Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Cost Of Pulp

Memoirs can be dangerous manuscripts to publish.

County Clare-based Salmon Publishing has learned that memoirs can also be expensive to un-publish.

Rita Ann Higgins, Irish poet, decided to pen her memoirs in a combination of rhyme and verse. Salmon Publishing put her words on paper and bound the pages into books, 900 copies worth of paper and ink. The official launch was then set and Ms. Higgins fired off copies to her siblings.

"Brilliant" said her sister in Dublin.

What her brother in New York had to say may have involved profanity, but in any case, he was not at all pleased to see his name in print. The anecdote in which he featured may not have cast him in the best light, and what his famous sister thought was enlightening was not his idea of positive press.

Nine hundred copies of memoir have become nine hundred copies of pulp.

To avoid conflict in the family, or possibly a lawsuit, Salmon Publishing destroyed the existing copies and then edited the manuscript to delete family names. The opening essay in the memoir, which now everyone knows is about the author's brother Joe, has been rendered nameless.

There are no longer any family names in Hurting God. All references to Higginses living and dead have been altered to protect the innocent.

Salmon Publishing is out of pocket, having to eat the cost of producing and then destroying and then editing and then reprinting the books, and all of it getting done in time for the official lay-down in Galway on Saturday.

Ms. Higgins is sorry for the added expense to her publisher, a small operation in the west of Ireland. She is no doubt sorry for causing strife in the family, having never harbored an intention to alienate one of her siblings.

In the future, she may think long and hard about what she writes, which would be a shame. Self-censorship can block up the flow of creativity, the life blood of a writer.

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