New books giveaway!

I’m delighted to say that my new middle grade (age 8-12) book Turns Out I’m an Evil Alien Emperor is finally out! The sequel to Turns Out I’m an Alien sees Jasper and Holly jetting back into space to face the Emperor of Andromeda on his own planet and is even more full of slime, slugs, double agent pop stars and squelchy alien friends and foes than the first instalment (and probably twice as silly as well).

As a thank you for following, I’m giving away both books in the series to one winner, plus I also have two new early readers in the Maverick Early Reading Scheme to give away as well. So just let me know which you would like in the comments – Turns Out or early readers – and I’ll select the two winners at random on Monday 28 September.

Best of luck!

It’s a gigantomungous book giveaway!

* THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK PART!  THE DRAW IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNERS ARE DENISE THE ALIEN AND RACHAEL THE PIRATE!  WILL BE IN TOUCH TO ARRANGE FOR YOUR BOOKS TO BE POSTED. *

This month is an exciting one.  I have three books out on 28 May!  Three!  It seems hard to believe that only four years ago I was submitting manuscripts and wondering if I would ever find someone who liked what I wrote.  So to celebrate I would like to give  a signed copy of each of them to you, dear reader, plus a copy of the latest Pluto book, Teachers on Pluto.  That’s what I would like to do anyway, but I can’t, because I can’t give away a thousand copies.  So instead I will do a draw.

The Pirate Package

You have two choices: The Pirate Who Lost His Name picture book plus Slugs in Space early reader (henceforth to be known as The Pirate Package, even though one of them is a slug), or Teachers on Pluto junior fiction and Turns Out I’m an Alien middle grade books (The Alien Package).  To enter the draw, just let me know in the comments section whether you are a pirate or an alien.  I will draw the two winners on 28 May.  Good luck!

The Alien Package

Publication day giveaway!

Homework on PlutoThis weekend I’m celebrating the release of my new junior fiction title, Homework on Pluto published by Maverick, and as part of that I’ll be giving away a free signed copy to the lovely readers of this blog.  To take part, just comment on this post and I will choose a winner at random on 15 May by printing them out and putting them in a hat.  (A sou’wester probably, judging by the weather at the moment…)

Junior fiction or chapter books are great fun to write.  Here are my tips:

  1. Write to the right length.  6-10,000 words are what you are aiming for.  So think in terms of 6 chapters of 1000 words each to give you a rough outline.
  2. Keep it punchy.  You’ve got a lot to fit in to make a complete book work within this small space, so don’t waste words on lengthy descriptions or long dialogue exchanges.
  3. Write a series.  Readers this age (around 6-10) love series.  Conversely, your first book should be able to stand alone, just in case it doesn’t get followed up.  And you only need present one book to the publisher, as long as it has series potential.
  4. Create memorable characters.  Think Mr Gum, Horrid Henry, Flat Stanley… The character is the book.
  5. Utilise humour.  Don’t be afraid to be silly.  Silliness is underrated.

Homework on Pluto is available to order from all good bookshops, The Book Depository or Amazon.

‘Daddy and I’ is out today!

Daddy-and-I-Cover-LR-RGB-JPEGI’m celebrating as my new picture book ‘Daddy and I’, illustrated gorgeously by Sophie Burrows, is out today!  It was a tricky one to write and to be honest I wasn’t expecting a yes from my publishers at Maverick… maybe because I’d just spent so long hammering away at it, trying to get every verse to include a different rhyme for the word ‘I’.  Sometimes you just wish you’d never started something!

I’d been thinking for a while of writing something that worked on two levels, the child’s point of view and the adult’s.  What can be quite a mundane experience for us can be full of wonder for a child because they see everything with a fresh eye.  A walk was the simplest way of expressing this, and I’ve got lovely memories of going for super-long walks with my Dad (probably quite short now I come to think of it) which we treated as a huge adventure.  I thought it would add a fuller background to the story to put it in the context of a Saturday visit where the child doesn’t necessarily spend the rest of the week with her dad, so the time they have together is extra special.  When I saw Sophie’s sketches I knew she completely understood what I was trying to say!Daddy-and-I-Spread-1-LR-RGB-JPEG1

I’m glad I finally got the chance to write the idea that had been simmering for so long.  Sometimes it can take a long while for a story to brew.  At other times it can be very quick.  One of the mysteries of the writing process!

