Tanglewood Title Checklist: Our 15 Favorite Components to find in a manuscript blog post image

A Tanglewood Title Checklist: Our 15 Favorite Components to Find in a Manuscript

by Matthew Del Busto

Every publisher has its own unique tastes, and here at Tanglewood, we’re no different. If you want to know what we’re looking for in submissions, read on, fearless writer! (Our submissions page wouldn’t be a bad place to check, either.)

The story brings the reader’s voice to the forefront.

As a publisher of children’s through young adult books, we believe it’s especially important for our readers to find characters whom they can relate to. Growing up engenders many bumps in the road, and too often, young people feel that their voices go unheard. We love receiving submissions that contain characters whom readers can connect with, for all kids have voices that deserve to be heard.

Kids are at the heart of our books.

More often than not, a YA novel is going to need a high school narrator. A children’s book should include children-aged characters. Because our audience is kids, we want our stories to be focused on them.

The manuscript is for someone anywhere from toddlers to teens.

We publish a large variety of stories, but remember—if you’re looking to get your adult mystery book published, we’re not the publisher for you. We are especially interested in expanding our range of middle grade and YA fiction as well as narrative nonfiction.

We are looking for diverse content.

As mentioned above, we are especially focused on ensuring that our readers can hear strong, relatable voices in the characters and stories that we publish. One of our main priorities is making sure that we can provide stories with characters and situations cast from all walks of life.

We are looking for diverse authors.

Who better to give us diverse content than diverse authors? We love having authors who draw influences from a variety of different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds. Having an inclusive group of authors is something that matters significantly to us

The manuscript tells a great story as opposed to teaching a lesson.

Too many times we receive stories that are “lesson books” as opposed to actual stories. Yet, children are looking for stories to read, not lessons. While an underlying message is an important part of many books, we want our books to be story-centric.

The story could make a reluctant reader read.

We want books that kids love so much that they will make even a reluctant reader excited and engaged.  At Tanglewood, there’s nothing we love more than hearing from a parent whose child hated reading until picking up one of our books and falling in love with reading forevermore.

The story is unique.

We receive many manuscripts that read like something we’ve all seen a million times before, often focusing on themes like “what makes us different makes us special,” and “it’s okay to be yourself.” While these are very important messages to have in stories, such manuscripts often invest too much effort in sharing lessons than telling stories (see Number 6), which fails to make them stand out. Remember, we want a great story. What’s a story that only you can tell? Once you know that, you’re off to a great start.

The story has a place in the market.

This may seem counterintuitive after reading Number 8, but we don’t want your story to be so incredibly unique and specific that it doesn’t have an audience. As we mention on our website, “If you are writing a story to help children deal with a situation that is less than universal (my nephew‘s thumb was bitten off by a flying squirrel, and I would like to help other children whose thumbs have been bitten off by flying squirrels), we will not be interested. Market size is an important element to publishing.” We strive to publish great stories, and we also want to ensure that readers can relate to them.

The story fondly reminds us of other stories we’ve read.

Along with being unique but not absurd (Numbers 8 and 9, respectively), we love seeing manuscripts that remind us of other great stories we’ve seen before—perhaps even like the ones we read as children.  Some of the best stories can emulate elements from the works of other successful authors.

You have our attention from the beginning.

We receive hundreds of manuscripts, which means the ones that stand out are the ones that hold our attention from the get-go. Trust us, a good children’s book is going to interest us as adult readers, as much as it does the intended audience of children

No grammar or spelling errors.

This seems pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll mention it anyway. Having no grammar or spelling errors makes the manuscript much more polished. The more polished a manuscript is, the more evident it is to us that you care about and spent time crafting your manuscript. The more we think you care about your manuscript, the more likely we are to care about it.

The characters pop.

Even in books for younger children that are shorter in length, we’re looking for characters we’ll remember. A good character and a good story often run hand-in-hand. Again, we want characters who are as lively and unique as the children who will be reading the story.

You made us laugh.

As we all know, laughter makes a great medicine. To have something that will make us laugh (or shout, or grin, or cry) while reading it is a great sign.  When this happens, we know that the story has affected us, and that means it shows promise.

Kids love reading the book.

We can’t emphasize this point enough. Too often, children are turned off from reading at a young age because they are forced to read about topics they don’t want to read for school and are tested over how well they comprehend what they just read. We don’t want our books to be a drag—on the contrary, we want books that kids are going to love to read.

Hopefully, these tips have helped you, whether you’re just starting your book, are preparing to send us a manuscript, or have already published through us! Each publishing company has its own unique tastes, but ours comes down to this: Kids are at the heart of our books. Remember this, and you’ll be off to a great start!

Have any other questions about what we are or aren’t looking for in manuscripts? Comment below or tweet us at @TanglewoodPub!