Submission Guidelines

Determining Whether Your Work Is a Fit 

If you are interested in being a Teacher Created Materials, Free Spirit, or Shell Education author, please familiarize yourself with our books at teachercreatedmaterials.com freespirit.com and teachercreatedmaterials.com/shell-education

We also recommend that you check out our books at your local library or bookstore to get a feel for our tone and style.

Commitment to Diversity 

We are committed to uplifting diverse voices with books that are relevant and inclusive for the youth we serve. We are especially seeking manuscripts from authors of diverse representation; including race, ethnicity, culture, religion, social class, LGBTQ identities, ability, and physical differences.

Note: Due to the large volume of submissions we receive, we are unable to respond to individual queries that are not accompanied by a complete proposal. 


Submitting a Proposal

Only proposals with the following elements will be considered for publication:

  • A cover letter briefly outlining your project, the intended audience (including age ranges), and your relevant expertise
  • A current résumé
  • A market analysis with a comprehensive list of similar titles and a detailed explanation of how your project differs from available products
  • A detailed chapter-by-chapter outline
  • At least two sample chapters (if a full manuscript is available, you may send it)
    Note: For picture book submissions, the entire text is required for evaluation. Bracketed art suggestions are appreciated, though illustration samples should not be sent unless professionally competent.
  • A description of your personal promotion plan for the proposed book (including both in-person and social media outreach)

As you prepare a proposal, it may help to keep a few of our main considerations in mind:

Need: Why is the book needed? How is it different from similar available titles?

Purpose: Who will use the book? How will they use it?

Quality: Is the project well written and researched? Is the style similar to that of our other award-winning, jargon-free, solution-focused titles?

Relevance: Is the subject matter appropriate for our list? Does it compete with or complement other available titles from Free Spirit?


While we do our best to offer timely feedback on your project, the high volume of proposals we receive dictates a reply time of up to 6 months.


Agents as well as authors who cannot access Submittable due to a disability can email acquisitions@freespirit.com or mail a proposal with all elements listed above to the following address: 

Free Spirit Publishing

Attn: Acquisitions

9850 51st Ave. N, Suite 100

Minneapolis, MN 55442

Free Spirit Publishing is committed to uplifting diverse voices with books that are relevant and inclusive for the youth we serve. We are especially seeking manuscripts from authors of diverse representation; including race, ethnicity, culture, religion, social class, LGBTQ identities, ability, and physical differences.

Submission Guidelines for Children’s and Teens’ Books

If you are a returning Free Spirit author, please contact us at acquisitions@freespirit.com to receive the link to the invited submissions Submittable form.

We Are Looking for Strong Proposals for Ages Birth through Eighteen in the Following Categories:

PICTURE BOOKS WITH ALIGNMENT TO AN SEL TRAIT OR STRATEGY

Authentic, high-interest, and lyrically written picture books reflecting contemporary experiences of children from diverse cultures, backgrounds, religions, and identities; and that also align with a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) trait or strategy.

GIFTED & SPECIAL EDUCATION

Books on academic, social, and emotional development for young people of all ages with diverse learning needs, including gifted students and students with learning differences, ADHD, behavioral difficulties, or autism spectrum disorders.

BULLYING PREVENTION & CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Picture books and books for kids and teens, and resources for teachers, counselors, and other educators, to help young people understand, prevent, and respond to bullying incidents. We will also consider fiction for kids and teens that relates to these topics.

CHARACTER EDUCATION, LEADERSHIP & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Picture books and books for kids and teens to help young people build character, discover their leadership potential, and engage in their communities. We will also consider fiction for kids and teens that relates to these topics.

BOOKS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

Board books for infants to age 4 and picture books for ages 3 to 8 that focus on social skills and getting along, early learning, character education, self-esteem, and other topics related to positive early childhood development. We will also consider fiction that relates directly to these areas of focus.

COUNSELING & SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Picture books and books for kids and teens to help children and teens deal with grief and loss, health and wellness, depression and other mental illnesses, stress, social skills and friendship, anger management, LGBTQ issues, manners, family, self-confidence, and more. We will also consider fiction for kids and teens that relates to these topics.


 

Current Areas of Special Interest 

Our editors are particularly interested in seeing the following areas of focus in our submissions pile. If your submission aligns with one of these special interests, please note that in your cover letter.         

