The final days are approaching until we start picture book submissions. Based on some of the questions and emails I’ve been getting, I can tell that people are starting to get nervous. To help reduce some of that stress, I’ve compiled a handy little checklist to go through before you hit the send button submitting your manuscript to us. Admittedly, this list is geared for this particular submission, but you can use it for just about any submissions (both online and off) that you make.

You can get a printable copy of the Checklist (without my commentary)

Checklist for Submissions
(As compiled by the Buried Editor)


Cover Letter:

  • Correct Editor/Agent Name and spelled correctly — getting this wrong will get our backs up every time
  • Correct Publishing House/Agency and spelled correctly — ditto
  • Correct Address/Email address — or it might not get to us at all
  • Formal salutation — remember, this is a professional introduction
  • Introductory paragraph providing context (why you are submitting, where you met editor, etc.) — tell the truth, after all we don’t really care that much, this just helps us jog our memories
  • Pitch paragraph(s)
    • Title of manuscript — amazing the number of people that forget this
    • Manuscript’s genre — useful
    • Age range for manuscript — granted, we can tell when we read the manuscript, but this helps us in the beginning know whether or not its even something we are looking for and whether or not you know
    • Summary of manuscript — this is where you really sell us on the work
  • Series paragraph (optional)
    • Title of series — a bad tentative title is better than nothing
    • Projected number of books in series — if you’re working on an extended plot series (think Harry Potter) you should know, otherwise, the number you want to write
  • Biography paragraph
    • Publishing experience — do not list every instance. Send a CV for that. Hit the relevant highlights here
    • Relevant education
    • Trade organization memberships (SCBWI, etc.)
  • Thank you for allowing submission/Request to send manuscript if a query — word politely, after all there’s no point in alienating the editor/agent by demanding
  • Signature — remember to actually sign a physical letter (I forget all the time!)
  • Your correct contact information
    • Email — if it’s wrong I won’t be able to reach you
    • Phone — ditto
    • Website — if you have one. If you don’t, it’s not necessary.
    • Blog — if you have one. If you don’t, it’s not necessary.
    • Address — optional in electronic submissions
  • Proofread letter — missing words in letters happen, but it can be annoying and make for strange sentences
    • Spell-check — computer should do it, but always double check
  • Have someone else read & critique letter — you will never find all of your own errors. This is very important to have someone who is honest with you do this
    • Professionalism — making sure it isn’t too casual
    • Coherence — nerves can come out in writing leading to odd sentences (or sometimes a word is missing or its homonym was used)
    • Interesting portrayal of pitch paragraph(s) — did it interest your reader. If not, it probably won’t interest me either.


  • Formatted Properly — seriously, folks do this right. It’s such a little thing but so frustrating when wrong. And it makes the things very hard to read.
    • If printed or attached as document:
      • Double spaced
      • 12 point font (Arial, Times)
      • 1 inch margins
      • Paginated
      • Last name and manuscript title on every page (use header/footer function)
      • White paper/black type — never, ever change this. I never want to see purple paper submissions again.
    • If included in body of email:
      • Single spaced
      • Double spaced between paragraph
      • No tabs
      • Standard font and sizes
      • Black type — Green on white is almost impossible to read. Letters typed in green are going straight in the trash.
  • Contains title and pen name if different from author — again, amazing numbers of people forget to put in the title
  • Does not contain strange page breaks or break text up into specific pages (especially important for picture books) — This means don’t tell me that “Stop!” is on page 1 and “In the name” is on page 2 and “of love.” is on page 3. Simply write, “Stop! In the name of love”
  • Gripping beginning — or I might not read on
  • Compelling middle — to keep me reading
  • Conclusive end — cliff hangars are one thing, but just leaving me dangling is uncool
  • Good strong characters — weaklings need not apply
  • Shows not tells — when appropriate. Obviously, some summary is occasionally needed, but it’s more interesting to read scenes.
  • Consistent internal logic throughout story — if your characters live in a world that never invented contractions do not suddenly have them “can’t” and “won’t” all over the place (unless of course they have just discovered contractions in a momentous scene)
  • Manuscript has been proofread — again, missing words make for strange stuff
  • Manuscript has been critiqued — you don’t generally want to send something you just finished the night before no matter how brilliant you currently think it is
  • Manuscript has been revised — at least consider your critiquer’s advice although you don’t have to take it
  • Manuscript has been sitting on your computer long enough and just needs to make its way into the world now. What are you waiting for? Send it! — there’s such a thing as too much revision. At some point you have to send your manuscript away and see what happens!
© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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