The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books is a literary consultancy service offering advice and training to children’s writers. Since 1994, we have been providing new and published children’s writers with expert advice and encouragement which can hugely increase chances of publication.
We work with of all types of children’s books, including picture books, fiction, non-fiction & poetry. We offer detailed manuscript assessments – by email or post, via our dedicated telephone advice line, or at face-to-face editorial meetings. We also offer home study courses and writers’ workshops.
There is no other advice service offering such a solid sounding board from professionals who successfully write and publish children’s books. It has always been this inside knowledge of the children’s publishing world which gives the Writers’ Advice Centre its edge.
The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books is managed by me, Louise Jordan. I believe that writers like to know who they are working with, so I have deliberately limited my team to just six experienced editors, plus one specialist copy editor.
Handles all types of fiction
I was one of the original founders back in 1994 and have been in the children’s publishing industry for over 30 years. Having trained as a journalist, I initially worked for IPC Magazines in their youth sector. I was fiction editor on Oh Boy! Magazine, before leaving to write fiction for magazines and books.
After having children of my own, I studied children’s writing at the City Literary Institute where I was tutored by renowned children’s author Elizabeth Hawkins, and worked alongside prize-winning author and children's laureate, Malorie Blackman.
Before founding the Advice Centre, I worked as Head Reader for Puffin – a role I only gave up in order to concentrate on the Advice Centre full time. I am a previous columnist for Writers News, Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum and am the author of the best selling title How to Write for Children and Get Published.
In 2015 I launched my own children’s publishing company, Wacky Bee Books, publishing ‘books with a buzz’ for 3 to 12 year olds. The company was specifically launched to pick up some of the more talented writers who come through The Writers’ Advice Centre. However we are now open to unsolicited submissions and are proud of the growing number of titles on our list. This year one of our middle grade titles, Elise and the Second-hand Dog, has been nominated for the 2019 Carnegie Medal.
Senior Editor and Home Study Tutor
Alison is an editor with wide experience in developmental editing for young readers. She spent many years developing books and managing teams in well known publishing houses such as Oxford University Press before working with The Writers' Advice Centre.
Handles submissions of longer fiction for older children
Cherith is a bestselling author of more than 50 children’s books. Indeed the only books that sell better than hers in the States, are those of JK Rowling!
Science fiction is Cherith’s main interest (along with fantasy). Her first book Mutiny in Space was snapped up by Puffin and published in 1997. More books followed, including titles for the highly successful Puppy Patrol series.
However, Cherith’s greatest success has come with the creation of Warriors, now in its fifth series. The Warriors books are written under the name of Erin Hunter but, in reality, Erin is a team of three writers – Victoria Holmes, Kate Cary and Cherith Baldry.
Handles submissions of shorter fiction for 5 to 8 year olds and also picture books
Andrea is a freelance editor and writer who has worked in publishing for over 20 years. She worked in-house for Penguin and as Editorial Manager for Puffin.
As a freelance editor, she has worked for many children’s publishers including Bloomsbury, Element, Orion, Orchard and Scholastic. Notably, she copy edited the manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and updated a whole series of Enid Blyton titles for Bloomsbury.
Andrea has also written children’s fictional and educational materials. She regularly writes children’s book reviews for The School Librarian and Books for Keeps, is reviewer and web editor for Armadillo magazine and is the children’s specialist for The Good Book Guide. She has MAs in Children’s Literature and The Novel.
Handles submissions of fiction for 5 to 12 year olds and also picture books
Heather writes picture books and novels for children aged 7-11.
The Girl with the Broken Wing
was chosen as one of Richard and Judy’s ‘Best Children’s Books
Ever’, and The Fish in Room
11 won the Highland Book Award. Heather also designed
the Writing for Children
module at Bristol University and taught there for 3 years. She
currently teaches creative writing at Aberystwyth University as
well as working as an editor for the Writers’ Advice Centre.
Her advice to writers is, “Don’t be too critical of your first drafts – just get words onto the page. The story you really need to tell sometimes appears when you’re right in the middle of writing another.”
Handles submissions of fiction for older children and is also our non-fiction expert
Cressida has been working in the book industry for more than 20 years. Starting as a bookseller in charge of the children’s department, she went on to work in publishing, back to bookselling, and now works as an editorial consultant. Her clients include Orion, a number of literary agents, and she also works directly with authors. She blogs for www.writersandartists.co.uk and gives workshops and talks on various aspects of publishing. A passionate reader, she is committed to getting the best out of every writer.
Handles submissions of all types of fiction and non-fiction
Martyn is an experienced author, particularly in children’s fiction and non-fiction. His best known children’s work is the Sir Gadabout series of books. So far there have been 10 titles, published by Orion Children’s books, with co-editions in several countries worldwide. Sir Gadabout was adapted as an award-winning CITV series and the audio version is read by Clive Andersen.
His other books for children include picture books Five Naughty Kittens and The Cat that Went Woof! (Franklin Watts); The Bell Tower and The Hangman (Ginn); Sir John Franklin; The Last Duel and Smuggler!; The Lost Purse and The Great Fire of London.
