The Vagaries of Databases

It’s great to have a bestseller, and when we produced our special World Book Day book this year (a flipper book combining Daifní Dineasár [another WBD first — an Irish language book] and Alfie Green and the Monkey Puzzler), we were confident that this would be one: every year, the kid’s charts are dominated for a couple of weeks by these books which, with a cover price of €1.50, are mainly bought with the vouchers given to all school children.

Of course, just about nobody publishes the children’s bestseller lists these days, so our moment of glory is often missed by the general public. A little database error, however, meant that is was categorized as general non-fiction instead of a children’s books — which has had it at the top of the bestsellers under General Fiction for two weeks now!

Maybe we should be a little less careful about our data in future …


Dublin 1916 art in

The heat of battle!I just saw some new artwork in that blew me away completely! We have a really exciting project coming this autumn: Blood Upon the Rose: Dublin 1916, a graphic novelisation of the 1916 Easter Rising by Gerry Hunt, with award-winning cartoonist and illustrator BrenB doing the colouring. I had only seen the black-and-white images before, but BrenB has done a really brilliant job on the couple of pages we have here. Continue reading “Dublin 1916 art in”

World Book Day Fun & Games

A lot of fun, a lot of cake, and a big red bus – that was World Book Day in Dublin this year! Authors like Celine Kiernan, Judy May, Marie Burlington, Conor Kostick, Karl O’Neill and others appeared at bookshops and libraries as part of the World Book Day celebrations. Visitors to Waterstones on Dawson Street would have been greeted by an army of Judi Curtin fans eagerly awaiting a reading with their favourite author! Alfie Green and Little Croker author Joe O’Brien gave a very entertaining reading in Eason’s O’Connell Street on World Book Day to launch the very special Irish World Book Day book (we should really call it stand-up comedy – ‘reading’ just doesn’t quite describe Joe’s performances!). Afterwards, Joe and his fans caught the special World Book Day ‘Big Red Book Bus’ which took them to Children’s Books Ireland for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!

Another country conquered!

Well, you can now get OBP books in another country, as copies of our first Albanian editions have arrived in the office! It’s amazing that so many countries, and small countries at that, can justify the effort of producing and selling literature in translation.

Obviously, doing a local edition of an international blockbuster is an easy decision, but there has to be an element of passion or courage involved in translating a children’s novel about the Irish potato famine (Marita Conlon-McKenna’s Under the Hawthorn Tree — the new PJ Lynch covers are just about finished, by the way, and are lovely) or Irish dancing (Kate by Siobhán Parkinson) into Albanian, even with the valuable support of the Ireland Literature Exchange.

It takes us to a grand total of 44 territories/languages (well, I have included Film and Audio there) that our stuff is available in, which I reckon is quite impressive …


The Poison Throne gets a White Raven

This just in from the International Youth Library: The Poison Throne has been selected for a White Ravens award for 2009: these awards are for newly published books from around the world that are considered to be especially noteworthy.

It’s a great honour for Celine Kiernan to get one for her first novel, and we’re thrilled for her. 33 titles from Ireland have made the list over the years, according to their online database: happily, this includes a good few of ours!


Alice goes to Portugal

Portuguese cover for Alice Again

One of the very best bits about this publishing game is when a foreign edition of one of our books hits the desk. It is the culmination of a process that starts with meeting an editor or scout at a bookfair (or, as often happens, the tenth meeting with the same person on successive years, waiting to get a hit!) and plugging everything from your list that you think might stick! After that there’s the sample copies to send, the agents to keep in the loop, the negotiation over price, terms, territories etc and then things go quiet: at our end.

For the foreign publisher, that’s the point where the rest of the company gets to hear about it — they have to translate, check difficult bits with the author, get our image files (if they are using them) and combine them with their text, build a publicity plan and (and this is the best bit) design a new cover.

The next we hear about it is when a copy of the translated edition arrived in the door, which is always great fun. The great bit about foreign covers is that the show clearly just how each nation has its own artistic sensibility, and there have been loads of times when a new edition has come in where our reaction has been “that’s a beautiful cover: but it wouldn’t work here”. What’s particularly striking for kid’s books is that the age-level implied in the graphics can vary so much: my favourite example is comparing the German, French and Italian covers for our book Sisters … No Way! And then the Slovenian edition came in and rewrote the rules.

