My Spanish friend, Luis Gorrochategui Santos, wrote quite a successful book in Spanish called “Contraarmada”. It is based on the aftermath of the Spanish Armada, when the English sent an armada of their own to attack Spain and Portugal ( This he published through the traditional route.

His next book was called La Rebelión de los Pigs, and was about the financial crisis. Not finding a traditional publisher for this book, he decided to self-publish. He used a printer in Seville that gave him a good price, had the cover designed, and sent it out into the world.

I was talking to him recently, he is in Ireland for a few months to learn English. I mentioned that I had written a novel, and that I hadn’t tried very hard to get it published. He just said to me, “you have to publish it.” I repeated that I had tried, but it wasn’t easy. And then he told me about his self-publishing experience, and how cheap and easy it was.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when I came back to Sligo (where I live, I met Luis in Dublin), the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. Luis had something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing, we were talking in Spanish): “writing a book and not publishing is bad for the head. You need to get it out there so you can move on to the next one.”

I wouldn’t have expressed it like this, and I think he was talking more specifically about his own experience, but I know what he means. Writing a book that you have put a lot of work into, thinking that you have produced something that is worth reading and then leaving it in the metaphorical drawer, I think I agree that it is not good for the head.

So within days I had got quotes from self-publishing companies in Ireland and Spain. The Irish one, based in Cork, said they could do 200 copies for €1000, including shipping. This would include an ISBN number. The Spanish company, Publidisa, gave me a price of around €500 for 200 copies, with about €150 extra on top for transport. €650 for 200 copies. I was sceptical at first, but at this price it began to seem pretty doable.

All I needed was a PDF of my novel, and a cover design. That’s it? I thought. Well I can do that.



So I wrote a book.

I’ve written a number, actually, but this is the first that I have actually finished, and the first one I would not be embarrassed for people to read. I began around 2010, and joined a writing group soon after. This gave me the discipline and motivation to actually knuckle down and finish the thing, my previous efforts have either been experiments or have been abandoned somewhere half-way through.

When a writer finishes a book and wants to get it published, there is a traditional route. It used to be that you would send the first few chapters, along with a cover letter and a synopsis of the book, to a publisher. Now though, the advice that I read was that you need literary agent. So I got my thirty pages, my synopsis and my letter and sent them out to about nine or ten agents, all in the UK (I am in Ireland, but was told that the agents you want are in Britain).

I got a reply from perhaps half of them, mostly polite, encouraging, telling me how much they liked my writing but that it wasn’t quite right for their lists. I wasn’t really discouraged, as I didn’t really expect anything. I had read a blog post from a reader for a literary agency, he said that approximately one book in every five thousand he reads from new writer results in that writer being taken on by the agency. One in five thousand.

And there I left it. To be honest, I wasn’t that bothered about being published, I initially wanted to do this just to see if I could. I have been reading books most of my life, and finding out whether I was a person who could actually write one was something that was important to me. More than that, I wanted to know if I could write something decent, something readable, something that – as I mentioned already – I would not be embarrassed by. And it turns out that I am a person who could do this. And that was enough, for a while.

And then I talked to Luis.