I have now joined the ranks of millions of writers. The rejection was brief, polite, and delivered by e-mail. But of course I had such hopes. Maybe I should frame it!
Neither my sister nor I want to carry books to Ireland and try to sell them there out of a suitcase. In fact, we have no clue as to how to go about marketing our book to an Irish audience. Where to begin?
I read the Irish Times on line first thing each morning with a cup of tea. It's better to lull myself into a "God's in his heaven and all's right with the world" moment, than launch into The Guardian or the BBC and discover the truth. So Irish news comes first. Irish authors are always featured on the Irish Times website. Writing about writers and writing in Irish newspapers is as common there as writing about politicians here. By wandering through those articles and the links they provided (like Alice going deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole), I came across advice to would-be writers, as well as a long list of Irish publishers and their contact information. This was a brilliant find. After I read through each of their websites, the list was significantly narrowed: only seven publishers seemed to be interested in memoirs, ideally with an Irish theme. Still, that gave me seven possibilities, seven little packages of hope.
Five of the publishers would accept proposals by e-mail. Each requested a variation on the theme of: what is the book about? who is the author? what is the potential market?, what does a table of contents look like? and of course, send us a few sample chapters. Well that was easy - I could send the whole book, except that the PDF file was too large to attach to e-mail. There are ways around sending big files by e-mail, and eventually I found one that was free. I was ready.
I asked some publisher friends here whether one should approach publishers one at a time and waiting for a rejection before launching the next query. They laughed with derision and said the publishing world was not that polite! So over the next couple of weeks, I sent out five well-structured e-mails with idiot-proof, bite-sized attachments that would be transmitted smoothly. It seemed way too complex to go through a third party delivery system just to show that the book was not just finished but laid out beautifully.
Two of the publishers did not accept e-mail submissions. Initially I was irritated. But there was a delicious pleasure in assembling a package to send to them. The complete manuscript, all 194 pages of it, lay there in a cocoon of bubble wrap, in its own perfectly-sized box (Tim has many of these from being on the receiving end of myriad book purchases), topped with the extra sheets of information, and crowned with a properly signed cover letter. I loved sealing it up with masses of Scotch tape, addressing it to a publishing house in Ireland, and taking it to the local post office. You have to fill out a customs form to send a box to Ireland, and the postmaster asked what was in the box ("a manuscript"), and the value. I paused. "None" was the correct answer, but I followed that up with "only a lot of dreams".
I got a polite e-mail from one of the publishers to say my package had arrived. And so I wait. Six more chances.