Advice on submission author/illustrator

(49 Posts)
CupOCoffee Tue 24-Sep-13 11:30:57

I've been working on a book which I have written (and rewritten . . . and on and on!) and illustrated which I feel is ready for submission. I am tying myself in knots trying to decide who to send it to, despite many hours of googling. It's a picture story book for the 3-6 bracket.

I feel as though I need a recommendation and can't seem to make the decision without one. Can anyone help?

I was originally going to submit to a publisher but am now looking at agents. I'm just not sure which is most advisable as there is so much conflicting advice on the net.


TunipTheUnconquerable Tue 24-Sep-13 18:33:37

I don't know about the publisher/agent conundrum for picture books, but for working out which agents to sub to I would really recommend Twitter.
You get a sense of personalities and whether you'd get on, and who is doing a lot of deals, and they often tweet about what they're looking for or link to blogs about it.
Right now there's a 'manuscript wishlist' hashtag, #mswl, where they're tweeting about their wants. The tweets get collected and put into an 'agent and editor wishlist' Tumblr which you can then search to narrow it down to just picture books.

I am writing YA so I'm not specifically looking at picture book agents but of those I follow the ones that rep picture books and seem very good include Jodie Marsh, Stephanie Thwaites and Julia Churchill.

I expect to submit to a lot more than that though!

CupOCoffee Wed 25-Sep-13 09:37:16

Thank you for your reply. I just looked up Jodie Marsh and I like what she has written on her website, she seems kind.

I was thinking of submitting to one I found yesterday but what was on the website seemed a bit . . . arsey?! There was a tone of "oh don't bore me with x,y,z you imbeciles!" which I found a bit arrogant. There was another which had a tone of "We produce the magic, the illustrators and writers just happened to be there as well". It's amazing how a line can turn you off someone.

I've never used Twitter, never seen the point of it . . . but I do now! Will have to figure out how it all works.

There also seems to be conflicting advice about whether to submit to more than one at a time. I was thinking of maybe just two. Do you think that would be ok?

YA must be fun to write smile

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 25-Sep-13 11:13:36

You need to submit to loads. Do it in batches of 3-6. All the recent advice I've seen says you shouldn't submit exclusively.

I don't think they're arrogant, I think they're just trying to deal with a MASSIVE stream of material from would-be writers, a few of whom are a bit mad or rude, and a lot about the way they engage is just an attempt to manage that. Eg when they seem to be very picky about the format of what they get sent, or when they don't give feedback, it's just because they are dealing with such a large volume of submissions that anything that adds just a couple of minutes to the time they take to deal with each one ends up increasing their workload by an unsustainable amount.

When you go on Twitter you should have a look at the #askagent q&a sessions - they're a good chance to ask specific questions (though not all the agents who do them rep picture books, so you would have to look out for ones that do).

You can read things on Twitter without signing up for it, but it is fun chatting to other writers and handy being able to ask questions!

If you need a good intro to how Twitter works there's an excellent book here called Learn Twitter In 10 Minutes.

CupOCoffee Wed 25-Sep-13 11:46:26

Yes I do realised that they have a lot to deal with. I read recently that they often get 100-200 submissions a week! shock I don't know how they would have the time to get through them all!

I am just a bit wary of submitting to the wrong one and them being mean to me [scaredy-cat alert!] Probably because I'm not feeling that confident right now. I need to toughed up! grin

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 25-Sep-13 12:50:41

They won't be mean!
The worst that can happen is a form rejection or no reply at all. If they give you any specific feedback then that's very useful as it'll help you improve.
I do know it's nerve-racking though. I am dreading it. The thought of having to open all those rejection emails. (Last time I submitted it was all by snail mail so it was all about hearing the heavy thump of the returned manuscript on the doormat....)

CupOCoffee Wed 25-Sep-13 17:33:24

Did you get anywhere last time?

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 25-Sep-13 17:37:21

No, and tbh I didn't deserve to - it was little more than a first draft with a tiny amount of editing. I cringe at what an unfinished state I sent it out in blush

CupOCoffee Wed 25-Sep-13 18:34:13

Im worried about that too! I keep editing it but im not a writer, more an illustrator who's giving the writing a go. I've written it in perhaps a slightly unusual way, or at least not the most common. Im not sure where the line is between 'good different' and 'embarrassingly shit and weird different'!

