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

Meadowside Books no longer trading

Sadly I heard today that Meadowside Books are no longer trading.  Staff have been made redundant.  As far as I know, any manuscripts they have been holding have been shredded – which sounds drastic but stops them being misused.  So if you’ve submitted to them recently it’s time to move on to the next publisher on your list.  A real pity when a children’s publisher like this has to fold.

Interview with Derrick Alderman of CoopJack Publishing

Hello Derrick.  What is your background and what led you to starting CoopJack Publishing?

I’ve been working for a textbook design company for 10 years, doing the same thing over and over and over again. I finally had the chance to do something new, which was to create epub books for Nook (Barnes & Noble) and iPad. It was fun, interesting, and based on my textbook experience, not too difficult. Two months ago, I quit that job and — among other paying things — I decided I wanted to publish some books on my own. I started CoopJack Publishing.

You are asking for picture books at the moment; are you likely to consider anything else now or in the future?

Right now, I’m focusing on picture books which is what I’m familiar with. I would certainly consider publishing novels or nonfiction when I find the right book and have the time to learn the technology.

Do you accept rhyming stories?

Yes, I personally LOVE rhyming stories.

Should us Brits alter our manuscripts to American spellings/words?

Ha! No, don’t worry about it.

You are hoping to publish to the iTunes bookstore. Can you explain what that means in terms of what devices people would download the books on to and what form they would take?

For those wondering, iTunes has outgrown its name, and now offers movies, books, apps, and tv shows, so it’s not just “tunes” — it’s everything! iTunes works exclusively with Apple products, the iPad and iPhone in this case. I’m taking a long view of the iPad as a fantastic device that’s just in its infancy. I think it will be around for a LONG time, and getting some content on iTunes will hopefully benefit those involved in the long run. I would expect to also publish to Nook, although that’s not a long-term bet I would take.

What about e-readers? Would Kindle owners be able to access them or would you publish separately for Kindle?

I will probably also publish on the Kindle eventually, but that’s not technology I’m familiar with right now. I think picture books are more suited to the iPad technology right now.

It’s free for authors to self-publish on to Kindle. What can your company offer that’s different from self-publishing?

Since I plan to focus on picture books, my intent is to bring together writers and artists to make professional looking books. I will also provide the layout, design, and technology side to produce professional-looking books.

How are you going to split the royalties?

Apple gets 30% off the top. I will earn 15%, and the writer/artist will split the rest. It’s still being figured out, but in the event there are derivative works (like a physical publishing deal, or merchandise, or a movie deal!) based on the books I publish, I would earn some percentage of those royalties too. This is not work-for-hire, I’m not aiming to steal the writer’s copyright or characters. Please keep in mind, I’m working for free on this! I don’t make anything unless the book can sell. It’s a risk, but I believe that creative people can come together and make something wonderful. The writer and artist also stand to benefit simply from the exposure and becoming a published author. That looks good on anyone’s CV.

How will you market the books?

The marketing will be a collaborative effort between myself, the writer, and the artist. If one out of three of us is blogging or tweeting, that’s a huge plus. I hope word of mouth about a specific book will boost sales.

How long should an author expect to wait before getting a response from you about their manuscript?

Are you asking this because I haven’t responded to any queries yet? 🙂 I hope to get back to everyone in a reasonable time frame, but since this is a “free” project I have to fit it in around the rest of my ongoing responsibilities. My apologies to anyone I’ve kept waiting.

And finally… where does the name CoopJack come from?

CoopJack comes from the names of my 2-and-a-half year old twin boys, Cooper and Jackson. They love picture books, and they DEFINITELY love mommy’s iPad!

And Derrick also adds…

I’m currently having a publishing agreement drafted by lawyers in Portland, Maine. This is all kind of a new experience for me, and I’m learning a lot as I go along. I also have my first “pairing” of a writer and author, which I am very excited about. I hope I can announce it once things are more formally agreed between us. The writer is already published and has some stories that various publishers have not been interested in, so she has agreed to work with me. The artist is someone I’ve worked with before and he’s very fast, with a fun and colorful style. Keep in mind, we’re all working for free up front, so it’s a labor of love. I hope this first book sets the pace for a successful new venture.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Derrick.

To view the website and see how to submit to CoopJack, visit

Curious Fox sniffing out new talent

It’s always heartening to hear of a new publishing venture starting up.  This one from Curious Fox looks promising, with two new series already commissioned from book packager Hothouse plus four young adult books originally published by e-publisher Fiction Express (an intriguing project where readers subscribe and vote on what will happen next in the story).

