April Doesn’t Care

This is a letter I sent eleven Irish publishers on 1 September 2003. You can also read their replies. Plus my “final” comments of 7 November 2003.

A chara,
You endlessly receive letters from writers, letters written in the hope that you, the esteemed publishers, will publish their newly-finished and admirable literary efforts! I wish to disturb this routine, slightly, by suggesting to you that you read a manuscript that was rejected everywhere, just under ten years ago.
This thoroughly unwanted piece of literary fiction was a novel I wrote entitled April in May, 30,000 words that were so confusing to pubishers’ readers at the time, it seemed like an alien craft landing on Earth, and was accordingly misunderstood in every possible way by an Irish publishing culture that wasn’t ready for it.
Over subsequent years, things have inevitably changed, and I believe that April in May, although it has not changed itself, has become more understandable.
There was no real interest in the landscape of South Dublin before Between the Mountains and the Sea. There was no interest in the kinds of characters that live there, before The Miseducation of Ross O’Carroll Kelly. There was no interest in Dublin property developer corruption before the Flood Tribunal. April in May takes the South Dublin geography, and churns up its avenues-lined-with-trees to disgorge its mythography. April in May takes the now-accepted middle class rugby-playing character and shockingly hacks into his underlying dynamics and sexuality. April in May takes property developer corruption as a given, making the necessary examinations in no place other than deep inside the psyche. April in May is a mythical nightmare map of South Dublin at the birth of the 1990s and literary publishers did not spot this because they were unconsciously choking on it. This will not remain the case. As time goes by, the true face of April in May will be recognized.
I have written three novels since, the most recent one based on ancient Chinese Daoist (or Taoist) texts. I live in London, and among other things I review philosophical and religious books for Fortean Times. My next novel will be based on the philosophy of aesthetics.
What I want you to do is read the manuscript of April in May. You may decline to publish it, but I guarantee you it will be back again in another ten years, still the same, while we are the ones that will have changed.
I enclose an SAE.
Excerpts from the novel
Update: September 8th 2003
Hi Barry
Thank you for submitting your proposal – April in May.
Our publishing plans are set for the foreseeable future and we are not in a position to consider further proposals at this time.
Yours sincerely
Update: September 11th 2003
Dear Mr Kavanagh,
We are happy to consider April in May. Please send a synopsis along with the first 3-4 chapters to Deirdre O’Neill at this office.
If you would like to have your manuscript returned, please include return
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards.
Treasa Coady
Update: September 13th 2003
My reply to Townhouse
I received an email from Treasa Coady regarding my letter about my novel April in May, which I wrote in the early 1990s and never achieved publication back then. My letter of approach to Townhouse (on 1 September) went on at length about how April in May was completely misunderstood by the publishers who read it ten years ago; they were either blind to its relevance, or were all too aware, becoming somewhat unnerved by the material.
Should you consider this work for publication, I would be only too happy to write a long introduction about South Dublin and the madness that gave rise to April in May. But first thing’s first. I enclose a synopsis, and a selection of chapters from the book; the first chapter from each of the very different sections.
There is no need to return the enclosed material, but it is of course important that you respond with an opinion.
Thanks very much for willingly opening this curtain.
Update: September 13th 2003
Some notes for prospective submissions to The Gallery Press – and some requests.
The Gallery Press was established in 1970 to publish the work of young Irish poets. Since then many of the poets we published first have become established, leading figures. Other poets have joined the list from different publishers, some of these English-based. And we now publish plays. We are proud of the evidence that shows that Gallery is the first preferred choice – or target – of Irish poets.
It is a particular pleasure still to publish new writers, and the Press is always interested in considering new [continues in a similar vein for two pages]
Update: September 13th 2003
Dear Barry Kavanagh,
We regret that we are not in a position to consider new fiction for publication. Brandon has been publishing new fiction since 1982, and since 1983 we have done so with some level of support from the Arts Council, in common with other literary publishers. However, in recent years the Arts Council has asked us to reduce substantially the amount of new fiction we publish, and at the same time it has reduced its grant to us. That it has done so at a time when the amoun the Arts Council receives from the government has risen by over 80 per cent, seems to us a betrayal of its proper function. But this is the reality of the situation we find ourselves in, and this is why we are unable to consider your friend’s manuscript.