My main tactic is to go through and remove anything that makes me cringe!

Do you have actual training?

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 26-Sep-13 09:02:26

No, I've published a few short stories but I've never been to formal creative writing classes.
Over the last year I've read a lot of stuff on craft and learned a stonking amount but still have a long way to go. I'm at that point where I can see how much better everyone else's is than mine without being able to do it myself.

CupOCoffee Thu 26-Sep-13 09:20:57

Over the last year I've read a lot of stuff on craft

You mean the craft of writing? (stupid question alert)

I've never fancied going to a writing class. Perhaps because I'd feel embarrassed if it what I had written was really bad!

Well done on your short stories! smile

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 26-Sep-13 10:15:17

Thanks. It was an embarrassingly long time ago blush

Yes, the craft of writing.

CupOCoffee Fri 27-Sep-13 11:21:41

Oooh bloody hell! I have it all ready to send to the first ever agent and I'm pooping myself! I actually feel sick and have stomach pains!

I need to just do it don't I.

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 27-Sep-13 11:25:27

Yes. It'll be horrible the first few times but by the time you've done 50 you'll be hardened!

(Unless it doesn't take 50, but then you will just have to deal with the same feeling when your agent sends it to publishers.)

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 27-Sep-13 11:25:46

Good luck!

CupOCoffee Fri 27-Sep-13 11:30:40

I have this feeling that I will press send and then my phone will be immediately ringing, and I'll answer it and some person will be cackling and saying "what did you send me that for, it's shit, you're shit, seriously don't bother loser!".


TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 27-Sep-13 12:23:26

Just seen this blog post which might be of use Penny Holroyde wishlist

CupOCoffee Fri 27-Sep-13 13:11:51

Thank you! Weirdly she is on my list to send to.

A bit concerned that my word count is a bit long now though!

Thanks so much Tunip. You've been great!

schmalex Fri 27-Sep-13 17:42:18

Hi cupocoffee
Have you considered subbing to illustration agencies? They may represent you too.
I have found it very hard to get an agent for picture books (I write but don't illustrate) even after I have signed a contract with a publisher for my first book. I think the money involved often isn't enough for them to take you on unless they think you're absolutely amazing. Don't be disheartened if they knock you back!
I'd really recommend joining a class or critique group. It is scary reading your work to others at first, but I find it essential to get my manuscripts up to scratch before submitting.

CupOCoffee Fri 27-Sep-13 22:58:56


My experience is actually in related arty area (don't want to out myself) so no previous illustrations commissions, so don't think i could get representation just as an illustrator. I would need more experience first.

So you write picture books? Do you write older books too?

I was thinking of maybe submitting to a publisher as well but need to research will ones will accept unsolicited submissions.

fackinell Thu 03-Oct-13 02:01:27

Coffee, I have just done exactly the same as you. I'm thinking of putting it in print myself and have self published on amazon kindle for now. Good luck in your search. I'm not usually an illustrator either, it was a bigger job than I thought!!

CupOCoffee Thu 03-Oct-13 07:47:32

I didn't know you could get illustrated books on kindle. I don't have one . . . Am i the only person in the world who didn't know that?

What is it called? (if you don't mind outing yourself)

fackinell Thu 03-Oct-13 09:18:11

Yes, you can. They don't sell hugely well as I don't think that many parents are keen to give teenies a tablet to play with. You can download a kindle app for pretty much anything (not sure about android) these days. They are handy for holidays though as you can have loads of kids books on the one tablet. I will PM you the name as not keen to out myself or get free advertising.

thoughtsandall Thu 03-Oct-13 10:57:10

Hi Tunip, thanks for the Twitter tips. As a total twitter virgin (and a social network phobic) I attempted twitter to have a look at #ask the agents. Some great inside info out there and i'm not even sure I am doing it right.

