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‘BIG 5’ Imprints That You Can Query Directly

While I do think getting an agent is the best route to go…

We don’t all have the luxury to find an agent who loves our manuscript the way we hoped they would. If you’re looking for an alternative to self-publishing to get your book out there, you might consider these imprints. Some of them even take books on that have been previously self or traditionally published, as long as you have the rights back.

Remember, it’s best not to query agents and publishers at the same time. Go one route or the other, or exhaust one and then the other.

Most of these publishers close on occasion and then reopen when they’ve sorted through their slush. Patience is still required. 😉 You can follow them on social media to see when they reopen.

Also, take note that several of them do not read queries but only take pages or the full manuscript via submission forms. Do your homework and read the submission pages carefully!

Another alternative are mid-size or smaller, independent publishers that can help you garner a fan base that can help you get an agent or bigger deal later on.

I’ll add to this as I find more.

 

Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin/Random House

They produce hardbacks of Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult

You can download their submission guidelines here.

 

TOR/Forge, imprints of Macmillan

They accept submissions in science fiction and fantasy, fiction of all other types including but not limited to general fiction, historical fiction, horror, mystery, paranormal, suspense/thriller, urban fantasy, and women’s fiction. Children’s and Young Adult books for the chapter book, middle grade, and young adult audiences.

Their submissions guidelines can be found if you scroll down this page.

 

Alibi, Penguin/Random House

A digital-only imprint focused on mystery and thriller fiction titles.

 

WITNESS, from Harper Collins Publishers

They accept thriller, mystery, or suspense novel manuscripts.

 

Forever and Forever Yours, imprints of Hachette Book Group, Grand Central Publishing.

They’re interested in all styles of romance, particularly contemporary, diverse reads, romantic suspense, cowboys, historicals, and paranormal.

They do not accept YA, fantasy, mystery, general fiction, or nonfiction. Novels should be between 50,000-100,000 words. Novellas should be 25,000-50,000 words.

For submission guidelines go here.

 

AVON Impulse, Harper Collins

Big, high concept historical and contemporary romances! Primarily, inclusive and diverse romances that reflect our world–all sexualities, races, ethnicities, religions, genders, body types, disabilities, and ages!

For submissions guidelines, go here.

 

Harlequin,  Harper Collins

All sub-genres of romance. So many, in fact, that they have a list of their imprints to submit to with subbmission guidelines here.

Make sure and read carefully and scroll to the bottom to find the imprints that take unagented submissions.

They also accept unagented submissions in a wide range of genres for our digital-first single-title imprint, Carina Press. Visit carinapress.com to learn more.

 

Loveswept and Flirt, Penguin/Random House

Digital-only imprints focused on romance and women’s fiction titles.

Their contract was a point of contention for a long time, and royalties are split 50/50 with no advance, but it’s a viable way to get your book out there and start getting fans. You can read more about the initial controversy here.

 

SMP Swerve, St. Martin’s Press, Macmillan

A digital first imprint. The SMP Swerve team seeks for romance authors. From their page: We are looking for dynamic and diverse voices, compelling stories, and authors who are ready to build their brand.

 

DAW, Penguin/Random House

DAW accepts unsolicited submissions of science fiction and fantasy novels. No short story collections, novellas, or poetry. The average length of the novels they publish varies, but is almost never fewer than 80,000 words.

Scroll to the bottom to find their submission info.

 

Hydra, Penguin/Random House

A digital-only imprint focused on science fiction, fantasy, and horror titles.

HarperLegend, Harper Collins

They occasionally shut this page and it’ll seem like an error. It just means they’re closed.

All of their works have spiritual underpinnings akin to The Life of Pi, The Screwtape Letters, etc.

From their site: HarperLegend seeks to discover and publish new authors of visionary and transformational fiction in the digital first format . We know that there are many many writers out there who work in this genre. If you are one of these folks, we want to help your work reach the world. We hope that you will embrace our offer to submit your work to HarperLegend.

 

FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX, Macmillan

The firm is renowned for its international list of literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s books.

