The Submission Process: A Demystification Part I

By The editors of LEE & LOW BOOKS

Lee & Low Books is one of the few children's book publishers still willing to consider unsolicited material. This means that rather than limiting our submissions to those from agents or previously published authors and illustrators, we welcome material from authors and artists at all levels of experience.

We read every manuscript and look at every art sample that comes in the door–and there are hundreds of submissions every month. If an author or artist includes a self-addressed, stamped envelope for return of materials, we try to respond within three months. Unfortunately, due to the large number of submissions, we can't offer personal replies to most projects.

We even consider multiple submissions–that is, authors can send a manuscript to us as well as to other publishers. Why? Because as an independent publisher with a very selective list, we simply can't take everything. If a story isn't right for us, then we believe an author shouldn't have to wait for weeks to receive our rejection before sending it to another house. We appreciate knowing, however, whether a submission is a multiple in the cover letter.

That's the overview of the submission process. Here are some additional–and highly opinionated–details that authors and artists at all levels of experience might find helpful when submitting materials to any publisher:

Keep cover letters brief and to the point. If you're writing more than three paragraphs, then your letter is too long. We commend authors who take the time to research the market and project a niche their book might fill, or compare it to books with similar themes.

We'd like to debunk a myth once and for all: The fact that your own child (or parent, or spouse, or even your writer's group) likes your story won't sway anyone at an editorial or marketing meeting. If you must include readers' responses, then up the ante by sharing feedback from your local children's bookseller or librarian. If you're in a writer's group, why not invite a bookseller, for instance, to be a guest critic, in exchange for everyone in your critique group purchasing a gift certificate or book at the store?

Query the status of a submission in writing–don't call. We know it can seem as if your project has fallen into a black hole once it's in the mail. So if you want to know that it arrived safely, include a stamped, addressed postcard we can send to acknowledge receipt. Then, if it's been over three months, mail us a query. We don't log manuscripts anymore–it takes way too much time, and we'd rather spend that time reading your work than typing your name on the computer.

Why not call? Because if we haven't worked with you before, we probably won't know who you are, frankly! And for us to have to sift through the submissions box, find your manuscript, and call you back again takes too much time away from reading and working.

If you've addressed your submission properly, chances are we received it!

Send submissions in writing. We absolutely will not discuss projects on the phone or in person without seeing them in writing first. It's unfair to you (We may be running to a meeting when you call, or otherwise distracted) and it's really unfair to expect editors to make a judgment call on a project we're hearing about for the first time. Editors like to read, and if your story is good, it will speak for itself.


Part II of article

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