Fackinell, I have tried to be a super sleuth in the past and see if I could work out which book on kindle was yours, as I have followed the creative writing posts with interest. Would you be happy to pm me the name of your book? How are the sales going?

cup in researching through twitter(#MSWL, kindly highlighted by tunip) and agent profiles they author/illustrator combos seem to be in favour at the moment. The advice I was given on the route to getting published and the route I am taking to try and understand the process is to exhaust the list of agents I have compiled, if no joy then try a few publishers and if no joy then cry try the self publishing route. There seems to be some success stories in other threads for self publishing (*Mme Guillitine* amongst others, I think). Would be interested to see what you decide.

fackinell Thu 03-Oct-13 11:27:42

Hi Thoughts, sales are going well, thanks. It peaked at 8k sales in July (I just got paid for that yesterday) and now settling down to around 3k sales a month. It won't last for ever though! That's a scary thought.
I will PM you. smile

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 03-Oct-13 11:29:11

Bloody hell though, 8k in a month! <respect>

fackinell Thu 03-Oct-13 11:36:52

Yeah I was well chuffed, Tunip. Being SE means I panic A LOT about sales now. Especially since I'm now pregnant!! grin Great timing on giving up my job to write. FFS!!!

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 03-Oct-13 11:38:35

LOL. Congratulations on your pregnancy! grin

Fingers crossed you have one of those babies who sleeps a lot then lies there happily gurgling in its chair so you can have time to write!

fackinell Thu 03-Oct-13 11:49:50

grin Yes!! I'll take one of those, please.

My DM and Dsis say karma will give me a little shit, just like I (still) am, unfortunately.

thoughtsandall Thu 03-Oct-13 11:50:37

fackinell That's amazing. Good on you. What is next in pipeline/plan?

thoughtsandall Thu 03-Oct-13 11:54:08

And huge congrats on the pregnancy. There is no such thing as a baby who sleeps a lot- well not in my house anyway. Will be wishing for one for you though.

fackinell Thu 03-Oct-13 12:41:19

Thank you grin
I'm sure I won't get a nice quiet one!! I've PMd you already so you probably don't need me to repeat my next plot line (boring you once is enough in sure!!) wine usually helps my creative flow, a cup of tea doesn't cut it sadly. May have to wait till baba is baked to get my new

CupOCoffee Thu 03-Oct-13 13:04:39

fackinell. Thank you for the pm, was going to reply by pm but it got a bit confusing because of a name change (won't bore you by explaining). It sounds like you're doing great! I looked up your chicklit book as well. I like the title! grin

How do you go about marketing them?

Thoughtsanall. I have sent it to 3 agents so far, and one other who i didn't realise had closed to submissions until the end of this month. Im going to wait and see what they say but in the mean time Im working on illustrations.

fackinell Thu 03-Oct-13 14:32:57

Oh no!! I typed a big reply and its gone confused

Right!! Here goes again. Thank you, Coffee. I started with asking friends to share my FB Author page and book links and asked for ReTweets on Twitter. I asked Marian Keyes envy and Greg Hemphill for RTs and damn near peed myself when they did!!

I asked local businesses and restaurants to display a few posters and handed out fliers. I asked my local paper for some Editorial and they obliged. I did some FB advertising where you pay per click for people to visit my Amazon page. This had limited success so don't spend much. I may try local radio soon.

I changed category after reviews commented that it was funny, from contemporary women to comedy. This was a much less crowded genre. I put the price up and down from 77p to 99p a few times to get on on email drops from Amazon to customers.

One piece of advice though, never ever offer a free week if your book is selling well. I saw a top ten book sink like the Titanic that way. It's a totally different chart and the top spots are too competitive and previous to risk!!

Push, push, push at every opportunity (without putting upon friends too much.)
Shy bairns get nowt. grin

fackinell Thu 03-Oct-13 14:50:57

*precious, not previous.

schmalex Fri 04-Oct-13 10:50:29

Hi coffee
Yes, I write picture books (one currently under contract) and also for 6-8s (currently doing the rejection rounds!)
Have you joined SCBWI? It's great for getting industry contacts and knowledge specific to the children's publishing industry.

CupOCoffee Fri 04-Oct-13 13:31:01


SCBWI, is that the online magazine thing? I think someone else might have linked to it or a question and answer thing on it. Was very helpful. How does it benefit to join?

Also what does it stand for?

schmalex Sat 05-Oct-13 07:20:44

It's the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. The online magazine is one thing they do (which non-members can read too) but there's heaps more - annual conference, local events, master classes, critique groups.

The joining process is slightly odd as you have to join the US organisation with the UK as your local chapter.

Website is

Can't recommend it highly enough!

TunipTheUnconquerable Sat 05-Oct-13 08:57:27

I was thinking about joining that. The northern section has events near me sometimes.

