#DVpit, updated submission guidelines, and my #MSWL

Today is #DVpit on Twitter, which is an event in which writers post pitches for their books on the hashtag and agents who like those pitches and are requesting submissions favorite the pitches as a way to say “send that to me!” and editors who like something either retweet it to say “I like this! send it to me, agents!” or favorite it if they take unsolicited submissions. To that end, I’m linking to this post for anyone whose pitch I favorite.

Recently, Cheryl Klein joined the Lee & Low team as editorial director, and that means that we’re shifting a few things around. Tu Books continues to be the middle grade and young adult imprint publishing all genres of fiction for those age groups, but because Cheryl also is interested in novels, I won’t be the sole editor acquiring for the imprint anymore. However, Cheryl and I have different interests and tastes, and she’ll also be acquiring picture books and nonfiction for the Lee & Low imprints, and older nonfiction for Tu.

Also, I’ve tweeted my #MSWL (if you don’t know, that’s a manuscript wish list) on both my own Twitter and on @tubooks from time to time—most recently being yesterday on Tu’s account:


So if you’d like a better sense of what I’m looking for, my Twitter and the Tu Books Twitter are your best resources, as I’m terrible at keeping up my blog nowadays.

We have new submission guidelines that have not yet gone up on the Lee & Low website, so for anyone looking for whether to send a MG or YA to me vs. Cheryl, some guidelines here. Obviously your first sign is whether Cheryl or I favorited your tweet. But if you’re still not sure, this is what will be put up on the Tu Books submission guidelines when we update the site:

At TU BOOKS, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, our focus is on young adult and middle grade fiction and narrative nonfiction centering people of color. We look for fantasy set in worlds inspired by non-Western folklore or culture, contemporary mysteries and fantasy set all over the world starring POC, and science fiction that centers the possibilities for people of color in the future. We also selectively publish realism and narrative nonfiction that explores the contemporary and historical experiences of people of color. We welcome intersectional narratives that feature LGBTQIA and disabled POC as heroes in their own stories.

We are looking specifically for stories for both middle grade (ages 8-12) and young adult (ages 12-18) readers. Occasionally a manuscript might fall between those two categories; if your manuscript does, let us know.

Stacy Whitman and Cheryl Klein both acquire titles for Tu Books, and we ask that you identify which of them you wish to consider your submission. As loose rules of thumb, Cheryl has a more literary bent and does not acquire graphic novels, while Stacy takes a more commercial focus and does not acquire narrative nonfiction. You can learn more about each of them through their websites, linked above, and the interviews here.

Novel Manuscript Submissions:

  • Please include a synopsis and first three chapters of the novel. Do not send the complete manuscript.
  • Manuscripts should be typed doubled-spaced.
  • Manuscripts should be accompanied by a cover letter that includes a brief biography of the author, including publishing history. The letter should be addressed to either Stacy Whitman or Cheryl Klein, and should also state if the manuscript is a simultaneous or an exclusive submission.
  • We’re looking for middle grade (ages 8-12) and young adult (ages 12 and up) books. We are not looking for chapter books (ages 6 to 9) at this time.
  • Be sure to include full contact information on the cover letter and first page of the manuscript. Page numbers and your last name/title of the book should appear on subsequent pages.

Graphic Novel Submissions:

  • Please include a synopsis and first three chapters (or equivalent—up to 20 pages of script) of the graphic novel script. Do not send the complete manuscript.
  • If you are also the illustrator, please include art samples with a sample storyboard in PDF or JPG format.
  • Do not include illustrations unless you are a professional illustrator.
  • Manuscripts should be accompanied by a cover letter that includes a brief biography of the author, including publishing history. The letter should also state if the manuscript is a simultaneous or an exclusive submission.
  • Be sure to include full contact information on the first page of the manuscript. Page numbers and your last name/title of the book should appear on subsequent pages.

Tu Books accepts submissions electronically. Please go to our Submittable page to submit your manuscript electronically.

If you would rather send your submission via snail mail, you may address it to: 

Submissions Editor, Tu Books
95 Madison Avenue, Suite 1205
New York, NY 10016

ALSO NOTE that for new writers of color, our New Voices Award (for picture books) and New Visions Award (for MG/YA novels & graphic novels) writing contests are opening soon for submissions! If you’ve never published a picture book before, New Voices opens May 1. If you’ve never published a MG or YA novel or graphic novel, New Visions opens June 1. Information for both contests’ submission guidelines will be updated on the L&L website soon, so check back.




