Monday, November 21, 2016

Some info on getting (Children's Books) published in NZ ... shiny 2016 version

I posted some general information on getting published in New Zealand on this blog in 2010. I updated it in 2014 as the industry had undergone a number of significant changes in the intervening years, and now, as it seems to be one of my most visited pages, it seems prudent to update it again. I hope you find it useful. (Sorry about the mismatched fonts and messy layout).

Firstly, if you have completed a manuscript of any stripe, congratulations!! I advise taking a moment to celebrate this achievement. A lot of people talk about writing a book but few actually get as far as you have. Completing the writing of a book is hard work, and requires courage, perseverence and tenacity. Well done! 

So you’ve written 'The End', read and re-read your story umpteen times, checked and re-checked it for mistakes, and edited it till it sparkles – what do you do next? 

In the past I've recommended checking out which publishers were publishing what kind of books and then suggested submitting your manuscript to the publishers most interested in your kind. Now, you must first ask yourself - do I want to seek traditional publication of my work or should I self publish? Do you want to go digital only or have your book in print? Go take a look at sites like Amazon and Smashwords etc... and check out their best-sellers. Some genres sell very well for writers self publishing, and it is an excellent option. Some books do best in print. I think picture books are better in print and would not want to attempt to arrange an illustrator, designer, editor, etc... and the printing of these myself. I want the help of experienced practitioners. On the other hand I am happy to try self publication of a novel (whether in digital and/or print), but in most cases I will pursue traditional publishing first. 

So do your homework before you decide anything. 

Go look herehere and here if you want to know how I tackled self pubbing a children's novel. If you've decided to try the traditional route with this manuscript start here: - 

 At this point you have three options

1)     send it to a manuscript assessor. I know a number of writers who send all of their manuscripts to an assessor before they submit to a publisher. They want to have confirmation that their story works and get advice on improvements. I know other writers who never use assessors, like me. If you choose not to use assessors, if your manuscripts do get rejected it may pay to try assessors to see where and what changes might help you get to a yes. You can find NZ assessors here –

2) send it to a professional editor. If you are not confident in your spelling, grammar etc… a professional editor will help. If you are self publishing using a professional editor is an essential step. There are two key types of editing – copy and structural. Copy editing will correct spelling, punctuation and grammar. Structural editing looks at the story as a whole, does it work, is it consistent, is it logical, would the story be improved by the addition or omission of characters, scenes etc…
“Don’t ask me to proofread my own writing
            I always end up seeing what I thought I wrote!”

I have used one in the past for work that I have or would like to self publish

3) send it to an agent/publisher.

Do you need an agent? When I started out you didn’t need one here in NZ. All the major publishers accepted submissions directly from authors. While most still do, an agent can help. However we have few agents representing children’s material in New Zealand. Agents are listed here - . I believe Glenys Bean is currently not accepting children’s writers. Agents will take around 15% (and up) of any book income from contracts they have been involved with. It is possible to get signed with an overseas agent. Watch out for scammers though. Sites like Preditors and Editors and the Writer Beware Blog list agents and publishers and whether they are professional legitimate operators or not.

Find editors and more assessors here -

How should you prepare your manuscript?

Lay Out

For both physical and digital submissions: Double space your lines and ensure margins on both sides. Do NOT use fancy or joined up fonts. Something easily readable is best (12 point Times New Roman is a safe bet). Number your pages and include your title and name in a smaller point size as a header for each page, so this information is unobtrusive but readily available if required. Print on one side of the paper only if posting a hard copy in.

If you have written a picture book, in my experience you are NOT required to lay your manuscript out as a picture book in order to submit it. As I am now familiar with how picture books are paginated I will break my text up into paragraphs or sections of text that represent each double page spread. If you are unsure, just have the text laid out as if it was to appear as a short story. Remember, each page needs the text to provide a different image from the other pages. Your average picture book has around 14 double page spreads (for a total of 32 pages in the book), but look at a range of picture books to see the different formats and page set ups.

 Important (for picture book submissions): Please note - if you are not an illustrator and are submitting your manuscript to a traditional publisher, YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO FIND AN ILLUSTRATOR YOURSELF. Publishers are VERY experienced at matching illustrators with writers. They know way more illustrators than you do. Just send your story in. Also, don't feel you must describe how the illustrations should appear. The more you prescribe how the story must appear, the less able the publisher is to see it in a number of different ways which may work better than what you have envisaged. Remember they do this for a living and are experienced at seeing the potential in a story.

This also applies to artists notes. I don’t tend to discuss the artwork with the illustrator while they are illustrating my stories. It is a leap of faith but they may (and often have) come up with things I could never have imagined that enhance my story. I would limit them by demanding my ideas be used. And I have not yet provided artist's notes. I once heard one publisher say she always threw artists notes in the bin without even looking at them.

Covering letters

You will need a brief covering letter (for both email and posted submissions) which includes the name of your manuscript, the word count, genre, the intended market, a brief outline of the work, and your publishing credits, if you have some. For fiction you will need a synopsis, and either several chapters, or the entire manuscript as per submission guidelines. For non-fiction you generally submit a proposal.