Curious Fox are looking for “bold, fun and imaginative” fiction for age 8 upwards, by email submission.  Send a synopsis, the first chapter and a covering letter.  Brief submission guidelines are here.

Maverick accepting unsolicited manuscripts for picture books

Thanks to reader Kaytie for spotting another children’s publisher to add to our list!  Maverick publish a range of lively and colourful picture books.  They are looking for quirky, interesting reads with strong storylines.  As a guide, their books are usually 32 pages long and no longer than 1,200 words and they prefer text only, not illustrations.  Email submissions are preferred as pdf or Word attachments together with a covering letter or email, but you can also submit by post.  Find all the details on their submissions page.

And lastly:


If you like to write stories that rhyme,

Most publishers have to decline.

Though your verse may fill them with delight

They must consider foreign rights,

And your carefully crafted creation

Loses something in translation.


But sometimes a publisher will have a go –

At the back of their mind there’s a Gruffalo –

And I’m happy to tell you that Maverick

Will consider your stanzas, so make ’em slick!

(If your rhyming, like mine, just gets rubbisher,

You may not find a publisher!)

Another market for children’s short stories – Alfie Dog Limited

New e-publishers Alfie Dog Limited are looking for short stories to make available for download on their website,  Submissions details are at and  Authors will receive just under half of the download fee, so for a 39p short story the author will receive 16p per download.

The publisher  is aiming at an international audience and is has mentioned that she would love to see more children’s stories, although she considers any age group or genre.   If you fancy dipping your toe in the electronic waters but don’t want to go it alone, this could be a market for you.

Tamarind accepting unsolicited manuscripts

I spotted in this month’s Writers’ News (published with Writing Magazine, March 2012) that the children’s publisher Tamarind are looking for submissions directly from writers.  Tamarind are part of Random House and their ethos is to redress the imbalance in children’s publishing in terms of ethnicity.  The main characters of their books are black, Asian or mixed heritage but the subject of the book should be something that all children can relate to.  Have a read of their submissions guidelines to find out more; they are particularly interested in mystery, sci-fi and fantasy.  You can submit by post or email and should send a covering letter/email, the first three chapters and the synopsis.  They also accept picture books that again should fit their ethos, and they also ask that you do not send stories with animals as the main characters.  You should also not send illustrations with your picture book.  Have a look at the main website to get a feel for their style.


What wordcount should my children’s book have?

Following on from my blog post on which publishers are accepting unsolicited manuscripts for children, I thought I’d put together something else I had difficulty finding on the web – a guide to word counts.

The reason there isn’t a definitive list is that publishers vary considerably in their requirements and so you will see that the range is large within each category.  Before submitting, make sure you check the publisher’s website.  If they don’t specify a word count, and many don’t, take a look at some of their books in your local library and do a quick word count by counting three lines, dividing by three to get an average, multiplying by the number of lines on the page and then by the number of pages.  If it’s illustrated, adjust the word count by the percentage you feel the pictures take up.  You will only have an approximate guide but at least you won’t be wildly off course.

Picture books

Generally around 500, maximum 1,000.  Less is more as the pictures do the talking.  Classics include The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney.  You won’t be expected to provide illustrations – the publisher will match you with an artist (unless you are one yourself!).  The whole text is usually submitted for this length book.

6-9 years

Sometimes called early readers or chapter books, these books bridge the gap between picture books and novels with plenty of line drawings within the text and can be 6-15,000 words long.  The Horrid Henry books by Francesca Simon are a good example.  (The audio versions narrated by Miranda Richardson are brilliant, by the way!)  Series books for this age range are popular and include Beast Quest, Rainbow Magic and Cows in Action.

8-12 years

Called middle grade in the US, these can be 20,000 to 75,000.  Established authors can get away with more.    Derek Landy, JK Rowling, Jean DuPrau and Charlotte Haptie are all great writers for this age group.  Publishers will usually ask for a synopsis and the first two or three chapters.

Young adult

At least 30,000, going up to 100,000.  Increasingly, these books are appealing to adults who are not put off by length.  Examples include How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Angel Blood by John Singleton, Numbers by Rachel Ward and the brilliant Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.

Useful links

This post by writer American Chuck Sambuchino is a great guide to required word lengths for American markets, children’s and adults’.

sarah webb

Another blog from across the pond with useful advice on word counts.

tall tales and short stories

Tracy’s interviews with children’s agents and publishers will give you the low down you need before submitting.