 Picture Book Wish List: 

  • Picture books with authentic representation of underrepresented religions
  • Books that are culturally relevant for today’s children  
  • High-interest and lyrically written picture books about experiences & challenges personally relevant to children 
  • Fiction and nonfiction books portraying social-emotional learning (SEL) skills in connection with social studies or STEAM 
  • Fiction and nonfiction books providing strategies to support executive function skills 
  • Important stories from historically underrepresented voices  
  • Picture books in celebration of identity, culture, and/or family   
  • Authentic picture book featuring a child with sensory sensitivities   
  • Authentic picture books featuring characters with disabilities 
  • Authentic picture book featuring foster care or adoption  
  • Stories based on real experiences of kids displaying SEL skills or impacting the world around them   
  • Picture book addressing trauma 
  • Latino/a/x authors
  • Asian American authors
  • Health and wellness topics
  • Books exploring any of these SEL themes: joy, beauty, emotions, sadness/depression, coping skills, empathy, problem solving, resilience, perseverance, kindness, honesty, social awareness, self-management, calm-down strategies, focus/attention, self-confidence, self-esteem, decision-making, cooperation, teamwork, compassion, responsibility, or respect.

 
Wish List of Nonfiction for Older Kids and Teens:  

  • Books that are culturally relevant for today’s youth   
  • Mental health and executive function topics written by experts in the field  
  • Health and wellness topics written by experts in the field   
  • Tough topics and challenges faced by children and teens  
  • Strategies to address negative thinking 
  • Strategies to address media literacy and navigating complex conversations  
  • Books answering questions teens might be afraid to ask  
  • Books applying SEL to youth activism   
  • True stories about kids or teens impacting the world around them  
  • Strategy books addressing teen anger and violence  
  • Books teaching leadership skills   
  • SEL books aligned with high interest topics (i.e. sports, agriculture, technology, video games, etc.) 
  • Mindfulness for teens written by an expert 


 

Submission Guidelines for Educator Resources

If you are a returning Free Spirit author, please contact us at acquisitions@freespirit.com to receive the link to the invited submissions Submittable form.

We Are Looking for Strong Proposals to Support Teaching Strategies and Professional Development

Practical, jargon-free materials for educators, administrators, counselors, and youth workers that focus on positive youth development, creative teaching strategies, leadership, and a wide range of social and emotional needs.

GIFTED & SPECIAL EDUCATION

Resources for educators, counselors, parents, and other adults that support children’s diverse learning and social and emotional needs.

BULLYING PREVENTION & CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Books for teachers, counselors, and other educators to help young people understand, prevent, and respond to bullying incidents.

CHARACTER EDUCATION, LEADERSHIP & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Resources for teachers, counselors, and other educators to help young people build character, discover their leadership potential, and engage in their communities.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Guides for early childhood teachers, program directors, and other educators working with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary children (birth to age 8). We look for hands-on, teacher-friendly guidance that is research-based, classroom tested, and focused on best practices to support the social, emotional, and cognitive development of young children. Topics include social skills, behavior challenges, healthy emotional development, diversity and equity, family engagement, emergent learning, and teaching strategies.

COUNSELING & SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Educator resources to help children and teens deal with grief and loss, health and wellness, depression and other mental illnesses, stress, social skills and friendship, anger management, LGBTQ issues, manners, family, self-confidence, and more.


 


 

Free Spirit Publishing is committed to uplifting diverse voices with books that are relevant and inclusive for the youth we serve. We are especially seeking manuscripts from authors of diverse representation; including race, ethnicity, culture, religion, social class, LGBTQ identities, ability, and physical differences.


Description: Free Spirit Publishing is seeking writers who have lived childhood experiences with a disability and experts who work with children who have disabilities. We are growing our list of books about disabilities for children and teens with goals of educating, providing representation and tools for children with disabilities, and building allyship and inclusion. Disabilities may include physical, intellectual, developmental, emotional, sensory, health, and learning disabilities. You are invited to submit your information and a writing sample to be considered as an author! 


Interest Level: Authors should be able to write for ages 4-8, 9-13, or teens.


Who should apply? We are seeking authors who have lived childhood experiences with a disability. We also welcome submissions from coauthors, including a professional who has expertise and experiences working with children with disabilities paired with a coauthor who has lived experience. People of all ages are encouraged to apply, including children, teens, and adults. 

Authors who are selected will be contacted to discuss ideas and receive an invitation to submit a full manuscript to be considered for publication. Questions can be emailed to acquisitions@freespirit.com.

Sponsored by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing
Open for submissions from June 19 to July 22, 2024.

About the Contest
Welcome to the Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest! The contest is open to Black authors who at the time of entry are at least 18 years of age and residing anywhere in the United States.

As always, the contest’s mission is to elevate authentic, culturally relevant children’s stories written by and about Black people. Every entry is considered for publication and three cash prizes will be awarded.