Steph is a children’s literary agent, freelance editor and is manager of a reading and writing scheme for children in the north east of England called KidsReadWriteReview. She previously worked as editorial assistant for Myrmidon Books in Newcastle, but now specialises in freelance editorial work for children’s books.
She spends a lot of her time working with children’s authors, schools, libraries, publishers, bookshops and children, and has built up a wealth of knowledge as to what children want, what publishers are looking for and what booksellers are hungry to sell.
Handles poetry submissions for children of all ages
Coral has worked as a poet and performer for many years, and now specializes in writing and performing for children. She is featured in Favourite Poets (Hodder). Michael Rosen says of her, “Rumble has a dash and delight about her work.”
Coral has had 3 collections published – Creatures, Teachers and Family Features, Breaking the Rules and My Teacher’s as Wild as a Bison. She has also contributed to over 100 anthologies for children. Most recently she has written a picture book, The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, which is illustrated by her daughter. It was published by Parragon and was long listed for ‘Oscar’s First Book Prize 2014’, launched by the Evening Standard.
In addition Coral delivers INSET training ‘poetryclass’ on behalf of the Poetry Society and the DfE, and has worked with children in hundreds of schools all over the country. She also works regularly on the ‘Poet in the City’ scheme and Creative Partners projects. In recent years she has worked as a writer and poetry consultant for the BBC.
Over the past 20 years we have been instrumental in helping
many writers find their place with publishers. The following is
just a handful of our success stories.
If you'd like to buy one of these books - see the right-hand side of this page for prices and availability.
How it all started - Kevin Saves the World
This book landed on Louise’s desk during her first few days working at Puffin. Puffin didn’t want the book but Louise knew she could find a home for it and suggested that Daniel approach David Bennett Books. They snapped it up and Daniel has gone on to be published by many other publishers including Walker Books, Usborne, Chicken House and even Puffin. This experience was Louise’s inspiration for founding The Writers’ Advice Centre.
Our first success – The Master of Secrets
Ruth Symes was one of The Writers’ Advice Centre’s first authors and we helped her to place her book with Puffin. One of the things we advised early on was a change of title from her original Summertime Santas. Editors thought it was a Christmas book and, as a result, it wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. She has gone on to write a number of other children’s books for various publishers, including The Mum Trap (Andersen) which, at one time, was voted in the top 100 children's books.
Ear to the ground – Mutiny in Space
Because we are all working in the industry we tend to hear about new imprints and series before new writers do. Cherith Baldry heard about Puffin’s Surfer series through us and placed her book with them shortly afterwards. She is now the author of over 50 children’s books.
Connections with agents – The Bother in Burmeon
We often receive referrals from literary agents. Susan Imgrund (SP Moss) came to us through Whispering Buffalo. They felt she had talent but needed help with her manuscript before it would be ready for publication. We worked with Susan over the next few weeks and she ended up placing her book with Circaidy Gregory. They have since published her follow-up novel The Trouble in Teutonia.
Connections with publishers
We introduced new writer, Martin Thomas, to Pavilion Children’s Books at London Book Fair. He subsequently received a two-book picture book deal with them but this fell through at final development stages. However Martin’s story has a happy ending - our sister company, Wacky Bee, was only too happy to step in as an alternative publisher. His first two books My Mum Is There and My Dad Will Do have now been followed by two board books and a brand new Little Elephant book Little Elephant’s Big Year!
We also work closely with self-publishing companies. Colleen and Zed Jacey used both our appraisal service and attended one of our writing workshops. However despite receiving positive feedback on their work from editors and agents, they decided to self-publish. On our recommendation they chose Matador and Odd Job Frog was published in June 2015.
Connection with Wacky Bee Books
Because we are linked to Wacky Bee Books we are able to push suitable manuscripts in their direction. New children’s writer, Charlie Farley, booked a telephone appraisal with Louise to discuss his picture book The Great Farty Slob Beast. She loved it, published it and now Charlie is represented by a leading literary agent and his second book A T-Wit for a T-Woo is being published by Orchard next year.
The Press – Diary of a Penguin Napper
When Louise was writing the children’s pages for Writers’ Forum, Australian author, Sally Harris, submitted her manuscript Diary of a Penguin Napper for a workshop treatment in the magazine and hasn’t looked back. Following encouragement from Louise she decided to self-publish and, to date, has sold over 10,000 copies. In fact Louise loves the book so much that she is now publishing Sally’s third book Double Felix at Wacky Bee in May 2018.
Self-Publishing – Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep
Many of our authors are now turning to self-publishing with considerable success. Since approaching The Writers’ Advice Centre with her original manuscript, Karen Inglis has done so well with her writing that she has set up her own publishing company, Well Said Press. One of her latest books is picture book Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep which has also been developed into an app. A first for The Writers’ Advice Centre!
Home Study Course – Shadow Jumper
Julia Forster was one of our first home study students. As part of her coursework she began writing an adventure story for 8–12 year olds and, following advice from tutor Louise Jordan, focused on that story for her final module. Having completed the course we encouraged her to continue with the novel. Shadow Jumper was published in October 2014 by Scribblepad Press and subsequently won the Gold Award in The Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards 2014 (9 – 12 year old category).
