Category Archives: publishers

An interview with Tiny Tree

Following blog subscriber and critique customer Fiona Barker’s picture book acceptance by Tiny Tree, I caught up with James Shaw from Matthew James Publishing to ask him about his new picture book imprint and what he might be looking for in a submission.

matthew james publishing ltd.pngWhat made you decide to launch a picture book imprint?  How many picture books are you planning on publishing each year?

Not only am I a big fan of literature in general, I am also a huge art fan and a very visual person. Since taking over MJP I was always excited by the prospect of working on picture books, and as a father of two small boys I am constantly surrounded by the wonderful possibilities so many other publishing companies had produced. For me it was an obvious step. Although it hasn’t been easy, it has been very worthwhile.

As a small independent we don’t have a quota for how many books we publish each year and can be quite picky. Next year though we already have about 10 titles on the way, with many more submissions still filtering through. We like to keep it to no more than 1 a month though.

What length picture book are you looking for?  And do you accept rhyme?

We like to have 32 page picture books, but we will stretch to 48 or drop down to 24 at a push. We have done much longer titles, but we prefer 32 pages as a rule. We accept rhyming and non-rhyming books, the story is the important thing, and as long as it is told well it doesn’t matter if it rhymes or not.  Honestly not always fussed about a particular word count but we do find that around 600 words works best for children’s picture books.

Are there any topics that you are particularly attracted to?  Do you like books with a message?  What about humour?

Humour is really important to us. As a parent it is easier to read a book to my kids 40 times if it is funny. However, we at Tiny Tree love to provide books with a message. Bullying, friendship, loneliness, change, anything that could affect the life of a child is perfect. We want to stand out amongst the crowd, but we also want to provide something to the children, and the parents, above and beyond a beautiful book.

How are your authors paid, eg flat fee or royalties?  Do you pay an advance?  Do you sell foreign rights?

Our contract states a royalty of 10% on print versions, 25% on electronic versions. We also discuss with the author incremental increases in royalties based on sales. We don’t usually pay an advance unless one is required for a piece we absolutely must have. As a small independent we want to focus all our budget on producing and marketing a great product, and we like authors who are focused on that goal as well.

We can and do sell foreign rights, although we haven’t had much opportunity to up to this point. We have done our own translations for titles, to work with the authors from other countries though. Like any traditional publisher we are always looking for new avenues of sales for books and to make sure they get as much exposure as possible.

How do you find illustrators for your picture books?  Is this something the author would get involved in as well?

A multitude of ways really. Sometimes an author/illustrator will come to us with a title they have already illustrated, like Binx the Jinx. Sometimes an author will know someone who they would like to use or they have worked with before, like Russ Brown and Jamie Cosley. Sometimes we get portfolio submissions from illustrators which we keep on file for possible work.

There have only been a couple of times where we have had to find an illustrator from nothing, but there are so many organisations and communities out there that it always very simple. The only problem comes with trying to match up the work and trawling through hundreds of possible illustrators when there so many talented people out there.

What attracted you to Fiona Barker’s book?

Fiona’s book attracted me in a number of ways. First, it was a simple and heart-warming story. There is a message there, but it is surrounded by just a simple, funny, inviting story that makes it easy to read and something I could certainly see myself and others coming back to. Fiona herself is also easy to sell; she provided a great deal of marketing information, she already has a great presence and she has an approachable persona that makes it simple to plan around her.

She also provided us with an illustrator that worked perfectly for her title. Although having something illustrated before submitting can sometimes be problematic, in this case it really worked in her favour.

 

Details on how to submit to Tiny Tree here

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2017 – the year YOU get published

Happy New Year readers – I hope you enjoyed your festivities and are raring to go with your new year’s writing resolutions.  And I am here to help!

I will shortly be working through and updating both my list of publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts and my list of UK children’s agents, making sure that you get the correct information you need to submit.  I’ll be deleting any markets that no longer look at unagented work or, in the case of new markets, haven’t developed as promised – but don’t worry, there’ll be a few new opportunities going in too.

