Category Archives: writing resources

Launching my Writing for Children critique service

After having had several enquiries about manuscript assessments, I have decided to launch my own critique service.  Simply choose your rate depending on the length of your manuscript and email to me.  Once I have received your payment (Paypal or bank transfer) I will respond to you within 2 weeks.  You can also include your synopsis and covering letter for each manuscript for free!  Payment is per thousand words but can include more than one manuscript, so for example if you have four picture books that are 500 words or less you can send them all for a total of £35 (see below for 2017 rates).  Or for a longer book, why not send the first three chapters plus synopsis and covering letter for an appraisal of your complete submission package?

My critique includes:

  • Assessment of pace, plot, characters, dialogue and your author voice.manuscript-critique-service-pic
  • Advice on grammar and punctuation.
  • Help with presentation and layout.
  • Suggestions on how to edit your work.
  • Areas to work on, and most importantly, your strengths!
  • Appraisal of your submission package, if applicable.

I specialise in picture books and young fiction as that’s the age group I’m published in, but I’m happy to look at any writing for children up to young adult.

Rates for 2017

£25 for up to 1000 words

£35 for up to 2000 words

£5 per 1000 words after that

Plus free synopsis and cover letter critique with each manuscript!

Payment should be via paypal to lou dot treleaven at sky dot com or bank transfer (please email me for details).  I look forward to hearing from you!

How to submit a children’s book

If you’ve just finished writing a children’s book and are ready to get it out into the big wide world, this post is for you.  I’m a serial submitter, and these are my steps to getting your manuscript seen.

  1. Finish the book.
  2. Edit, re-edit, re-draft, polish and shine to a glittering finish.
  3. Prepare the submission package: covering letter/email, synopsis and first three chapters.  All should be typed, page numbered and double spaced.
    Covering letter/email: a short introduction to the book and yourself.  Half a page will be fine.
    Synopsis: a one page (max) summary of your plot, present tense, third person.
    Chapters: have you got a killer first page/first paragraph/first line?  Can those three chapters impress on their own?  If not, carry on polishing!
  4. Research your publishers.  Check out my list.  Make a shortlist of publishers producing books like yours and note down the requirements of each.  Some may prefer post.  Some may want the submissions package as one document or embedded in the email.  It’s crucial to get it right.
  5. Post or email your submission, follow the instructions on your publisher’s submissions page to the letter.
  6. Start work on your next book, if you haven’t already.
  7. Forget about the first submission.  Okay, just try to.
  8. Wait three months (or longer if the publisher has specified a longer waiting time).  Submit to the next name on your list, remembering to re-jig your package (oo-er missus) accordingly.
  9. If you get a rejection, take note of any feedback but don’t expect any.  Look on the rejection as an opportunity.  Now you get to submit to the next publisher on your list!
  10. Stay positive and keep working on your next book.  Good luck.

As an alternative to approaching publishers directly, you can submit to a literary agent who, if they take you on, will manage the submissions side for you and are able to deal with publishers who won’t take on unagented authors.  The process of submitting to agents is similar to the above, and there is a list of UK agents here.

UK literary agents for children’s books

* UPDATED FEBRUARY 2015 *

Following on from my list of children’s publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts, I thought I’d post a list for people who are submitting children’s books to agents, as I’m considering that route for one of my novels and I thought others might find it helpful. Publisher or agent?  There are mixed opinions about which to try first.   As we know, there aren’t many children’s publishers (or indeed adult ones) who accept unagented manuscripts these days, but on the other hand small publishers are more likely to take a chance on an unknown than an agent.  Some people argue that if you approach publishers first then the agent won’t be able to submit to them, but to my mind there are such a small number of publishers you can approach yourself that I don’t think this would be a problem. If you have decided to take the agent route, this list of agents is not exhaustive but will give you a starting point.  (I have left off agencies who do not have a website or who just have a ‘wallpaper’ website with contact details only.)  You can find full listings of UK agents in the Writers and Artists Yearbook or the Writers Handbook. You will find that agents are more likely to respond promptly than publishers as they are always searching for the next breakthrough book.  The turnaround can sometimes even be brutally quick!  You are also more likely to get a standard rejection form, so you need to develop a tough skin and not take the lack of feedback personally – it’s simply a lack of time. If you haven’t approached agents before, take these points into account before submitting:

* Be professional.  Make your submission business-like and to the point.

