Where You Should (and Should Not) Show Innovation When Submitting to A Children's Book Editor

I thought I’d take a moment to remind everyone of the places where it’s good to have innovated, creative ideas in the stuff you submit to children’s book editors & agents:

  • In the text – Great new ideas for characters, in plots, or in settings. There’s nothing more exciting than a brand new style of story, as long as it makes sense.
  • In the marketing plan – Now, you often don’t need to submit a marketing plan with your submission, but if someone asks to see one, here is an excellent place to show your creativity. Postcards and bookmarks are great, but everyone does them. If you have a great, practical idea for getting your book in the public’s eye, then now’s a great time to tell us.
  • In your pitch – Like anything, you want to have an eye-catching, interesting pitch when you go to sell your book. You should be able to describe your project in one interesting sentence.

Places you should not show creativity in submissions:

  • Submission packaging – Send your submission in a normal envelope or box with the submission bound by a rubber band or large binder clip. Do not use ribbon or string to tie up your manuscript. Knots are a pain to deal with. And don’t wrap your submission like a present. I’ve had more than one submission sent to me in wrapping paper. It’s unnecessary and just adds another layer between me and your work.
  • Submission formatting – I know I’ve said it before, but double-spaced, standard 12 pt font (Times, Arial, etc.), one inch margins. Don’t deviate.
  • Submission spelling – This is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t read phonetically so sounding out words can be an absolute nightmare for me. Jim’s dialogue in Huck Finn was incomprehensible. Spell stuff the normal way. This isn’t the 1600s. We have standard spelling now.

It’s not just me. I don’t know of any children’s editors or agents that appreciate this kind of stuff. It’s true that this kind of thing provides stories at conferences and gets your manuscript talked about — it’s just not being mentioned in a good way.