I will also be continuing to offer my new critique service, giving you the chance to get an extra pair of eyes on your manuscript before sending it off into the big wide world.  Alternatively if you have something that keeps being rejected and are wondering why, perhaps I can help?  I have adjusted the prices slightly as the feedback I am giving is a lot longer than originally planned, but I hope you’ll agree it’s still excellent value for money and I have had some lovely comments from my first customers.

Finally as usual I will be looking out for new writing opportunities and reporting back from any useful writing events I attend.  So let’s make 2017 the year you get published!

Interview with Penguin Ireland’s Claire Hennessy

Thank you to everyone who suggested questions for Claire Hennessy, children’s author, writing teacher and Penguin Ireland children’s editor.  And thank you Claire for sparing the time to talk to us in between your many commitments!  (Where appropriate I have removed specifics in the questions to make the answers relevant to everyone rather than just the individual concerned.)

Seeds of Liberty by Claire Hennessy

Is Penguin Ireland is open to submissions from across the UK or does it just focus on the Irish market?  How about overseas authors, eg Australia?

We get submissions from all over the place but as Penguin (now Penguin Random House!) is international it’s probably best to approach the division closest/most relevant to where you live.

It is unusual for a big publisher to have an open submission policy.  What are your reasons for this – and are you swamped?!

A little swamped! But in a great way. The publishing scene in Ireland is slightly different to the UK, in that most Irish publishers will deal directly with writers rather than having an agent be almost-essential. Combine that with it being a small country with a huge amount of creative talent – open submissions mean that lack of an agent doesn’t stand in the way. Though there are submissions from agents too, of course.

What word counts are you looking for in the different age ranges?

There’s a really good post here from American literary agent Jennifer Laughran which is worth looking at: http://literaticat.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html

Generally once something is within the rough parameters of its age group, it’s fine. If it seems not to match up, there are usually other problems with the manuscript in terms of being a fit for the age and genre.

Do you publish fantasy and science fiction?

Currently open to everything (if it’s good!).

Do you accept books that have already been self published?

Never say never. But they’re very tricky. It’s best to submit something new, and include any relevant details (sales figures, etc) about your self-published work.

What information do you like to see in a covering letter?

Basically what it says in the submissions guidelines (http://www.penguin.ie/static/penguinirelandsubmissionguidelines/index.html). Shorter is better. A brief summary of the book – including a word count – and then anything relevant about the writer (e.g. previous writing or other creative experience, bookselling experience, etc). Did I mention shorter is better?

Every Summer by Claire HennessyIn your opinion, is it worthwhile spending money on professional editing services before submitting to agents or publishers, to make a book the best it can be?

It’s definitely worthwhile investing time and energy and (if possible) money into your manuscript and into your writing career, in the same way you would with anything else. That might be working with an editor at a literary consultancy, which, although it can seem pricy, can really help someone view their manuscript differently and also teach them how to edit their own work (current and future) more effectively. Or it might be taking writing workshops, or joining writers’ groups – anything that helps them move past their early drafts and really polish up their work so that it’s as good as it can be. It’s really difficult to learn how to edit your own work – we’re not trained for it in school; it’s a much bigger and more dramatic and often more exciting and creative process than we imagine it might be – but it’s also crucial. Editors and agents are looking for work that is as good as you can make it – and then to work with you to make that as good as you can both make it. ‘Writing is rewriting’ as they say.

What are your views on picture book apps?  Do you think they have a future?  Should picture book writers be writing for this new market?

Picture books are not something I’m handling at the moment but I would agree with the sense that apps need to complement books, and do something different to them, rather than replace them. It’s a different medium. Picture books are still gorgeous physical objects which both parents and kids appreciate.

Would you recommend joining a writers group?  Friends and family, although wonderful, can be too kind. Can you recommend any other way to get honest feedback?

