Tips From Tracey

Tracey Corderoy, the best-selling Children’s author behind Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, has given an interview in which she talks about her writing process – and gives some great tips for aspiring writers!

What comes first – plot, character or situation? For me it’s usually the character, and then I build the plot around them. Having said that, there are occasions when a publisher might ask for a particular theme and then I work outwards from that. But I always feel more comfortable when I know who my character is.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do about it Sometimes you are definitely more creative than at other times, but I try not to be precious about the ‘conditions’ having to be right for me to write. I find that, when I get on with it, ideas generally come. That’s not to say that sometimes setting something aside and moving on to something else for a bit isn’t a very good thing. It’s really productive to let things rest at times; to give yourself space to sit back and consider various options. Being too hasty can sometimes mean that you might settle for something you think is good, when actually something much better is waiting just round the corner! You also get to know, over time, the situations that enhance your own creativity. For me, hoovering definitely helps ideas spring to mind, as does mulling things over in the bath. So at least I can say that when I’m being creative, my house and I are very clean as well! At what stage did you know you wanted to become an author? I always loved stories. How they take you out of where you are and allow you to experience the otherwise impossible. Although I didn’t have many books as a young child, the desire to write has always been there for me. This became a more focussed plan in 2006 when I moved into an old cottage on a hill. I should have been sorting out the place, but writing seemed a much better option, so that’s what did. I just did it spontaneously and sometimes, I think, not over-thinking things is by far the best way forward!

What was your favourite book(s) when you were a child? I had an ancient set of encyclopaedias which I often dipped in and out of. I also had the ladybird Cinderella, which I loved so much and read over and over again. I’m still captivated by fairy tales to this day. How much does your editor change what you write? What relationship do you have with your editor? It’s teamwork, and that’s how it should be, so we work on ideas together. It’s a partnership. There are things that I bring to the table but things I’m happy to learn from others. It’s fun bouncing ideas around, both for me and I hope, for my editors. But you mustn’t hold back; just get ideas out there, however ridiculous at first they might sound. It’s only when you know what you don’t want, do you discover what you really do…

Do you feel a tension between writing what you know will sell and writing what you would like to write? I never let a story go out unless I’m totally happy with it. I’m happy to edit as much as you like but what I’m left with has to excite me when completed as much as it did when the idea first came to mind. At what stage in your writing process do you use a computer? When a character/idea is evolving I tend to use my notebook. Then, when I’m happy that I really know where I’m going, I move onto the computer to start the writing. Having said that, sometimes I write the whole story (picture books I’m talking about here) in my notebook before moving onto the computer to edit and refine. So both definitely have their place for me. What control do you have over your book cover (and your illustrations)? I tend to take my cue on this from my designers /editors / illustrators as they know far more about covers than I do. I think that Sales and Marketing may be involved in the decision-making process on covers too. That said, my illustration ideas are always taken into consideration. But just like it’s a partnership between the writer and the editor, it’s the same between the writer and the illustrator. You need to enhance each other’s creative ideas.

What do you think you would be if you weren’t an author? I suppose I’d quite like the idea of being some kind of interior designer, but that’s probably because I’ve just been watching a programme on the telly! I also enjoyed being a teacher very much. Oh, and having a go at acting might be fun!

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? Enjoy it! Love your characters and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. Also, write as much as you can and be open to accepting that what you wrote yesterday might not be as good as you thought it was yesterday. In others words, refine your craft by doing it; by making mistakes, by making things better, and by learning along the way!

If  Tracey’s got you feeling inspired,  follow this link for all information and guidelines regarding submissions. 


Our Fiction Wish List

We love receiving fiction submissions and thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things we are currently looking for. Obviously, we want to find talented, exciting authors but in particular, we are currently looking for the following across fiction and children’s submissions:

More humorous middle-grade fiction.
Whether set in the chaos of the playground or in space, we want submissions that will suck us in and make us laugh.

Heartfelt and exciting Young Adult
This could be a contemporary romance or a thrilling adventure for teenagers.

Commercial or literary fiction, ideal for reading groups
From true stories and explorations of family life to thriller and crime, we are always looking for a wide range of original fiction with a unique and compelling voice.


Have a look at some of the authors we represent to get an idea of what we are looking for.

So, if you have a manuscript lurking in the depths of your computer hard drive that you think would appeal to us, then please submit adult fiction to All children’s submissions should be sent to

Our full submission guidelines can be found here.

Tips for Writing a Synopsis

The synopsis is often the part of a submission authors are most apprehensive about. It is difficult to determine how to reduce your entire manuscript into just one page and how much of the plot to reveal. We hope that our comprehensive guide on how to write an effective synopsis will shed some light.

The aim of the synopsis is to guide us through the plot, so tell us exactly how your character gets from the beginning to the end, omitting anything that is not critical to the novel.

Don’t get caught up in extraneous detail – save it for your manuscript where you will be able to develop your ideas fully rather than underselling them in a few brief words in the synopsis.

Remember that this is a synopsis and not a blurb. We need to know what happens in the end, so that we can assess the direction of the plot – you won’t spoil the manuscript for us by revealing the ending. Also remember that you aren’t trying to entice the reader in the same way as you would in a blurb – just tell us what happens and let the plot sell itself. You need to include far more information about the plot and less description.