My story needs illustrating but I can’t draw so what should I do?
If you are not a writer/illustrator then we are happy to look at stories without illustrations. All children’s publishers have their own ‘banks’ of illustrators and would far rather match an illustrator of their choice with your text.
I want to illustrate my own work. Can you advise on my illustrations as well as my text?
We can, of course, pass general comment on a whole package. However children’s design and children’s editorial are both specialist areas in their own right and we specialise in the editorial side of things.
If I am sending illustrations is it best to send originals?
No. Never, never, never send original illustrations in the post – that goes for us and for publishers and agents. Submissions don’t go missing very often but, unfortunately, it does happen. Photocopies may not be quite as good as the originals but, these days, they’re pretty close and certainly good enough.
In what form should I send my work to you?
We prefer to receive work as a Word attachment to an email. You can send in your work as hard copy but if you want it returned and/or your report as hard copy then there is an extra charge. As far as possible we would like to see your work in what you consider to be its final format. In other words imagine that you are approaching us as a publisher or agent. In that way we can put you right should you be doing anything obviously wrong in terms of presentation and/or approach.
Can I send just part of my novel?
Yes you can. Obviously the more you send us then the better we are able to judge your completed work. However we understand that our fees can mount up when submitting longer manuscripts so if you wish to send just the first two or three chapters and a synopsis then that is fine.
How long should my synopsis be?
Try to keep it to no more that two sides of A4 if you can. And, remember, that your synopsis does count towards your word count as far as our fees are concerned.
Should I send a covering letter as well as the fee sheet?
The more information we have from you then the better we can help you. So a sample covering letter to the publisher is always a good idea, plus a separate letter to us detailing any specific queries you may have relating to your submission.
If I am posting my work should I use registered post?
No it is not necessary to send your work by registered post or recorded delivery. In fact, occasionally, this can even delay receipt of your manuscript at our end, as it is necessary for someone to be available to sign for special deliveries, and being a small office this isn’t always possible. We would suggest using ordinary first class or second class mail.
Can I hand deliver my submission directly to your office?
Yes you can. Some authors choose to do this – particularly if their work is very bulky. However, it is best to let us know beforehand if you are planning to hand deliver a submission so that we can confirm there will be someone in the office to receive it.
Are you a publisher?
No we are not a publisher. However, we are linked to publisher Wacky Bee and anyone using the Writers’ Advice Centre’s services is automatically considered for this list. More details can be found at www.wackybeebooks.com
Are you a literary agent?
No, we are not a literary agency - although, obviously, it is in our own best interests to see that our authors find success. So if we feel that a manuscript shows promise we will, as far as possible, push it in the right direction.
Will you be able to recommend a specific publisher or agent for my work?
We do work with publishers and agents, so if we feel that a piece of work is very special, we can recommend specific names to approach. However this is rare – especially on a first submission – and we would categorically advise any author against using our services if they are only approaching us to receive a recommendation.
Do I need to copyright my work before sending it out?
No. In this country it is not possible to copyright ideas and, in any case, in all my years in children’s publishing, I have never known of a piece of work being copied or stolen.
How do I know you won’t steal my idea?
You don’t! But rest assured that our service is entirely professional and confidential. You have to trust us and understand that we are not interested in ‘stealing’ ideas. In our experience there are few truly original ideas out there and, more often than not, it is what an author does with a particular idea that will bring them success. And we couldn’t ‘steal’ that illusive X factor even if we tried – which we wouldn’t!
How long should I expect to wait before receiving my report?
30 working days (ie around two months) if you are using our
manuscript assessment service.
10 working days (ie around two weeks) if you are using our phone appraisal or face-to-face service. There is an option to speed the process up but at additional cost.
Why do I have to wait so long for a written appraisal?The whole point of our service (and what makes it so unique and special) is that we only use readers who are currently working in children’s publishing – either as editors or as published writers. This means that all our readers have their own work to do as well as work for The Writers’ Advice Centre. In other words our readers are very busy people… but their advice is definitely worth waiting for.
Do you have special rates for those on benefits?I’m afraid not. We are a very small organisation and as a result our profit margins are tiny. If we could afford to give special rates, believe me, we would.
Do I need to send money with my work?Fees need to be paid upfront before we can go ahead with an assessment. There are three ways of doing this – online using a credit or debit card, over the telephone using a credit or debit card or by sending a cheque with your manuscript.
What if I don’t want to pay online?Our online payment system is completely secure. However if you would rather not pay online you can pay over the phone by credit or debit card or, alternatively, send a cheque.
Can I contact my editor with follow-up questions once I’ve received my report?If you have a couple of brief questions which can be answered easily and quickly then of course you can contact us. However if you want to discuss your work in any great detail then a separate consultancy session should be arranged. This can be done by email, over the phone or in person. Alternatively everyone who uses the main manuscript appraisal service is offered a discounted rate for follow-up reports.
Is there a minimum age to use your service?Yes, we do ask that authors are over 18. This is because it would be extremely rare for a publisher or agent to consider work from an author under the age of 18.