About Strive Publishing
Strive Publishing’s vision is a world where Black narratives are centered, valued, and empowered for freedom, equity, and justice.

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Strive Publishing exists to help solve two problems: the need for culturally relevant children’s books and the underrepresentation of Black authors. While giving all children the opportunity to see Black culture from different perspectives, Strive Publishing aims to create opportunities for emerging Black authors. We all have a stake in the critical work of uplifting Black voices in children’s literature, and we can make the greatest impact by working together.

About Free Spirit Publishing
Whether at home, at school, or out in the world, all kids face challenges in their lives. No matter how many choices, changes, and opportunities young people encounter, Free Spirit has had the same mission for almost 40 years: to provide children and teens—and the adults who care for and about them—with the tools they need to think for themselves, overcome challenges, and make a difference in the world.

Minneapolis-based Free Spirit Publishing, an imprint of Teacher Created Materials, is known for its unique understanding of what kids want and need to navigate life successfully. We’re not afraid to tackle tough topics such as teen depression, kids and anxiety, grief and loss, juvenile justice, and conflict resolution. Free Spirit also offers sound advice with a sense of humor on relevant issues including stress management, character building, school success, self-esteem, community involvement, youth leadership, and more. We aim to meet all kids—toddlers, teens, and everyone in between—where they are (not where we wish they were), and support them to develop their talents, build resiliency, and foster a positive outlook on life so they can reach their goals.

What to Enter

Submissions should meet these qualifications:

  • Must be original children’s books for ages 0–4 (50–125 words) or for ages 4–8 (300–800 words)
  • Must feature authentic, realistic Black characters and culture
  • Must focus on one or more of the following topics: character development, self-esteem, identity, diversity, getting along with others, engaging with family and community, or other topics related to positive childhood development

What Not to Enter

The following types of submissions will not be considered.

  • Chapter books and books aimed primarily at children older than age 8
  • Essays, short stories, and poems (note: rhyme and poetic language within the narrative are eligible)
  • Religious messages and dogma (note: the representation of religion as a part of life and culture is eligible)
  • Fantasy themes (such as talking animals and magic)

Eligibility
Eligible writers are Black residents of the United States, 18 years of age or older. Employees of Free Spirit Publishing, Teacher Created Materials, and Strive Publishing are not eligible. Previous contest winners are not eligible.

Guidelines

Only one entry per person. All entries must be:

  • Your original work
  • Unpublished (including traditionally or via self-publishing)
  • Not under contract with any other publisher at the time of entry

Please include the following items in your entry:

  • Book text along with written illustration ideas if you have them (no need to include actual art)
  • A letter briefly describing your book, specifying the intended audience (including age range), and telling why you decided to write it
  • Your brief biography and current email address

No manuscripts will be returned. Entries that do not conform to contest rules will be disqualified.

Awards & Cash Prizes
First Place: $1,000 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, swag from Free Spirit, and a meeting with Strive and Free Spirit to discuss the winner’s project. The winning submission will be seriously considered for publication by Free Spirit, cobranded with Strive; however, publication is not guaranteed.

Second Place: $500 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, and swag from Free Spirit

Third Place: $250 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, and swag from Free Spirit

Timing
The Contest begins at 7:00:01 a.m. (CST) on June 19, 2024, and ends at 11:59:59 p.m. (CDT) on July 23, 2024 (“Entry Period”). Mailed entries must be postmarked, and emailed entries must be received, by 11:59:59 p.m. CST on July 24, 2024.

Judging Criteria

  • Cultural relevance and authentic voice
  • Presentation (follows submission guidelines, neatness, legibility)
  • Suitability (fits publishing category; targeted age group and length are appropriate for children’s manuscripts)
  • Content (tightness, clarity, structure, strength of lead/beginning, transitions, impact, satisfactory close)
  • Alignment with the spirit of the Contest
  • For nonfiction: logical flow, accuracy of information, sound advice



Winner Notification
Winners will be notified by email on or around December 15, 2024.  All potential winners are subject to verification. Each prizewinner may be required to sign and return to Sponsor, within ten (10) days of the date notice is sent, an affidavit of eligibility/liability and publicity release (except where prohibited) in order to claim their prize if applicable. If a potential winner of any prize cannot be contacted, or fails to sign or return the affidavit of eligibility/liability and publicity release within the required time period, the prize or prize notification is returned as undeliverable, or the potential winner is deemed ineligible, the potential winner forfeits prize, and Sponsor will award the applicable prize to an alternative winner selected from all remaining eligible entries. Upon confirmation of eligibility, prizes will be awarded no later than December 31, 2024. Prizes will be awarded in accordance with these Official Rules. Sponsor’s determination of eligibility and selection of winners is binding on all participants.

