Adult trade publishers that encourage direct (unagented) submissions

Judging from the volume and types of queries I receive from prospective clients, it’s likely that many aspiring authors don’t know they can submit their work to reputable trade book publishers for consideration without the help of a literary agent. Of course, there are very good reasons for enlisting the services of an agent. No one has emphasized those reasons more clearly than Richard Curtis, who wrote How to Be Your Own Literary Agent: An Insider’s Guide to Getting Your Book Published. If you read his book, the first thing you’ll want to do is forget about being your own agent and beg Curtis to represent you.

Having an agent gives a writer three major advantages:

  1. Breadth of knowledge regarding which publishers, imprints, and editors are the best matches for an author’s work
  2. Leverage and expertise during contract negotiations
  3. Mediation when conflicts arise between an author and an editor at a publishing house

Editors are justified in feeling ambivalent about literary agents. It’s pleasant for them to deal with agents who consistently deliver the work of the most brilliant writers, ensure manuscripts are highly polished, and answer authors’ myriad questions about publishing that would otherwise be directed to busy editors. However, they also know that agented authors have more insight in the negotiation of advances, royalties, and the scope of rights granted to their publishers, which can equate to money. As you can see, it’s a delicately balanced tradeoff.

Publishers have been criticized for being slow to address wasteful, outmoded business practices, particularly in the areas of production and distribution. However, little attention has been paid to the fact that many publishing houses have implemented streamlined, experimental methods of accepting submissions. Quite a few large and midsize publishers encourage writers to query or submit their work directly, without the intervention of a literary agent. When successful, direct submissions can help publishers control up-front costs associated with acquiring manuscripts and permit access to writers who might otherwise escape notice.

I’ve been providing writers with a list of publishers who accept unagented queries or submissions. In the interest of transparency, it makes sense to post the information here, along with the caveats. You might wonder whether I’m shooting myself in the foot. I’d say, on the contrary, I’m following the example of Mr. Curtis.

Adult trade publishers that encourage direct submissions

Most independent and university presses accept queries directly from writers, and those houses are too numerous to list here. Poets & Writers maintains an online list of small presses, [updated on July 23, 2012: as does Brian Grove on his blog, My Perfect Pitch].

Before contacting a publisher, read its submission guidelines and become familiar with its list to ensure it’s a good match for your work. There are no shortcuts; do the research first.

Allen & Unwin (Australia)

DAW, a publisher of science fiction and fantasy, distributed by Penguin (US)

Five Star (guidelines here), owned by Gale, a division of Cengage Learning (US)

Hachette, via:

HarperCollins, via:

Holtzbrinck, via:

Penguin Random House, via:

Simon & Schuster, via:

  • Simon 451, a speculative fiction imprint (US)
    [Updated on January 14, 2014]

Feel free to post comments about your experiences with any of these publishers calling for direct submissions. Let me know if I’ve overlooked any others.

7 thoughts on “Adult trade publishers that encourage direct (unagented) submissions

  1. Pingback: Ann Somerville’s Journal » Blog Archive » Awesome and not so awesome stuff

  2. Robin Mizell Post author

    You’re right Grandmom L. Soho Press is a distinguished indie publisher of literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, with crime fiction and mystery imprints. I like Soho’s authors’ blog.

    My original list included only a sample of publishers that accept direct queries from writers. A better list can be found at the Poets & Writers website.

  3. Songa wa Songa

    I am a Tanzanian debut novelist-in-preparation. I was googling info on how I may find my way through and I must say your highlight has enlighten me alot.


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