• Julija Sukys
  • Epistolophilia: A Few Thoughts on the Occasion of a Book's Birth
Epistolophilia: A Few Thoughts on the Occasion of a Book's Birth
Written by
Julija Sukys
February 2012
Written by
Julija Sukys
February 2012

The day before yesterday I received a note from my publisher saying that copies of my book had arrived in the warehouse, and that I could begin announcing its publication. Though my official date of publication is March 1, 2012, the baby’s come early. It’s a strange and great feeling to know that my book is now ready for readers.

The process of writing and shepherding Epistolophilia through the production process has been long and sometimes difficult. The germ of the book began sprouting some twelve years ago when I first came across a collection of letters archived in Vilnius. Their author, a woman named Ona Šimaitė, had saved the lives of hundreds of Vilna Ghetto children and adults, and then had been arrested, tortured, and deported by the Gestapo.

The title of my book, Epistolophilia, means “a love of letters,” “an affection for letter-writing,” or “a letter-writing sickness,” and it refers to Šimaitė’s life-long dedication to her correspondence. She wrote on average 60 letters per month (therefore between 35,000 and 50,000 letters over her adult life), and not always with joy. The letters weighed on her. She often resented them and blamed the time-consuming correspondence for her inability to complete the memoir that many of her friends and colleagues were after her to write.

But to me her letters were utterly compelling. From the fragments I read in that first archive twelve years ago, I could tell I loved this woman, and I wanted to know more. Eventually, I raised enough money through grants and fellowships to collect the rest of her life-writing corpus, scattered as it was to archives in Israel, America, and other Lithuanian institutions. In the end, I suppose, I developed my own case of epistolophilia.

Now that the book is officially out, I should perhaps celebrate. But I’ve been here before, and I know that this is simply another beginning. Just as a manuscript has to be tended and cared for, so does a newly published book. And switching from an introspective and solitary way of being (that writing necessitates) to a bold, confident, and even crassly self-promoting one (that a newly published book requires) can be hard. Really hard.

Writers have fragile egos and are easily wounded. I’m no exception.

Just yesterday I sent out an email announcement to friends, acquaintances and colleagues telling them of the book’s publication. I received many kind and celebratory responses. Some people reported buying the book, others had suggestions for reading venues, and even requests for interviews. But among the sixty or seventy congratulatory emails, there was a terse one, asking to be removed from my “mailing list.” It was from a woman I’ve known for a couple of years, and someone who I genuinely thought might be interested in at least knowing about the book. I was stung. I felt stupid. I obsessed for an hour or so. But then I shook it off and moved on.

The last time around, with the publication of my first book, I did virtually no publicity to support it. I was pregnant and my newborn son beat my book by about three weeks. By the time the second “baby” (the book) arrived, I had my hands full. That said, I’m not sure I understood the importance of promotion back then, and may not have proceeded differently under alternate circumstances.

But this time, I’ve vowed not to abandon my book to its own devices just when it needs me most. I’ve vowed to be brave, bold, and even crassly self-promoting when necessary. And I won’t let the odd terse email get me down. I owe at least that much to Ona Šimaitė.

So, in the spirit of supporting and nurturing my new baby, please note that you can buy the book hereEnter the code 6AS12 to receive a 20% discount. Of course, you can also purchase it through your local bookstore or preferred online retailer.

If you enjoy Epistolophilia, I hope you’ll spread the word.

This post was originally published at http://julijasukys.com as part of a weekly series called “Countdown to Publication” on SheWrites.com, the premier social network for women writers.

Julija Šukys is the author of Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė (2012) and of Silence is Death: The Life and Work of Tahar Djaout (2007). You can find out more about her at http://julijasukys.com.

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  • Grace Peterson

    Congratulations, Julija. What a wonderful labor of love you've undertaken. Although I'm still in the query stages for my manuscript, I've been gearing up for that ominous publicity gig expected of me. I've never been one to toot my own horn so it's going to be a challenge. I think venues like this are perfect because we're all working towards the same goal and can support one another. I'm sorry you got that one nasty email. She was probably just having a bad day and although it's so easy to take it personally, you did the right thing in shrugging it off. I'm sure I'll be reading your book. It's sounds absolutely fascinating.  Bravo! 

  • Julija Sukys

    Hi All, 

    thanks for your comments, support and congratulations. For those who have been asking about ebook versions: yes, there will be Kindle and Nook editions available in a few months. I'll announce it somewhere here on SheWrites when the time comes! 

  • Barbara H. Horter

    You are to be commended. Your tender heart has produced a writing I can hardly wait to read. You CAN compare the conception , labor and life of a book readily to that of a child, since the book comes from within. It is so sad to me that ONE person is able to knock us to our knees with comment when your effort in making her aware was done, again, from the tenderness of your heart. These reactions are the thorns that make us "pull back" from the rose we dive in to smell. BUT, my dear, YOU have accomplished and I'm here to say Bravo. I don't believe in accidents in this life. Your dear soul was especially chosen to relay this great story of one woman by another. I'm off to purchase!

  • Bev Murrill

    I'm also interested in your book because I've read of Irena Sendler who used to go into the Warsaw ghettos to rescue children during the Nazi occupation of the city... an awesome woman...

    Do you think that Epistolophilia will be out in ebook any time soon?

  • Bev Murrill

    Absolutely... the same with my message.. it was a monthly article I write to people who've subscribed... urggghhh...

    But I'm looking forward to reading your book, Julija... it sounds really interesting.

  • Julija Sukys

    Congrats, Bev! E-books excite me too, if only because they open up more possibilities and serve yet another kind of reader. 

    The terse email stung me mainly because what I sent out wasnt' by any stretch of the imagination some kind of spammy "mailing list." It was a one-time personal message to people whose addresses I'd painstakingly gathered from my contacts because I figured they'd be interested! Oh well. Nothing to be done. 

    Pamela -- I will try to keep reminding myself that I'm a dancer, dammit. 

  • Bev Murrill

    Julia, my experience echoes yours to a great degree... my book Speak LIfe and Shut the Hell Up is due in the warehouse on 1st March, but a couple of days ago my publisher wrote to tell me it was out on Kindle. Averse as I often am to self publicity, I shamelessly announced the Kindle website on Facebook and Twitter ... and was able to answer the others who wrote saying they don't have a Kindle but when could they get the book. I'm excited; for some reason more excited about the Kindle than about the hard copy, although I don't have that yet.

    I also had a terse 'remove me' from someone I thought was interested, in a monthly email I send out... but yeah... those terse and confusing refusals are so far fewer the encouragement and sales that it's ok... it's her loss, not mine... and I refuse to believe anything else.

    Congratulations with the book... it sounds awesome... being a bit of an epistolophiliac myself...!

  • Pamela Olson

    Congratulations! I just published my first book last year (though I only worked on it three and a half years, not twelve), so I have some idea what you're going through.  It's a rough transition, from writer to promoter.  But that's the name of the game, and sometimes it's even fun!  A way of connecting with many, many people.

    Though I have to admit, I get stung by email list unsubscribes, too, and by all the other little inevitable rejections, even though I know I shouldn't.  Every artist -- everyone who dares to poke her head above the fray -- is bound to get knocked around a little more than most.  I bought myself a card that keeps me motivated.  It says, "In this world, there are dancers and there are critics.  Thank you for being a dancer."