Scroll down to the word ‘Editorial’ and you’ll find this:

Unsolicited submissions are accepted at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All submissions must be submitted through the mail—we do not accept electronic submissions, or submissions delivered in person. Please include a cover letter describing your submission, along with the first 50 pages of the manuscript. If you are submitting poems, please include 3-4 poems. If you wish to hear back from us, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your submission. If you wish for us to return your manuscript, please include a self-addressed, appropriately sized and stamped envelope with your submission (we cannot return manuscripts if you do not send this envelope with your submission). We will reply in three to five months of the receipt of the submission.

 

Schwartz & Wade, Penguin-Random House, an imprint of Random House Books for Young Readers

Accepts submissions directly from authors. Schwartz & Wade publishes about 15 to 20 books a year, mostly picture books, as well as middle grade and young adult fiction, non-traditional nonfiction, and graphic novels. Schwartz & Wade also accepts unsolicited picture book manuscripts and proposals for longer books.

Make sure that your submission is a good fit for our small imprint. All submissions may be sent to: Schwartz & Wade Books, Submissions Editor, 1745 Broadway, 10-4, New York, New York 10019.

To review titles currently published under the Schwartz & Wade imprint, visit this link.

 

Baen Books, Simon & Schuster

publish only science fiction and fantasy. Writers familiar with what we have published in the past will know what sort of material we are most likely to publish in the future: powerful plots with solid scientific and philosophical underpinnings are the sine qua non for consideration for science fiction submissions. As for fantasy, any magical system must be both rigorously coherent and integral to the plot, and overall the work must at least strive for originality.

Submit here.

 

Delacorte, Penguin-Random House

I know from speaking with Senior Editor, Wendy Loggia, that Delacorte takes unsolicited queries. However, I can’t find anything about where to submit.

 

Swoonreads, Macmillan

Swoonreads is an imprint of Macmillan that accepts all genres of novel-length YA! Anyone can upload their ms to the site and the community of readers and writers can read it and give feedback. Three times per year they select books to publish in print and e-book, based on reader feedback.

This is also a great place to read YA novels!

 

Many editors also take unsolicited submissions when you meet them at retreats, conferences, or occasionally through contests. Organizations like SCBWI often have editors featured in their newsletters that will also open for a brief window to those belonging to the organization.

If you find anymore, please contact me through the contacts page and I’ll try to include them here.

 

 

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The Simple Synopsis

I’ve never heard of anyone (other than agents) who feels the way I do about a synopsis. I haven’t always felt this way. I used to think they were busywork from agents who wanted to cut down on their number of submissions. (This isn’t the case.) But I love the synopsis. If you don’t have one for your novel, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

A synopsis is an amazing device that can not only help you get an agent but aid in every stage of your book’s life. Before you write it, a synopsis can iron out your plot and ensure your pacing works. During your drafting, it can keep you on track. After the novel is polished, the synopsis shows agents you know the ins and outs of a novel.

What’s the purpose of a synopsis…

A synopsis will show agents and editors that you know how to plot and execute an effective character arc. It can showcase voice, give the clever twists, and guarantee that the agent or editor isn’t wasting their time by reading the full manuscript.

This is scary! I know. Even putting this truth out there is difficult. Putting a book out in the world in any way is difficult. But reality is that a synopsis can actually help you feel more secure about what you’re submitting, because it’s forcing you to analyze and know your plot, characters, and world well enough to prove that it’s working. If it is working, awesome! If it’s not working, it lets you fix it before you burn through your list of agents.

When to write the synopsis…

If you’re a pantster, it’s best to start your synopsis after the first draft. For you, the fun of the writing is in not knowing where things are going to go and letting the characters lead you down the path with them. And that’s fun! I’ve written like this and sometimes still do.

If you’re an outliner, it’s best to nail down your synopsis once you’ve finished the outline. For you, the synopsis is only going to tighten things and make sure your outline is succinct before proceeding. It’ll give you one more assurance you’re on the right path.

How to write the synopsis…

Always use present tense.

Use transitions to smooth over the missing stuff. (After many failed attempts…)

Leave out subplots if you possibly can.

Minimize secondary characters.

