Submit To Be Published by Optional Books
What We Are Seeking:
Every publisher has its own preferences. If you're considering submitting a query, please give careful consideration to whether your work will fit what we are seeking.
We are a ficiton publisher, and we are seeking excellent works of literature as art. If you have written a great novel (however you define those terms), and it would be categorized as "literary," "experimental," "modern," "postmodern," "alternative," "avante garde," "innovative," or "upmarket," it could be a good fit for us. If it's innovative, if it's an attempt to reinvent the novel, if it's sincere and passionate but non-generic, then it's likely to be a good fit. If it's written for posterity, or as a sacrifice to the aesthetic god of literature, then it could well be right for us. But if it's a potboiler, forget it, we don't have enough potatoes to fill your pot.
With regards to "genre," frankly, if your novel fits squarely in a popular genre, there is almost certainly another publisher out there who specializes in that genre who can do a much better job of publicizing it, so Optional Books is going to wash our hands of it and suggest you take it elsewhere. BUT, there's that tricky question of "upmarket" literature, and works that claim to "transcend genre." If you can honestly tell yourself (and if you can't fool yourself, you can't fool us) that your book is a work of literary art that only superficially resembles work in some genre, and your book is likely to appeal to readers who do not normally read in that genre, then send us a query and maybe we'll be convinced—but don't be surprised if we turn out to be stubbornly closed-minded to generic works anyway.
The one exception is a genre which doesn't really exist yet, but we'd love to see—Upmarket Urban Fiction. If you can give us a book that fits that description, and it's good, we want that! Street lit is definitley preferred to anything erotica or romance themed.
Summary of What We're NOT Seeking:
You should avoid sending us these things. They may be excellent, but again, another publisher would be a better match:
- Non-Fiction (including "creative non-fiction" and memoir)
- Poetry (except for verse epics!)
- Generic Works (i.e. Sci-Fi, Romance) unless Urban or Upmarket or Genre-Smashing
- Derivative Works (fan-fic, pastiche, sophomoric parody)
- Works in Progress that are not ready to go to press imminently!
These are semi-taboo, but who knows. The odds are against you, but we'll read a query:
- Collections of Short Works
- Mainstream—If your goal is to go with the flow, well, we don't flow that way. We tend to use the word "mainstream" as a pejorative. But, maybe this semantic quibble is misleading. We're not strictly looking for exoticism or formal innovation. If your novel is what they would call "contemporary fiction," we'll read a compelling query and consider a work that has aesthetic merit.
- Erotica—This is our least favorite genre, so don't send it unless you've read everything above and you're still convinced that you have a literary masterpiece that can somehow win us over despite its erotic content. (Chance of success = close to 0%.)
- One-Trick Ponies, where the "trick" is to shock, but the author has a limited inventory of ideas
Why Should You Publish With Us?
Well, maybe you should, and maybe you shouldn't. If you have an agent and your book is likely to sell for big dollars to a big publisher with the resources to promote you to a wide audience, you should probably go to one of those publishers first. Or, if you would rather self-publish, either by doing everything yourself, or by hiring freelance editors and designers to help you get your work print-ready, then you may find that's the way to go.
However, if you have written a great work that has somehow fallen between the cracks—and, frankly, that can easily happen since mainstream publishing is often narrow-minded and mercenary—well then, Optional Books may be your best publishing ally.
To be realistic, you should keep in mind that a small press like Optional Books is in it for the art, and you should be too, which means there's no guarantee of a big payday or an eager audience waiting to snap up your book. Ponder further on what we can do for you, and what we can't do, as outlined below.
What We Can Do For You:
We publish books. We're not a vanity press, we're very selective of what we publish, and there are no fees for the services detailed below, which take your book from submitted manuscript to print.
There will be plenty of additional details to discuss if your book catches our eye and we decide to offer a contract.
- Book Publishing—i.e., getting your book into print and ready for sale
- Complete professional editing services including substantive, copy-editing, and proofing
- Design, including interior and typesetting for print and professional quality ebook design
What We Can't Do:
- Spend a lot on promotion and marketing
- The reality of publishing today is that authors have a lot of responsibility for promoting their own books. The author is expected to help get the ball rolling. If initial sales are good, then Optional Books can consider the potential advantage of laying out additional funds for marketing.
- Pay advances
- The author's advantage in publishing with a small press is generally better royalties than what you would get with a larger company, but like most small presses, Optional Books does not pay an advance. This allows us to pick up the riskier kind of books that the major publishers usually pass on. So that's the other advantage of a small press: we'll consider books that the majors won't touch for financial reasons.
How to Query:
We take electronic submissions only and aim to reply within two months.
A note on Word files: When saving Word files to send as attachments, please check your preferences to ensure you are not embedding fonts in the file. If your file is more than a megabyte in size, it probably has embedded fonts.
- Send a standard query letter, approximately one page in length, in the body of an email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The query should basically introduce your book and anything you'd like to share about yourself.
- Include the word "Query" in the subject line of your email, and also include the title of your book.
- You may include a short sample of the text, either in the body of the email or as a Word attachment. The sample should be from 10 to 40 pages or 3,000 to 12,000 words in length, ending with a chapter or scene break if possible. Please indicate if the sample is not of the initial pages of the novel.
- We're mainly interested in the book first, whereas a biography or publishing history would only be of secondary interest unless you have something you want to boast about that could help generate sales. A brilliant first novel by an unknown is welcome.
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