Estonian cover

What brought this to mind today was a new Portuguese edition of Alice Again by Judi Curtin that hit the office today. Entitled As Melhores Amigas sao Inseparáveis (which translates roughly as Best Friends are Inseparable) , it is the second book in the series and shows that they have developed a lovely series look (see their cover for Alice Next Door) that is lovely, and utterly different to ours! I also adore the fact that they have a footnote explaining what hummus is (In the story, Megan’s mum is a health-food fanatic)!

I have to say that my favourite foreign cover of one of our books that really made me think “now why the hell didn’t we think of that?” is for The Wish List by the amazing Eoin Colfer in (wait for it) Estonian. Partly because meetings with Toomas Toorma, the publisher, are one of the highlights of any bookfair, but also because their elegant and beautiful cover is the perfect solution to the endless effort we put into finding a suitable cover for what is a great book.
Do take a wander through our cover gallery: there are lots of weird and wonderful things to discover …

Notes from the Editorial Department …

I’m very excited and pleased that we’re going to be publishing a seventh book in the popular ‘Alice & Megan’ series by Judi Curtin this autumn. I’ve been Judi’s editor since 2005, and it’s really, really enjoyable to work on a series like this where the  characters (best friends Alice and Megan, plus their families, friends, teachers, etc.) develop from book to book and deal with new things as they make the transition from primary to secondary school.

I’m just beginning work on the as-yet-unnamed seventh book, and it’s a great read. I’m really looking forward to taking it towards publication and working with Judi on it, and to commissioning more illustrations from the brilliant Woody Fox!

Helen, Editor

You have to try new things …

I’m really excited about an exciting new collaboration between us and Movies @ cinemas. Later this week the pre-launch hype is going to start for The Secret of Kells movie, which is released on 6 March in Ireland. Movies @ are going to see how many of their customers, in both Dundrum and Swords, want to “take the magic of Kells home” with them, in the form of our lovely picture book and novelisation of the film.

Not only that, but they are being amazingly generous with display space in their cinemas, with banners, posters and time on their plasma screens: here is one of the banners.kellsbanner-copy

I didn’t mention the great fun that was had at the premiere of the film on Sunday in Savoy 1, as the closing film for the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. We walked up the steps to avoid the indignity of being physically removed from the world’s shortest red carpet! The cinema was jammed, the film looked and sounded great and director Tomm Moore pulled about 50 people onto the stage at the end to take a well-deserved bow.

After that it was off the to Long Library in Trinity College, where the real Book of Kells is held, for a great after-show party: I  have never been there at midnight with a glass of wine in my hand, and it is certainly to be recommended. Lots of people were buying our books to get them signed by Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally, the other actors, director, producers (including the producer of Les Triplettes de Belleville, one of my favourite animated movies, who were also the main producers on this film) and the only downside was that it was a school night, so we had to leave before the real partying began …

I could get used to all this movie business stuff, you know …

Launch for Dublin Book Festival

The Dublin Book Festival launch will take place tomorrow, Wednesday 25th February, at 6pm in the National Library, Kildare Street – come and enjoy a glass of red (or white!) and hear about the great line-up for the Festival.

Running from 6th – 8th March 2009, check out the programme at

Several OBP authors have been confirmed including Celine Kiernan, Joe O’Brien, Éanna ní Lamhna, Conor Kostick and Michael Kelly.

Pop in, you never know what you might discover!

Clé Conference: The Burning Issues

A very interesting Clé Conference at the weekend (Clé is the Irish Publishing trade body): lots of very worried publishers (and booksellers: we went mad and all sat in the same room this year!) were throwing around the ideas we all need to consider for the survival of the industry in the Current Economic Environment. The change has been incredibly rapid and, unfortunately, started at the beginning of what should have been our peak selling season last year: returns of unsold Christmas stock risk crippling lots of publishers. The major loss of market share by Irish “euro publishers” (ie not the Irish arms of multinationals) has slipped dramatically, particularly at the bestseller end of the market. I’ll stop moaning now 🙂

We were very lucky to have Will Atkinson, Sales and Marketing Director for Faber, and Robin Wood, head honcho from Anova, present to talk about selling outside the conventional book trade, and developing special products for existing and new customers. Some of the creative ideas were just brilliant, but I do wish we had a country of 50 million people instead of 5, so that you can do a clever “nichy” thing and still make a few bob. Naturally, the subject of websites came up quite a lot!

Continue reading “Clé Conference: The Burning Issues”