In 2018 Storylines asked publishers and agents to share their manuscript wish lists with experienced and aspiring authors. The advice they gave then remains relevant now:
As agents we look for manuscripts with a high standard of presentation. That means the writer understands grammar and punctuation and has done a hard self-edit.
It also means the writer understands story shape, and their readership, whether it be picture book, novel for any age group, or non-fiction. Most importantly, we want manuscripts with a point of difference: what makes yours stand out among others of its kind? We are looking for work that excites us, that makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks.
David Ling Publishing
We are interested only in picture books. The titles on our website are a good guide as to what interests us, but we are happy to be surprised too.
We accept unsolicited manuscripts and are always interested in new illustrators.
Gecko Press publishes a very small number of original New Zealand titles each year, to sit alongside the ‘best in the world’ translated into English, which are the mainstay of our list.
Gecko Press is looking for fresh, original writing and illustration, which engage readers emotionally. Because we are overwhelmed by the quantity of submissions, we currently accept work only from previously published authors/illustrators in New Zealand, or with an introduction from within the book industry. Manuscripts must follow our guidelines and include a stamped addressed envelope. We do not provide feedback.
Frances Plumpton (Literary agent)
As an agent I am reliant on a commission from any contracts secured so I must be sure that I can interest a publisher in any work that catches my attention. I am also looking for a long-time relationship with my clients and not a one-off publishing deal.
What I would really like is a contemporary junior or young adult novel, redolent of New Zealand, with a character that resonates and who I care about. I’m not an avid fantasy fan, yet am quite prepared to be persuaded if the world-building is assured. Please don’t tell me that Percy Jackson and Hunger Games fans will love your manuscripts! (These authors had several books published before their best-seller series.)
Picture books don’t have to rhyme and with my previous background as a children’s librarian, I’m looking for the turn-the-page moments. However, the narrative must be child-centred, without an overt moral, and if poos, wees or farts dominate the storyline (picture book or novel) don’t bother to send it to me. I’m looking for a manuscript I can’t put down! And please spell my name correctly. www.francesplumpton.com
Mākaro Press, we love authors who are eavesdroppers and snoops, and as a result write a strong, authentic narrative voice from the get-go, with authentic characters that avoid gender and race stereotypes. We also love authors who can spin a good yarn and set those good yarns in places that are recognisably New Zealand, using te reo Māori, and other languages that are part of life here. And finally, we like authors who trust their imaginations – we’re not averse to a bit of magical realism.
Makaro Press is currently only publishing NZ literary fiction.
For those who are eligible to submit we are looking for stories that are uniquely New Zealand or Pasifika, or stories with strong female characters. We would be interested in junior fiction level manuscripts. Although these are our particular interest at the moment, we are always interested in well written, child-centred stories from anywhere, about anywhere, for anywhere. Our submission process is available on our website https://www.onetree-house.com/submissions
Send us your creations that reflect the lives of New Zealand children, aimed at children age 5+. Works that reflect, record and explain New Zealand’s diverse cultures are most welcome, as are those that speak to our history, our sense of fun and our environment.
Penguin Random House
What are we looking for in a manuscript? Probably something that is so original we haven’t even thought of it yet! Penguin Random House New Zealand’s Wish List would include all of the following: a great idea, excellent writing that makes us want to keep reading, engaging characters, humour, judicious detail and a good understanding of a young person’s world. If a manuscript ticks all of these boxes, we will probably love it and others will too.
At Scholastic, we love to read submissions that are fresh and original, sometimes a little outrageous and cheeky, often humorous, always heart-warming and predominantly child-centric. The creative use of playful and evocative language that is not always presented in rhyme is refreshing to receive. Picture books and junior fiction series are our sweet spot, so the potential for visual engagement is a factor for any author to bear in mind. We seek stories with compelling characters and imaginative plotlines, that will appeal not only to the local market, but internationally.
Our submissions policy is on the Scholastic NZ website:
Upstart Press is always looking for that original idea with a modern Kiwi flavour. We publish books for 2-5s and 5-8s, not YA, and the quality of writing is paramount, as is attention to length and language levels.
Illustrators should supply a portfolio of 5-6 pieces of their work to provide an overview of their style, or a link to a website.