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   Publishing Outside the Box…

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Submission Guidelines: an old Underwood typewriter
Submission Guidelines:

We are currently closed to submissions.


          Unfortunately, nothing submitted to us at present will be considered, and no reply should be expected. We’re simply too busy at the moment, with projects we’ve already taken on. Please check back at regular intervals, as we’ve no estimate of when this situation will change.

In General:

      We only accept original material which has never been published elsewhere, including on the web.
      Simultaneous submissions are okay with us. We consider the prohibition against them onerous 
to an aspiring writer. (Factoring in the extremely slow response times throughout most of the publishing industry, it could literally take years for a manuscript, not shepherded by an agent, to make the rounds in the normally prescribed manner.) In deference to your needs, we’ll take our chances; and if another publisher comes to some arrangement with you first, so be it.
     Speaking of agents… If you have one, we won’t hold it against you, but prefer to deal with authors directly rather than suffer some agent’s sales pitch. Besides, we’re a small press, so they probably wouldn’t be interested.
     Our natural predilection is for fiction, either novels or short story collections. This doesn’t mean we’re strictly averse to nonfiction submissions, merely that they ought to be decidedly other than mainstream fare. The best way to gauge our perspective is to read what we publish. (See: Featured Book — and feel free to buy a copy as a research expenditure, then read it before you contact us. Saves everyone a lot of time.)
      As you might have gathered, our tastes are somewhat eclectic, our views open-minded, and our editorial policies rather liberal. We’re interested in bringing the reading public something fresher than what’s normally stocked on the shelves, yet not dictated by any current trend to the extent that it’s restricted with a “sell by” date. What we’re after in a manuscript is something of more lasting quality. After all, we’re not getting rich doing this — not yet, anyway
(and neither will you most likely, anytime soon, should we accept your submission). This publishing venture was motivated instead by the zeal of true believers for the lingering power of the written word, its ability to be provocative or transformative, to alter or to heal, and by what was perceived as a crying need for an alternative outlet. We’ve gone to all the bother because we genuinely feel that literacy in the English-speaking world (though it has seen better days) isn’t quite dead yet. Nor is the innate fascination humans usually exhibit when faced with intelligent questions. We’re convinced original thinking creates its own trends, and trust that sales will soon support this premise. (Since you’ve been apprised of our business model, we won’t think worse of you if you simply let go of the mouse and cautiously back away now.)
We’re not shy about sex, politics, religion, or other social taboos you were taught not to bring up in polite conversation. Language of any sort isn’t a problem — if it’s in context. And, though not prone to violence ourselves (except in certain extreme arguments regarding grammar), we accept descriptions of it as an unfortunate mirror of the real world. Providing, of course — as with all of the above — that such passages are intrinsic to characterization, integral to the story, and serve to advance the plot…not merely included for gratuitous effect.


      We regard such narrow classifications as marketing ploys run amok. A writer’s ability to tell a story well is much more important than figuring out what shelf to put the book on. (This problem isn’t unique to publishing, by the way. Consider some of our most brilliant musical artists, Lucinda Williams, for instance: Grammy winner in Country, Folk, and Rock, also nominated in Pop and Americana. Obviously, the record industry just doesn’t know how to pigeonhole the lady. And we prefer writers like that, too.)
To give you some clues, however, we tend to prefer what was once called speculative fiction, a term coined to imperfectly explain the works of people like Zelazny, Ellison, and Ballard. (What if…? stories, for lack of a better description.) Also magic realism, alternative history, and the like. These options seem to leave more elbow room and scope for provocative ideas. Although not strictly opposed to hard science fiction, we tend to feel it has too much…well, hardware in it these days. In other words, we’d be far more interested in the socio-political ramifications of intergalactic diaspora than an exhaustive explanation of the device which made the exodus possible. (Think Dune.) We actually used to like fantasy…once upon a time — when it wasn’t so damned cute. But it never seems to be gritty enough for adults these days. (Whatever happened to the likes of Moorcock or Leiber?) Experimental work, in almost any direction, is something we’d consider.
      However, if you’re planning a mainstream novel about the day-to-day trials and marital strife of a couple in the Midwest during the Reagan administration…we might look at it — but it’d better be awfully damn good. New York is filled with publishers who specialize in that kind of thing.
      On the other hand, if your material is controversial enough to be rejected out of hand by most other publishers, we’d still give it our attention. Erotica, alternative and noir aren’t necessarily deal-breakers. But don’t — repeat, Do Not — waste our time with prejudice, or bore us with pornography and gore.
      Whatever you send us, it’s best to catch our attention at the outset. The first line should pull a reader into the first paragraph, the first page into the first chapter, and so on.


      That’s entirely up to you. The further afield you get, however, the more coherent you actually have to be. 


