* UPDATED JANUARY 2017 *
You can’t get published without an agent, and you can’t get an agent without being published – or so the adage goes. Thankfully, there are still a few children’s book publishers who are happy to wade through the ‘slush pile’, that teetering tower of manuscripts we imagine fill up a corner of the office, each one representing an agent-less writer who is hoping against hope that they might be plucked from obscurity. So in the spirit of writerly comradeship here is my current list of writer-friendly children’s fiction publishers in the UK who still accept unsolicited manuscripts. Check their website guidelines and submit away, but please do correct me if I’ve made any errors or incorrect assumptions. NB Where there is a link, I have endeavoured to take you, the linkee, to the submissions guidelines page of the publisher’s website; where that is not possible I have linked to the main website page.
Andersen Press Ltd Anderson Press publish picture books of approximately 500 words (1K max), juvenile fiction of 3-5K and older fiction of up to 75K. They require a synopsis and 3 sample chapters, hard copy only, and aim to reply within 2 months. They use a standard rejection slip and reply promptly.
Bridge House Bridge House is a small press which specialises in themed anthologies of short stories, often for charity. They are occasionally closed to submissions but check the website for future anthology details. May be unsuitable for ‘darker’ material.
Buster Books An imprint of Michael O’Mara Books, Buster Books publish children’s non-fiction and activity books as well as a small range of fiction (but no picture books). Submission details are sparse so try the usual three chapters plus synopsis and covering letter/email. You can submit by post or by email and they ask you to include an envelope if you would like your paper manuscript returned, but they can’t guarantee a response. Again, probably best to assume the usual procedure and submit elsewhere after three months if you haven’t heard back.
Candy Jar Books Candy Jar are a small independent publisher with a self publishing arm. They accept a small amount of children’s fiction but not picture books. Send the first three chapters, synopsis and covering letter by post or using the form provided on the submissions page. Response time isn’t mentioned.
Crooked Cat – check website for next submissions window Crooked Cat is a small UK publisher which accepts, amongst other types of fiction, young adult fiction for its Silver range, up to a maximum of 90,000. Watch the website for submission windows and only submit at the specified times. Send a covering letter with brief bio, details of the genre, wordcount, readership and plans for promotion; a 2 page synopsis; and the first 3 chapters (to max of 10K words) in a Word document.
Curious Fox A new publisher who released their first titles in Spring 2013, Curious Fox are looking for “bold, fun and imaginative” fiction for age 3 upwards and develop a lot of their books in-house. Send them sample chapters and a resume by email and expect a response only if they are interested.
Dinosaur Books Dinosaur Books are a small indie publisher looking for exciting fiction for the 5-12 year old readership with a traditional feel – see their wonderfully illustrated Dinoteks books for an example. No picture books or rhyming books. They prefer email submissions if possible and you should include a covering letter, a short synopsis of the book and the first three chapters. They don’t accept picture books at the moment but love author-illustrators. They aim to reply within three months so if you haven’t heard by then, it’s a no this time round.
Fat Fox – CURRENTLY CLOSED TO CATCH UP BUT WATCH THIS SPACE – Fat Fox published their first books in 2014. They are looking for picture books, young fiction (6-9 approx), fiction (9-12) and young adult (12-14) to produce as high quality paper books and e-books. Submissions should consist of a good one page covering letter, synopsis, the full text of the book if it is a picture book (no illustrations) and the first three chapters plus final wordcount of longer books. Send these as Word documents to the email address given on the submissions page.
Fledgling Press This is 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.
Floris Books This Scottish publisher accepts postal submissions for its Picture Kelpies, and Kelpies range of books for 6-9 and 8-12 year olds. Books should be between 30 and 60K words and you should expect to hear back within 3 months. Note: only approach if you are a Scottish writer or your book has a Scottish setting and/or theme.
Flying Eye Books Flying Eye Books are an imprint of publishing house Nobrow and are committed to producing a selection of high quality, visually appealing children’s fiction and non-fiction. Submission guidelines are sparse: email them your work and they will get back to you as soon as they can.