* Study the agency website thoroughly.  Get a feel for the type of work they like and the authors they represent.

* Links to submissions requirement pages are included on this list.  Make sure you following the guidelines for submitting to the letter or risk the wrath of the reader!  Missing something simple like an SAE (stamped addressed envelope) could cost you a response.  Some agents don’t take email submissions while others are paperless and will recycle any hard copy manuscripts they receive.

* Make a note of whether the agency prefers to be exclusively submitted to.  Some recommend you approach multiple agencies while others discourage it.

* Some agencies don’t accept picture books; others prefer literature for older children or teenagers only.

* Make a list of your favourite agencies and work your way through them.  If your manuscript returns home or to your inbox with a rejection slip, send it straight back out the next day to the next name on your list.  Don’t waste time feeling despondent when your bestseller could be back out there finding a home!  Good luck and if this list helps you in any way, I’d love to hear from you.

AM Heath This is one of the UK’s leading literary agencies with a huge list of clients.  They only accept electronic submissions; you should use their submissions form and follow the instructions to type or paste in a covering letter and synopsis, and attach your sample chapters.  They suggest you follow up after six weeks if you haven’t heard back from them.

Andlyn A boutique literary agency, Andlyn focuses on nurturing a few select authors across various media.  Agent Davinia Andrew-Lynch is looking for chapter books, middle grade and young adult, including graphic novels but not picture books at present.  Find something that will ‘smack us between the eyes and capture our hearts’ and send it to the email on the submissions page (covering letter, one page synopsis and the first three chapters).

Andrew Mann This London agency has two agents and a variety of clients including children’s authors.   They prefer email submissions if possible with a brief synopsis pasted into the email plus the first three chapters or forty pages as an attachment.  They will reply within eight weeks.  They are not currently looking for picture books.   Read an interview with Andrew Mann clients Ruth Eastham and Savita Kalhan and comments from their agent Anne Dewe at the Tall Tales and Short Stories blog.

Andrew Nurnberg This London agency also has a number of overseas offices.  They have over eighty authors on their books including Cornelia Funke.  Send a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters by post or email to the address on the submissions page.  If emailing, the synopsis and chapters should be one document sent as an attachment.  If you do not hear back within three months you can assume you have been unsuccessful.  No picture books please.  Read an interview with children’s and YA agent Jenny Savill at Talltalesandshortstories.blogspot.com.  You can also read about ANA author Keren David.

Anne Clark Literary Agency Anne Clark, previously from Piccadilly Press, has founded an agency specialising in children’s and YA authors and it is growing fast.  Send a covering email attaching a single Word file with the synopsis and first 3000 words.  Picture books can be sent as a complete text.  Anne favours the personal touch with dealing with clients so prefers UK or UK-based authors.

Annette Green Authors Agency This is an independent agency who pride themselves in the personal service they provide between agent and author.  (As a font fan I was also excited to see the rare appearance of courier on their menus!)  They have two agents and over sixty clients.  They accept fiction for older children and teenagers (preferably not science fiction or fantasy), by post or email, and you should send a covering letter or email, a brief synopsis and the first five to ten thousand words.  They aim to respond within four weeks.

Antony Harwood Antony Harwood have a large list of high profile authors writing in many fields including children’s literature.  The amazing Garth Nix is one of their clients.  They accept manuscripts by post or email; you should send a covering letter, brief outline and the opening 50 pages.

Bell Lomax Moreton This is a large agency with over 70 clients which handles adult fiction and non-fiction as well as children’s books for all ages, including picture books for which there is a dedicated picture book agent, Helen Mackenzie Smith.  To submit, send the first three chapters up to 50 pages (full text with sample pictures, if any, for a picture book), a short synopsis, and a covering letter.  You can email or post material, and response time is 8-12 weeks.

