WE ARE CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR SUBMISSIONS. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO SUBMITTED A MANUSCRIPT - WE WILL BE IN TOUCH SHORTLY.
The short version
Speculative fiction. That means anything not mundane: fantasy; science fiction; horror; weird fiction; magical realism; etc. Complete novels of 40K + words to be considered for print publication.
We are also interested in exploring the potential of shorter fictions that challenge the definition of the traditional novel; sets of novellas or novelettes, interlinked short fictions and the like.
Please note we are not accepting individual short stories at this time.
How to submit
NOTE: We are currently closed to submissions.
Submit the first 15k words - or nearest-sized coherent chunk - along with a covering letter. Don't agonise over the letter, details of your publication history and why the story is important to you is enough.
We prefer standard manuscript format, in Word. Please do not send PDFs.
Email your submission to email@example.com - anything received before 29th January will be deleted unread.
Include SUBMISSION: in the subject line - our mail filters are looking for this, so not doing it increases the chance we miss your submission!
We are incredibly, so very super massively keen to hear from BAME writers in the UK! Under-representation is an issue and we'd absolutely love to be part of the solution. So send us your work, please!
THE LONG VERSION
We’re interested in science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, punk (cyber or otherwise), weird, dark, comedy, satire and anything else that falls somewhere between any or all of those. We get genres are useful, but we also know writers are more worried about their stories than the labels. Don’t worry, we find it hard to classify the best works too.
Have you noticed how post-apocalyptic stories veer into fantasy a lot, when they're technically science fiction or speculative fiction? Or how epic fantasy has parallels with historical fiction? Or when horror is actually embedded in emotion and catharsis, how ghost stories are literary exorcisms of grief and guilt? That.
Maybe it’s a caustic commentary on city living told from the perspective of some anthropomorphised council flats. It might be a new colony world on the frontier. Maybe it’s a surreal far-future paranoia where the human race is dissolving into its own technology. Perhaps it's the ancient races giving way to man as magic passes into myth. Maybe it’s a fantastical story about colonialism told by butterflies and moths in the land of Flutter. It might just be that simple ghost story that chills your spine on a crowded train on a mid-summer morning.
Whatever it is, if it’s beautifully written you’ll get our attention. If it makes us look at the world we live in with a fresh perspective, so much the better.
Please DO NOT send us straight historical fiction or literary fiction – not that we don't like it or read it, but at Unsung we're interested in publishing the weird and speculative.
Films and books that we love include:
Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita
Ursula le Guin - Especially The Dispossessed and Tehanu
Neil Gaiman - Especially The Sandman
Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca
Philip K Dick - Especially Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
Iain (M) Banks - Especially The Player of Games, The Crow Road and Excession
Alan Moore - Especially The Ballad of Halo Jones and Voice of the Fire
M John Harrison - Especially Light and The Course of the Heart
John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces
DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little
Studio Ghibli - Especially Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro and Nausicaa
Roger Zelazny - Especially The Amber Chronicles
Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus
Esther Friesner’s Brown Dust
Robert Reed’s Floating Over Time
David D. Levine’s Babel Probe
Kubrick’s 2001 and Glazer's Under The Skin
Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Veronique
Leon Carax’s Holy Motors
Park Chan-wook - Especially Oldboy, I’m A Cyborg… and Stoker
Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly
Rian Johnson’s Brick and The Brothers Bloom
Shane Carruth’s Primer
Incidentally, these are also all excellent so you should do yourself a favour and catch them all anyway.
WHAT WE LIKE
None of these are essential. The thing about genius is it's normally unexpected. We do like these things though.
Stories written because they felt right to you, with no particular market segment in mind.
Ambitious books and a disregard for convention.
Work that challenges the reader to reassess their world. This doesn't mean Joycean complexity or prolix labyrinths, mind. 1984 or The Wire are obvious examples. Something that makes you think again.
Caustic or dry humour. And black humour. And silly humour and cheap puns. And shaggy dog stories. And dad jokes. And sarcasm.
Credible and empathetic takes on atypical/unusual or underrepresented protagonists outside the White Dude Sphere, such as:
Normal looking, even ugly people - have you ever noticed how many protagonists are beautiful, or if not are grizzled, muscular and scarred? Now take a look at the next 50 people you see in the street.
Women (note this does not mean some big-titted warrior man-cypher. You know you can do better than that).
People of colour.
The LGBTQIA community
People with mental health conditions.
Homeless people, and other socially or economically disadvantaged groups
Migrant, international and diaspora communities
Kerouac’s mad ones: ‘The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.’ Them.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE
The simplest way to describe this is: derivative fiction. If it’s exactly like something already out there, that’s a turn-off.
Here are a few specific examples.
Erotica. Sex, all good. Eroticism in the story, fine with us. Gratuitous kinkiness in the place of substance, not fine.
Dan Brown. There's a serious point here. Have a think about how he writes and why it isn't for us.
Predictable genre fiction. So a book about moody vampire teenagers called Twiglet won't fly. You can lay off the all-powerful things that need to be thrown in the forge they were made in as well.
Pitches and promissory notes with fragments and incomplete books aren't for us. No writer ever nailed a book on their first draft, so if you're still writing it you've got some way to go before you should be submitting it. Chin up, we're not being mean; we're saving you the disappointment of a rejection.
I still have questions!
Have you read all of this? Be honest now. Are you planning on sending us a submission? Have you read the instructions at the top of the page?
If it's about anything else, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our favourite kinds of question are stupid questions and obvious questions. They're normally the hardest to answer.