*CHANGE TO SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: WE ARE NO LONGER ACCEPTING UNSOLICITED SUBMISSIONS. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE.* Regretfully, due to the extremely high volume of unsolicited submissions we received over the last few years (several thousand every month), it is no longer practical or feasible for us to accept unsolicited submissions. We only accept submissions via the following routes:
Literary Agents. We have established relationships with many literary agents, both in the UK and overseas. If you're an agent who hasn't been in touch with us before, please do feel free to give us a call or email email@example.com and we'll be very happy to discuss our list and your clients.
Foreign publishers. We have regular contact with many foreign publishers and we visit the Frankfurt Book Fair, Bologna Children’s Book Fair and the Salon du Livre de Montreuil. If you are an international publisher and you have a book that you think would be up our street, please email all details to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that by 'international publisher' we mean an established publishing company, NOT authors living outside the UK.
Literary Translators. We translate books because we want to bring our English speaking audience the very best possible children’s books, and we don’t believe that all the best children’s books inevitably start life in the English language. If you are a literary translator with a book proposal, please send to email@example.com: a covering letter outlining why the book should be translated, why it will appeal to our primarily British market, and why it should be published by Phoenix Yard Books; a synopsis in English and (if submitting fiction) a translation sample of at least 1,000 words; information about the book and the author's history, including sales and reviews if possible; details of the rights owner (the author or the original publisher). Always check that the English language rights are available before submitting a proposal. Please note that submissions to this email address must come from literary translators, NOT international authors seeking to be published in English.
We've chosen to leave our former submissions guidance on this page, in the hope the advice will help writers and illustrators without agents who are thinking of submitting to literary agents or other publishers who do accept unsolicited manuscripts.
Five Golden Tips for submitting work to a publisher (or literary agent).
1. Read the guidelines. Once you've read the guidelines, read them again. Each publisher and agent may have different guidelines (and indeed different specialisms and areas of focus), so always tailor your submission for the particular publisher or agent. Literary agencies and publishers who do accept unsolicited material will publicise their guidelines on their website. Do not phone publishers and agents to ask questions when the answers are clearly on their websites; the same applies with social media. Speaking of which, do not try to pitch your work on social media - it's unlikely to go down well.
2. Research your reader. Ask the question: who is my book really meant for? At some point in the writing process, you need to know your target audience. Think about your target audience; find out what else they are reading... or not reading. Age-ranging in children's books is a tricky issue but if you send a publisher or agent a manuscript "suitable for ages 3-12", they will probably be suspicious. A four-year-old's reading level and interests are wildly different from an eight-year-old's reading level and interests. Your subject matter, themes, content, plot, characters, language, sentence structure and general writing style all need to be appropriately targeted to a specific readership. And always write from the height, eyes and mind of the child.
3. Research your market. Invest some time in your local bookshop and library; read book reviews in the press and online. Where would your book fit on the shelves? Once you have familiarised yourself with your reader and their bookshelves, take a long, hard look at your own work. Your work may have great personal significance to you, but is it good enough, original enough, distinctive enough to compete for sales with existing books on the market for the same readership? What does your book offer that other books don't? In publisher speak, is your work commercially viable?
4. Research your publisher (or agent). Every publisher's list is different. The fact that you are a writer / illustrator and they are a publisher does not automatically make you compatible. Check out a publisher's other titles and authors. Would your book look and feel at home amongst their other books, whilst still being sufficiently different from anything else they publish? Are you and the publisher (or agent) a good fit for each other?
5. Scrub up! Polish your work thoroughly and send your work in the very best state it can possibly be in. Present your work in a clear, neat and professional manner as if you were applying for a job. Submissions riddled with spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes give a very bad impression, as do the many submissions delivered several days late due to illegible handwriting and incorrect postage.
Five things not to say in your submission
These five examples are all lifted directly from past submissions and represent five common misconceptions about children's publishing.
“I’ve loved writing ever since I can remember and it’s my dream to become a published author.”
