2 minutes with… Aoife K. Walsh


Ahead of the Meet the Publishers event on Saturday November 11th at The Printworks, we got in touch with Aoife K. Walsh, the commissioning editor of New Island Books, to talk about her 3 Top Tips for submitting to publishers. With New Island, Aoife publishes literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, poetry, memoir, biography and more. She has been an SYP mentor and an editor-in-residence at the West Cork Literary Festival. In 2023 she was named a Rising Star by The Bookseller. Her goal at New Island is to further writing, editorial and design talent and trying to improve access, diversity and inclusion within and around the publishing industry in Ireland. Which is to say, you’ll be in good hands. Without further ado, here are Aoife’s 3 Top Submission Tips…

Obey the submission guidelines: pay attention to what the publisher is telling you in terms of how, when and why they want to receive submissions. This can range from format (usually an editable Word document), font and font size, line spacing and file type right up and out to deadline, submitting portal, genre and audience.

So, make sure to also note the genres or type of books they usually publish. This often has much more to do with legacy and in-house expertise than it has to do with taste. Show your cover letter, blurb or proposal to someone else – someone neutral – and get them to repeat it back to you. This will tell you what you’re actually saying in those documents rather than what you think you’re saying in them. Edit and edit and edit and edit your work; do not send a publisher a first draft. Do not approach a publisher or editor about your submission at someone else’s book launch! 

Fit is really important: . . . for both you, the author, and the publisher. When you haven’t been published before, it’s easy to just focus on getting published . . . anywhere, by any publisher who will have you. But it benefits no one to publish with a publisher that doesn’t completely get you or your work. Believe me, publishers don’t want to get between you and your readers with a misjudged publishing vision. 

So, get to know the publishers you would like to submit to. Get to know their list, their cover design, where they do their events, how they promote their authors, how they engage with readers on their website and their social media. Take time to suss all of this out before or while you’re talking to them initially.  Be prepared to work in a team, i.e., for everything to suddenly become very collaborative should a publisher offer to publish your work. 

‘Publishing well’ can mean many things other than selling loads of copies. Be sure about what your expectations are and listen carefully to the publisher when they tell you what they will and won’t be able to do for you and your work. We’re all on our best behaviour when we first meet an author (as publishers) or a publisher (as authors) but there are professional ways of gauging expectations. Do your research and trust your gut. 

Don’t take rejection personally: know that there will always be more authors and submissions than publishers and editors. Know that, as passionate and creative and lovely as we are, we are not sitting around waiting for your work. So, it must resonate with us. And only we will know that. Because we don’t know what’s about to land in our inbox, we don’t honestly know if we’ll be into it until we see it. 

Know that we are overwhelmed and overworked most of the time, acquiring books, making books, promoting books. So, when a publisher tells you a book is ‘not the right fit’ for them, they mean they’ve looked at it from all angles and they know they could not do it justice, i.e., publish it well. And they really mean it so don’t try to convince them otherwise. 

As in number 2 above, we only want to publish books that we love, understand, have a vision for and whose market, i.e., readers, we can access. Considering those aspects is a huge part of our decision process so we, as publishers, must take more than the story or the writing into account. This is the publishing (as opposed to writing) expertise we can bring to the process and if we decide we can’t do the best for your book or your idea, we might actually be doing you a favour. 

For more tips on publishing, hear Aoife K. Walsh and our other experts in conversation as they discuss what exactly publishers are looking for. Come with your questions and leave with the answers you’ve been looking for. This is a drop-in event so come by 2.30pm – 3.15pm to discuss Social Change with Cassia Gaden Gilmartin, Aisling Ní Choibheanaigh Nic Eoin and Aga Grandowicz or from 3.30pm – 4.20pm to discuss Writing Fiction with Declan Meade, Aoife Walsh and Micheal McLoughlin. EVENT PAGE HERE