Broken Shackles Press is a community-publishing imprint and writers collective, with members in Minneapolis and Toronto, committed to providing a platform for marginalized voices of liberation. We are a growing community of authors with lived experiences of oppression and struggles for social, political, economic, and environmental justice. We aim to publish and promote crisp, accessible books by working together as writers, being invested in each other’s success as much as our own, ultimately standing in solidarity with each other, and hopefully having some fun doing it. Our aim is to have consistent releases of books and anthologies over the years to establish an evolving platform for marginalized voices of liberation, often ignored by mainstream publishing houses, large and small.
BSP is not like publishing with other small, medium, or large publishing houses. It’s also not like the indie or self-publishing route, though it has adopted a lot of the creativity and freedom that indie publishing can bring, but in a communitarian rather than individualist way.
Diversity sans exclusivity. Liberated minds sans elite frameworks. Community sans insularity.
We do not have a genre specialty. That would limit the deliciously unpredictable possibilities for blazing some trails. Whether it’s a novel, memoir, children’s book, poetry chapbook, graphic novel, work of narrative journalism, or even a genre completely invented by you, if it falls broadly under an anti-oppression framework, we might be interested in working with you. If you don’t have a clear sense of what “anti-oppression” means, then please do explore that term and others like “social justice” or “liberation” or “emancipatory” and honestly evaluate if any of those terms could be used in a description of your book.
But if you don’t feel like doing that just yet, then simply note that we are likely to be very interested in narratives about lived experiences of struggles against patriarchy, trauma, violence, racism, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism, capitalist exploitation, religious fundamentalism, heteronormativity, transphobia, ablesim, environmental injustice, cruelty towards animals and more (which is by no means an exhaustive list of the different kinds of oppression in our lives). Of course, a keen eye on the way multiple contours of oppression intersect with each other is always important.
It doesn’t have to be overt – subtlety is so beautiful – but it does have to be a foundation for the writing. It can be as creative as you would like it to be, so feel free to free your mind. We also understand how language is different in different places and in different communities across the world (and we apologise that we’re only able to accept submissions in English as of now), so if you’re looking at the above terms and wondering if your project might be a fit, just go ahead and ask…
COMMUNITY PUBLISHING WITH BSP
Individual authors, please note: In case you didn’t pick this up already, community publishing means we don’t do all the work for you. We don’t have the capacity to. We help you do the work for yourself alongside other marginalized voices of liberation (including those involved in founding BSP), from publishing to the all-important work of promotion and marketing.
(Every author in every publishing house, except some celebrity hack or already established writer, has to do grinding, thankless promotion work. We’re just giving it to you straight from the get-go and trying to find ways to enjoy it in solidarity with others.)
Following the go-ahead for publishing, the following steps take place:
(1) Once we have the draft ready for publishing, we work with you in formatting your book to a proper size, ensuring legibility, selecting the right paper, and designing a cover, all via a POD publisher of your choice. As of now, we only have experience with Amazon’s POD service, Createspace, but are also researching other less oppressive options. Some of you might wonder why an anti-oppressive publishing house is using such an evil corporation’s service. You’re right, it sucks. However, we’d be more inclined to pay even greater heed to such a critique if you have a spare printing shop, endless supplies, and a few volunteers who would work gratis for us. Until then, we have to use whatever tools are at our disposal to fight this good fight. Master’s tools to bring down the master’s house right? (Not all the time of course, but occasionally them tools are useful…)
(2) We will then work with you on pricing your book appropriately. Please note that we don’t take any cut of the royalties, not one cent, because all we’re interested in is getting each other’s writing out into the world (we hope to sustain ourselves through donations, grassroots grants, and optional dues should we become a member-based organization). All royalties go to the author. Normally this can range from 15-30% of the price of the book depending on how you price it, and even higher for e-books. Most publishing companies, even the ones who use Createspace as their POD service, offer only 10-15% on paperbacks because they take a cut of the royalties.
(3) Following that, we will work together on a solid marketing/promotion plan that you can implement in getting your book out into the world. This is important. All of us who write would like to eventually be able to make a livable wage out of our writing (though none of us need to be millionaires). And we think we all would have a better chance of getting there if we work together. Thus, you will be promoting your book with the support and solidarity of your fellow BSP writers, wherein you all are invested in each other’s success. Book promotion is by far the biggest and toughest step in the process, and is possibly the one that most writers are least interested in or knowledgeable about. Why suffer alone when we can suffer together (and get some royalties out of it in the process)?
PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING CAVEATS
BSP does not make any money from this work nor handle royalty-payments (you get all the royalties directly from the POD publisher of your choosing via your account, that we will help you set up). At the cost of repeating ourselves, we must emphasize that we do not take a cut of any royalties, do not charge any money for anything, and do not handle money for writers, and we will have contracts written up that say the same.
We plan to run purely on donations, grassroots grants, and optional member dues. Else, we will remain small (but still feisty) if we have to run only on volunteer labor. As you can make out from this bare bones site, we’re not a fancy-pants publishing house and have no delusions of becoming one.
We do not offer any advances or contract-signing bonuses, and we do not have the funds to enter your book in awards. We will however write letters of recommendation/support for you if there are awards you want to enter that need a publisher’s letter, and have discussions with you on which awards might be most suitable for your book should you wish to do so.
We don’t organize book-signings, tours, or any other form of conventional promotional/marketing work that requires us to invest money. We give you the tools to do all that alongside other BSP writers, without having to spend any money.
We are not a vanity press. Please do not bother offering money for publishing your work. (It’s not like we’re rich or anything, so if you really want to just hand us your money, we’ll take it by all means because clearly we’ll be able to put it to better use than you can, but we just want to be clear that all we’re interested in is building a collective of good anti-oppressive writers.)
You might be wondering how this is different from you self-publishing with Createspace or some other POD service yourself. The answer is simple. In terms of the actual logistics of self-publishing, it isn’t. However, what we do is offer a community platform for marginalized voices of liberation who have been rejected by mainstream publishers (including “indie” small and medium ones) and a strategically-astute, solidarity-based working relationship to get their work out into the world.
And for actual fucking royalty money, not some self-induced poverty-ridden ideal of merely “being heard.”
We’ve put in, and continue to put in, hundreds of hours of research as a collective into trying to figure this out (including developing creative marketing strategies that not only sharpen our talents as writers but also work out organic labor-sharing arrangements between members of the collective – such as one writer helping market another writer’s book, in return for either a portion of the royalties or return in kind, and so on…), we’re learning fast, we want to keep learning, and we want to spread the love.
If you have any questions or just want to say hi, feel free to email us.
In the meantime, we wish you much peace and solidarity.
Broken Shackles Press