Getting your carefully crafted manuscript into the hands of a welcoming publisher is the dream of all picture book writers so this SCBWI workshop was just the ticket! Led by Ellie Brough, Assistant Editor at Maverick, we worked through the many pitfalls and pratfalls of submitting and how to get out of the slush pile.
Maverick is one of those wonderful publishers in the world of children’s books who actually accept unsolicited manuscripts, thus getting us swiftly over hurdle number one – where to send your story. However, as Ellie reminded us, there are still many hurdles; writers with agents already, the time of year or just simply the 3-4k submissions Maverick receive each year!
Still, undaunted by the long odds we considered what would make our submissions stand out and sometimes even jump the queue. Rather marvellously, Maverick read all submissions in order of arrival but sometimes a title will just scream “Read Me!” and get noticed sooner. Ellie gave the wonderful “Strictly No Crocs” by Heather Pindar as a good example. As Steve Bicknell, the founder of Maverick says, “Title is king”. Titles are my downfall so I’m going to have to work on this!
So what do we need to do? Apart from a good story, top in the list of sound advice is “Read the guidelines”, which cannot be said enough times. Every publisher has their own house style and ethos so understanding what they are looking for is crucial. Maverick have a quite specific 650 word limit for example, so sending a 2000 word story isn’t going to make a good impression! This also means that as an author your story may need to be adapted to meet different publishers needs – there is no place for being precious about each one of your carefully crafted words in this business.
Secondly, make sure you have a manuscript that is actually in a format that can be a) read and b) emailed. To explore how to do this well we were fortunate to read an actual submission from Lou Treleaven, who very generously gave permission for us to see how she approached Maverick with her very funny book Professor McQuark & the Oojamaflip. Having looked at how to format the text into spreads the thorny issue of illustration notes was discussed. Ellie suggested placing any necessary notes at the end of each spread but essentially, as ever, the text should stand up on its own as it will be read aloud in any editorial meeting!
Taking us through from intial submission to published book, Ellie gave us a comprehensive insight into how to make the publisher take you seriously and read your submission with interest. The tip I particularly found interesting is include your (really brilliant and eye-catching) title into your introduction and body of the cover letter so that it is seen over and over by the publisher. Having already notched up one rejection from Maverick it was heartening to hear how much attention my manuscript would have had, despite the inadequacies I can now see in my submission!
I’m working on those titles, Maverick. I’ll be back.
©Chez l’abeille 2016