how to interpret kludgy submission guidelines

Submission guidelines can be found in many places…

  • CWIM – updated yearly
  • Children’s Book Council (CBC) – updated bi-weekly
  • SCBWI publications – updated yearly
  • Jeff Herman Guide – updated yearly
  • AgentQuery
  • Agent or publisher’s website – as often as it should be (in theory)

Sometimes guidelines in printed books become out of date. So before you ship something off, always check the publisher’s or agent’s website first for the official word. If nothing is available online, then use the guidelines listed by the publication that is updated more frequently.

  • The only exceptions to this rule is you’ve heard an editor or an agent speak directly about how he or she would like to see your work. For example if an editor recently told you at a conference, she’d like the full manuscript, (even though her company says “query only”), listen to the editor. Reference the conference in your query letter and forget the company’s guidelines.
  • Also send only one work at a time. UNLESS you heard from the editor or agent that they’ll look at more than one manuscript at a time (multiple submission). This is sometimes the case for picture book submissions.

So let’s say you know what the guidelines are. They say…

  • query only with three sample chapters

HA! Kind of confusing isn’t it? That makes no sense. What does this mean?

C LIU interprets:

  • Send a query letter and include your first three chapters with that letter.
  • Could I be wrong? Most certainly. Do I care? No, because it’s not my fault if I guessed incorrectly, is it?
  • But what if my book is wrtten in diary or journal format? Send first twenty-five pages. That’s the average for first three chapters of a book.

Here’s another…

  • PBs, full ms. Novels – three sample chapters.

C LIU interprets:

  • If it’s a PB, include a query letter and the full manuscript.
  • If it’s a novel, include a query letter and the first three chapters.
  • If it’s an easy reader, include a query letter and the whole thing. Where did I get that from? Many guidelines don’t call out everything so you have to guess. If an editor is willing to look at three chapters, that’s usually around twenty-five pages. If your work is a chapter book, send in around that much. But please don’t send in 25 pages if your work is thirty pages. Use good judgment; send the whole thing BUT KEEP IN MIND that editor should actually edit these kinds of works. The same goes for agents. Don’t send people material they don’t work with.
  • Also notice that I include a query letter with all first subs. That’s kind of assumed. You don’t want to stick your manuscript in there naked! The query letter has its function, remember? It contains your pitch. You pitch the work, then show them what you’ve got.

Are we getting a hang of this now? Let’s do one more.

  • query only. upon request, first fifty pages or full pb.

C LIU interprets

  • send query letter only. That’s it. Forget the rest of it. Listen to whatever the agent or editor tells you when he or she requests your work.

And about that SASE…

  • always include one UNLESS the guidelines say an SASE is not required. Some publishers and agents are getting into the habit of only responding to submissions if they’re interested.

Now return to [step seven->step seven – send out your work] if you’re taking the crash course.

Order WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE

2 thoughts on “how to interpret kludgy submission guidelines

  1. Hello Cynthea!

    Thanks so much for all of your great advice. I have one question about queries. What if the agent asks for a query with SASE, but they don’t mention anything about a manuscript?

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