You Can Judge a Book by Its Title, and Other Wisdom from the Submission Pile

February 10, 2015

(BLOG POST)


rob-broder-signing-off-on-printer-proofsIBPA Member Rob Broder (pictured right) wrote a great article about the submission guidelines that his publishing company, Ripple Grove Press, adheres to. You can read the full article at Writers’ Rumpus.


We have received over 2000 submissions at Ripple Grove Press (RGP) since we opened our doors in 2013, and we have read them all. Only a few make it into our “revisit” folder for another look. Many do not make it there for a simple reason: they do not follow our submission guidelines.

Follow the Submission Guidelines

Our website clearly states that we do not accept stories with a holiday or religious theme, yet my inbox receives submissions with a holiday theme or a religious mention, or submissions about God or the stars in the heavens. Not only do those stories get passed over, they make it difficult to want to move forward on any project with that writer. By not following our guidelines, that person wasted their own time as well as ours—not a good sign.

The same concern comes up with people who email RGP about “what type of format to submit” their story. It feels like these emails are only a way to get our attention. If you want to know about format, there are industry standards, go look them up. Don’t try to get my attention with email questions, your story will get my attention. Just submit.

Please Don’t

    • Please do not tell me in your query letter that your story is wonderful and that it will delight me. Every story is wonderful to the person who wrote it. When I see that sentence I get nervous, and it makes me want to move onto the next submission.
    • Please do not tell me that I “will like your whimsical story” because right there you are telling me that it rhymes and that I probably will not like it. Let your story talk for you.
    • Do not send a hand-written letter on a hotel notepad, telling me an idea for a story you have. (Yes, I have received that.)
    • Please do not include where you think the page breaks should be. It’s very distracting and takes away from the story. If we’re interested in your story, then we can work it out together.
    • Please do not submit a story with a dedication page and five more pages of your biography and an index with a table of contents. Keep it simple, less is more. If we like your story and we need more, we will ask.
    • Often, I like the query letter more than the story. Sometimes the query letter is longer than the story or more time has been put into writing the query than the story. I get so excited about the query, ready to dive into the story, only to find it was not as well written. That leaves me disappointed. Keep the query and book description short and sweet. Make me want to read the story; that’s what I want to do. I want to be wow’d. I want to say, “Yes, this is it! This is what RGP is looking for.”

Leave Room for the Illustrator’s Input

Please don’t insert “illustration notes.” A picture book is a group project: writer, illustrator, editor, and publisher. The illustrator helps to tell the story as well as the writer. If you wish to enter into this project with a publisher, you have to be able to let part of the story go and share the work of envisioning it. We are all working together to make the most beautiful picture book possible.

Unless you have experience or training as an illustrator or photographer, please do not send rough sketches or photos of what you think the story should look like. It is distracting and doesn’t help your submission.

Please remember not to make your story too descriptive. Telling me that “Tommy wears a green shirt in his blue messy room and has a brownish dog and goes to school four blocks away from his home and it was sunny this particular day and the tree in the yard is a little crooked,” makes it difficult for the illustrator to tell part of the story with pictures. We understand you have a clear perspective on the way your story should be, (after all, you wrote it) but if you want to grab my attention, it will happen with your words, not with your pencil sketches or photos or overly descriptive text….

You can read the entire article at Writers’ Rumpus.


About the Author: Rob Broder is the president & founder of Ripple Grove Press. 

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