Writers’ groups (which includes online writers’ groups too) can be terrific but the quality varies hugely. You need to ensure that the other writers are at roughly the same level you’re at – e.g. have been writing for a certain amount of time, and also are taking it as seriously as you are – and that they’re prepared to give constructive feedback rather than just telling you what they think you want to hear. Adding new members every so often can also help in terms of keeping things fresh.

If you have friends who are writers, it can be useful to get feedback from them too – but I think it does need to be a reciprocal arrangement and something where you both understand that non-glowing feedback isn’t something that’s going to destroy a friendship.

Non-writer friends and family are to be avoided – too much else going on in those relationships!

With the advent of technology, smart phones and kindles, what is the best piece of advice you can give to a beginner?

Use them! For example: if you’re on your phone the whole time – make notes about your story or your surroundings or an idea you’ve just had, rather than scrolling through Facebook. (And it looks less awkward than pulling out a notebook to scribble down your ideas.) But also: don’t let them distract you too much. There’s a lot of publishing information out there online, which is easily accessible, and brilliant (when I started researching publishing in the ‘90s things were a bit different), but it can distract you from the absolute most important things when it comes to writing: thinking, reading, writing (repeat as needed).

You were first published while still a teenager.  Why do you think there aren’t more books for teens written by teens?

I think there are plenty, actually! I’m currently reading ‘Falling Into Place’ by Amy Zhang, which was written when she was a teen; next up is Alice Oseman’s ‘Solitaire’. Beth Reekles is also terribly young… and then there are American writers like Hannah Moskowitz and Kody Keplinger who are now in their 20s but were first published as teenagers. Not to mention S.E. Hinton of ‘The Outsiders’ fame (1967) who wrote that as a teen. And Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, the American YA horror writer… and Christopher Paolini… and Catherine Webb…

There are definitely teen writers out there but, as with older writers, there are more people submitting manuscripts than getting published. Teens are also, by virtue of their age, more towards the start of their careers, and your chances increase the more you write and the longer you’ve been at it.

When you were in the age group for which you now write, who were your favourite authors (apart from yourself!)?

Oh so many, many of whom are still my favourites – Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, J.K. Rowling, Ann M Martin, Madeleine L’Engle, Jacqueline Wilson.

As a writer, how do you recognise which ideas to ditch and which to run with?

I write down all the ideas so that they’re always there – because sometimes even if they don’t work on their own, or now, they’ll work in the future if combined with something else.

Novels require a whole bunch of different, linked ideas, not just one thing, so I tend to wait until I feel like I have enough ‘stuff’, enough material, to sustain an entire book. That’s usually several pages of notes and scribblings, to be added to as I start writing and more ideas come to me. Once I’m at that stage the challenge isn’t so much ideas as it is the motivation and discipline that comes with any long-term project.

You can keep up with Claire at www.clairehennessy.com and follow her on Twitter at @clairehennessy

 

Send me your questions for Claire Hennessy, children’s editor at Penguin Ireland

I’m delighted to say I will be interviewing the children’s editor at Penguin Ireland, Claire Hennessy, in the next couple of weeks.   As some of you may have read on my Twitter feed, Penguin Ireland are accepting unsolicited children’s and YA manuscripts.  With that in mind I thought it would be nice to get some questions together from all of us rather than just me, so if you’d like to send a question, please put it in the comments section below, or if you prefer to be all mysterious and anonymous (perfectly all right if you do), you can email me your question at lou.treleaven@sky.com.

Claire is also the author of ten young adult novels and a historical children’s novel, plus she teaches creative writing, so I’m sure she won’t mind if questions veer on to general writing advice as well as Penguin.

Claire’s website is at www.clairehennessy.com and the submission guidelines for Penguin Ireland children’s books are here.

Hope is out there!

I’ve received a nice email from Cris at Pants on Fire Press which I’d like to share.  Pants on Fire are an American publisher but they are open to submissions from the UK, and have just signed their second UK author (hurrah!).

