Pete’s success story

Followers of this blog (and particularly followers of the comments on the Children’s Publishers Accepting Unsolicited Manuscripts page) will be impatient to hear news of Pete, who has been keeping us updated with his publication story.  I caught up with Pete to ask him how it was all going and find out a bit more about what the process has been like.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey?  Have you been published before?

My name is Pete Shaw, I’m 27 years old and I live in God’s county of Lancashire, North West England. I have a beautiful daughter, Jessica, who will be three years old in March. For day job I am a supermarket manager, and up until eighteen months ago I had had absolutely no history of writing to any noteable level, never mind being a published author!

Midway through 2011 I decided to write a story, Little Ronnie and Magic the Horse. My only previous writing experience had been composing short stories at school, and writing small pieces whilst studying English Language at college. The story only took about 3-4 hours in total to write, and maybe an hour or so doing little bits of tweaking here and there, writing my synopsis, exploring various ‘submission help blogs’ 😉 etc. It’s roughly 750 words long, and is written in rhyme.

little ronnie and magic the horse

What was the inspiration for ‘Little Ronnie and Magic the Horse’?

There are three main inspirations for me wanting to write. The first one is my daughter, Jessica. One day I thought to myself, “Why am I buying stories to read to my daughter at bedtime, when I can have a crack at it myself and have the satisfaction that I have written the story that she loves to hear?” It was only once I had finished writing the story that I decided that it would possibly be good enough for some publishers to have a look at.

My second inspiration is Roald Dahl. His stories were my absolute favourites as a child, and if I possess the smallest of fractions of that man’s talent, then I’ll be successful and produce some wonderful things to read.

Thirdly, Julia Donaldson is a very recent inspiration for me personally, and is a firm favourite of my daughter’s. The Gruffalo is a brilliant read, and we have all her books at home. Again, if I even begin to emulate any of her work, then there is a lot to look forward to.

What do you think made your book stand out to the publishers?

I can only guess at what made my book stand out, as I haven’t received any specific feedback other than the fact that they loved it! Going off what my family fed back to me upon reading Little Ronnie, the rhyming aspect to the story is something that is a massive hit with children, and the fact that the story SOUNDS good to the child must be a massive factor.

How did the artwork process work?  Did you have any input?

I was asked if I’d like to recommend an artist or illustrator, but being a complete novice to the writing scene, I didn’t have any contacts. The publishers chose an illustrator for me, pairing me up with someone who they thought could best compliment my words with their illustrations. Coincidentally, I was looking through the children’s books at work one day and I stumbled across a book that was actually illustrated by Daniel Howarth, the illustrator for ‘Little Ronnie’!

I have since been sent the PDFs of all the pages of the book, and they are most impressive! It’s quite surreal to see words that were once in your head brought to life by someone who has put their own unique interpretation into them!

Were you asked to do any editing or redrafting?

I wasn’t asked to do any editing, although they have made a few tweaks themselves.

Have you been asked to get involved with marketing at all?

With Little Ronnie being due for release in Spring 2013, I have been told that marketing will be stepped up in the new year, and that they will contact me in due course to discuss how I can help. I have specifically asked to play as big a part in the marketing as they will allow me to play! I know the book was shown at the Frankfurt Book Fair earlier this year, and at time of writing, Little Ronnie will be available to buy in the UK, United States and Australia.

What are you working on now?

I’ve already written another story in the same style (completely unrelated storyline), which still needs a bit of tweaking. I also plan to write a sequel to Little Ronnie in the near future, but for the time being I am going to see how Little Ronnie performs in what is an incredibly competitive market. If the demand is there, I would be delighted to continue Ronnie’s adventures! I hope to write a full-length novel one day, but one step at a time I think!

What would you say to people who are still trying to get published?

Don’t let a a few rejections get you down. I received nine rejections followed by an email telling me that a publisher loved it! You just have to stick it out and explore all the different avenues available, and ultimately you may have to bite the bullet and accept that it’s not the right time for your story to be accepted. Double-check and even get someone else to proof-read your submission – even the covering email/letter should be checked for mistakes. I can only presume that when publishers are receiving literally thousands of submissions, a spelling mistake in the first sentence would render the rest of your submission pretty pointless!

And finally… Did the list of publishers on my blog help?!

A resounding YES! I would literally not be writing this email, nor would I be having a book published next year if it wasn’t for Lou’s blog. An amazing help, and I can’t thank her enough!

Little Ronnie and Magic the Horse is due to be released in Spring 2013, by Top That! Publishing.  You can follow Pete on Twitter at @pdshaw09.

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.