Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Submissions 101

So, you’ve written a children’s book and you’re ready to submit it to an agent and/or a publisher.  The following are the industry standards for manuscript submission, regardless of  whether the manuscript is for a picture book, a chapter book or a novel:

Standard white paper – Don’t even think of using colored paper!

Black ink – Don’t even think of using colored ink!

Double-spaced narrative text. No dummies or proposed lay-outs.

Times or Times New Roman, #12 font. Arial and Cambria are okay too, as they’re close enough to the size of Times New Roman, but you’re really safe with Times.

1¼ inch margins (1.25) on either side, justified left and ragged on the right. That means all straight on the left margin, and uneven on the right.

Paragraphs and dialogue indented, with quotation marks around all dialogue. Every time a new person starts to speak, it’s a new indent.

Title page – a separate sheet attached to the front of your manuscript, which includes not only the working title of the manuscript and your name but also your contact information, the date, and the word count. (Yes, you must include the word count. Microsoft Word has a handy word count tool under “Tools.”) Title and byline should be centered, and contact info, date and word count are on the bottom right. (The date is the last time you edited it, not the first time you sat down to write it. And don’t worry about putting “copyright” or a copyright symbol… it can be construed as amateurism.)

Pagination – all pages numbered, either bottom center or bottom right.

Footer including your last name, and the title of the book. The reason for this is so that if your manuscript pages ever get separated in the editor’s office they can be reassembled – and it’s clear who the pages belong to.

One staple, in the top left corner.

No illustrations, and no art directions.  Just the text. This is critical – unless you are an author/illustrator. Your publisher considers it his or her job to pair a writer with the right illustrator, so absolutely DO NOT include illustrations, whether by someone you have hired, your spouse, your best friend, or your kid. The only exception here is for author/illustrators… and if you are unknown, convey your willingness to bring in a third-party illustrator (or author, if art is your forte) if need be.  I can’t tell you how many manuscripts I’ve seen get turned down because they “loved the art, but hated the text” or vice versa.

No comments or directives on the text. Don’t suggest what the art should look like, or how the pages should be broken up. Again, editors/publishers consider this part of their job, and are irritated at best (and insulted at worst) by neophyte authors who include these suggestions with their submissions. Respect the agent’s or publisher’s imagination and intelligence (and show them that you are a pro) by submitting text only, in the format described above.

Next week we’ll talk about cover and query letters – and after that, finding an agent.

Series NavigationCover and Query Letters


6 Responses to “Submissions 101”
  1. Looks great, Emma. Have a question about publishers…as in…do you think we are about to witness the big plunge, much like the music industry experienced five years ago? I guess what I’m trying to say is this; Do you think Barnes & Noble will be the next Tower Records?

  2. Emma says:

    Hi Eric,
    This is, of course, the perennial question… and Tower Records vs. iTunes is a good template to look at. My feeling is, regardless of whether content goes entirely digital or stays “hard copy,” the principles of the content are the same. Whether you get your music via mp3 or CD, you’re looking for the same quality and value form the music itself. The same is true for literature – whether we are read via Kindle or via good old fashioned book, we still have to craft a story with compelling characters, a beginning, middle and end, a strong conflict, meaningful themes etc. etc. So regardless of the format or venue the work is published through, the creative challenges remain the same. Marketing-wise, of course, everything is moving into the digital world… so focusing on that for marketing and promotion can only help, in either format. Hope that’s helpful.

  3. Barbara says:

    Hi Emma, I really am grateful I came across your site. I am an inspiring writer in Nigeria interested in writing for kids.I don’t have any published works and my write-ups have never actually been viewed by many. I just sort of concluded my first book for children, but my greatest fear is that I won’t find anyone who thinks much of it, and it just might as well have never existed. I want to know, is there an online site of editors, publishers, proofreaders… you know, a place where I can ANONYMOUSLY put up some of my writings for a professional’s criticism?

  4. Emma says:

    Barbara –
    You can explore, and… though I suspect you may have to create an identity for all sites in this regard. My best advice would be to stiffen your resolve and open yourself up to professional feedback (not criticism!). You may be pleasantly surprised – and anyone who is serious in this industry is also respectful of the author’s dreams, process and feelings. It’s all about learning the craft – and having enough resilience to keep moving forward.
    Best of luck! It’s worth the effort.

  5. Maureen says:

    Hi, Emma,

    I was wondering if the page number/your last name and title footer should only be on the text pages and not the title page. It seems redundant to include those things on the title page.

  6. Emma says:

    Maureen –
    You’re correct. The footers should only be on the text pages, not the title page.

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