An Irish writer addresses celebrity publishing

(Note: Aiden O`Reilly spent seven years in Germany and Poland and is now based mainly in Dublin. He studied mathematics and abandoned a PhD. He has worked variously as a mathematics lecturer, translator, building-site worker, IT teacher, and technical writer. In the four years since he returned from abroad his work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, 3am magazine, The Sunday Tribune, and The Dublin Review among others. In November 2008 he won the prestigious McLaverty Prize, awarded biannually, for short stories. The following is an open letter from his blog, The Stoneybatter Files. It is as relevant to America as it is to Ireland.)

I last made serious efforts to find a publisher about four years ago. After getting several more pieces out and rewriting others, it`s time for me to start the process again. I took a look at Transworld Ireland and decided, no, these guys are not for me.

I sent the publisher the open letter below instead.

Dear Eoin McHugh;

I am an Irish writer who has lived abroad for most of his adult life. I have been back in Ireland now for five years. In that time I have managed to have pieces published in all of Ireland`s literary magazines "twice "as well as a couple of anthologies.

I am looking for a publisher for a novel I have written. I looked through your website and list of authors, and noticed that your new fiction writers are exclusively TV producers, actors, columnists, and other such people with a high media profile.

I decided not to bother sending my manuscript to you. I cannot have any trust that it would get serious attention. I would not fit in among the authors on your list. Even if you decided to publish me, I would not feel comfortable with your publishing house.

I beg you sir, to ask yourself this: is there not something wrong with your publishing house if I "as a writer who has won the prestigious McLaverty award and been in every Irish outlet for up-and-coming writers "don`t even bother to submit to you?

My work is not consciously literary or difficult. I have received praise from some well-known sources. The various editors of the literary magazines have expressed their opinion in concrete terms. Some established writers have admired my work, including ******, ******, and ******. But they did so in person and as part of a private conversation. I don`t feel it appropriate for me to set these comments down in writing to sell my work to you. This is what your submissions guidelines seem to suggest that I should do when it asks for endorsements for my book ". Your guidelines also ask for recent press coverage " which I lack. This advice, together with your list of authors, shapes my view of your publishing house and informs my decision not to submit.

I put this question to you: What is your ethos? What is your company`s ethos?

When I go to my local restaurant, the owner tells me he wishes to bring authentic and excellent Indonesian cuisine to Dublin. A building company run by a friend will strive to use Irish materials in an energy-efficient manner. None of them will say: "I need to maximise income for my shareholders in a very difficult market."

What is your ethos, Sir? Do you have any sense of responsibility that you are shaping a new generation of writers?

I see also that you were previously a book buyer at Easons, a company known for playing a role in the literary life of the nation. Was there some sense when Transworld Ireland was set up in 2007 that it should promote new writing that reflects what`s happening in this country? Is there any sense of responsibility for seeking out good writing wherever it may be found?

Just a few short years ago any questions about the extravagances of developers or bankers would have been answered by an appeal to market forces. Now we understand these people were complicit in shaping that market. Those whose decision-making was in accordance with the standards of the times now find themselves derided as being greedy, short-sighted, and fundamentally dishonest.

Your company too is involved in creating the reality which young writers like me inhabit. And that reality is one where I would gladly exchange all my publications in The Stinging Fly, The Dublin Review and elsewhere for an opportunity to act in a television soap " or even have a sibling in such a soap. A reality where a rough count of the lists in Books Ireland reveals that 40% of debut novelists have a high media profile " and the other 60% generally are with smaller publishers. A reality where people who once had aspirations to be a writer get a renewed burst of confidence if by lucky chance their job brings them in contact with high-profile people.

And I too highly value my single radio appearance more than any publication. Why wouldn`t I when your submissions guidelines ask for recent media coverage but make no mention of publications in magazines or awards?

If the Transworld parent company pulled out of Ireland tomorrow, it would leave a lasting legacy in the hopes which have been kindled and those which have been quietly extinguished. Will you be proud of the direction you have given to Irish writing?

Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latté first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.

Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm

New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/

Artists Hill, Literal Latté`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/

His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com

His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com

His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com