If you are an aspiring writer who has submitted a manuscript to several publishers and received the same rejection letter, here is an inside tip: if a submission doesn’t grab the publisher right away, — if that first paragraph isn’t gold — then that stock reply letter is what you’ll find in your inbox.

Publishers receive thousands of manuscripts each year, and they find it impossible to read each one thoroughly, or grant the writer’s meeting request. But they always have a lurking fear that there is one gem in the pile that has slipped through their fingers.

As a result, the people at Jacana publishing decided to do things
a little differently, taking the time to read a little more of the manuscripts than just the first paragraph or so. From this, they short-listed 20 writers, who were invited in August to make pitches along the lines of those on television show Dragons’ Den.

Five writers who made the cut will be published by Jacana next year. Mpho Dagada’s How to Become a Millionaire at 21: Bitcoin will be published in May; Christel du Toit’s Divorce Smart will be published in June; Lerato Mogoatlhe’s Vagabond: Wandering and Praying through Africa will be published in June; Vannesa Tedder’s Beaten but not Broken will be published in July; and Wandile Ngcaweni’s We are No Longer at Ease: Rhodes Must Fall and Youth Struggles for Decolonisation in SA