Sadsack Publishing Company
Dear Mr Underthwaite,
Thank you for your letter and welcome to our haven for new writers. We know how weary you must be after labouring so long and hard over your book ‘Reminiscences of my Early Years (1930s and 1940s) in a Yorkshire Mill Town.’ At 18,000 words, the work is only about a quarter of the average book-length, but we are sure you put heart and soul into so noble an opus and if, after what follows here, you choose to submit the manuscript, we shall strive to do it justice.
It is as well that when sending the synopsis, you mentioned having contacted us before any other fringe publishing company, as this gives us the opportunity to acquaint you with what you can expect if you approach our competitors. We have devoted some effort to this matter and have compiled a list of points typically raised by organisations operating in this field. These are given below in bold type, followed by our interpretations. Gird your loins and read on.
We are not in the vanity publishing business. We are in the vanity publishing business.
You will be involved in a cooperative effort: author and publisher. No, you won’t. You have already done the real work in writing the book. Now you will be asked to foot the bill, in advance, for the supposed partner’s contribution. After you have coughed up, the house concerned will have no financial exposure, nor will it incur any other risk.
We offer you the services of our expert editorial staff. That would be Jeremy (32), scion of a middle-ranking aristocratic family. Faced with disinheritance if he didn’t start work, J., who achieved the seemingly impossible by failing university examinations in (a) Art Appreciation and (b) Media Studies, realised that he would have to shape up. Therefore, he joined his old friend and bedmate Annabelle, of impeccable Sloanie credentials. She came up with the idea of founding a business that couldn’t cost much, even if it failed.
You will benefit from our array of sophisticated technical equipment. We borrowed a desktop publishing rig from Annabelle’s sister Evangeline, who was unable to use it, on account of the length of her fingernails.
We have an unrivalled range of media contacts. Not entirely accurate. Jeremy distinguished himself by frequently outdrinking his Irish crony Liam, who later penned two articles for a local rag in some dreary backwater, then drifted into leglessness after the twenty-eighth rejection of his seminal work ‘The Fall of Vercingetorix.’ Annabelle was in touch with an ex-lover who ran a small offshore radio station. Her offer to reinstate the provision of ‘certain favours’ for a consideration was declined.
Our facilities extend to producing your book on the Internet. Of course they do, but consider that many net-users are in search of pornographic entertainment. The rest will probably not have the stamina to get through the thicket to reach your work, regardless of its value. Remember also that book prices via this medium are high, so even slim paperbacks of limited appeal will most likely be offered for £12/15 – hardly tempting to prospective buyers rightly suspicious of pig in a poke deals.
You must accept that in this competitive world, results can be disappointing. Well, that’s dead right. Steel yourself for half a dozen sales, max.
So, Mr Underthwaite, you will see that we are ‘telling it like it is’. You might derive some comfort from learning that we are trying to spare you a good deal of time, effort and postage costs in pursuit of an elusive goal.
Should you wish to proceed, please note that you need have no inhibitions about presenting your work, irrespective of its standard. At the rear of our premises we have a lean-to – well, it’s more like a kennel – in which we confine our in-house hack, Minnie. She is fresh from rehab and, given continued sobriety, will be happy to convert any garbage we receive into acceptable English.
You will have gathered that we do our best to be objective, while trying to avoid discouraging new authors. Perhaps the appropriate expression is ‘tough love’. If you are still disposed to avail yourself of our services, please send your MS., together with a cheque for £4,950, on receipt of which we will do all within our power to advance your writing career. Alternatively, you could spend the same amount on a sea voyage, during which you might find a doting widow, willing to set you up, provided that you are prepared to do whatever may be necessary as a quid pro quo. In our view, your chances of literary success are about the same either way.
Don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of further service to you.
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