University presses can also be universal presses. In addition to offering scholarly and literary books, some of these publishers are also on the lookout for novels, short story collections, essay collections, poetry books, and memoirs aimed at general audiences.
Do you need a literary agent to submit to small presses?
At Writer’s Relief, we don’t help writers submit directly to independent and university presses because we believe that having a literary agent is still the best way to stay protected. Good literary agents will protect writers from unscrupulous editors, low advances, and bad contracts. Learn more here: Top Reasons To Query Agents First.
Our feeling is that unless you’re 100% certain that your book won’t fit in at big New York publishers (or unless you don’t want your book to be released with one of the “top six”), you should first try to get an agent. We can help you; we’re having a call for book submissions right now.
If you don’t receive interest from a literary agent, then it’s time to query independent and university presses.
How do you approach university and small presses?
Many university and indie publishers don’t require writers to have literary agent representation. They will consider your unsolicited manuscripts. Go to the Association of American University Presses website for lists and links to the online homes of more than 130 AAUP member publishers. Then, browse those sites to see which presses consider books in your genre.
University presses will often ask that you initially mail a printout of your book proposal. But that means paying for paper, ink, and postage when you don’t yet know if a press will have a shred of interest in your work. If you don’t want to send your whole book proposal (or sample pages), you can sometimes email a query letter to the appropriate editor. Then, if there’s a positive response, you can pop your proposal (or your requested sample pages) in the mail.
Waiting for a response from a small press:
University presses often have smaller staffs and budgets than commercial publishers do, so be prepared to send a hard copy or two of your complete manuscript if a press wants to look at it. That can mean a long sojourn next to your home printer. If the publisher in question accepts e-subs, count your lucky stars and hit SEND!
University presses tend to take longer than commercial houses to evaluate a book. A number of these presses first read the manuscript in-house, then send it to outside readers for a further look-see. So sit tight.
What to do if you get an offer of publication from a university or indie press:
After you’re done dancing and shouting with joy, it’s time to get down to business. Your new publisher is going to offer you a book contract. You can either hire a lawyer to look over your contract and advise you, or you can seek a literary agent’s help (some will work with writers on their contracts [for a fee]). Not all literary agents will do this, so send out some queries to see who might be interested. Then, start getting ready for your book debut!
Do you like independent publishers? Want to ensure that they will continue to be an important market for emerging and established writers?
Independent publishers are NOT just an alternative to big publishing; they are an important and integral part of the literary ecosystem. If you like indie presses, there’s one very important thing you can do to help them: Buy their books! Find a literary journal that you love on these pages and subscribe!
QUESTION: Shout out, writers! Tell us what you like about small presses!
The University of Missouri Press has published two of my books and done an excellent job. But the contract is always pretty much cookie-cutter than needs some changes. And, of course, the authors will do nearly all the marketing.
Always good to know about such options when you have less mainstream creations to offer and can’t necessarily get an agent for them because the agent doesn’t can’t envision enough dollar signs for representing it. Thanks for the info.
Excellent article and very helpful. I had not even considered university presses until I read your article. Will act on it.
Suzette, We’re so glad you found our article helpful. We wish you the best of luck in submitting to university presses!
Very helpful article; I’d much rather try this route than self-publishing.
This article is a gift to all writers looking for
smart, sound advice in a very confusing
I’m glad I found this article. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me to submit my writing to a university press. Since I don’t have an agent, maybe that’s a better route for me to take than querying the big publishers. This definitely gives me more options!
I’d urge all writers and readers to read books by university and small presses–there are some exquisite books out there. Thanks for reminding us all.
Thank you for this article. I’ve got a stack of poetry that I am quite proud of, and I have wanted to publish a chapbook or something further, but I had no idea as to where to start.
Your article has provided me with insight and important tips that I’ll put to use.
Thank you for this article. It is very informative and I had no idea about University Publishers. Thanks for sharing this information.