Formatting is also very important and makes it far easier for us to read. Choose a clear, plain font, a reasonable size (around 10-12) and please double line space.

Make sure your synopsis is no more than two sides of A4. If it is longer than this, it is likely that you have included too much detail and will need to edit the synopsis.

Finally, please follow our submission guidelines ( Combine your synopsis and sample chapters into one word or PDF attachment rather than submitting multiple files and include your cover letter as the body of the email (Find more information on cover letters here).

First Impressions Count: Cover Letters

Though the manuscript is certainly an integral part of a submission, it is very important to make a good first impression, and a well-crafted cover letter is the perfect way of doing so. Your cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself and your manuscript to us, so don’t waste it!


…Just write ‘see attached’ – put your cover letter in the body of the email so that it’s the first thing we see.

Forget to check the website [] first. Make it clear that you have shown some interest in us. Personalise your letter with anything about us that appeals to you, without trying to flatter us too much.

Oversell – it’s just uncomfortable for everyone and your writing will speak for itself.

…Write ‘my work is like x author’- particularly if x author is already represented by the agency. It automatically compromises the originality of your work and the agency may not want two similar authors! Instead point out where it differs, and why your book is distinct from other popular works.

…Worry about spoiling the end for us – the synopsis is to guide us through your manuscript, it isn’t a blurb. We need to know where your plot is going after your sample chapters. Your synopsis should be the bare bones of your story, how the characters go from A to Z.

Waffle. Keep it under one side of A4 – succinct and professional.


…Showcase your writing. Submissions are all about great writing, so make sure your cover letter is as well written as your manuscript.

Make sure you have followed the submissions guidelines carefully and send your manuscript to the correct address – children’s, fiction, nonfiction – Please do not send to – this is not the correct address for your submission. Also, don’t send us multiple attachments and images in your submission, we only need one word document or PDF with your three chapters and synopsis together.

….Make sure you proof read your cover letter as carefully as you have your manuscript. It’s a tad embarrassing when another agent’s or agency’s name crops up (and check your spelling and grammar – very important)!

…Include any pertinent information – writing courses, MA creative writing etc. or for nonfiction any qualifications that demonstrate your expertise or specialist knowledge of the subject you are writing about.

…Include any previous correspondence. We read thousands of submissions a year, and it would be impossible to remember every individual manuscript and author, so please let us know if we have spoken to you before and if you don’t have a copy of the email stream to attach it is fine to just summarise our conversation.

…Include the word count. This not only shows us that you have completed your manuscript but is useful for us as we read your sample chapters.

…Use your title and your name as the document title. Think about how your document will appear on a reading device.  Some of us read on Kindles. If your file is called ‘Novel for submission to Eve White’, for example, it won’t help us to find you on our home screen.

How to Submit a Non Fiction Manuscript

BabyCalmMy Madder Fatter DiaryA Dog Called Dez


Start with a punchy and intriguing title! It’s the first thing an agent or publisher will read, so make sure it’s captivating and imaginative. You can then use a sub-title to establish the focus of the work.

Then move on to your synopsis. It should include the following:

  • One paragraph on what your book is about and, most importantly, what it is that makes it a new concept or approach. A good idea would be to have a look at the blurbs of books in the nonfiction charts and establish what is distinctive about those that catch your eye.

  • A second paragraph on the key points the book touches upon and a bit more about the research behind it. You can do this in bullet points if this makes more sense.

NB: If you are struggling at this point, then you may need to have a think about your idea and make sure that it is very clear before you carry on.

At the bottom of this page write an estimated, realistic length and delivery date based on the research you have done so far, the research you are still planning to do and your writing speed. Bear in mind any other commitments you have – jobs, holidays – children!


The second page should be all about you, but you as an author and an expert of your field.

Include the following:

  • Your previous writing experience

  • Your knowledge of the subject: qualifications, awards and other successes you may have had regarding your subject; any instances in which you have been asked to speak or have been interviewed (perhaps for television or radio) as an expert of your field.

Be concise and to the point, but engaging and enthusiastic about your book and your subject.


So important! This page demonstrates how thorough your research has been and therefore impacts how convincing and water-tight your work will be. Detail each source that you have used: “interviews with the following very knowledgeable and relevant people”, “influential and acclaimed books”, “useful historic and comprehensive archives”. If it isn’t immediately clear why a particular source has been part of your research, use a maximum of one line to explain why.


This page should be all about marketability. Go to your local bookshop, have a look around the books in Sainsbury’s, look online and find out what is selling on Amazon. Then consider how your book fits in to any bestselling trends, and how does it advance that field or fill any gaps. List these titles with all of the relevant details: all titles, author, UK publication date, UK publisher (include the same information for the US if applicable).


Include a well-researched list of any websites, bookshops, charities/blogs/publications/TV or radio shows, anything that might have a particular interest in or sympathy with your book, which can be used to market your work. If you are struggling, think of your target market and the best way to reach them.


Your sample chapter:

  • Clear font

  • An appropriate size (10-12)

  • Double, line spaced

  • Fantastic writing

  • Titles of other chapters or very brief (1-2 lines) summaries, so that we understand the structure of your proposed book

Note that, excluding your sample chapters, none of these sections should exceed one side of A4.

Think of the wonderful titles you could be joining!

B is for Breast CancerHarry H CorbettMMFD