Keep it to one page, single spaced, with normal paragraph indents.

Have a header with your last name / TITLE. Add a page number to the header if you can’t manage to get it to one page.

Have Synopsis, TITLE centered at the top, then leave one space, and begin with the paragraphs.

The names of characters are in ALL CAPS the first, and only the first, time we see their name.

The most effective synopsis will showcase the plot, goals and motivations of the characters, include some voice, the theme, and tone, and of course the unique parts of your world.

For Voice, write the synopsis as if you were the main character giving a summary of the ‘high points’ to a friend you meet while waiting for a subway. You have a couple of minutes to rattle off the major events, the surprises, and the wrap up.

The tone will be dictated by the specific words you use to make the narrative feel a certain way.

As the plot and characters unfold, the theme should be self-evident by what the character’s goals and motivations are, the way the conflict and plot push them to change, and by the feeling we’re left with at the end. How has this journey made us question the world around us and/or ourselves?

The character arc should be plain. How did they change throughout the novel? What did they learn, how did their moral premise shift and allow them to overcome the villain at the climax? This will come as tidbits of perspective throughout the synopsis.

The world and it’s uniqueness should be included with minimal telling. Try and show the world as you show the forward movement of the plot. For instance, when ZinZin picks up her wand and blasts a hole right through the toe of the Headmaster’s shoe, but it fizzled before she could steal his nail to make her stew. This tells us character, plot, and world all in one.

Lastly, the plot. I’m going to use a simple five paragraph essay to showcase the easiest way to format a synopsis.

For the plot structure, see the following post:

Plot and Structure . . . Scientific Formula or Witches Brew?

And how your novel might align a little–or a lot–differently:

Plot Mash Up: The Four Act Structure, The Twelve Point Outline & the Quest

Translate the following paragraphs to what happens in your novel. They might not line up perfectly. Writing is all about smudging and manipulating, and that’s fine. Maybe you’ve taken a trope and turned it on its head. Maybe you’ve stretched the key incident out or put it sooner. So long as you have a reason, great. This is a very basic outline.

Paragraph One, The Inciting Incident and Upping of Stakes:

Introduce main character (hero/heroine), their main flaw, the enabling circumstances, the opponent. The hero as an ordinary person in this world who shows hero potential. The life-changing or inciting incident near the beginning. (by 10%) The lock in, or something terrible that ups the stakes just before Act 2.

Paragraph Two, The Key Incident and Introduction of Ally:

The MC reacts to the life-changing event and seeks out an ally or is brought out by the ally. Ally must be established with a basic modus operandi that will qualify them to be the most well-suited person to help MC out of their predicament. They make a plan, usu the MC’s not so great plan that sounds great but will ultimately fail because they think that they can remain the same and overcome their problem as they are. (We all want to be good enough now—but we aren’t.) The MC struggles to hold onto flaw or not recognize it while still trying to react to the inciting, life-changing event. The MC and ally must have a confrontation.

Paragraph Three, the Midpoint:

Your main character recognizes their main flaw. This is sometimes referred to as the the Moral Premise, where the protagonist stops working from a false moral premise and starts working from a true moral premise. In other words, they figure it out and can now work toward a realistic goal.

Paragraph Four, The Climax:

After recovering from the previous debacle, the main character now fully allies with ally and prepares for the final battle/confrontation with opponent/antagonist. Of course, the opponents are rallying as well, so the stakes are increased because there are more bad guys doing more bad stuff. By the end, it appears that failure is inevitable. We must see the resolution of the main flaw and how it allows the hero to confront the antagonist and win. Or lose if this is a cautionary tale.

Paragraph Five, The Wrap Up & New Equilibrium:

This is where we see the transformed hero in contrast to the beginning. They reach a new ‘normal’ where they probably didn’t get everything they wanted, but they have what they need and often something better. And because I’m a hopeless romantic, hopefully they get their HEA as well.

Always tell the ending.

I see a lot of synopses, and a good one can make all the difference in getting a request.  I know this isn’t easy. If you need more help, you can always contact me for more synopsis help on my editorial services page.

Best of luck to everyone!