      We harbor no real prejudice concerning either British or American usage, as long as one or the other is maintained consistently throughout. (See: Separated by a Common Language.)
      If you thought we’d be tolerant of punctuation foibles because we used the word experimental earlier, however, don’t delude yourself. There’s a difference between that and poor craftsmanship. (And if you haven’t already read What’s Punctuation, and Where Can I Get Some? or The Gospel According to Strunk & White, this would be a good time to do so.) Just because we disagree with the orthodox sect of modern fiction editors doesn’t mean we’ve no respect for basic doctrine. (A devout Lutheran in the 1500s didn’t pitch out the Trinity simply because he’d lost reverence for Rome — and don’t assume we’re Lutherans, either. It’s merely a good analogy.)

      The fact that we don’t eschew colons, semicolons, parentheses, and ellipses doesn’t mean they ought to be scattered round willy-nilly, simply because an author has no intrinsic grasp of how to express her/himself. Be prepared to justify each one you use.
      In short (and at the calculated risk of repeating ourselves): Punctuation Should Promote Clarity. And this does not necessarily mean that less is better.
      We’re a bit more tolerant of typos, though not much. A book is initially an investment of time. When we receive one riddled with errors, no matter how promising it might otherwise be, we assume the author didn’t care enough to make that investment. So why should we? If you genuinely care about your work, then polish it. Others are unlikely to do this for you. Don’t rely on spell-check. It won’t tell you the difference between “soul” and “sole,” for example — since both are perfectly good words. Their misuse is entirely up to you. So, re-read your manuscript carefully to avoid such embarrassments.


      Under the current circumstances, we only accept electronic submissions. It’s far less bother for all concerned, and saves some trees toward printing books. No hard copy submissions sent by regular post will be opened or read unless prior arrangements have been made. (Even if you’re still working on an old Underwood and don’t own a computer, you can probably find some means of sending us an email, explaining that.)
      All submissions should be sent as email to:


      The work should be composed in standard manuscript format. (There are numerous places on the web where this can be found, and it’s something you should familiarize yourself with.) In general, however, use a large, easily read typeface, and don’t justify the text. (Editors are always trying to preserve what’s left of their eyesight.) Save the document as RTF, DOC, or PDF, and insert it as an attachment. Do not place the manuscript in the body of the email. The subject line of the email should read: “Submission: The Title of the Story.” The body of the email must provide all pertinent contact information. This is also the area where you might place a short cover letter. (Cover letters are appreciated, but keep them brief. An Author’s Bio isn’t necessary unless it’s pertinent to the content or terribly interesting.) Writing under a pen name is all right, but make clear, in the format of your manuscript and in your correspondence, what your legal name actually is. All electronic submissions will be considered disposable (deleted, in other words) if not accepted.
      If we’re open to submissions, we try to respond within three to four weeks. If you haven’t heard anything within six, feel free to inquire — sometimes we get backed up. (Sorry, but during periods when we’ve already stated that we’re closed to them, we don’t respond at all.)


      Since we’re a legitimate enterprise, you will be paid — when we manage to sell a few copies of your book.
      Unfortunately, the halcyon days of large cash advances are gone…along with the business model of printing several thousand copies on spec, storing them in a warehouse in New Jersey, sending a few off to each bookstore with the assurance that they can be remaindered (sent back, in other words, at the publisher’s cost), then destroying whatever’s left over at the end of day. We don’t do it that way anymore.
      A more streamlined business model allows us to publish what we feel has genuine merit, and distribute it to those who agree. Our books are not only available through Amazon, they're carried by Ingram. This means that brick and mortar bookstores are capable of ordering them for their shelves — just not as free to send them back at no cost to themselves.
      Promotion is largely left up to the author. Our budget simply doesn’t allow for lavish expense accounts, booking national tours, etc. Yet, because this represents a significant investment for us, we do offer encouragement and a certain amount of expertise along these lines. You’ll probably have to arrange your own publishing party, however. If we’ve established a warm working relationship by then, we’re likely to send you a bottle of wine.
      As previously mentioned, don’t expect to get rich straight away. We derive whatever revenue we might from the profits of the venture, which are split with the author. Should we decide to take on your project, particulars will be discussed then.
      But bear this in mind: whatever time and effort might be required toward final editing (with author’s approval, of course), and whatever costs are incurred toward publishing, those expenditures are borne solely by us.
      We are not a vanity press. If we choose to publish your work, we will not charge for such services. These items are, as they properly should be, our investment in the process. (See: Our Editorial Policy.)
      A word of advice to unwary authors: Should anyone, from any organization, offer you some deal whereby they’ll publish your work provided that you pay all the costs, or ensure you that your work would certainly be up to their publishing standards if only you were to pay them some exorbitant fee for editing it first, don’t simply walk away — run screaming.
      Both practices are unscrupulous, and we’ve little patience for either. The publishing industry is filled with pretentious twits, disinclined to give new writers a chance, and vultures who feed on the attendant frustration.
      This, by the way, doesn’t mean that everyone with literary ambitions is fit to write them down. That’s for you, the reading public — and, in this case, us — to decide.
      Whatever else you might think of our peculiar approach to this quirky business, we tell it like it is.



All Rights Reserved 2010 by Alfresco Press & Tony Danhakl