Frances Lincoln (Quarto Group) This well-established publisher publishes picture books, young fiction (6-9 years) and novels (9-14 years) and are looking for exceptional writing that really stands out. They are part of the Quarto publishing group so submission requirements are on the Quarto website. Submit by email only with the specific information listed, including a signed submission agreement.
Grimlock Press This indie publisher has an unusual submissions procedure involving 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. Take a look at the site to familiarise yourself with the process.
Hogs Back Books This small publisher specialises in picture books for up to age 10. Send your manuscript by post or email – full text for picture books, first three chapters and synopsis for young adult. Paper submissions will not be returned so just include an SAE or email address for a reply. View the catalogue on the site to get an idea of what they publish.
Hot Key Books This exciting publisher is looking for novel submissions for aged 9-19. They accept email submissions and, unusually, ask for the full manuscript plus synopsis (which makes sense for an e-submission). Submission requirements are fairly sparse but the comments section on the page indicates that they reply in 3-4 months if they are interested.
Maverick Maverick publish a range of lively and colourful picture books. They are looking for quirky, interesting reads with strong storylines. Note that the maximum length is 650 words and preferably less! Also no illustrations. Unlike some picture book publishers they do accept stories in rhyme. Email submissions are preferred as pdf or Word attachments together with a covering letter or email, but you can also submit by post. Submissions are occasionally closed to allow them to catch up.
Mogzilla Mogzilla are an independent publishing company with educational links, currently looking for historical fiction only for age 6-15 years. They ask for proposals to be emailed and they will then request the manuscript if they are interested, either by post or in pdf form, so don’t send them a manuscript unless you have had a proposal accepted.
Nosy Crow Nosy Crow is a relatively young publisher that is going from strength to strength. Keen to embrace the latest technologies, they accept manuscripts for readers up to age 12 (think family-orientated rather than edgy). They ask for a short synopsis and the first chapter (or full text if it’s a picture book) plus a covering letter about your work. They accept by email (preferred) or post. If you haven’t heard back within 6 months, you can assume it’s a no
O’Brien Press This Irish publisher accepts picture books of less than 1K words, and fiction for 6+, 8+, 10+ and 13+. They ask for a synopsis and 2 or 3 sample chapters – full text for picture books – by post only. Although they state they do not return unsuccessful submissions, they did return mine. Also note that if you do send an SAE don’t use English stamps! They aim to reply within 8-10 weeks.
Pants on Fire Press This US publisher is a small independent ’boutique’ publisher keen to expand and explore new areas of technology as well as traditional printing. They accept submissions from the UK and signed Welsh horror author Craig Jones to a four book deal. They are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts for picture, middle grade (equivalent to the 8-12 age readership in the UK) and young adult books. Send an email with the first three chapters in the body of the email, plus the information they ask for on the submissions page (don’t include any attachments or your email will be deleted!). Also check out the specific details for middle grade and young adult.
Penguin Random House Ireland The children’s division of Penguin is accepting unsolicited manuscripts in all areas of children’s fiction and non-fiction apart from picture books. They prefer email submissions, and ask for a short covering email with a Word attachment which should be one document containing the cover letter (again), short synopsis, and the work itself in its entirety. Read the guidelines carefully and format the email title as they request. Response time is three months. You can submit by post but should provide an email address for response and don’t expect the manuscript back. The children’s editor, Claire Hennessy, is happy to answer any queries via Twitter (@clairehennessy).
Piccadilly Press Piccadilly Press specialise in contemporary fiction for 6+, 8-12 and 11-15 year olds. They also publish picture books of between 500 and 1K words (32 pages). The accept email submissions only and you should send the whole manuscript and a synopsis. They will only respond if they are interested but don’t give a timescale, so I would assume after 6 months that it’s a no.
