Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Is Your Picture Book Manuscript Ready to Submit?

Is Your Picture Book Manuscript Ready to Submit?

Picture books are designed to be read aloud. So if you are wondering if your manuscript is ready to send to an editor, try reading it aloud first. By reading aloud, you hear the flow, the pacing, of the story. You also hear what the eyes don’t always see: mistakes. Reading aloud helps to identify parts of the story that may be difficult to speak. Do you have a string of words with initial sounds that trip the tongue? This example, “sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick,” is extreme but the idea is to make the words flow, not twist in the reader’s mouth. 

Do you have a hook for the story? In a query letter, the hook provides your story’s introduction to the agent or editor. The hook should include Character + Problem/Obstacle + Theme. This was the hook I wrote for an upcoming book picture book, HIRAM’S GIFTS: “Hiram builds fires to heat the two-room schoolhouse and earns dimes for his trouble. With a heart full of hope, he saves his money in a sock and thumbs through a catalog looking at a shiny fiddle, a maple fiddle, the kind of fiddle he dreamed of playing. Tragedy strikes.” 

When writing a hook, capture the theme of the story without giving away the ending. The purpose of a hook is to convey the protagonist’s journey and plot, as well as showcasing the writer’s style, in a concise manner.  

Did the character change or grow in some way from the beginning to the ending? Did the story allow the central character to become empowered? The answers to these two questions should be “yes.” Did the influence resulting in the change and empowerment come from a childlike perspective? Reasoning and world view should reflect that of a child. 

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Canvas Literary Journal. We are seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit:

 Fiction – Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.

Novel Excerpts - Novel and memoir excerpts are acceptable if self-contained (work as a complete narrative).

Poetry – You may submit more than one poem, but please do not exceed 5 pages worth of poetry.

Plays - Please follow standard play format. Limit to 10 pages.

Nonfiction – Essays, memoir, creative nonfiction. Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.  

New Media – Video, images, etc. are fine for website. But must be accompanied by written version to be considered for print and eBook.

Cross-genre - Experimental work (prose poems, art and writing, fiction and nonfiction hybrids) are highly encouraged, but please keep to the word limit for fiction. 

Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Enchanted Conversation. Each of the six submission periods for 2017 will have a theme. Here they are: January: "Steadfast Tin Soldier," March: "Diamonds and Toads," May: "Donkeyskin," July: "Emperors New Clothes," September: "Godfather Death," November: "Elves and the Shoemaker."
When each window for submissions opens, a theme-related post will be published. Please read the relevant post before writing your submission. All of the themes are classic fairy tales, but I do not want slavish retreads of the original stories. At the same time, your works should reflect the chosen theme, or there is no chance of publication.

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.


  1. Thanks, Nancy. I always look forward to your posts with the calls for submissions.

  2. Thanks, Rosi. May 2017 be a productive writing year for you.