Places to send your work

Always start off by looking at the submission guidelines on the publisher's website. Do what the submission guidelines say – DO NOT DO ANYTHING ELSE. They supply guidelines because this is how they want to receive your stories. You might think it's a good idea to do something different and stand out from the crowd. But all it does is make you stand out for the wrong reasons. Follow the guidelines.

Scholastic NZ - Scholastic are currently only accepting submissions from authors previously published within the last ten years. However they are accepting illustration portfolios from unpublished illustrators - instructions can be found here (publish Kyle Mewburn, Juliette MacIver, Elizabeth Pulford, me and others).

Scholastic will also consider self-published books for inclusion in and distribution through their School Book Club brochures

Unpublished authors can submit work to the Storylines Joy Cowley, Tom Fitzgibbon, or Tessa Duder Awards. Entries close on October 31st every year and this is an excellent way to get your manuscript in front of Scholastic (Joy Cowley and Tom Fitzgibbon Awards) or Walkers Books (Tessa Duder Award) as they read all entries.

Penguin Random House are accepting manuscripts and their instructions can be found here -

Gecko Press - Gecko are accepting manuscripts under certain provisos (previous publication or recommendation via an agent assessor or industry professional) - instructions are here  (Publish Paul Beavis, Juliette MacIver, Joy Cowley, Barbara Else).

Duck Creek Press - David Ling at Duck Creek Press is currently accepting picture books submissions. Instructions here - (Publish Nikki Slade Robinson, Lisa Allen)

Upstart Press - not currently accepting fiction of any kind. Their guidelines are here - . I recommend checking back from time to time to see if this has changed (Publish Donovan Bixley and Joy Cowley)

Oratia Media – are currently accepting submissions by mail. See details here - (Publish Dawn McMillan, Tessa Duder and Tim Tipene)

EK Books - are an Australian picture book publisher (there is a NZ address for local submissions) and are currently accepting submissions, including from NZ. Instructions are here -

Allen & Unwin – an Australian publisher. They accept pitches via email (The Friday Pitch) and respond fairly quickly  – there is a helpful Q&A here -

There are other publishers in Australia you can try - Scholastic Australia, Walker Books, Little Hare, Penguin Random House ( )

Educational Markets 
The educational market is considerably less robust than it used to be here in New Zealand. Many New Zealand children's writers and illustrators got their start with the School Journal - a New Zealand institution for decades - including me.

School Journals - the contract to produce these is currently held by Lift Education.

School Magazine – Australia is another option, and they are happy to accept submissions from New Zealand authors.

What happens next?

Extreme patience is required at this point. Many publishing offices are run with only a few staff, who will read your manuscript and then pass it on to others (external readers, marketing departments etc…) who will assess its qualities and saleability. Reading submissions is fitted around other duties. This may take months and is completely normal and incredibly frustrating. My longest wait for a yes has been more than 9 months. Nos have averaged between 3-6 months but can take much longer.

What I recommend

If you are serious about writing:-

a)     Join some organisations for writers and/or children’s literature such as the New Zealand Society of Authors, Storylines, SCBWI, and online groups like Facebook’s Kiwiwrite4kidz. Somewhere along your journey you will need advice.  If you are looking for a critique group or just like-minded people this is where to find them. Countless times I have needed support, information, encouragement and feedback and many times we have shared information on opportunities and services, and problem solved together over industry issues. The NZSA will check contracts before you sign if you are a member.
b)     Read children's books. Know what's hot, and what's good in the area you like to write. Understand the 'rules' of those types of stories.
c)     Have resources – dictionary, thesaurus, grammar book (Strunk and White), books on writing and ideas (see below).
d)     Protect yourself against scammers. If it seems too good to be true it probably is. If in doubt, google, ask around and/or check in with the NZSA who are there to advise and support and protect authors

DON’T GIVE UP. Your next manuscript might be the one that gets accepted. Every bit of writing you do contributes to your 10,000 hours of practice. The publishing industry is a slow one and should be treated as a long game.

There is general information on 'Writing and Illustrating for Children in New Zealand' here at the Christchurch City Libraries website. This includes submission guidelines for most of the children's publishers in New Zealand

or you could check out the PANZ (Publishers Association of New Zealand) website.

And/or take a look at these
-Writers and Artists Yearbook
-Children’s Writers and Artists Yearbook
-Writers and Illustrators Market
-Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market

These books are published annually are available to buy from good bookshops and are held in some libraries

Writers Organisations
NZSA (New Zealand Society of Authors)
Kiwiwrite4kidz (an online community of local children's writers on facebook)
Storylines (the Children's Literature Foundation of New Zealand)
NZ Book Council
SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - Australia East/NZ Chapter of an  International Organisation)

Handy things to have: -

An up-to-date, reputable Dictionary
A Roget’s Thesaurus
Reference books – Baby names
Dictionary of Classical Mythology
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
Biographical Dictionary
‘How to’ Books
Books on Grammar (The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B.White, Longman)