I would love to know if there are any more resources on this area, so please get in contact if you know of any so I can add them to my links!


Skylark Literary Agency blog post

Here’s a very informative post about word counts from the experts at Skylark.

How to write a synopsis

Writing the synopsis for your novel is a task generally loathed by writers, yet it is an essential part of selling your book.  Why?  And why do writers hate the process so much?  Shouldn’t we enjoy having the chance to demonstrate how brilliant and exciting our plot is?

What a synopsis is for

A synopsis is really just a summing up of the main plot points of your novel and the journey of your main characters. If your sample chapters are a demonstration of your writing ability, your synopsis is a demonstration of your ability to put together your content in a way that will draw the reader through the story and satisfy them at the end. If a publisher or agent enjoys your sample chapters and is excited by your synopsis, he or she will ask for more.  The synopsis may also be used later as a selling tool in order to win over other people or departments who will be involved in the process of producing your book. It may also be used to sell a series or prove you can come up with a sequel.

When to write it

Should you write your synopsis before or after your manuscript?  It depends on your method of planning.  If you prefer to plot your novel first before writing, there is much to be said for coming up with a synopsis first which you can use as a working plan.  It may need revision at the end to account for unexpected events but the basics will be there.  Most writers, however, tackle the synopsis at the end, which is probably why it becomes so dreaded a task.  Your precious manuscript is complete and ready to go out into the world, and now you have to squeeze all the magic out of it and bash out the main points in a page of dry, academic prose when all you want to do is get the thing out there and move on to the dizzy excitement of planning a new book.  Tough!  It’s got to be done.

How to write it

There are many resources online which give advice on synopsis, and links to them are included below.  These are the basic points I have picked up which I feel would suit the majority of unpublished children’s writers who are drafting a synopsis for the first time and need something to suit the majority of publishers/agents they are submitting to.

  1. Length – one single page is a good length welcomed by most publishers.  It doesn’t need to be double spaced unless you feel that will aid readability.
  2. Voice – omniscient (all-knowing) narrator is best.  Don’t write from a character’s point of view. Try to be consistent with the tone of your novel within reason, for example if it is a comedy you don’t need to squeeze in as many gags as you can!  Use the present tense.
  3. Content – concentrate on the journey of the main character or characters, what happens to them, the main plot points and the climax at the end.  Forget minor characters, subplots and anything which digresses too much.  If you are struggling with what to include, imagine someone asking you at a party what your book is about and you having to explain in a few sentences above the noise.  Then expand it using only the most important plot points until you have filled the page.  Don’t hint or tease like you would on a blurb on the back of a published book. Your publisher or agent needs to know what happens!
  4. Polishing – some agents and publishers will read the synopsis before anything else.  Try to look on your synopsis as a selling tool and spend time perfecting it.  It should, of course, be free of errors, but also clear and concise but not dry.  Your book is exciting/humorous/emotional/dramatic so make your synopsis reflect that.

You will probably hate your synopsis by the time you have spent hours beating it out.  Don’t worry.  If you’ve done all you can, send it off with your sample chapters and your covering letter, and get on with the next book.  And this time, perhaps try writing the synopsis first or even as you go along.  It may save you a least a little agony later.


Try these links for articles and discussions about synopses.  You will find advice that is conflicting but it just proves there are no set rules about synopsis writing.  Before submitting, check the requirements of your chosen publisher or agent.  They may ask for a particular length or even a chapter by chapter breakdown.  If that is the case, you will already have your prepared one page synopsis ready to adapt.  Good luck!

Writer and former editor Caro Clarke

A practical and really useful step-by-step breakdown of what it takes to create a synopsis based on an existing manuscript using a real example.

Crime writer Beth Anderson

An deservedly oft-linked to article that goes into detail about crafting a great synopsis.

Fiction Writer’s Connection

Short and punchy summary of the main points.

Writer Joshua Palmatier

Useful article with author’s synopsis of one of his own books.

Agent Nathan Bransford

Brief but salient advice from the agent’s point of view, followed by a good range of agonized comments!

The Literary Consultancy

In-depth how-to article by Rebecca Swift that also appears in the Writers and Artists Yearbook.

eHow article

Short how-to article that makes the process sound even more complicated than it already is…


Try looking up your favourite novel and reading the summary.  It will be more like a blurb in tone but will give you an idea of a tight precis.  This link is for Marcus Zuzak’s The Book Thief.


Alternatively read novel summaries on Wikipedia for inspiration.  This one for Tolstoy’s War and Peace must have taken a while…