Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's an IRC?


I recently sent a query package to a Canadian publisher.  Their website mentioned: "Make sure to include IRC for reply."  As it turns out, I can't send the normal SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) because US stamps are good only for mailing in the US.  Plus, you can't buy foreign stamps at the US post office.  The answer?

IRC stands for International Reply Coupon.  It's the universal stamp that lets you send a letter anywhere in the world (except in your own country).  Or it's a coupon that you substitute for the right number of domestic stamps to put on the letter.  Or ... okay I don't know what they do with these.  I just know they work.

So I had my package ready to go.  I went to the local post office.  The plan was to buy an IRC, stuff it into the package, seal it, and mail it off.  I asked the postal worker, "Can I have an IRC, please?"

"A what?"

"International Reply Coupon.  Do you have any?"

She went back to her co-worker.  "Hey, Bob!  You ever hear of an I ... R ... C?"

"Hmmm ... IRC?  You know what, Jane?  I think I saw one of those a couple of years ago.  Let me look it up."

He found one of these:


Then he said, "I found one, but it expires 12/31/2009.  And they haven't given us any more.  They don't do it anymore."

I replied, "Well, these Canadians want me to send an IRC.  If I don't include one, they're going to put my stuff straight in the circular file."

Jane (or whatever her name really was) said, "Why don't you put a couple of dollars in the envelope?  That should cover it."

Yes - I could just imagine it.  Those Canadian editors would take my money, pocket it, and then place my manuscript in the circular file.  Yeah, right - like they're going to take the time to go down to the money exchanging place (I'm sure they have a temple for that) and then go down to their Canadian post office just to mail me a rejection letter!

I gave Jane and Bob the "you don't know what you're talking about" look.  The dude behind me was getting impatient.  Then Jane said something like, "Listen - I've been doing this job for 20 years and that's what other people do."

I left the post office and went home frustrated.  I looked up on the internet and learned all about IRCs.  You can read all about it on Wikipedia.  Then I called the national post office hotline to see if they could help me find a local post office that sold IRCs.

The lady told me, "All post offices are required to carry the most current IRCs.  Here's a post office right next door to you."

I answered, "I just came back from there.  They don't even know what an IRC is.  What about the downtown post office, do you think they would have some?"

"You know you can order these things online, right?  It's a $1 surcharge."

I was done.  $1 was a small price to pay to get a stupid piece of paper without having to drive all over creation trying to find a post office that sold it.  Instead of paying $2.10 for an IRC, I paid $3.10.

I had to wait five days for the Coupon to show up in the mail!  My manuscript was collecting dust!  It was like it was in the slush pile even before it left my house!

Finally, I got the Coupon, and boy was it big!  It also doesn't stick to anything.  It's not a stamp.  I didn't know what to do with it, so I just threw it in the package.  I figured those Canadians know what to do with IRCs.  Then I took it to the local post office ready to tell the postal workers, "I got my IRC!"  They didn't recognize me, so it wasn't even worth bringing it up.

It was done.  My manuscript was out.  No more slushing in my house!

The Canadians still rejected me.  They did it in an email.

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