How Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi found a publisher

14th Sep 2016

How Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi found a publisher
Last year, we collaborated with translator Denise Muir on a post about a YA novel so controversial that it had been banned in its native Italy. Here, she tells us what's happened since then...

It was late 2014 and I’d wrapped up the translation into English of a fantastic YA novel from Italian. It hadn’t been your “normal” translation gig. There’d been no call from a publisher. The rights hadn’t been bought, it hadn’t been picked up from a prize list. No one knew this book existed. It was a story looking for a new home and I had to find it.

But first things first.

Girl Detached – or Nemmeno un Bacio Prima di Andare a Letto in the original Italian – by Manuela Salvi – was originally published in Italy in 2011.

It had been specifically commissioned by Mondadori on the back of a previous, highly successful, teen novel by Manuela. Her editor wanted a powerful story that reflected the teen experience.

Manuela Salvi decided to make the theme of her book the sexual exploitation of young girls. This decision almost marked the end of her writing career.Drawing on real conversations and mail received from readers, not to mention news stories on the subject, Manuela Salvi decided to make the theme of her book the sexual exploitation of young girls. This decision almost marked the end of her writing career in Italy.

Gatekeepers went into action, barriers went up, the book was shunned at festivals, withdrawn from shops, killed. Pushed out of existence.

Fast-forward now to March 2014, when I met Manuela Salvi at the Science Museum in London. As soon as I heard her story and read her book, I knew I wanted to help her get it published in English.

Six months later, though, when the translation was ready, the issue had become, “how on earth do we tell people about it?” This is where For Books Sake stepped into the story.

Our paths crossed at an International Translation Day panel in September 2014. I’d already submitted a sample of the book to a European Literature Night competition, but to no success. I’d written to various publishers, but without reply. We’d submitted to literary agents, but to no avail.

And then came an amazing opportunity by way of the ITD panel on female writers in translation at the British Library. Jane, director of a gutsy, groundbreaking organisation championing writing by women, agreed to publish a blog post about a gutsy female writer (Manuela Salvi) with a gritty, groundbreaking story (Girl Detached) that hadn’t just been overlooked in translation, it’d also been silenced in its original language. We couldn’t have hoped for a better break.

For Books’ Sake did an amazing job on the post, giving it both visual and editorial appeal, not to mention amazing online reach. Finally, I had something great to share and cross-post. Not just self-promotion, but content published by an independent organisation active in the publishing industry.

Mairi Kidd, managing director of Barrington Stoke, picked up the link from a Facebook post and the rest is history, they say. She immediately saw how it would fit her new Bucket List and, thanks to the cross-link to my own blog, (Sex in the news but not in our children’s books please), Mairi was able to read a sample of the English and my own blurb on the book.

Contracts were exchanged early this year. The book comes out tomorrow. If it hadn’t been for Jane and For Books’ Sake, it might still have been on my desk instead of in the hands of readers.

Working together with translator and author, For Books’ Sake created a unique opportunity to pull together a social media marketing strategy, giving it the weight and credibility it needed to put our book in the hands of the thing we needed most: a publisher.


Denise Muir is a commercial and literary translator.  She is also an advocate of Italy’s indy publishing sector and promoter of strong female voices tackling big issues, as well as working in schools to champion diversity in children’s literature. Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi is published by the Bucket List this week.