The Ben Illis Agency (BIA) * SUBMISSIONS CURRENTLY ON HIATUS *  No, it’s not the secret service of the literary world (or is it…?) – it’s the young, dynamic literary agency of Ben Illis, previously of AM Heath.  Submit using the form on the submissions page to which you can attach your synopsis and sample pages, and you should hear back within 2 months.  No picture books  You can read an interview with Ben on the Golden Egg Academy website.

Caroline Sheldon This is a leading literary agency who are very selective about their work.  They have two agents and a large list of clients.  Submit by email to one of the agents (read about them on the site) and attach a synopsis and the first three chapters.  If the children’s book is under ten thousand words you may submit it in its entirety, or up to three picture books.  You should also read their twelve pet hates!  In fact, read them anyway whether or not you are submitting.

Celia Catchpole This is a small agency with two agents and twenty-seven authors, who take on only one or two new authors a year.  They have a very specific way of handling submission: a dedicated email address to which you should send a brief email and a small sample of your work pasted into the  email itself (no attachments).  If they are interested they will ask for more.

Conville & Walsh This large, established agency has six agents for both adults’ and children’s books, and over eighty authors.   They ask for postal submissions consisting of a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters by post only.  They aim to reply within two months.  They encourage authors to submit to other agencies at the same time, but you should mention if your manuscript has or is being read in full by anyone else.  At the time of writing they are not looking for picture books.  As well as reading the very comprehensive submissions page, you should also click on the link to read some extremely useful advice from their reader David Llewellyn (who has instantly endeared himself to me by suggesting ‘the slush pile’ be renamed ‘the talent pool’!). Read an interview with Paula Rawsthorne and her Conville & Walsh agent Jo Unwin at the Tall Tales and Short Stories blog.

Curtis Brown Curtis Brown are a large, long established agency with a huge number of clients working in literature, TV, film and theatre.  They have a brand new submissions system on their website and no longer accept postal submissions.  Prepare a covering letter, synopsis of no more than 3,000 words and the first 10,000 words of your manuscript and follow the prompts in the link above to submit directly – do not send by email.  The children’s agent is Stephanie Thwaites and you can read my interview with her here.  Curtis Brown aim to reply in six to eight weeks.

Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency A spin off from the main Darley Anderson agency dedicated purely to children’s authors, it has nine of them on its books and accepts submissions by email or post.  Send covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters .  They aim to respond within a month and prefer exclusive submissions.  You are welcome to chase them up politely after 6 weeks.

David Higham This is a huge, long established agency with a large stable of authors.  They ask for postal submissions only for adult work but in the case of children’s manuscripts you should submit by email only to the address given.  The email should take the form of a covering letter to which you should attach a word document consisting of a synopsis and the first two or three chapters plus a CV.  They accept picture books (send the whole manuscript). You can read an interview with client William Hussey and comments from agent Veronique Baxter at the Tale Tales and Short Stories blog.

Eddison Pearson This is a small agency that deals mainly with children’s books.  The website asks you to email them for their latest submissions details.  At present they are not accepting submissions until after 1 October 2013.  When open, they accept email submissions only and should reply in six to ten weeks.

Eve White This small agency has a good number of authors including the brilliant Andy Stanton, author of the Mr Gum books.  About half her authors are children’s writers and she now accepts picture books.  You should submit by email only with one attachment consisting of a brief synopsis, word count and the first three chapters.  For a picture book, no synopsis is required.  You will receive an automated conformation of receipt and they will reply any time within six weeks.  (To my submission they replied after six days.)  See also the FAQs. Read an interview with client Kate Maryon and comments from Eve White at Talltalesandshortstories.blogspot.com.

Fraser Ross Fraser Ross Associates deal mainly with children’s writers and illustrators.  They have two agents and  nearly seventy clients.  They accept submissions by post or email which should consist of a synopsis, the first three chapters, and a writing CV.  (Read their guidelines for more details about this.)   They warn on their website that a response may take some time.  In my experiencethey can take a long time to reply but have given valuable feedback to me in the past. Read an interview with Fraser Ross clients  Barry Hutchison and Teresa Flavin and comments from agent Kathryn Ross on the Tall Tales and Short Stories blog.

