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by Rachel
(Ireland )

Question: So I have written a book that takes place in America. The problem is, I am Irish. Most Irish publishers prefer books that relate to Ireland and I want an Irish publisher to publish my book. Now I see that most authors books have something to do with where they are from, in one way or another. I am worried that no Irish publisher will publish my book because it has nothing to do with Ireland at all. Do you think this is a genuine problem? Should I change my book so that it will have something to do with Ireland?

Thank Glen.

Answer: This is a pretty common challenge writers experience in Canada (my home). There are publishers here that only publish books set in the Maritimes, or Quebec, or the prairie provinces. Sometimes, as long as the author is from the right region, that's good enough as the mandate of some publishers is to promote writers from their region as much as the region itself.

I don't know if the same is true in Ireland, but here it is because publishers get government grants in return for publishing regional books that would not be of interest to the major international publishers. Thus, it's a way of preserving and promoting the literature of a region that would otherwise be shut out or snuffed out in favour of books from other countries.

You should check the submission guidelines of each publisher you are interested in (these will be on their website) to see what restrictions may be in place and what types of books they are particularly interested in. You may find some who are open to your book.

Again, I'm not an expert in the Irish publishing industry, but the sad reality in Canada is that many writers cannot get their books published in their home country. For example, almost every successful Canadian writer of genre fiction has a US agent and publisher. With a few notable exceptions (such as Harlequin), Canadian publishing eschews genre and focuses on literary fiction. And even then, Harlequin's major market is US readers.

Most of us would prefer to be published in our own country. It can mean a lot personally to receive validation from the community we identify with. And it hurts if we discover that we have to go abroad to find a publisher.

With that in mind, you have a tough choice regarding whether to change the setting of your book to meet the needs of Irish publishers.

Many books (particularly in genres such as literary, science fiction, fantasy, or historical) have strong settings (both physical and cultural) that are integral to the plot. The story simply could not happen anywhere else and still remain the same story.

In other books, the setting is far less important or integral. Many novels are set in almost generic mid-West US towns. Sometimes one big city can be substituted for another.

I don't know your book, so I can't tell you whether changing the setting would be relatively easy or the equivalent of ripping the soul out of the story.

I also have know idea whether you can write more authentically about Ireland than the US, and what that might add or take away from the story.

But, having come this far with your book, I think it might make sense to continue investigating before making radical revisions. See if there are Irish publishers that publish some books set in other countries. Perhaps speak to an Irish agent about this issue (maybe ask a question at a workshop) before you query. Perhaps approach some Irish writers whose books are set abroad and ask about their experience.

One other tip: when looking for an agent, you might look to agencies with expertise in publishing globally. They will likely know the best market for your book.

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