31 July 2013

A note from our Conductor ...

I may be the only publisher in the world who actually reads the unsolicited pile.  
Sometimes it makes me happy. The reason I read these manuscripts is that we have discovered so many wonderful and talented writers this way. Including Markus Zusak. Here he is as he was when we first knew him:

(Unable to locate the photographer's name -- apologies.)

He was discovered on our unsolicited pile and we published his first two books. It was his letter that got me in. Here is a bit of that letter -- pay attention to his very deliberate line spaces.

The Underdog ... is a short novel which can be summed up as a boy's life in all its dirtiness, eagerness, despairing hopelessness and smallness.

It's a thoroughly disgusting tale.

It's good.

But surely, it's not what you're looking for.

... It originated from the idea of a shocker dental appointment and the abrasive kitchen meals shared by two brothers. From there I kept moving forward. Through perverted dreams, noble ones and a lot of barking and scratching, I came to my conclusions as a boy with "boy's arms" and who definitely can't grow a beard, that boys are like dogs -- wild, vicious, gentle, dreaming, eager-to-please dogs.


I snivel.

You can see in this letter all Markus's hopes and dreams laid out. Here is someone who knows what he wants. His ambition is clear. And he can write. We published that first novel and the second as well. Everyone starts somewhere, and Omnibus has started some of the very best.

Michael Bauer, David Cornish, Kerry Argent, Mem Fox; these are a few of the writers and illustrators it has been our privilege to publish first. So I keep reading the unsolicited pile. I hope soon someone just as talented will turn up on that stack of paper. 

If you want to know what I am looking for it's this: 
  • I want original work! (This cuts out ALL stories about Labradors, clever mums, forgetful grandparents and cute kids doing cute things with mums, Labradors, or grandparents.)
  • I want work with heart. (But remembering the rule about Labradors.)
  • I want new illustrators -- really good ones.
  • I want literary writing
  • I want rhyming work that actually rhymes. (See rule about Labradors -- so a Labrador named Lily who wants to run and be silly is out.) Equally do not use phrasing like 'his mouth it did close' in order to rhyme the line with 'when the bee went up his nose'. That's when I close the manuscript.
  • I want work for 8 to 10-year-old readers that isn't soppy or sentimental or full of 1960s style japes.

Actually I want Bridge to Terabithia, or perhaps Hating Alison Ashley. I may have mentioned that before. Anyone? I'm at my desk right now ... waiting for that gem to arrive.

(Please note that I have stopped feeding manuscripts to my Perusal. My Consideration was equally overfed. Both are now on diets as they no longer fitted under my desk. Please don't send any more work for either of them. They don't read anyway!)


  1. Thank you so much for this. May I put it next week's issue of PASS IT ON - in the Publishers' Guidelines section?



  2. My June cover letter to Celia with my story, Dreaming's Soliders, wasn't as brilliant at Markus' but I hope the story is still in your unsolicited pile and that you are working your way towards it! Either that, or it didn't make you happy and it wasn't what you are looking for. I do love your sometimes brutally honest posts and it's great to know that at least one publisher in the world mines the pile!


  3. I loved this too. Really specific advice and information. Thanks for sharing. (I've shared it too. :P)

  4. I hope Markus didn't send that photo in with his cover letter. That would be just too unfair!

  5. I want to give you what you're looking for. Simple.