The total number of prizes is three (3). The total prize value for all three (3) prizes is $1,750 in cash plus merchandise listed in the prize descriptions. All prizes will be awarded in connection with this Contest in accordance with the Official Rules. Within approximately thirty (30) days after confirmation of the winners, Sponsor will provide the winners with their prizes (e.g., check, gift certificate, or other document giving winner unconditional right to receive the respective prize). All prizes are nontransferable and nonassignable, and noncash prizes cannot be redeemed for cash. All costs, fees, expenses, and taxes (including, without limitation, federal, state, and local taxes) associated with any element of a prize are the sole responsibility of the winners.

Everyone who enters the contest has the chance at publication.

Winners List
A Winners List will be posted after winners have been notified.

Grant of License
By entering this Contest and in consideration for the same, the three selected winning Entrants grant Free Spirit Publishing and Strive Publishing an irrevocable, exclusive, fully paid license to use, publish, and distribute the winning Entrant’s Contest submission and all content submitted in connection therewith. Winning Entrants agree to sign documents deemed necessary by Sponsor to confirm and document the license. The license granted pursuant to this paragraph does not divest Entrant of ownership of the Contest submission.
Release of Liability
By participating, Entrant agrees to waive, release, hold harmless, and indemnify Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing Inc.; their current and former officers, directors, owners, employees, agents, representatives, affiliates; and the judges (“Released Parties”) from and against any and all liability or causes of action (however named or described) and for any injuries, losses, and/or damages caused by or resulting from entry or participation in this Contest, including without limitation: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by Entrants, any Released Party, printing errors, by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Contest; (2) technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (3) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Contest; (4) technical or human error that may occur in the administration of the Contest or the processing of entries; or (5) any injury or damage to persons or property that may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from Entrant’s participation in the Contest or receipt or use or misuse of any prize. If for any reason an Entrant’s entry is confirmed to have been erroneously deleted, lost, or otherwise destroyed or corrupted, Entrant’s sole remedy is another entry in the Contest during the Entry Period. Released Parties are not responsible for any expenses incurred by Entrant in connection with participation in this Contest.
This waiver and release is intended to waive all rights I may have under Section 1542 of the Civil Code of California, as well as any similar law of any other state or territory, that I may have. Section 1542 states that a “general release does not extend to claims which the creditor does not know or suspect to exist in their favor at the time of executing the release, which, if known by him or her must have materially affected their settlement with the debtor.”
Publicity
Winner(s) agrees to allow Sponsor to use their submitted title(s), name, likeness, picture and/or hometown and state information for promotional purposes in all media, worldwide, as may be determined by Sponsor without additional compensation. Winner(s) agree to sign documents deemed necessary by Sponsor to confirm permission and authorization. Entrants agree to be contacted by Sponsor, including via email, in the future (and shall have the opportunity to “opt out” of such emails).
Modification of Official Rules and/or Contest Termination
Sponsor reserves the right to modify any term of this Contest and these Official Rules at any time at Sponsor’s sole discretion. Sponsor reserves the right to cancel, suspend, and/or modify the Contest, or any part of it, if any fraud, technical failures, or any other factor beyond Sponsor’s reasonable control impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the Contest, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. In such event, Sponsor reserves the right to award the prizes from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment.
Law
This Contest shall be conducted in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota. All disputes concerning these terms and Contest shall be adjudicated in the federal and state courts having jurisdiction over Hennepin County, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Sponsors
The Sponsors of this contest are Free Spirit Publishing Inc. (www.freespirit.com) and Strive Publishing (www.strivepublishing.com). As used in these Rules, “Sponsor” means Free Spirit Publishing Inc. and Strive Publishing collectively. Administrator of this Contest is Free Spirit Publishing Inc., who can be contacted by calling 612-338-2068 or emailing contest@freespirit.com.
Disqualification/Ineligibility
Any attempt to enter this Contest in a manner other than in compliance with and as provided in these Official Rules shall be VOID. Entries received from persons not meeting eligibility requirements will be disqualified. Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, invalid, unintelligible, or misdirected entries, all of which will be disqualified.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. The 2024 Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest (“Contest”) is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Participation constitutes full and unconditional agreement to these Official Rules and Sponsor’s and judges’ decisions, which are final and binding in all matters related to the Contest. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein and is not guaranteed.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Free Spirit Publishing and Shell Education