* UPDATED JUNE 2021 *
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.
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.
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 – think fast-paced adventure for 5-8 or 8-12. They prefer email submissions of the first three chapters and synopsis of the book and aim to reply within six months if possible.
Everything With Words is a young indie publisher with high standards established by Danish writer and storyteller Mikka Haugaard. They are looking for books for readers aged 7+, so think middle grade and YA for this publisher with a minimum length of 40K words. They lean towards the literary with a hint of darkness. Email with three chapters or the first fifty pages.
Firefly Press This vibrant Welsh publisher had a short open submission window at the end of August 2020, so worth keeping an eye on for future opportunities – and they publish the wonderful Catherine Fisher! They accept chapter books, middle grade and YA. Make sure you read the guidelines as they have particular requirements for submission.
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 unsolicited submissions for their Kelpies imprint, but only from authors from underrepresented communities. Alternatively you can enter the Kelpies Fiction Prize, where you can submit annually for their Picture Kelpies, and Kelpies range of books for 6-9 and 8-12 year olds. 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. They are currently accepting picture book and non-fiction submissions. Email your submission as an attachment that includes the synopsis. You will receive an acknowledgement and they aim to reply in 4 months, although that isn’t always possible.
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.
The new, but already rather fabulous, Guppy Books don’t accept unagented manuscripts, but in the last couple of years they have held competitions for new writers with no entry fee, with the winner being published. In 2020 it was young adult, and in 2021 it’s middle grade. See the requirements here and submit between 7-11 June. Fingers (or pens) crossed, this may turn into an annual opportunity.
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.
Imagine That Publishing (TEMPORARILY CLOSED TO SUBMISSIONS) specialises in picture books and chapter books for young readers. No middle grade or YA. 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. No simultaneous submissions (ie don’t submit to other publishers at the same time).
Knights Of are a new, ambitious and diversity-championing publisher with an exciting range of inclusive books that aim to more accurately reflect society. Their submission model is a bit different: go to the guidelines, get prepared to pitch and then hit live chat. You may be asked at some point during the conversation to paste in a short synopsis, and if they want to take your idea further then you’ll be invited to submit via email. Fiction for 5-15 year olds, no picture books or YA/crossover.
Lantana Publishing Committed to publishing books that reflect the diversity of the children who read them, Lantana is keen to see submissions by writers of BAME heritage. They are looking for short picture books, early readers and middle grade. Sign up to their newsletter, then send the whole text and expect to hear back in about 12 weeks; if not, it’s a no this time.
Levine Querido is a new independent publisher that champions high quality literature and picture books by people from underpresented backgrounds and from around the world. You should submit a query letter plus either the full text for a picture book or the first two chapters for a novel. They use Submittable, a manuscript submission system which allows you to track the process, and the waiting time is six months. They can only take on a certain amount of submissions per month so if your Submittable application fails you can try again the next month.
Lomond Books If you have a book with a Scottish theme then Lomond books would like to hear from you. Their submission requirements are quite loose so I recommend the standard package of three chapters plus covering letter and synopsis, or the whole text if a picture book. They aim to reply in 6-8 weeks.
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. NOW ACCEPTING JUNIOR FICTION AND MIDDLE GRADE!
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 and is keen to embrace the latest technologies. Currently closed to general submissions, they are still accepting manuscripts from BAME authors for ages 5-12, but middle grade in particular. Email Tom with the first three chapters and synopsis.
O’Brien Press This Irish publisher accepts all age groups from picture books to young adults and they are now taking email submissions. Send a cover letter, synopsis and the full manuscript. They aim to reply within 8-10 weeks. Irish authors preferred as able to do local events.
Salayira Publishing is a high quality, innovative independent children’s book publisher who are currently accepting picture books and non fiction picture books for their Scribblers imprint as well as graphic novels. Browse their website to get an idea of what they are looking for and submit to the email address provided. Don’t expect to hear back unless successful.
Scholastic – This large, exciting publisher doesn’t usually accept unagented manuscripts, but they have started having small ‘open season’ windows where you can submit picture books to them. For 2021 this was 24-30 April with other dates to follow which will be announced on their Instagram feed. Anything submitted outside that window will be deleted. During the submission window you can submit up to 3 picture books at a time, of under 800 words each, and they will respond within 12 weeks if interested. They are not looking for other age groups at this time.
Strident – KEEP AN EYE ON THE WEBSITE FOR SUBMISSION WINDOWS – 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 – KEEP AN EYE ON THE WEBSITE FOR SUBMISSION WINDOWS – Stripes are owned by the same company as Little Tiger Press and they publish books for readers aged 6-12 and young teenagers. They have regular submission periods so don’t send anything until you’ve checked the website. 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 – 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 two chapters or 3000 words, a covering letter, a synopsis, and author bio plus brief outlines of future books in the series. They will reply within 3 months if interested.
Tango Books Ltd – NOT CURRENTLY CONSIDERING SUBMISSIONS BUT KEEP AN EYE ON THE SITE – 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.
Tiny Owl – This independent publisher produces beautiful multicultural books and encourages submissions by diverse authors about diverse characters.. Keep an eye on the site for occasional submission windows. Picture books should be below 600 words.
Tiny Tree Tiny Tree is a children’s imprint from independent publisher Matthew James Publishing and they are looking for picture books and chapter books. Submit by post or email with a covering letter, synopsis and author biography. They confirm receipt and aim to reply within 4-6 weeks.
Upside Down Books is the new children’s imprint from mental health/wellbeing publisher Trigger Publishing, who donate proceeds to a mental health charity. They are mainly looking for non fiction, but also accept fiction picture books. Send a cover letter, proposal form, outline and the whole manuscript for picture books (otherwise first 2 chapters) by email only and you should hear back in 12 weeks. (Scroll down in link to find specific requirements for Upside Down Books.)
Wacky Bee Books is a fairly new small publisher that began as an offshoot of the literary consultancy service Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books. Although they prefer authors to have used their services, they are also open to general submissions and are looking for picture books, early readers (4-7) and middle grade books, with a particular interest in the early readers. Submit the whole manuscript to the email address provided.
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.
Zuntold is a brand new independent publisher based in Manchester, looking for children’s fiction from middle grade upward. Submit during their annual submission windows – these are 15-29 June for YA and 1-15 December for middle grade (9-12s). Stories with a strong character journey or that touch on mental health issues would be a good fit for this publisher.
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. Themes vary each month for every magazine so see what they are looking for and that might inspire you!
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.
Zizzle is a new online international children’s magazine for 9-14 year olds. They are looking for literary fiction from 500-1200 words and are a paying market. Submit through their website.
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.