at the moment!


So how do I sell books in …

every country in the world! I was at a really good seminar on Wednesday in London, hosted by the Independent Publishers’ Guild (IPG), on the book markets in India, China, Africa, Australia, the US and Ireland (which I presented — how come the others all got continents to talk about, with up to a billion people? I was quite outgunned there …), both in terms of physical book sales and rights sales. There’s lots to learn.

The great thing about the IPG is the fact that it exploits the community spirit of the publishing world really well — people from publishers big and small are all willing to share their knowledge, experience and contacts, expecting only that others will do the same.

The conference was on in Westminster and I had not realised how concentrated the various aspects of the UK government was — a ten minute wander around Whitehall saw politicians lining up to be interviewed, heaps of police guarding the MOD and an unbelievable number of poppies, miniature crosses and ex-soldiers, as it was the day after remembrance day.

I suppose that really brought home to me one of the key points I made in my presentation — Britain and Ireland have a lot in common, but there really are some big areas where we simply do not overlap. Looking at the top 15 books sold in Ireland last year, 13 had Irish authors (though the count of Irish-published titles there is not quite so high …), and one of the remaining two was the Guinness Book of Records!

Great Irish Book Week: how was it?

Be Inspired! The GIBW samplerThe Irish publishing industry posed a question this March: how could we create a promotion that would run in the book trade (ie shops) whose key message would be about Irish Publishing?
With so many irish writers published abroad, it is very easy for people to miss the fact that there is an industry in Ireland (called publishing) that is full of a whole range of skilled people who are, in some sense, important to Irish culture — editors, designers, publishers, marketeers etc. There IS something different about a book being produced in the country where most of its readers are based, and we all believe that this message needs to get out there! We knocked our heads together, and Great Irish Book Week was born. It all developed extremely quickly

  • a decision was made that it had to feature new books, which meant that …
  • it had to be in the autumn, but there is huge pressure on bookshop space in autumn …
  • so we talked to lots of booksellers and picked a week
  • all Irish publishers would be invited to participate and submit their titles
  • a panel would select 30 titles from the submissions, subject to a few rules (no more than 2 from any publisher, be sure to include poetry, Irish language titles, …)
  • the selection would try to reflect the full range of diversity that exists in Irish publishing
  • copies of a free sampler book would be produced and distributed, with posters, stickers etc, to every bookseller who would take them!

So how did it go? Well, given the timeframe, I would have to say very well. All the key milestones were met:

  • the publishers bought into it
  • the selection process ran smoothly
  • the booksellers bought into it
  • we got some great media coverage
  • the sampler books was created, and posters etc designed and produced
  • a website with all the info (and a freely browsable version of the sampler book) was created (www.greatirishbookweek.com)
  • packs were distributed, and many booksellers had great displays

There were some hitches, but nothing critical, and the whole promotion showed that, as an industry, we can work quickly, effectively and in a co-ordinated and innovative manner. The profile of Irish publishing was raised, and 25,000 copies of the (extremely eclectic!) sampler have been distributed to booklovers the length and breath of the island — and when they leaf through these books and happen upon a title that they never would have looked at before, there’s another book sold and another small step in the continued success of a native industry!

Credit is due to all who put their time and energy into this, to the booksellers for agreeing to take part long before it was obvious that this was going to work, and to all the publishers for creating such interesting books: my shopping list has certainly got longer since I browsed through the selection.


It’s MicroSiteTastic!

MoorehawkeTrilogy.comWe are thrilled to launch our updated MoorehawkeTrilogy.com microsite! The Crowded Shadows is hitting the shelves in a bookshop near you (in Ireland: those of you abroad are going to have to wait for your local publishers to release their editions — sorry!) so check out the microsite, read an extract and get hooked on Celine’s writing all over again.

We hope you love the new covers as much as we do, and the early reviews have been really positive: so check it out!