And a last minute ‘good luck’ to anyone entering the Writing Magazine/Amy Sparkes/Julia Churchill picture book writing contest.  I know a lot of my critique customers are going for this.  I’ll be crossing my fingers for you!

Publication day giveaway!

Coming soonDear readers,

It’s nearly publication day!  Fifteen years ago I started submitting children’s book manuscripts to publishers.  Five years ago I decided to share my list of publishers I was submitting to by putting it on my blog.  I never dreamed it would be such a popular post, with nearly 800 comments, queries and even success stories.  It’s been great sharing the ups and downs of publication with so many people.   Finally, on 28 January this month, my own dream will come true and my rhyming picture book, Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip, illustrated by Julia Patton, will be published by Maverick Books.

To say thank you for everyone’s support, I would love to give away a signed copy.  If you would like one, please share your new year’s writing resolution below!  On publication day I’ll print out the comments and pick one at random.  I’ll then be in contact to ask you for your address and dedication.

If you are still submitting, don’t give up!  I made this promise to myself and I’m so glad I did.  I will keep updating the publishers and agents lists and keep encouraging you all.  Maybe your success story will be the next one on here?  I hope so!  Have a brilliant 2016 and keep writing.

My publishing journey – the illustration process

Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip
It’s an actual Professor McQuark illustration by Julia Patton! I love it!

Probably the most exciting part about getting a picture book accepted is seeing the illustrations.  More than any other book, a picture book has to grab the reader’s attention from the very first glance, so the illustrations really are the most important part of the package.  I can appreciate much more now why most publishers ask for text only.  They may have illustrators they are waiting to work with, they have their own house style to pursue, they have access to agencies with hundreds of artists… in short, they are much better placed to make a decision about an illustrator than you are.  The exception is if you are an author-illustrator (a rare but amazing breed!) or an already established partnership such as Hedgehugs‘ Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper (husband and wife as well as writer and illustrator).  Having an illustrator chosen for you also gives you a wonderful chance to see your book elevated to another level, as your illustrator brings a whole new level of interest and fun to your text.  This has certainly been the case with the illustrator my publishers, Maverick, have selected for Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip: the amazingly inventive Julia Patton.

Normally Maverick will select perhaps three artists and ask for sample spreads before comparing them and selecting their favourite.  The author is consulted as part of the decision but is not in charge of making the final choice.  In this case, however, they were keen to work with Julia and knew she would be the perfect choice for a book about wacky inventions.  I only had to look at her sample spread to instantly agree!

The next time the author will see illustrations is usually when pencil-drawn drafts are produced for each spread, to give a rough idea of how the finished book will look.  There is an opportunity for input but again the editor and artist will be making the main decisions.  After the pencil stage, it’s time to sit back and try not to fidget too much while the artist puts in the hard graft.  As I mentioned in my previous post about promotion, this is a good time to do those pre-publication jobs such as creating a website and Facebook page.  When the finished drawings come in and you have picked yourself off the floor in amazement and awe, there is a chance for some typo-hunting, as by now the text will have been laid out on the pages by the editor.  At this stage you may get a digital copy, which isn’t actually a virtual book but the real thing.  It’s just not the actual book yet.  Yes, I don’t understand either.  One last check and then it’s off to be printed for real, a process which takes three long months.  Time to get very excited indeed!

In my next post I’ll be interviewing Julia Patton about inventions, inspiration and interpretation via parrot.  Back soon!

My publishing journey – how to promote your book

As promised, here’s another update on my journey to publication.  Really I should be talking about the illustration process, but as that’s still happening (and very exciting it is too), I’ll write another post about that when I can give you… wait for it… the whole picture.  Sorry about that.

