The secret to authorial success has been found. All we have to do is convert to Judaism, en masse. Then it's off to the Hebrew Union College for access to the closed up world of big house publishing.
Want to get published? Get plugged in to the Jewish Book Network and become best friends with founder Carolyn Starman Hessel. She's reportedly a "power in the publishing industry", working to promote the books of Nathan Englander, Myla Goldberg and Jonathan Saftran Foer. Still not impressed? Stuart Applebaum of Random House wishes that the publishers had "a thousand more like her." Anyone who can push book buying is a friend to the publishers, and that's the kind of friend you'd like to have for yourself.
I'm hoping for a breakthrough that doesn't require me to become Jewish, however. I don't know that I could actually give up a belief in Jesus, so any conversion would be half-hearted and rather false. Ms. Hessel claims that the publishers wish the Irish and Italians would start up a group like hers, to plug books to particular niches. Big readers, those two groups, although I can only vouch for the one. It would be grand, wouldn't it, to have someone promoting your books to people who would relate to your stories.
Ms. Hessel finds authors of all sorts: debut authors, non-fiction authors, et al., and promotes their books. She sends them on book tours, arranges speaking dates for various Jewish groups that need a speaker, and the publishers don't have to arrange expensive book tours.
The down side is that the potential authors have to endure a rigorous selection process, in which they have a couple of minutes to present their synopsis and sell their novel as well as themselves. Hard to imagine an author, accustomed to the solitude of writing, being personable and presentable, in front of an audience of 100 Jewish Book Network members looking for someone to come speak to the ladies of Hadassah.
I'll have to wait for some group in Boston or Baltimore to put together a similar consortium that finds authors writing about the Irish experience. In the meantime, I'll have to keep polishing the query and writing short stories and manuscripts. I've heard it said that Eamon de Valera was Jewish. Wonder if that would open any doors?