Greene & Heaton Greene & Heaton specialise in authors “prominent in their field”.  They have seven agents and around 150 authors as well as speakers, presenters and illustrators on their books.  You can submit by post or email including a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters or about fifty pages.  They will try to reply within six weeks to postal submissions with an SAE or email contacct but will not respond to an emailed submission unless they wish to take your submission further.

The Greenhouse This US-based young agency also accepts submissions from the UK.  They have two agents and over fifty clients.  They prefer to be a paperless office and you can email them with a short synopsis, a few details about yourself and the first chapter or first five pages, whichever is shorter.  This must all be pasted into the body of an email – no attachments are accepted.  They aim to reply within six weeks and in my experience are very prompt. Read an interview with Greenhouse authors  Anne-Marie Conway, Harriet Goodwin and  Jon Mayhew with comments from agent Sarah Davies at the Tall Tales and Short Stories blog.

Johnson & Alcock This London agency has four agents and a large number of clients.  You can submit by post or email and should send a covering letter (or email), a synopsis and the first three chapters or first fifty pages.  If sending by email you will not hear back unless your submission is taken further.  They do not accept picture books. LAW Lucas Alexander Whitley or LAW is a small London agency representing large list of bestselling authors internationally.  The link takes you to a pdf giving submissions guidelines; their main site is here.  Submissions – a covering letter, short synopsis and the first three chapters or first thirty pages if shorter – should be sent by post only and they aim to reply within eight to twelve weeks.  Send an SAE if you want your work returned; otherwise send a small envelope or email address for a reply.  They also accept picture books.

Lindsay This one woman agency is keen to develop new talent and currently represents thirteen authors  You can submit by post or email.  If emailing include the first three chapters and the synopsis as two seperate Word documents.  A covering letter or email should introduce yourself and your work.  They accept picture books.

Luigi Bonomi This fairly young agency is keen to develop new authors.   They have four agents and a large number of clients.  You should send them a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters by post only.  If you don’t want your work returned, include an email address for the response.

Madeleine Milburn A large London agency actively looking for new children’s authors.  They have 35 authors on their books and also handle TV and film rights.  Submit by email only attaching a short synopsis and the first three chapters only.  Also check out the very useful advice section before submitting.

Marjacq Scripts This is a book, film and TV rights company.  They have four agents and over thirty authors as well as directors, screenwriters and software developers.  They accept book submissions by post or email which should consist of a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters.  If sending by email, use attachments rather than pasting work into the email itself.

MBA MBA represent writers in all media.  They have seven agents and a large number of authors including fourteen children’s writers.  They prefer email submissions but will accept postal ones too; send a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters.  They aim to reply within eight weeks.

Mulcahy Associates This London-based agency with an Irish founder has a large variety of authors and genres on its books including adult, non fiction and celebrity authors.  Children’s agent Sallyanne Sweeny is actively looking for new clients.  Send your first three chapters, synopsis and covering letter to the email address provided.  Read the submissions criteria carefully to get the content of your letter and your manuscript formatting correct.  Response is within six weeks if possible.

Pollinger This London agency has around eighty authors on its books including screenwriters and illustrators and only takes on a few each year.  Submit to them by post only including a covering letter, a cv, a synopsis and the first three chapters.   They aim to respond within two months.

The Bent Agency (TBA) The Bent Agency is a large agency with a boutique ethos, and two offices on either side of the Atlantic.  They deal with both adult and chldren’s literature and non fiction plus memoir, lifestyle, history – you name it.  UK-based agents Molly Ker Hawn and Gemma Cooper are both actively looking for new children’s and young adult authors, and you should read their bios to find out what they are currently looking for, then query them through their specific email addresses.  Read the submissions guidelines on how to structure your query.  Response time is one month.

United Agents United Agents are a large literary and talent agency with interests in many fields.  Twenty-six of their many authors are children’s writers including Anthony Horowitz, Ali Sparkes, Rick Riordan and Ian Whybrow.  They are happy to receive submissions by email to their children’s agent consisting of a covering email with a synopsis and the first three chapters as Word documents.  Picture book authors can send three picture books.  If you do send material by post, include an email address for a response.  Expect a response within eight to ten weeks. Read an interview with United Agents client Ellen Renner at Talltalesandshortstories.blogspot.com.

