Working with more than one publisher

It's over to Andrew Weale, author of Spooky Spooky House and Nora, for the third of our guest blogger features.

In this post, Andrew writes about working with several publishing houses, the wisdom of agents and how to deal with a world domination complex.

I am the author of five picture books and I work with three different publishers. Some might say that this is a dream come true. In some ways it is, but working for more than one publisher does have its challenges. I’m going to talk about three things:

World dominance?
If at first …

Let’s look at the first of those.

I wrote my first picture book about five years ago. I had been advised against writing in verse and severely warned off counting books. So, naturally enough, I had written a counting book in verse called One Newt in a Suit. I scanned the websites of publishers who I thought might be interested and read pretty much everywhere that unsolicited manuscripts would generally not be considered. So, naturally enough, as no one was likely to solicit me, I sent out my manuscript unsolicited and got interest from not one but two big publishers.

I sent out my manuscript unsolicited and got interest from not one but two big publishers. 

I was overjoyed but in a rather tricky position. I would have loved to have given the book to both publishers, but clearly could only give it to one. I had no idea how to deal with the situation, so I went in search of an agent to broker a deal. I found an agent whom I liked, and who liked me and we settled on one of the publishers without upsetting the other. I have heard some writers berating agents and seriously challenging their usefulness, but this has not been my experience. My agent has been invaluable in dealing with multiple publishers.

World dominance? 
I had now sold three books to two big publishers and was quickly to sell a fourth to another seminal, but slightly smaller house. That made three publishers in total. Wonderful! I was all for expanding my repertoire of publishers and taking the publishing world by storm. I was after world publishing dominance. I wanted books with everybody!

Again, my agent was very helpful when dealing with this megalomaniacal version of me. She sat me down and explained that working with too many publishers would spread me very thin, and that it was better to work with a core group of three. I realised that she had an overview of my career that was sharper and more focused than my scattergun approach. I took her advice and concentrated on the three publishers that I had. Thank the God of Books that I did, as I now have ongoing projects with all three and that is more than enough even for someone with a world domination complex such as me.

If at first … 
Having multiple publishers can be very useful when one of them doesn’t feel that a text is quite right. This happened early on with two texts that weren’t right for the publisher that took my first book. I’ve learned that publishers might reject a text for a multitude of reasons. Generally, it is because they have another book like it in their list and can’t take another. It is rarely a reflection of the merit of a text itself. So, my agent sent the two texts to the other big publisher and they said yes.

Having multiple publishers can be very useful when one of them doesn’t feel that a text is quite right.

However, I’d like to add a word of caution. There are some texts which I have to think very carefully about these days. As I said, One Newt was a counting book. I love writing counting books (I’ve written two to date), but I don’t want to write too many or else I will start competing with myself. This is another realisation that came about through having a savvy agent who understands the market place a little bit better than me!

To finish
Picture books are by nature short and quick to write. As writers we want to sell as many as possible to as many publishers as possible. There are many very established picture book authors who balance many more publishers than me.

However, there are challenges to this approach. Publishers like commitment and exclusivity. They really want to develop a writer’s career. If you work for more than one house, and spread yourself too thin, it might be difficult to maintain this level of commitment. In the end, having an agent has helped me to avoid some of the pitfalls and traps of having multiple publishers. I know that not every writer wants to share the financial fruits of their labours with an agent, and I sympathise with that absolutely. However, it has worked for me and meant that I have (so far) a very good relationship with all three of my publishers.

Andrew Weale is the author of five picture books. These include the ultra scary pop up Spooky Spooky House that has just won the 2013 Red House Children’s Book Award. His counting book, A Quiet Day in the Jungle, has also been shortlisted for the 2013 Sheffield Award.

As well as writing, Andrew is a professional actor and singer and has worked with star names such as Alec Guinness and Kevin Spacey. He is now a lecturer on children's writing at Winchester University and gives popular visits to many schools and festivals around the country.

At the Imagine Festival this year, he did a highly successful event with star illustrator Ben Cort to promote Nora. Grown ups and children were warned to join in the fun, or suffer the eternal humiliation of: The Underpants of Shame! Mwa! Ha! Ha!


  1. Thanks, Andrew. You've raised issues that I hadn't even considered. A very informative post.

  2. Thank You Andrew, yet another benefit of a good agent


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