Strident Strident are looking for books for the 5-8, 7-10, 8-12 and YA age groups. They don’t accept picture books. Do not send the usual submissions package but email with information about your book as outlined on the submissions page on the website. This should include a blurb you have written yourself (imagine the back of a book – how would the book be described which would make you want to read it?). They will then contact you in around 3 months if they wish to take your submission further.
Stripes Stripes are owned by the same company as Little Tiger Press and they publish books for readers aged 6-12 and young teenagers. They accept email submissions only which should consist of a covering letter, a detailed synopsis and the first 1000 words. Do not send picture books. Expect a reply only if they are interested.
Sweet Cherry Publishing – SUBMISSIONS CURRENTLY CLOSED – This independent Leicester-based publisher accepts manuscripts for all ages but is ideally looking for potential series or collections. You can submit by post or email, or use the form on the submissions page and upload your manuscript. You should include the first three chapters (or 3 picture books), a covering letter, a synopsis, and brief outlines of future books in the series. They aim to reply within 10 weeks. Unlike the majority of publishers, they do not pay royalties but an up-front fee, discussed on acceptance.
Tamarind Part of Random House, Tamarind was set up to redress the balance of ethnicity in children’s literature by promoting books with black, Asian or mixed heritage characters. They prefer to be approached via an agent but will consider ‘exceptional’ unagented manuscripts; read their submissions guidelines which also suggestions word count and possible subjects You can submit by post or email and should send them a covering letter/email, a synopsis and the first three chapters. Picture books can be sent in their entirety without illustrations and you should avoid using animal characters but keep to the ethos in the guidelines.
Tango Books Ltd – WEBSITE UNDER CONSTRUCTION – Tango publish novelty books for age 1-8 with an international element. They accept manuscripts by post or email and you should include the full text up to 1000 words and a brief author biography. You should hear back from them within a month.
Templar Publishing – Best known for the wonderful ‘ology’ books, Templar accept picture book and novelty book manuscripts by post only and aim to reply within 3 months.
Top That! Publishing plc – Top That! specialises in children’s picture and activity book and internet-linked fiction. Their submission guidelines are brief and advise you to study their catalogue (on the website) before submitting as they are very specialised. They prefer email submissions but will accept postal manuscripts with a contact email address (no returns). Email attachments should be under 1MB. If you don’t hear back within 8 weeks then you can assume you have been unsuccessful. Top That specifies no similtanous submissions (ie don’t submit to other publishers at the same time).
Walker Books A big name in the picture book publishing world, Walker don’t generally accept unsolicited work, but what they will accept is illustrated manuscripts – so if you are a writer/illustrator you have an opportunity to submit. Use the email address given to send the whole document as an attachment using Word for the text and jpegs or pdfs for the pictures. You can also submit by post with a dummy copy and/or typed manuscript but do not send original pictures, only copies. They will only respond if interested.
Cricket Media submissions
The US-based Cricket family of children’s print and digital magazines includes Babybug for up to three years, Ladybug for 3-6 years, Spider for 6-9, Cricket for 9-14 and Cicada for over 14s. They all have different submission requirements so be sure to check out the word counts required by each one.
The Caterpillar Magazine
This beautifully produced Irish-based print magazine accepts stories up to 1,000 words as well as poetry and art.
Knowonder is an online site that promotes literacy. They are occasionally open for submissions of short stories between 500-2000 words but do not pay.
Alfie Dog Fiction
This small but ambitious publisher aims to be the foremost choice for downloading short stories on the web, and payment comes as a percentage of the small download fee charged to customers. Length is 500-10,000 words.
Cast of Wonders
This site is a little different and features young adult fantasy stories up to 6,000 words recorded as podcasts. See this blog post for more details and an interview with a Cast of Wonders author
When submitting to publishers it is worth looking through their current catalogue to see what they are accepting at the moment. If you can’t find a link to a catalogue from the main site, try googling the publisher’s name, “catalogue”, pdf and the current year. I have easily found quite a few catalogues this way.