Watson, Little Watson, Little handle a wide range of writers and have three agents keen on developing the long term careers of their writers.  They ask for a covering letter, synopsis and sample chapters but do not say if they accept by email or not; however if you do not include an SAE they will respond by email.

Redrafting Checklist

As promised, here are my notes on Jude Evans’ seminar ‘Redrafting Your Work’, given at the Winchester Writers’ Conference on 2nd July 2011.  Although it is aimed at children’s writers, I’m sure Jude’s advice would be useful to anybody looking to improve their first draft.

I have also typed the notes up as a tickable checklist, so if you would like to print this off (and tinker with it to suit you) please download as a Word document by clicking on the link below.

DOWNLOAD REDRAFTING CHECKLIST

REDRAFTING YOUR WORK

(notes from Jude Evans’ seminar at Winchester Writers’ Conference 2 July 2011)

Put away your book for 2 weeks!  Now re-read.

FIRST REACTIONS
Does the mood and atmosphere come through strongly?
Are the characters convincing?
Does the writing flow?
What are the best bits?

Read again, this time with your red editing pen!  Be objective and break down the prose to look at it from different angles.

PLOT
Draw out a diagram/timeline of your plot and look at the narrative pace, the highs and the lows.
Is your plot watertight and logical?

OPENING
Does it compel the reader to continue?  What is the hook?
What can the reader identify with?
What makes it special?
Is it immediate?  Will the reader feel dropped in to the scene?
Use economy – don’t weigh down with explanation.

ENDING
Will it make the reader remember the book?
Does it make the reader feel the way you planned, eg inspired/shocked?
Use economy – don’t weigh down with tying up loose ends.
Does the resolution work?
Imagine a scene as a film – have you described enough to make it real?  If not consider adding movement or detail to bring it to life.

UNIQUE SELLING POINT
Research your market – look in Amazon, bookshops and libraries.
What are people talking about online, eg forums, mumsnet?
What is your strength?
Will your book sit well in publishers’ lists?  (If not, is it special enough to make it even though it’s different?)

WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT
Can you capture it in a few sentences?
Why would a child want to read it?
Is the message clear?

CHARACTERS
Are they memorable, individual and real?
Do they have quirks, attitude, humour?
Is their dialogue natural, eg own turns of phrase?
Do they behave true to character, not as slaves to the plot?

DESCRIPTION
Imagine a scene as a film – have you described enough to make it real?
Is the reader experiencing events as vividly as possible?
Is the description a high point, or dry and flat?
Are you showing, not telling?

STYLE/AUTHOR VOICE
Is it suitable for your audience?
Is it consistent?
Does it communicate what you planned?  (NB  Don’t worry about this when you are in the flow of writing – think about style and tone afterwards.)

PACE
Have you leapt straight into the story?  Are the hooks early enough?
Is there enough action or intensity?

SETTING/CONTEXT
Do you make clear the time of day/year?
…the country or place you are in?
…the place in history?
Is the world believable and real?
Are you drip feeding or doing an information dump?

AUDIENCE
Is it suitable for the age group in its
…length
…structure
…tone
…topic
…interest level
…reading level?
What makes it appeal?
Have you immersed yourself in their culture?

READ
Are you reading and analysing the work of others in your field?

CUTTING
Cut out anything that doesn’t contribute to the plot.
Are any characters or scenes taking the reader down a cul-de-sac?

BE OBJECTIVE
Read it aloud.
Discuss the plot with someone.  Can you describe it clearly?
Write yourself an editor’s review letter.
Write a synopsis – it acts as a mirror to your plot.
Get feedback on the synopsis from a friend – does it appeal?
Write a blurb.

Put the manuscript aside for 2 weeks.

Repeat until your book is the best it can be!

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.

5-7 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 1000 to 6000 long.  Some publishers ask for the whole manuscript, some for sample chapters depending on length and their requirements.

7-10 years

8-15,000 words long.  May still include black and white illustrations.  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

guidetoliteraryagents.com

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!

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.

Resources

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…

Amazon

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.

Wikipedia

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

Children’s publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts

* 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.


Short Stories

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

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
Catalogues


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.