The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints - and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication - we've quizzed a number of editors about the nuts & bolts of their submissions process. This week, our guests are David J Howe and Stephen James Walker, from Telos Publishing.
Pornokitsch: Thanks for taking part! Could you tell us a bit about Telos, and the books that you publish?
David J Howe and Stephen James Walker: We are Telos Publishing Ltd, a small independent press run by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker.
We have two imprint areas: the main press, which specialises in non-fiction, particularly guides to film and television; and Telos Moonrise, edited by Sam Stone, which presents fiction in a number of different genres - horror/fantasy/science fiction/crime/romance/erotica - mainly for the e-book market, but also in paperback editions.
PK: How long have you been publishing? And what are you up to now?
DJH & SJW: Telos Publishing has been operating since 2000, and we have a large backlist of titles. We are passionate fans of genre film and television, and also of genre fiction, and so love to publish the best books we can on the subjects that interest us.
We tend not to announce titles in advance due to the timescales involved in prepping the books. We have found in the past that announcing something which has not been delivered yet, is just asking for delays to occur and deadlines to be missed, so these days we tend to only announce once a title is ready for publication.
DJH & SJW: In the non-fiction ranges, we're looking for good, authoritive works on the films and television shows in question. Something original and different, and something with a wide appeal. We would be looking to answer 'why' the author wants to write this book. Do they have a special viewpoint? (Did they work on the show? Do they have special access to documentation or other details?) Also, the subjects have to have a fan appeal. Just because a show is popular, doesn't automatically mean that people want to buy a book about it.
For Moonrise, we're looking for well written stories. We are currently closed to submissions, however, as we quickly generated quite a backlog when we first opened the imprint, and we're currently working through what we have and assessing relatively how well the various titles are doing. This will then inform how we move forward.
PK: Any advice to authors on the physical part of submissions? What's the process like with Telos?
DJH & SJW: Submissions should be via email. We ask for a proposal, and perhaps a sample chapter. If we like what we see, then we will request more.
Actual text should be in a Word document. And formatting should be minimal. Times New Roman. Single spaced. No fancy fonts. No images inserted. No fancy layout (lines/headers/footers etc). As basic as it can be. For fiction we prefer single quote marks for dialogue.
We do have a 'style guide' which is provided to the author once a book has been commissioned.
DJH & SJW: The cover email should be simple. Who are you? What is your idea? Why do you want to write this? What can you bring to the project? It's always good to try to summarise the project/story concisely in a paragraph or two that can convey the ideas or themes.
PK: Should they also include information about themselves? If so, what sort of detail might help? Awards? Previous publications?
DJH & SJW: All that is useful background. History of previous work, saleability, awards, promotional contacts ...
PK: Scary question, but is there anything that an author can do that could knock themselves out of consideration - something about the story or the way they present it?
DJH & SJW: Being too arrogant: 'This is the best story you will ever read...';
Being too ambitious: 'The first in a ten volume series covering the history of God...'
Not having a clue about what we do/don't publish. We don't publish short stories. We don't publish poetry. We do publish in the Horror/Fantasy/SF areas, so war novels, semi-autobiographical stories about strife in foreign countries, religious novels, children's books, true crime ... none of these are areas in which we publish. So it's always a good idea to research your market. Find out what sort of books the publisher does actually publish.
Sending the submission in with a covering letter that is full of errors and badly written. Also, if the sample is full of typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, factual errors ... If we think it will take too much effort just to get the text into publishable English, then we may well pass regardless how good the idea is.
Repeatedly querying when we've only had the submission for a week or two.
PK: What about after the submission - should writers follow up? And, if so, when?
DJH & SJW: We try and get back as quickly as we can, but we all have other jobs and distractions going on, and sometimes the 'real world' can intrude on time we can spend looking at submissions. However we do not have a problem with authors making polite enquiries if they haven't heard back from us within about six weeks.
PK: Turning down stories sucks. And being turned down is, I suspect, even worse. Is there anything you can say to make it better? What do you suggest that writers do when turned down?
Simply send a short polite email back to the Publisher, thanking them for their time in considering the submission. Leave it at that.
Any other tips for writers that are submitting work to you?
DJH & SJW: Spell check your work.
Read your work.
Books over 100,000 words are unlikely to be picked up by us due to the expense of doing them.
Most important of all - always follow the submission guidelines on formatting and layout because first impressions really do count.
We don't need you to source cover or internal illustrations. We will handle all that if the book is commissioned.
PK: Are you looking for stories/novels right now?
DJH & SJW: It is unlikely that we will be looking for any new fiction before 2016 ... it depends on how successfully we get through the backlog of work that we already have under contract.
PK: Thank you!