What kind of fantasy is Tu looking for? And what kind of synopsis?

Another writer question, the answer for which I think will help more than just one writer. If any of you have questions about what we’re looking for or anything to do with the submission process, please let me know, and I’ll be glad to answer here on the blog (anonymizing your question so it can be generalized).

i was really glad to see Lee and Low’s new imprint. I’m a long time fantasy/sci-fi fan distressed by the cultural sameness of  the genre.  I have a middle-grade novel that I am currently doing some final revisions for before submission. Because I realize time is valuable commodity for editors, I wanted to get a sense how expansive your fantasy/sci-fi terms were, before I submitted.

My novel is fantasy the way Harlan Ellison’s, short fiction, or Octavia Butler’s Kindred is fantasy.  It is a slight conceit used to push the character forward. I do not engage in a discussion of big ideas like Xenogenesis, Foundation etc., nor provide a full-fledged alternative universe like Cordwainer Smith, William Gibson or Anne McCaffery.

So my question is, is that enough? Obviously, you cannot decide on the individual merits of piece without seeing it, but I wanted to be sure I was targeting the appropriate house. Also, Lee and Low’s main imprint requires a chapter by chapter synopsis, but you only suggest a synopsis. May I assume you want a simple one page synopsis (plus first three chapters)?

First, addressing the question of what kind of fantasy we’re looking for:

Fantasy in children’s and YA books is pretty wide open. It can be anything from changing one little thing in the real world (people can fly or be telepathic, etc., or there’s a secret magical cult of ninja vampires, or the Knights Templar secretly fight the undead, unknown to the wider world, or, I don’t know, a girl like Matilda finds out she can teleport things, but maybe nothing bigger than a pencil), to changing a whole world in the future or alternate history (dystopian SF like The Hunger Games or steampunk like Leviathan), to alternate world high fantasy, either through portals (like Harry Potter) or just starting out in that world (like fairy tale retellings).

I’m not sure what you mean by a slight conceit to push the character forward. If you mean something akin to just one little thing changing—such as the ability to time travel, but not control it, as happens for the main character of Kindred—sure! That works, definitely. There are a LOT of middle grade and chapter books based on just such an idea, a small tweak of reality as opposed to huge sweeping differences in worldbuilding.

But I just want to be sure that you’re also familiar with what’s out there right now for children and teens, and not just what was published in the 70s and 80s by some of the best authors on the adult side. If you haven’t already, I suggest going to your local bookstore (or library, but the bookstore is better for seeing more current books all in one place) and looking at the middle grade and YA shelves to get a good idea of how broad the definition of SF/fantasy is in that section. While Octavia Butler’s work is classic and everyone should read them, they’re not what teens are reading right now (at least, not exclusively—of course they’re still reading her, or she wouldn’t be a classic).

Same goes for middle grade readers. Some books will always be classics, but when thinking about writing for a middle grade audience, you want to start from the idea that modern kids will be reading this, so you don’t want to use titles written for adults 30 years ago as your comparison point. As I look at my shelves filled with Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl and Princess Academy, Pseudonymous Bosch’s This Book Is Not Good for You, Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, and Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday, I see a pretty broad range of fantastic and speculative worldbuilding in these titles for middle grade readers and think you’ll probably be okay. David Lubar’s My Rotten Life changes only one thing about the world: a science experiment gone wrong turns Nathan Abercrombie into an accidental zombie. One little tweak in the possibilities of science leads to hilarious adventure.

So: if you’re familiar with what’s out there right now for this audience, you’ll probably get a sense of whether or not your story works for this market. If it also features diversity in its characters and setting, then it works  for submitting to Tu. In particular, I want to emphasize that we’d like the main character to be a person of color.

To answer the synopsis question: Yes, a page or two (perhaps four at most for a big, epic tale) is the kind of synopsis I’m asking for with sample chapters. It’s the kind of synopsis that would answer my big-picture plot questions if I liked the first three chapters, to see if you can plot a novel and carry through from a great start. Of course, whether that held up in the full manuscript would then remain to be seen, but it gives me a better idea of whether I’d want to request the full manuscript.