Submitting your manuscript – the ask and the answer, by Julia Marshall

GeckoLogoIn mid-2013, Gecko Press stopped accepting general manuscript submissions. Instead we said we would only consider work by previously published writers; writers who know someone we know; or writers whose work has been assessed by a manuscript assessor.

The reason for this was that we were getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of manuscripts arriving in our box (some 500 a year). The reason for adding in the ‘writers who know someone we know’ sentence was because we wanted to keep our doors open to people who are tenacious and committed and who haven’t been published before – somehow to me this sentence leaves just a little room for those writers and illustrators to find us.

pp_julia_marshall_orangeSometimes we say no to a manuscript, but that doesn’t mean we are saying no to all manuscripts from that writer. Just that one. It is not personal. It is just hard to get published, and I believe it should be. It is very hard to say no to manuscripts by writers you think are going to be great. Sometimes they go elsewhere.

I understand publishers always take far too long to process manuscripts from a writer’s perspective and I know that is true with us. Sometimes the longer a manuscript is with us, the better that is.

cv_mrs_mos_monsterGecko Press has published a book that was unsolicited by someone who didn’t meet any of our guidelines. That was Mrs Mo’s Monster by Paul Beavis. (I hope he would have been tenacious enough to send it anyway, but he says he might not have been).

I am reading Ann Patchett’s The story of a happy marriage at the moment – a great book for writers. She advises studying the website of the publisher or agent you are submitting to, deciding whether what you have fits in with what they are publishing and then following their instructions TO THE LETTER (Our instructions are here).

Common misconceptions are that writers of picture books think they need to send in an illustrated text – they don’t, unless they are an illustrator. They don’t need to present their work in person: the story needs to stand on its own. We cannot be bribed by chocolate or ribbons, or even money. Our decision is based on the work, and nothing else.

Although people understand that learning to play the cello is hard and takes practice and craft and commitment, somehow, Ann Patchett says people think writing is easy. cv_this_is_the_story_of_a_happy_marraigeIt is perhaps too tempting to submit a piece of writing too soon. She suggests – in my today-memory at least – comparing it to standing on the stage at Carnegie with a work that is unrehearsed, and a cello that is out of tune. But if you truly feel the work is ready, if you have put your heart and soul into it, then it is time to take a deep breath – and send it in. For every story of famous writers once rejected, are the less publicised stories of publishers who regret saying no. Saying no is their job. It is the saying yes that is hardest.

If your work is rejected, you have to keep writing. And reading, of course.

by Julia Marshall

Submission requirements from Gecko Press
Gecko Press publishes around 15 children’s books every year. Of these, only three will typically be original to Gecko Press rather than translated. Our selection process is therefore very tight.

We judge by our (subjective of course) criteria of: “Is this curiously good? Do we want to read it hundreds of times? Are we emotionally attached to the characters? Must we publish this book?”

Before submitting, take a look at our books to get a feel for what kinds of books we publish.

What we’re looking for
We always like to read picture book texts with energy and originality and a strong story/narrative (not “ideas” stories). Please note we do not publish educational books or didactic books.

We are also looking for Junior Fiction – novels for 6 to 10 year olds. We are looking for original, warm, character-driven work, with a strong plot and voice.

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