The book is The Vampire Cat by Antony Bowers Smith from Manchester.  Bernard is an ordinary house cat who, after an encounter with Max Von Strangfelt, is transformed into a vampire!

Cris says, “I hope this news will encourage your website readers and budding authors to not lose hope and to consider querying US publishers.”

So please be encouraged and keep submitting!

About Pants on Fire Press

Pants On Fire Press, located in Winter Garden, Florida, is an award-winning children’s book publisher of picture, middle-grade and young adult books. We publish big story ideas with high concepts, new worlds and meaty characters for children, teens and discerning adults. Disney is our heritage which is why we strive to follow a high degree of excellence while maintaining high-quality standards. Titles we publish will tell stories that entertain. At Pants On Fire Press entertainment is everything.

Note: they no longer accept picture book submissions.

New indie markets

A couple of interesting indie publishers featured in Writing Magazine this month.

First is Fledgling Press,  a Scottish company that focuses on debut authors writing a variety of fiction including YA.  If you’re Scottish too that will help!  You should send three chapters and a short synopsis by email and they aim to reply within 6 weeks.  If accepted your book will be placed on a longlist for possible publication.  Note they do not want sci fi.  Full submission details at www.fledglingpress.co.uk/submissions.

The other indie that caught my eye this month is Ghostly Publishing which has been founded by a paranormal investigator, no less!  The premise gets even more intriguing as the submission process involves peer review on the site, so you need to register then upload your submission – first three chapters and synopsis – rather than emailing or posting it.  There is also a free ‘manuscript checker’ which apparently can instantly score your book to test if it is ready for publication – the closer you get to zero, the better!  Take a look at these details on the site to familiarise yourself with the process.  As you might expect, Ghostly wants fantasy and sci-fi for child to teen readership.

And finally, if you do buy Writing Magazine this month you’ll find my article on how to interpret your blog stats nestling happily on page 28 under the pun-derful title Stat’s Amazing!

Happy submitting everyone!

New markets

A couple of children’s fiction markets for you this month.  Crooked Cat is a small UK publisher accepting young adult fiction for its Silver range, up to a maximum of 90,000.  The bad news is that it is closed to submissions at the moment, but the website asks you to check back in January, so hopefully they are just going through a catchup period.  Worth keeping an eye on, I think.

Also, spotted in Writing Magazine this month, is the indie publisher My Little Big Town which is the brainchild of author/illustrator Calvin Innes.  Think Aliens Love Underpants rather than Princess Poppy and you’ll be on MLBT’s wavelength.  Submission guidelines are strict so follow them to the letter to get the best chance of being read.  Unusually, you should send the entire manuscript, and you should also print off a covering header sheet which can be downloaded from the website.  Do NOT submit by email!  (I’m guessing they are swamped.)  MLBT accept all sorts of genres and lengths, but looking at their site I would guess that picture books and chapter books (7-9) are the types of manuscripts you should send to this market.

Finally I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas, and a successful and happy writing year for 2014.  My new year’s resolution is to have one morning a week dedicated writing time instead of snatching moments out of the day.  It will be bliss!  What’s your writing resolution for next year?

A-Hunting We Will Go! On the prowl with Agent Hunter.

At last you’ve finished writing your masterpiece.  It’s time to take a journey.  Either to find a publisher, or to venture into that no less terrifying and treacherous terrain that is… (cue tribal drums and the distant cries of wild beasts) … literary agent territory.

If you are lucky you might find a small herd around a watering hole, discussing their latest acquisitions, while more boisterous agents lock horns with passing publishers over foreign rights.  Sometimes a young, defenceless author  may venture into the clearing, separated from its pack (or Writing Circle).  Scared, confused, it pads up to the water to take a much-needed drink in a last attempt to prolong its dangerously uncertain life.  It is then that the agents pounce.  The poor author submitted her manuscript to ten at once, addressing all her scruffily packaged, misspelled submissions with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.  She has no chance.  The agents tear her apart in seconds.