Yours sincerely,
Maíre Ní Dhálaigh
pp. Steve MacDonagh
Update: September 13th 2003
Sorry, not us!
Update: September 18th 2003
Dear Barry,
Thank you for sending Poolbeg information on your novel, April in May.
Unfortunately, Poolbeg are concentrating on contemporary mass-market women’s fiction at present, however, your work may well be suitable for another publisher.
Wishing you good luck and thank you for considering Poolbeg.
Kind regards.
Yours sincerely,
pp [illegible]
Paula Campbell,
PS – Unfortunately, we cannot return your manuscript unless the correct Irish postage has been supplied. We will keep manuscripts for six weeks. [No manuscript had been sent in the first place]
Update: October 1st 2003
Dear Mr Kavanagh,
Thank you so much for sending your proposal to Mercier Press / Marino Books.
We read your proposal with great interest, but unfortunately, we do not feel that it would fit into our publishing programme. I’m sorry if this appears a curt response but we receive so many queries and manuscripts each week and we try to deal with them as quickly as possible.
Thank you for thinking of Mercier Press / Marino Books. We wish you every success for the future.
Yours sincerely,
Aisling Lyons
Update: October 6th 2003
Dear Barry Kavanagh,
Thank you for submitting your proposal for consideration to Cork University Press.
Although your proposal is of interest I am sorry to say that it does not compliment our list development priorities at this time. I am sorry I cannot be more helpful at this stage.
I wish you successes in placing your proposal elsewhere.
With kind regards
Yours sincerely
pp [illegible] O’Toole
Sara Wilbourne
Update: October 9th 2003
Dear Mr Kavanagh
Thank you for sending sample chapters of April in May to us for consideration.
We will be in touch with you shortly.
Kind regards.
pp D O’Neill
Treasa Cody
Update: October 17th 2003
Dear Barry,
Thank you for submitting the extract of April in May. Unfortunately, it is not suitable for our list.
I’m afraid that I found it difficult to follow the overall plot in any of the sections I’ve read. Your physical descriptions of characters are quite distracting and I found much of the dialogue quirky and/or over-allusive. Chapter 21 worked well as a gothic short story but, again, I couldn’t quite match it so the claims in your original cover letter.
I’m sorry that I can’t be more positive about this and regret that I will be joining the band of confused publishers’ readers who failed to understand it ten years ago. I wish you luck with your future writing.
With very best wishes,
Sharon Barnes
On the basis of this I decided to offer Townhouse The Occultists, the novel I wrote after April in May.
Update: October 27th 2003
Dear Barry Kavanagh, Not for us I’m afraid.
[Unsigned, with no indication of which publisher it is from]
Update: November 7th 2003
Time to lay this enterprise to rest. The eleven publishers were: Mentor, Townhouse, Gallery, Mount Eagle, Goldsmith, Poolbeg, Mercier, Marino, Cork University Press, Lilliput and New Island. I got replies from ten. You’ll notice that Mercier and Marino sent a joint reply. You’ll also notice that there is an anonymous response from either Lilliput or New Island. Given my experience with Irish publishers in past years, my guess is the ever-inefficient Lilliput is the publisher who has not responded. If I’m wrong, the gong goes to New Island. Crack open the champagne – this campaign is over!


  1. According to the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2003, The Blackwater Press (an imprint of Folens Publishing Company) publish only “general non-fiction, Irish interest.”

  2. Well, the excerpts aren’t terrible, but they don’t give much idea of a plot. They certainly haven’t told me much about the south side of dublin.

  3. Well, my original letter stated that “April in May takes the South Dublin geography, and churns up its avenues-lined-with-trees to disgorge its mythography,” – the novel tells you about the ‘soul’ of South Dublin, so to speak. But obviously I was overstating the achievements of this my first novel, in order to provoke the publishers’ “responses”. As I wrote in my letter to Deirdre of Townhouse, “I would be only too happy to write a long introduction about South Dublin and the madness that gave rise to April in May,” and I think this accompanying mature work would actually be more fascinating than the novice’s novel… Regarding your comment the excerpts, I can only point out that they cannot convey plot on their own because plot is what unfolds over an entire novel (like, duh). I am glad you noticed that I wrote the work, though, and that you didn’t think it was “my friend’s manuscript”; cheers.

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