Submission dos and don’ts

DON’T    Give the impression that this is a mass e-mail to every publisher you could find. Find the name of the person responsible for submissions and use it. Make reference to the company – perhaps some of their other books – and suggest why you feel your book is a good fit for this publisher.

DON’T    Send artwork. Publishers have Acquiring Editors who select manuscripts and Art Directors who select illustrators based on their portfolios. They are skilled and experienced at pairing an illustrator with a story. Do not hold your submission back by suggesting that you are not willing to respect their expertise. IF you are an author/illustrator, you may send a copy (never the original) of a single finished illustration and a few character studies. Do not send a mock-up unless requested.

DON’T    Attempt any fancy gimmicks, coloured stationary, “Jelly Beans or Macaroni.” It is actually a huge turn-off for editors.

DON’T    Include endorsements from family or neighbourhood children. It does not look professional.

DON’T   Include illustrator’s notes, unless they are absolutely critical to understanding the text.

DON’T   Send your manuscript out before it’s ready. Revise, Revise, Revise!


DO    Edit your submission. Revise, Revise, Revise!

DO    Put it away for a while. Then, Revise, Revise, Revise AGAIN.

DO    Get feedback – from detached, unbiased people who understand writing and how the business works – a critique group or a professional editor.

DO    Research publishers and their guidelines.  Follow them.


Exclusive versus multiple submissions

Exclusive submission 

An exclusive submission is submitted to only one editor at one house until either the manuscript is rejected or the offer expires. (e.g. “I am happy to offer this manuscript to you exclusively until February 10th”.) It is recommended that you give the publisher a 3-month window. After the expiration of that window, you may send a Status Query to prompt an answer. Once you know the editor is not interested (or never intends to respond,) you can move on to the next publishing house.

This kind of one-on-one approach may make an editor feel you are more serious in your approach. However, this may also feel like a lot of work for minimal results. Consider, by the end of a year, you will likely have only submitted to 3 publishers. If it’s going to take you several submissions before finding a good fit, that may take years. You may, instead, opt to submit to several houses at once.

Simultaneous or multiple submission

A simultaneous or multiple submission is submitted to more than one publisher at the same time. The Writers’ Union of Canada notes on their website that you should state in your covering letter that it is a multiple submission and provide the publisher with a reasonable amount of time to consider the manuscript. (They suggest three months.) The deadline should be clearly stated in your cover letter. They also note that you must not accept an offer from another publisher until after the deadline has passed, or without giving each publisher an opportunity to make a counter-offer.

Some editors/ agents will not even accept simultaneous submissions, so always check the submissions guidelines first.