But what if the poor author had researched her agents properly?  What if she had targeted an individual, found out what they liked, and sent off a professional submission?  It might just have saved her life!

Recently literary consultancy The Writers’ Workshop kindly offered me a free subscription to their searchable agent database, Agent Hunter.  It costs £12 to join for a year and instead of trawling through the web for information you are able to search their databases.

To start a search, you simply click Start Your Search (obvious when you think about it, isn’t it!).  On the left hand side are filters.  I called up the list of literary agents, then filtered them by children’s agents, then agents who are actively looking to build their list, then agents who use Twitter, have blogs and accept email submissions.  This quite specialised search brought up five agents.  When you select an agent’s name you can view much more detailed information such as their client list, how to submit and sometimes a personal manifesto or advice.  Of course this can all be found on the internet as well if you look hard enough.  It’s the filters that really help.  Being able to draw up a list of agents that are actively interested in your subject is really useful.  You can even be more specific and search on Picture Books or Young Adult.

They also have a database of publishers on there which I was keen to see.  I set the filters to children’s publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts.  Unfortunately it’s a bit out-of-date already as Egmont are listed accepting unsolicited manuscripts and, as we know, they’ve stopped.  Ragged Bears are also listed and they are no more!

Agent Hunter is a great idea and I certainly think it will be a good resource.  However, it needs to make sure it is absolutely up-to-date before people subscribe or they will not feel they are getting their money’s worth.  I also think it would be useful to have links to other sites open in a new window rather than replacing the Agent Hunter window.

You can try out Agent Hunter for free, although some information will be greyed out.  It’s a useful way to see how the database works and what information is supplied.  You can also try and cancel within 7 days.

Ready?  Let’s go bag us some agent!

Children’s publishers in the US accepting unsolicited manuscripts

I’ve been asked several times about US publishers and have not been able to help very much.  I did think about trying to put together my own list, but it would involve a massive amount of research and time!  Luckily, thanks to a handy blog post by JR Poulter, I have discovered Brian Grove and his site My Perfect Pitch (www.myperfectpitch.com) where, as well as dispensing wisdom and advice to aspiring writers, he also maintains lists of publishers to approach.

So to see a list of US publishers accepting manuscripts, visit http://myperfectpitch.com/childrens-book-publishers-usa/.  As always, read the individual requirements of the publishers very carefully before you submit.  The better we writers make our submissions, the more likely the few publishing companies who still accept unsolicited work will continue to do so.

The very best of luck and please tell me of any success stories – I love to hear them!

Publisher update 2013

At the birth of the new year (I was going to say the demise of the old year, but that sounded a bit depressing and we try to be positive over on this blog!), it’s time to check over my list of children’s publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts and see what’s changed over the year.

Sadly but predictably, some of the publishers have closed their doors to unagented work (Oxford University Press), or even ceased trading altogether (a fond farewell to Meadowside, Ragged Bears and the briefly present Rebel Books).  It seems as though A&C Black has finally been fully absorbed by Bloomsbury and no longer has its own site.  And Catnip Publishing, which a reader kindly suggested be added to the list, has now stopped accepting unagented submissions and so never made it on to the list after all.  Frances Lincoln and Bridge House are not accepting anything at the moment – hopefully that will change in the future so I have left them here for now – and the Strident website has temporarily disappeared, although a short notice assures us it will return.

On the positive side, there are still some big hitters on the list such as Egmont and Little Tiger, and the youngsters like Curious Fox, Nosy Crow and Phoenix Yard are keenly embracing new technology such as interactivity and apps.  Plus there’s a new addition: Caterpillar, a publisher of novelty picture books.  As the tidal wave of e-publishing settles down and integrates into the mainstream, publishers are regaining their strength and seem to be out to prove they deserve a place in the new literary landscape.  As always, good luck with those submissions and do let me know how you get on – I love a success story!

Visit the updated list of publishers

Advice on writing a synopsis

Advice on word count