I hope that your writer’s resolutions are still on track. I put my chapter book manuscripts on the priority list to finish a “final” revision and market. I don’t have an agent. As you may remember, I’ve tried that twice over the years and for me found it unsatisfying for many reasons. The one positive—having more time to write—I regret. I am back to studying the potential markets again. Brrr, it’s cold out there. All those publishers that I I previously sold multiple titles to accept agent submissions only.

I found a few publishing houses that said that they “prefer” submissions through agents or that they “do not take unsolicited manuscripts. I take that as a code word meaning that they will consider a query, and if they are interested enough to see the manuscript, they will contact you. Once they do that, you are no longer unsolicited.

For this go-around, I looked for houses that published chapter books and accepted queries or manuscripts direct from authors. I used those removable sticky flags to tag everyone that met the criteria leaving the tail protruding so that I could return for more study. Since I write in multiple genres, I will use different colors for the others. When I checked each tag, I made a chart noting specifics:

Email submissions or Postal mail only

Whole manuscript or samples and synopsis

Author biography, cover letter or provided form

Response time or only if interested

As every one of them appears to want something different, before I submit anything, I will go to their online sites and double-check. As I reviewed my research, I found surprises.

I found 44 houses that take chapter books and will consider a query or the whole manuscript. Of those, 25 want hard copy through the mail, despite the quick email. Their response times vary from one week [only one of them] to 18 months to no response unless they are interested. Only five of those who want regular mail only request a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope to reply. The other 20 recycle your hard copy and don’t reply unless interested.

Only five out of the 44 said that they accepted simultaneous submissions if you inform them. I find it reprehensible that as a whole, the industry has so little regard for the talent that keeps them in business. I realize that it comes from the desperation of the bottom line, plus the thousands of those who make a little effort to learn the craft or get professional editing before submitting.

It’s the time lapse between submission and response [if any] that I question. I’m sure with the budget cuts that few editors have first readers anymore to cull the slush pile. But a quick glance of the cover letter or the first page of the manuscript reveals subject and style. That eliminates the bulk of the pile right there.

Our best chances of finding the perfect match are to write the best we are capable, research the market thoroughly, follow through with a visit to their website, and follow their instructions to the letter. As for those excessive response times, it’s your decision whether you play the guess-and-hope game until you haven’t heard after six months or a year, or you send a letter withdrawing your manuscript from consideration. You might be missing out on a sale, but more likely you were withdrawing something recycled months ago.

We who prefer traditional publishing are in a buyer’s market. It has its frustrations and disappointments. But there is nothing quite as satisfying as knowing that someone believes in your work enough to invest their own time and money to offer it to the public. Good luck!