Submissions — How to Submit Your Manuscript
New to poetry & to the perils of submitting your work to publishers or magazines? Go here.
Submitting to Shearsman magazine? Go here.
If you wish to submit a book manuscript to Shearsman please, you should send it to the press at
50 Westons Hill Drive
or in PDF form — see the simple form on our contact page. You should also send an introductory letter, with a biographical note, and a list of prior publications, in magazines or otherwise.
but please pay attention to the following fundamentals before doing so:
(1) We only publish poetry, although we do take on some literary criticism—focused on poetry—and also, occasionally, memoirs and essays by poets. We definitely are not looking for fiction, books for children (and that includes poetry for children), or works of a religious nature—the latter are best directed to one of the many devotional publishers, who will know how to sell to this specialised market. We do not publish books with illustrations, except in very rare circumstances, and never with colour images (except, of course, on the cover).
(2) We publish mainly poetry by British, Irish, North American and Australian/New Zealand poets, plus poetry in translation from any language—although we have a particular interest in German, Spanish and Latin American poetry.
(3) Please do not submit a manuscript unless the majority of it has already appeared in UK or North American magazines of some repute, whether online or in print. If a poet has no track record of publication in magazines in the UK, Australia or North America, the chance of having a manuscript accepted for publication here is almost nil, as there is no obvious audience for the work. We do have to sell the books. We DO tend to receive a lot of enquiries from poets who write in English and live beyond our core Anglophone target countries; the advice to such authors is to develop some exposure to UK / US / Canadian / Australian / New Zealand magazines and try to assemble a manuscript only after you have a presentable portfolio. The process of acceptance and rejection by professional third parties can provide a useful learning curve for any ambitious writer. We do not regard prior publication in Forward Press or United Press anthologies as counting towards a viable list of previous publications, as there is no obvious quality control exercised in the selection of such volumes. If you've had to pay to get your work published, it just doesn't count, alas.
(4) A manuscript would need to fill at least 60 pages (A5 or half-letter size, with an 11-point font) for us to take it on. In 2012 we began publishing chapbooks—or pamphlets as they are often referred to in the UK (defined here as a publication with a maximum of 36 pages, including all front matter and a blank at the end, in demy-octavo or A5 format, and with no printed spine)—but we are not presently inviting submissions for this programme and it should be noted that at present our chapbooks are only directed at the UK market and are intended for UK-based authors.
(5) Before sending anything in, please examine the work available on this website, in issues of the magazine, in e-books, and in book samplers, which will give you some idea of where we sit aesthetically. If your work is out of synch with what you see here, it is unlikely that we would want to take it on. If you're a first-timer, please send no more than 6–10 pages from your manuscript. If we want to see more on the basis of that, we will ask. And, please note, we DO mean 6–10 pages only. You will assist us in keeping the overflowing in-tray under control if you follow this rule. It does not mean, "Oh, OK then, send 100 pages anyway." Not following our rules means you start with a negative score, for not being able to read, and may even mean you get rejected without the manuscript being read.
(6) Please note that postal submissions that are not accompanied by sufficient return postage will be destroyed, unacknowledged. Submissions that are accompanied by penalty charges for bearing insufficient postage will be rejected, and presumably returned to source by the Royal Mail, or destroyed. Manuscripts will not be returned unless the return envelope carries sufficient postage and British stamps; a surprising number of North American submissions have been sent here under the apparent assumption that US stamps can be used in other countries. They can't; consider how far you would get in a US post office if you tried to mail something using British stamps. Not far, huh? Submissions from outside the UK should be accompanied by a single IRC to cover a single-page letter of reply or, better still, no IRC and an email address to which we can reply.
(7) Electronic submissions may be made, provided they are embedded in the text of an e-mail message and sent to editor_AT_shearsman_DOT_com (remove the underscores and insert the usual versions of AT and DOT). If the formatting of your poems is affected adversely by the e-mailing process, this will be obvious and we will let you know if an alternative submission is required. Please avoid sending attachments with your e-mails, unless they are in PDF format. Any other uninvited attachments will be destroyed, unread, because of the possibility of computer viruses arriving with them. You might think we're paranoid, but the fact is that we get attacked every day by scammers and spammers, attempting to deliver trojans and malware.
(8) We are well aware that women are still somewhat under-represented on the list of authors here, although our North American list shows the reverse situation. Simple statistics do not tell the whole story, however, as a greater percentage of submissions by women writers is accepted. There is no discrimination against women authors, or indeed authors of any kind. I think we discriminate against bad poetry, but that, I hope, is a given.
(9) If we DO take you on, then the following terms and conditions will apply. If you find them unacceptable, it would be preferable not to submit a manuscript in the first place, as these terms are not negotiable.
- We always need UK / Ireland rights, and also North American rights wherever possible; world rights would be preferable.
- We do not pay advances.
- Authors receive 10 free copies of their book.
- Authors are entitled to purchase further copies of their book at 50% of retail price, but are not committed to do so.
- We do not accept payment from authors to publish their books.
- Our contracts include termination clauses, whereby the author can exit their contract with 6 months' notice, after 3 years have elapsed, without penalty.
- We pay royalties of 10% of the retail price, but this kicks in only after 150 copies have been sold. Thus, income on the first 150 copies is entirely for the press. Thereafter we share. This may sound ungenerous—and it is—but the brutal truth is that the great majority of poetry books do not sell in significant quantities. The fact that we reduce costs to an absolute minimum means that we can afford to take on very marginal books from which other publishers would shy away. We do like our books to sell, however, and if a first book doesn't sell at all (and the worst-performing book here, as of the end of 2015, had total sales of 23, including sales to the author) we would almost certainly not wish to take on a subsequent volume.
- We have an active North American poetry list, and welcome approaches from North American authors. Please be aware, however, that there are limits to the amount of support that we can offer from the other side of the Atlantic.
- We will not pay permission fees for reprints, for illustrations, or for quoted texts.
- We try to reply to all submissions quickly, but, alas, we frequently fall behind, due to the sheer volume of submissions. If you do not hear within three months, we do not mind being chased for a reply.
- Decisions are final, and we will not enter into further discussions concerning rejected manuscripts.
- We reserve the right to control the entire design of our books and their covers, although we will try to take the author's wishes into account when doing so.
- We do not arrange reading tours or publicity, but can sometimes provide reading slots in our own London reading series, and occasionally manage to arrange readings elsewhere, although there are practical limits to this, given the nature of the UK reading scene and the general lack of funds to support it.
- We welcome the submission of translations, especially from German and Spanish, and we often publish bilingual volumes. It is essential that the availability of the translation rights be clarified in the initial approach, whether from the author, the author's executor(s), or the author's publisher(s). In most countries, the original publisher can demand fees for the publication of translations, and you should be aware of this when submitting. Try to clarify the situation with the original publishers wherever possible, so as to avoid embarking on a lot of work and then finding that the rights-holders won't play ball. This does happen, alas.