Lynette Washington - Publisher
Emily Dickinson has said, 'I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.'
At Glimmer Press we love books that shine! We are an independent publishing house based in South Australia and we publish books for adults and children.
Tell us a little about yourself and your history in the publishing industry
I am a writer, editor, manuscript assessor, publisher and teacher of creative and professional writing. First and foremost, I consider myself a writer. My book, Plane Tree Drive, was published in 2017 and was Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the MUBA.
I grew up fascinated with publishing, but always felt that, living in Adelaide, it was impossible to work in publishing. That was the old days, though. Now of course, those restrictions don’t really exist. I began working for MidnightSun Publishing in 2014 and had a ball. I edited and co-edited story collections, read the slush pile, worked with writers to develop their manuscripts, developed and implemented publicity campaigns. It turned out the industry is as exciting and fulfilling as I imagined when I was a child!
Late in 2018 I was discussing my friend’s poetry collection. I told her I thought it was brilliant and suggested a few publishers she could approach. Then, in a sort of throw away comment, I said, ‘If no one else will publish it, I will.’ I didn’t actually think too hard about what that meant! My friend replied with, ‘I don’t want anyone else to publish it, I want you to.’ A matter of months later, Glimmer Press was born. That poetry collection, To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme? is Glimmer Press’s first publication and we are launching it in Adelaide in February.
What can you tell us about your publishing house and what you publish?
Glimmer Press is brand new! We are small and Adelaide-based. Although our first publication is a children’s book, we are also planning to publish for adults. I am a lover of short stories and novellas, so I will always keep a keen eye out for them. I also love stories that break genre conventions, whether for adults or children.
What qualities do you look for when deciding to publish a picture book? Is there a checklist you use when considering manuscripts?
A picture book is a big investment for a publisher. They are risky. I have read many picture book manuscripts that I thought were worthy of publication that were not picked up. Sometimes this comes down to whether it’s possible to get an appropriate illustrator. Other times it comes down to whether there is a market. Or whether there is space on the list. Budget. Time. Prosaic things like that. But usually, all that becomes irrelevant in the face of a manuscript that sings. When you read that truly special manuscript, all those concerns fade away and you know you will find a way to make it happen. This occurred most memorably for a manuscript I read for MidnightSun Publishing by Mike Dumbleton called Anisa’s Alphabet. Never has a short alphabet book impacted me so deeply. The minute I read it, I told the publisher she had to ring him that instant before someone else picked it up. It is a genuinely special book and I cannot wait to see it in print.
Does it help when selecting an author for publication if they already have a presence in the children’s book industry?
It is a nice to have, but not essential. An author can always work on building a profile once they have been picked up for publishing. It doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t a deal breaker either.
Are there some issues you would like to see more focus on?
Not specifically. I think when a writer chooses a topic that means something to them it usually shows in the writing and this is when a book will work.
I have written a children’s picture book manuscript – do I need to find an illustrator myself?
No. Most publishers do not want you to present your manuscript with illustrations. On rare occasions when an author/illustrator combo are known and successful, this is different. But for an emerging writer it is best to just send the manuscript.
Does having an agent push you to the top of the slush pile?
Yes, it does get your manuscript a little quicker attention. When a publisher knows that your manuscript has already been through a selection process, and a knowledgeable agent believes in it, you are more likely to give it extra attention. However, it is worth noting that for small publishers such as Glimmer Press, having an agent is not an advantage. Many small presses cannot afford to pay an advance (which an agent would expect). So we are looking for writers who are unrepresented and therefore happy to sign a publishing contract with standard royalties, but no advances.
What’s a common mistake you find when reading a manuscript?
There is nothing more irritating than a writer who is trying to teach you something! Tell a story, don’t preach. Yes, good stories have moral messages, but they are for the reader to uncover, not to have forced down their throat. This applies as much to writing for children as for adults. The story must lead. The story must be great. Only then will the message matter.
How many submissions do you receive per year? Out of those, how many do you publish?
We have not yet opened up for general submissions. We intend to do this late in 2019. At this stage we are intending to publish only one book a year for the first 3 years, and then branch out into publishing more books each year.
How long from acceptance until the book hits the shelves?
For To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme? it was quick – about 6 months. It can often be much longer.
Should a potential author be discouraged by the dreaded rejection letter?
Of course not! A rejection letter is many things, but it is NOT a reason to stop writing! Publishers have limitations on what they can choose. They have preferences, tastes, business requirements, budgets, genre restrictions etc etc. All of those things and a thousand others might be the reason you were rejected. If you are driven to write, a rejection letter should not stop you.
Tell us something that has caught your eye, in a good way, in a cover letter?
I love a succinct cover letter. There are really only a few essential pieces of information – contact details, name and length of the manuscript. Maybe short biographical details. I do love a cover letter that can manage to do that in very few words but still impart a sense of the writer’s voice. That is a true skill and always piques my interest. But by no means is that easy!
And finally, what are publishers looking for in a submission?
Truly it often comes down to voice for me. All the stories have been told. It’s how you tell them that matters. I’m also interested in a manuscript that has a strong sense of the times – whether that means 1880 in London or 2025 in Adelaide. The writer needs to be aware of the zeitgeist and respond to it. Sally Rooney’s monstrously successful and excellent novel Normal People is said to have been so successful because it captures a mood, a feeling, a sensibility. I think the best of books do this.