Publishers in Focus

Have you ever wanted to be that little bird sitting on a publishers shoulder when they are selecting manuscripts for publication?

Take a sneak peek into the world of Australian Publishers through our Publishers in Focus series.

We’ve chatted with Publishers from around the country and asked them the questions on every authors lips. From What common mistakes do authors make?  to Do you only accept published authors manuscripts?  and the very important question - What are Publishers looking for in a submission?

If you’ve ever wondered what happens from the Publishers side… read on.


Celapene Press

Celapene Press

Publisher - Kathryn Duncan

Website: www.celapenepress.com.au

Founded in 2003, Celapene Press is based in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

Our goals are to:

  • provide opportunities for new, emerging and established writers and illustrators
  • publish a range of high quality books by predominantly Australian writers
  • promote small press publishing in Australia through membership of SPN (Small Press Network) who exist to advance the interests of the Australian small and independent publishing sector
  • hold the annual Charlotte Duncan Award and donate the profit to the Neo Natal Unit, Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital

How long have you been working with Celapene Press?

I established Celapene Press in 2003 to promote new and emerging writers.

What can you tell us about your publishing house and what you publish?

We are a small independent publisher. We focus on junior and young adult fiction. We also publish Short and Twisted,  an annual short story and poetry anthology where stories and poems must have a twist. 2016 will be the 10th issue. Each year we hold the annual Charlotte Duncan Award for stories for readers aged 9-12 years. All profits raised are donated to the Neo-natal intensive care unit at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital.

What qualities do you look for when deciding to publish a picture book? Is there a checklist you use when considering manuscripts?

We do not generally publish picture books. For junior and young adult novels, we look for real life stories that readers can relate to - so stories about everyday life.

Does it help when selecting an author for publication if they already have a presence in the children’s book industry?

No - we select based on the quality of the story. We are always on the lookout for new and emerging writers and would encourage them to contact us.

Are there some issues you would like to see more focus on?

I would like to see more books by young authors dealing honestly with the issues they deal with every day - it doesn't have to have a happy ending because life doesn't - it may not even have an ending in a traditional sense as young people are just starting their lives.

I have written a children’s picture book manuscript – do I need to find an illustrator myself?

No - if accepted, we would work with the author to decide on an illustrator.

Does having an agent push you to the top of the slush pile?

No - everyone waits the same length of time. We read all manuscripts in the order they come in.

What’s a common mistake you find when reading a manuscript?

Poor spelling, punctuation, grammar and presentation. Next would be sending us books that we do not publish - I recommend writers research their publisher before sending them a manuscript. This helps prevent disappointment when receiving a rejection letter because the publisher does not publish that type of book.

How many submissions do you receive per year? Out of those, how many do you publish?

I would receive only about 20 submissions a year, but also a lot more inquiries. We may publish 1-2 per year.

How long from acceptance until the book hits the shelves?

This depends on what we have planned. The first book we published was on the shelf within about 5 months - now I would expect about 12 months from acceptance to the shelf.

Should a potential author be discouraged by the dreaded rejection letter?

Definitely not - even the best authors have been rejected many times and there may be a lot of reasons you have been rejected - not the right type of book for that publisher, publisher already has something similar in the process, anything along those lines, as well as just getting the basics wrong or it is really not of a publishable standard. Understanding why you have been rejected is important so you can go back and address it.

Tell us something that has caught your eye, in a good way, in a cover letter?

I don't tend to read cover letters - I like to assess a manuscript on its qualities alone, not on a sales pitch from an author. The one first page of a manuscript that will always stand out in my mind is Paul Collins' The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler.  I hadn't even finished the first page when I made the decision I was going to publish it. It showed the author had a sense of humour, the character was interesting and I wanted to know more - I finished the manuscript that afternoon and contacted Paul the same day.

And finally, what are publishers looking for in a submission?

Original and interesting ideas. For us, real life situations and characters that children and young adults can relate to. Sometimes I look to see if there is more than one book with the same characters - Matt Porter's Crazy Relief Teacher series is an example of this.


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