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Opinion: Self-publishing your own book is an achievable dream

Self-published author Seán Brennan has some simple advice for anyone who feels it’s time to write that book they’ve been thinking about.

Seán Brennan

PERSONAL PROJECTS AND new hobbies have taken centre stage in recent months. The ‘new’ joggers (myself included) can be easily identified in parks across the country by their less-than-professional sports outfits.

Sea swimming, nature walks and socially distant picnics have also been enjoyed under a relatively forgiving spring and summer sky.

However as autumn arrives and the nights begin to draw in, many will be looking for a new, ideally indoor, activity, beyond the already mastered sourdough baking.

Or, let’s be honest, no one actually mastered sourdough this year, did they?

‘Everyone has a book in them’

Writing a book is famously a project dreamed of by many, but fulfilled by so few. The appeal is understandable; doing so, of course, improves your writing skills, but also your organisation skills as you learn to manage a complex set of tasks.

It is furthermore an opportunity to develop credibility and expertise in a specific field, a chance to improve your confidence, and a possibility to discover a lot about both the theme you’re writing on and indeed about yourself.

My first recommendation would be to gravitate towards a topic that greatly interests you, possibly even combining a couple of them. While a novel may seem rather daunting, a collection of short stories would be more achievable.

Otherwise, perhaps a guide to one of your own hobbies could be more manageable, or how about a travel guide to a lesser-known destination or even a book about local history?

The convenience of a non-fiction book is that the research you do will help greatly in getting words onto a page. By breaking such a task into smaller sub-sections, the workload suddenly can seem approachable.

In my case, having recently completed my first book, ‘Garlic Skins and Kitchen Radio’, I found a blend of different interests gave me fuel to not only get through but thoroughly enjoy the writing process.

Leek and Potato Soup Leek and potato soup from Sean's book. Source: Sean Brennan

This vegetarian cookbook consists of 12 chapters, representing each month of the year. In each section, I give a short introduction to the month, talking about the feel of the season and the month in question. 

Four recipes highlighting seasonal vegetables appear in each month, as well as four (mostly indie) songs which I feel capture the essence of the month. So think asparagus in May, peaches in July, Arab Strap at the start of the summer and The Housemartins marking the descent into winter.

I have always enjoyed the passing of the seasons and figured that this was a way to communicate that, as well as hopefully encouraging people to cook with more local vegetables and discover new bands and singers.

How do I publish a book?

An extremely useful resource is the website ingramspark.com. From as little as €49 you can get your book published and sold on a variety of online platforms. They also offer guidance on what seems to be all stages of the process, through a selection of free to read articles, such as: ‘Steps to overcome procrastination’, ‘Writing about painful experiences’, ‘How to write romance scenes’ and ‘Tips for marketing your book’.

There aren’t any hidden costs, beyond your own labour hours. An ISBN is a must and can be purchased for £89 from Nielsen Publishing in the UK. The beauty of ingramspark’s method is their print-on-demand service, which prevents the hassle of stockpiling books in any spare corner of your home, as well as allowing links to easily to be liked and shared.

Writing a book is ultimately a project of passion. While it took a few years for me to go from simply noting tasty recipes on paper, to printing and promoting them, the project rarely seemed a stressful task.

Gather ideas and inspiration from the personal world you live in, write when you feel the spark of creativity, and enlist the help of contacts to help with proof-reading.

The second most important thing is to start small; one article, one scene, one character, one step at a time. The most important thing, however, is to have fun while doing it!

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Seán Brennan is a language teacher and first-time author. Garlic Skins and Kitchen Radio: 12 Months of Cooking and Tunes is available to purchase here.

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Seán Brennan

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