Manuscript nibbles - The Publisher

11 July 2012 / Leave a Comment


Rebecca Starford is the associate publisher at Affirm Press, a Melbourne-based publishing company committed to publishing books that have a positive impact on the community. Affirm Press publishes new and under-published authors and distinguish themselves through their editorial commitment. Rebecca Starford was deputy editor at Australian Book Review and is the co-founder and editor of Kill Your Darlings.


Your submission guidelines request a short synopsis and the first three chapters of a manuscript. If you request to see more of a manuscript after seeing these, how much should a writer get their hopes up? How often do you request to see more of a manuscript following an initial submission by a writer?
Publishers will often ask to see more material to know if the writing sustains itself, to see how the narrative progresses. I couldn’t give an exact figure on how often we request more – maybe one in 20 or so. A writer must always remain positive, and if a publisher asks to see more, it’s a good sign – but it by no means ensures that the publisher will like the rest of the manuscript. So while I’d never encourage someone not to be hopeful and ambitious, it’s important to keep in mind that the slush pile is always a long shot.


If you do request to see more of a manuscript, how long do you usually tell a writer that you will need to read and respond to it? And how much feedback would you usually give to the writer?
It varies. I like to let writers know within 4 weeks or so from when I’ve requested the whole work, but it’s not always possible. I try to provide as much feedback as possible – it usually amounts to half to one page.


At what point should a writer follow you up, if they have not heard back from you as yet? And how would you like the writer to follow up with you?
I don’t like writers ‘following up’, unless it’s been months and months, in which case a polite email query is fine. But preferably, don’t follow up at all – unless you’ve got another offer from a different publisher, and you’d like to gauge our interest.


If a writer does receive a nibble on their book from Affirm Press, is there anything that they can do to increase their chances of getting a positive outcome?
Not really. Just be patient – calls and emails won’t increase your chances. Publishers and editors are incredibly stretched for time – no one wants to feel like they’re being hassled to read something. So rest assured it’s all under control, and if it’s good news, you’ll know about it sooner rather than later.


Rebecca Starford, associate publisher, Affirm Press
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