With five or six months to go before publication day and not much that I can contribute to the text at this time, it’s a good time to start thinking about promotion.  Fortunately my publisher Maverick held an author’s day last week where we discussed that exact topic.  The timing could not have been better, and I’m now buzzing with ideas of how I can promote my book.  So here are the main points I picked up.  I hope they’re useful to you too.

  • No one can force you to go out there and promote your book, but it helps a huge amount.    The publisher will promote you using social media, press releases, presentations to buyers etc, but only you can produce the author in person. You have nothing to lose but some spare time and possibly your dignity.
  • There are basically four types of author visits you can do: library visits, school visits, bookshop visits and events.
  • Libraries are very welcoming to authors.  Library visits are likely to be around an hour and may consist of a reading, a short activity and book signing.  You should be able to sell copies of your book directly to the public.  Also check with the library that they do actually have your book for loan.  If not, prompt them!  Summer holidays are a good time for parents looking for activities.
  • Be brave and walk into your local bookshop.  Introduce yourself and ask if you could come and do a book signing session.  This is often a good way to get your books into bookshops that wouldn’t normally stock you.  For example, Waterstones only order centrally but they are allowed to support local authors.  The bookshop will then order in stock from the wholesalers (Betrams and Gardners are the two big companies). Be proactive and offer an activity or a reading rather than just a ‘buy my book’ approach.  Mention the visit to local press and radio beforehand.
  • You can contact local primary schools directly by emailing their Literary or Key Stage One leader.  Make it easy for them by providing e-posters and flyers.  You can also include a form that allows parents to pre-order signed copies of the book, to be collected on the day.  The school should have a budget for author visits and you will be expected to charge.  You can find guidelines on how much at the Society of Authors website.  They also have a useful pdf about author visits.  You no longer need to be CRB checked (these days DBS checked) to visit schools as long as there is a teacher in the classroom at all times.  However you will probably find that having an up-to-date DBS check makes your approach look more professional.  And it’s very useful to have a teacher present at all times anyway!  You can get a DBS check and insurance through the National Association of Writers in Education at www.nawe.co.uk.
  • Events can range from school fetes to county fairs to literary festivals and radio station visits.  Think laterally and try to find a connection between your book and the local area or event. You can buy copies of your own book at a good discount and resell them.  Add value by signing and personalising the books.
  • There are various directories of authors you can join if you want to be contacted about a visit, such as contactanauthor.co.uk.
  • When you’ve read your book out, what else can you do to keep your young listeners entertained?  Thanks to author Alex English for sharing this resource on 103 things to do after reading a picture book.  And don’t be desk bound – children love songs, rhymes, games and dressing up, so think about the content of your book and how you can transfer this into some educational playtime!

Right, I’m off to buy a lab coat, four pairs of glasses and a big bag of props.  Author visits may be nerve-wracking but they sound like they can be a lot of fun, too!

Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip will be published by Maverick Books in January 2016.

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!)

Children’s publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts

* UPDATED AUGUST 2020 *

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.

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 (CURRENTLY CLOSED TO UNSOLICITED SUBMISSIONS) 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.  They lean towards the literary with a hint of darkness.  Email with three chapters or the first fifty pages, and note the minimum length required.

Firefly Press  This vibrant Welsh publisher has 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 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.

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 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.

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.

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 middle grade 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!).  They will contact you within 8-12 weeks if interested.

Ransom  NOT CURRENTLY ACCEPTING  Ransom are well known for producing exciting books for struggling or reluctant readers.  They also have a YA imprint, Raven.  To write for this publisher, study the catalogue carefully to see what they are looking for, particularly taking note of reading ages and word counts.  Then send the first 3 chapters, synopsis and writing CV to the email address.  They aim to reply as soon as possible.

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  NOT CURRENTLY ACCEPTING DUE TO COVID  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

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 – check the website for dates.  Stories with a strong character journey or that touch on mental health issues would be a good fit for this publisher.

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.  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

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

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.

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.