CupOCoffee Wed 09-Oct-13 10:36:32

Oh put me out of my misery! 1.5 weeks since i sent my first ever submissions!

Its not a good feeling of limbo.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 09-Oct-13 11:32:24

This isn't what you want to hear, CupOCoffee, but the Frankfurt Book Fair starts today so a lot of agents will be away until next week and then have a bit of a backlog to get through when they get back!

CupOCoffee Wed 09-Oct-13 14:01:32

Of course! How could I forget!

Have been to Frankfurt so should have known this! My work revolved around the fairs for many years.


andthepiggotupandslowlywalkeda Tue 05-Nov-13 19:34:47

Hello, I'm just creeping in, quiet like.

I'm an illustrator, and would-be writer, and a member of SCBWI for about 8 months. I've been to a portfolio review and a picture book 'surgery' this year, and found both enormously useful. I've even found an illustration agent who likes my work at their annual agents' party (after what feels like a lot of form rejections or just no responses at all, but probably isn't that many!) If you really use the resources, its absolutely worth the joining fee.

Also, I do know what you mean about the tone of the websites. I did get the 'just don't send your rubbish in, you fool' vibe for some of them!

CupOCoffee Tue 12-Nov-13 21:28:49

Hello! Sorry only just seen this.

Picture book surgery? I never knew there was such a thing! Tell me more! smile

andthepiggotupandslowlywalkeda Wed 13-Nov-13 13:52:07

Yes! 'Twas a very good thing.

I don't know if they do it every year, but the London bit of the SCBWI ran various 'masterclasses', including an illustrator series. There's a link on this page here to a PDF that tells you what they covered. I did a portfolio intensive review, and the dummy makeover (which was the proper title for the picture book surgery). You sent in your dummy some weeks before the makeover, then you got sent notes about what the strong and weak points were. There was also a meetup, where two writer/illustrators talked about, erm, illustrating and writing, then the various dummy books that people had bought in were swapped around and commented on anonymously. They were both a bit scary, just because it always is putting your stuff out there for comment, but it was definitely constructive.

Good luck with your book - the best way to deal with the waiting is to get started on the next one. It's a much better way of keeping occupied than pressing 'refresh' on my emails every thirty seconds. Not that I ever did that. Oh no.

CupOCoffee Wed 13-Nov-13 21:30:45

Ooh! That sounds great! How do they chose who can send their dummy in, as i assume they can't look at everyone's who wants to send it?

What sort of comments did you get?

A dummy is a couple of spreads of full illustrations and the rest sketched out isn't it? With text roughly laid out? Not quite sure on that one.

What were the anonymous comments like? What did you think of other peoples?

Were they all illustrators or were there amateurs? And did you think any were rubbish? grin

Did you comment on each others writing as well as illustrations?

Lots of questions sorry! grin

CupOCoffee Wed 13-Nov-13 21:42:46

Just read that link. Sounds fantastic but terrifying!

andthepiggotupandslowlywalkeda Thu 14-Nov-13 19:53:12

No, no, always glad to spout off to someone!

What I done was: When I saw there were still places on the workshop, I sent in the form with a cheque for the money, and then when I was contacted to say that I had a place, I was given the information about uploading my dummy book to an online file sharing service so that the people running it could see it and comment before the workshop day itself. That was pretty much it, although I did revise my book between getting the comments and the workshop day.

Comments from the organisers were meant to be tough but fair. I found them very helpful, and I didn't get the vibe from other people that anything horrible had been said.

Comments from other participants were also fair - we were all in the same boat, and appreciated how much effort had gone into creating the dummies, and while pointing out weaker areas, were constructive criticisms. People might write that they thought, say, the plotline was confused at a particular stage of a story, but no-one scribbled abusive notes to anyone!

A dummy is a pencil rough - fairly detailed but can be sketchy, including the text in the layout. Usually the author will do a couple of colour spreads as well, so that a publisher can get an idea of the final product. Some people had made theirs into actual book-shaped things - mine was a pile of photocopies!

There was quite a range within both illustrations and stories. I would say that not all were at what I would think of as a 'professional' level of illustration, but even so there were good things and ideas in all of them.

CupOCoffee Fri 15-Nov-13 09:50:25

Wow that's fantastic thank you! smile

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