It’s been said so often that publishers might as well tattoo it across their furrowed foreheads, and yet many writers continue to ignore the golden rule of MS submission: one must always read a publisher’s submission guidelines and follow them to the letter.
That a busy publisher will quickly discard a submission which fails to follow basic instructions is not just a bogeyman tale to keep writers awake at night – when elbow-deep in 300+ submissions, I’ve considered an offensive font reason enough to pop you on the No pile. It happens.
But that’s not the only research you should conduct before sending your MS to every publisher you can find with an email address. Examining a publisher’s existing list and forthcoming titles can save you a lot of time and disappointment – after all, why would a publisher of exclusively historical fiction be interested in your hard-boiled sci-fi thriller?
So, writers – if you’ve finished your novel and don’t want it to languish in the wrong publisher’s slush pile for a year, here’s a brief guide to some top Scottish fiction publishers, their lists and submission guidelines.
With writers like Janice Galloway, Kirstin Innes and Anneliese Mackintosh on their 2014/15 list, Freight are (for my money) Scotland’s leading publishers of literary fiction. Their list demonstrates a commitment to new, emerging voices and bold narratives, a much-needed tonic to the bland family saga fiction and by-the-numbers thrillers that populate Amazon’s bestseller list.
A Scottish ‘angle’ is by no means mandatory, but this Glasgow-based publisher has proven a welcome home for texts with a local setting, parlance and historical flavour. To submit, they currently advise that you send a one-page proposal, a ten-page sample of writing (up to 5,000 words), writing CV and covering letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. The important print:
We do not publish children’s fiction. We do not accept unsolicited poetry manuscripts. Do not send original copies or artwork.
Saraband – another Glasgow publisher – won the inaugural Saltire Society Scottish Publisher of the Year Award in 2013, and with good reason. With a strong background in literary fiction, they recently branched out with a new imprint, Contraband – ‘a diverse selection of crime, mystery and thriller titles, ranging from pacy detective stories to intriguing enigmas.’
Their eclectic list demonstrates Saraband’s willingness to take risks, while their express commitment to publishing new Scottish and female voices in particular marks them as one of the most exciting and progressive publishers in Scotland. My personal favourite from them is J. David Simons’ An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful, the elegance, scope and sheer beauty of which perfectly captures the sophistication of their titles.
To submit, Saraband ask for a synopsis, a sample chapter, or two if your chapters are short, and a brief CV/resumé by post or by email.
Edinburgh-based Fledging are leaders in digital publishing, with a particular interest in first-time authors. With a small team and an emphasis on using local talent for the design/production end of the publishing process, they provide a tailored, hands-on publishing experience to the debut novelist. Scottish-based crime novels would fit well here, and Fledgling are more welcoming of short story collections and YA fiction than most publishers. Standout authors include Dickson Telfer, Samuel Best and Philip Caveney.
To submit, all authors are asked to send in a sample – three chapters and synopsis of your book, preferably by email, to email@example.com.
Sandstone’s books have featured on the Man Booker, Commonwealth, Arthur C Clarke, Creative Scotland, Saltire Society and Not the Booker shortlists – they are rising stars of the Scottish publishing scene, proving that yes, ‘an international publishing house [can] be based in the Highlands of Scotland’. Sandstone produce debut novels in such an assured manner you’d be forgiven for assuming every author is a seasoned pro: they clearly have a well-oiled and effective editorial process and strong relationships with their writers. Their fiction list is characterised by a bold international outlook, and literary fiction would be at home here, though it’s worth noting that genre fiction (horror, fantasy etc) would be out of place.
Clear submission guidelines are provided:
Authors are advised to look at our website and judge whether their work is suitable for our lists. If an author is submitting work personally, but is normally represented by an agent, they should provide this information. An introductory email should outline the type of book being proposed and give a brief biography of the author, including their publishing history.
Authors should complete a submission form to accompany a covering email or letter, a synopsis and the opening chapter of their book.
Please consider the following before sending your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fiction submissions are also welcome at Black and White Publishing, Ringwood Publishing, Luath Press and more. Do take the time to consult all of these publishers’ individual lists before you submit your novel to them – it saves both you and the publisher time and effort, and could mean the difference between a rejection letter and a request to read more.