Okay, so you’ve been checking out the Little Lamb Books website, and you’ve started following us on Facebook and Twitter. You think you have a great idea for a middle grade or young adult novel, and you want to submit your finished manuscript to us post haste. You’ve checked out our submission guidelines, and you are about to hit the send button.
Stop! Wait! Halt!
As with any publisher, there are certain things that we are looking for in our author’s books, things that if you hit send right now, you might miss because you haven’t read this list.
While there are many different reasons for a book to peak the interest of a publisher, there are just as many, if not more, reasons for a book to fall flat. In order to make sure that none of these have to do with your manuscript, we’ve narrowed it down to the Top 10 questions you need to answer before sending a submission to Little Lamb Books, or any other publisher for that matter. Read on.
Ask yourself these Top 10 questions:
- Do you have relatable, but interesting characters, including a protagonist and an antagonist? Just because it’s a kids book does not mean that you don’t need to have very clear character profiles and personalities within your story. Be sure you have fully developed your characters.
- Do you have a plausible story line with a build-up, conflict, and a resolution? While it’s up to you whether you follow the Three-Act structure, the bottom line is that there has to be something or someone that your main character(s) must overcome, a conflict to resolve, a mystery to solve, an enemy to thwart. Young readers like to figure this out just as much as adults do, if not more so.
- Did you paint your scenes with colorful and vivid visual imagery that draws your reader in? This does not mean that you must use flowery words or over-cliché phrases. What this does mean is that you have painted your book’s setting in such a way that we want to crawl into it in order to visit, meet your characters and experience what we are reading.
- Whether a mystery, science fiction, or a romance, do you have a page-turning plot? Is there a reason for the reader to buy your book and become invested in your story? Everyone wants to know the next trend, but the truth is, it’s not about whether a story is trendy, it’s whether or not the story compels me to keep reading, to turn the pages to find out more. If it’s a mystery, make sure there’s a solution. If it’s time travel, make sure you write about specific details from that time period. Make me want to keep reading.
- Are you writing in the correct point of view for your story? First person or third person? Figure out who’s telling the story and be sure to tell it from their perspective. If you are jumping all over the place from character to character, it gets very confusing, very quickly. Stick to one point of view all the way through.
- Are you writing in an active voice, being sure to show and not just tell? This is a common tip given to all writers from elementary school to college level master’s classes. Don’t just write long paragraphs telling me what’s happening or describing your character; show it to me through dialogue, action and more.
- Have you edited your pages for correct grammar, spelling, and age-appropriate word use? Trust me when I say that it is so much more impressive when we can read through your manuscript the first time through without having to correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. While we know that you are not perfect, your efforts at having a clean manuscript informs us as to your seriousness in working hard on making your story the best it can be.
- Did you break up your chapters so that they smoothly flow from one to the other leaving the reader wanting more? Yes, kids have shorter attention spans, but that’s not the main reason to break your chapters up. You want to leave the boys and girls reading your story wanting more, and creating effective chapter breaks not only moves the story along, but also creates tension and can be a strategic way to have them turning the page for more.
- Have you read it out loud to yourself or someone else to be sure that it reads the way you want it to? Everything I write, I read out loud to myself to see if it “sounds” right or I have someone I trust read it. This is a habit I have had since middle school when I wrote my first newsletter for my class. There’s so much you can catch when you hear your words out loud. Read a chapter or two at a time, make notes of things to correct or re-write, and then read the next few chapters. How can you expect someone else to read it out loud if you can’t?
- Have you double and triple checked your manuscript for any errors and have you corrected them? Before you hit the send button, double check the submission guidelines, re-read your manuscript, be sure you have done everything you can to ensure that your story will leap off the pages and grab our attention…in the best way, not the worst.
Once you have answered these 10 questions, and you’ve got your cover letter ready per our directions, then, and only then, should you hit send.
Go ahead; we’re ready and waiting.