It’s not (all) about you. It’s not enough to love the creative process of writing a book; a publisher needs convincing that thousands of other people will love reading your book. The journey to publication doesn’t end when you hold a printed copy of the book in your hands, it ends - and hopefully continues – when thousands of children hold the book in their hands. Of course, and rightly so, it’s immensely self-satisfying to see your work in print, but the bottom line is that your writing needs to satisfy far more people than yourself.
Besides, we’re not looking for writers; we’re looking for storytellers. A love of creative writing will not help you achieve publication unless you can harness basic storytelling skills, such as narrative structure and plotting. It's all about the story.
“My own children* have given it the thumbs up.”
*Delete and replace with 'grandchildren', 'my pupils', 'friends'.
Be inspired but wary of encouragement from those close to you. It is not impossible that you have written a publishable book, but you need to balance well-meaning praise with a dose of commercial reality from a more clued-up source such as a literary consultancy or a writing class.
It's great to spend time with and test ideas on real children. That's why we are committed to going into local classrooms. BUT children are often predisposed to like a book or a story when they have a direct relationship with the creator, or if they sense your enthusiam. The fact that your own children, friends' and relatives' children, the class you teach or your local school like your stories or artwork, is wonderful; but this is not in itself enough to convince a publisher that thousands of other children with no relation to you will like your work just as much. Remember, however many books your children, class, or friends read per week, month or year, it's a good bet that someone who works for a publishing house reads several times as many; thus, their benchmarks for quality comparison will inevitably be different from your children's, class's and friends'.
“I have written this story to teach children the morals which I feel are badly lacking in today’s society.”
We are what we read, some might say. Arguably, subliminal messages about what we expect of children and of ourselves as adults are channeled into every children’s book ever written. Stories can be a reflection of and a challenge to the value systems that permeate our world, subconsciously or not. A great book can make us think, challenge and subvert; force us to raise and answer difficult questions about who we are and what we believe. Personally, we believe children deserve to be entertained without being preached to, particularly when the ‘moral’ agenda is so thinly and badly disguised. It’s the difference between implicit and explicit. Concentrate on telling a good story first, not on a ‘message’, ‘meaning’ or an ‘issue’.
“My protagonist is a boy wizard called Henry who turns into a vampire at night.”
Hmm… where have we read this before?
At worst it’s blatant plagiarism, at best it’s just very boring and unimaginative. The bandwagon does not visit Phoenix Yard. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging a trend - it demonstrates your commercial awareness - but you should always aim for originality. If you absolutely have to follow a trend, you need to at least build on and improve that trend; convince us that your take on the trend is different from and better than all other books published within the trend.
“I know you will be just as thrilled with this book as I am and will realise this book’s potential to sell millions of copies”
Any aspiring author who tells us this is nearly always over-estimating their work. Even in the unlikely event that our over-confident author has written a sellable book, it’s a tough old world, book publishing; the economics are harder than ever. Of course we would love your book to sell millions of copies, and we work very hard to achieve the best sales possible. If publishers knew which books would and wouldn’t top the charts, our jobs would be very easy and we would all be very rich. No editor, publicist or sales director is willing to manage grossly inflated expectations, or egos.
Sales figures often have a direct correlation to an author / illustrator’s willingness to promote their book. Touring bookshops; spending time at library events; not simply visiting schools but leading events and workshops; a willingness to travel to the major book festivals across the UK. Promotional appearances, speeches, visits and events can be a lot of fun, and working with children can be very rewarding, but you need high energy levels and bags of enthusiasm to combat days of long, tiring and sometimes unpaid work. We always advise that authors should be paid for school and public events whenever possible, but the point we're making is that red carpets are few and far between.
We can recommend two particularly helpful publications:
The Children's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook is an extremely popular guide containing complete listings of publishers and literary agents, and useful advice from industry experts. But a word of advice: The Children's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook is a brilliant starting point, but it is just that: a starting point. Don't submit to a publisher or literary agent simply because they are listed in The Children's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. Do your homework first.
Write to be Published by successful author Nicola Morgan is fantastic for no-nonsense, honest, sensible, practical, down to earth advice on what it really takes to get published and how the publishing industry ticks. A much-needed reality injection for anyone serious about getting their work published.
And finally.... Good luck!