Discover more from By the Book: Jamie McGarry at Valley Press
On the opening of submissions; plus, blog review, one month in
Send me your writing, and get an update on mine
Please note: the submissions window announced below closed on 30th September 2023. Please consult the Valley Press website for news of the next window.
Hi everyone, I hope you’re doing okay. Here’s the two-part post that was going to run on Thursday evening.
Valley Press is accepting submissions
For the first time in two years, my publishing house, Valley Press, is accepting unsolicited full-length typescripts of fiction, non-fiction and (of course) poetry, for publication in 2024. Here is everything you need to know:
The window closes at 5pm on the 30th September. That being said, I’m not a monster – if you have internet trouble and it turns up the next day, that’s okay. However, if you’re still putting the finishing touches to your cover letter on October 5th, you’ve almost certainly blown it. (Some kind of end is necessary!)
Submissions are to be sent via email, to email@example.com
Please write a few paragraphs introducing yourself and your work, and attach a representative sample of the book, in one of the following file formats: ‘doc’, ‘docx’, ‘rtf’, ‘odt’. Please don’t send a Mac-friendly ‘pages’ file, as I’m on Windows. If you’d like to send your entire book, you can, but a dozen pages or so will be fine for the first email; I can always ask for more if I need it.
When I say “full-length typescript”, I mean a typescript that could conceivably be published by itself as a standalone publication; I’m not looking for individual poems or short stories this month. Poetry pamphlets are very welcome, but they would need to include at least 20 book-sized pages of poetry.
This is optional, but if you want to improve your chances, I’d love to read a plausible explanation of why your book will definitely sell 200 copies. I’m aware selling books is my job and writing them is yours, but a little extra reassurance goes a long way. Perhaps you have a following already in place, are writing for a specific “niche” with an active audience, or are a regular performer of your work? Just throw me a few crumbs. We will not be receiving any funding for these 2024 books, and I’m doing this for a living, so every sale matters. That being said…
It is completely free to submit your work during this window. No fees, no requirement to buy a book first; nothing. I’m consciously turning my nose up at, frankly, the easiest money there is in publishing, in an effort to be as inclusive as possible. I’ve always said the first principle of Valley Press is that “great publishing is for anyone and everyone”, and this is what it looks like in practice; if you have a working email account, there’s absolutely no barrier between your writing and my eyes (for this month, at least!) However, there is one catch…
No feedback will be given on any submission. Just like the fees, absolutely zero feedback is forthcoming. I’m expecting a minimum of 300 enquiries, so at least 294 of you will hear something along the lines of “Sorry, your submission was not successful on this occasion” – and be left wondering why, presumably forever.
That being said, I am working on a future blog post titled “The five reasons I turned down your submission”, so look out for that. (Note from the future: I eventually decided against that post, and instead wrote this Q&A providing more information on the submissions process – worth a look if you have any further questions.) Also, please note that I am available all year round for consultancy work, as part of our publishing services, so that’s another option if you want to talk things through.
Finally, the superb literary periodical Northern Gravy has booked me in for a Zoom seminar to talk about submissions. It’s happening on the 11th September, at 7.30pm BST, and tickets are available for a small fee here. They claim you’ll be finding out “how the sausage is made”, which is a little gross, but very appropriate considering the organisation’s name, and how I’m likely to blurt out the unvarnished truth about all of the above issues, and more.
I think that covers all angles – but every time I’ve said that before, I’ve been wrong. So if you have an extra enquiry or two, please contact me at the email address above, or by simply pressing “reply” if you receive this as a newsletter.
Although I will joke about this window throughout the month, throwing around words like “onslaught” and “avalanche”, the truth is I genuinely can’t wait to see what you’ve all been working on. In its own way, every submission is a massive compliment – so let the avalanche begin! (Whoops.)
Blog review, one month in
If you’ve been directed here by our “submissions” page, or by a thoughtful friend, you may not be aware that Valley Press has a new, bi-weekly blog (or “Substack”), and that you’re on it right now. Most articles are free, but there’s an option to pay £3.50 a month for access to some educational content, to post comments, and generally support what Valley Press is trying to achieve. It was launched one month ago today, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to briefly reflect on the experience so far.
In my first post, I told you the title, By the Book, was “just a neat off-the-shelf pun that wasn’t in use” (accidentally making another pun in my explanation of the first pun – this is how conversations go awry). Now we've grown into it somewhat, I’d like to revise that. I believe the title really means “articles about or somewhat adjacent to books” (so “by” as in “near”), and is also a reference to meticulously following routines and processes, which I confessed my compulsion for in the second autism article, and preached again earlier this week.
I’ve also learned that “Substackers” don’t usually cram their full name and their business name into the title of their blog; so at some point, when I’m sure everyone’s on board and understands what’s going on – and when I’m feeling brave, with the wind blowing in the right direction – I will shorten the title to just By the Book. When you see that, you’ll know this site has finally come of age, and is now an entity in its own right.
I’ve been delighted with how the blog has been received during its first month, and just as importantly, how it has felt to write all this – because let’s be honest, if I wasn’t enjoying it, there wouldn’t be much getting posted. August, with its serious childcare commitments (and, for a small press publisher, no shortage of other things to be doing) is one of the worst times to start anything new, but writing these posts hasn’t felt like a chore in the slightest. The greatest discovery has been that during time away from my desk, articles start to write themselves in my head, and when I finally sit down to put one together it’s almost all there already. Long may this continue!
But what about your feelings? Blog readers who have reached out to me this month (thank you), either through email replies or in the comments, have neatly divided themselves into three clear categories:
Those personally invested in either myself or Valley Press, who are keen to see both continue to thrive. They may take out a paid subscription to support that end, but will definitely stick around anyway for the anecdotes, memories etc.
Those hungry for publishing education, who are the most likely group to take out a paid subscription – so as to have access to the “premium” posts, which will contain most of the informative stuff.
Prolific readers who are constantly looking for their next book purchase, especially from a small publisher. Although they are unlikely to become paid subscribers, they buy books instead, and must be catered to with regular author interviews and other book spotlight posts. (Some would say this is the most important group any publisher can cultivate!)
That gives me a clear direction (or three!) to go forward into the autumn: a bit of personal chat, lots of author interviews, and as many publishing insights and how-to articles as I can possibly manage.
To help me figure out the right mix, can we try a quick poll? (I’ve been wanting to test out that function.)
Of course, even with a free subscription, I recognise all this reading is a big commitment in a busy world (especially for subscribers previously used to five or six VP newsletters a year) – so sincere thanks, and serious respect, to those who have read every word posted so far.
If you’ve been sufficiently inspired by any of the above, you can subscribe by pressing this official-looking button:
… and either way, I’ll see you next week, when the submissions onslaught (whoops) will have started in earnest. Bring it on!