Broken Shackles Press is a not-for-profit, independent community-publishing endeavor committed to bringing marginalized voices of liberation out into the world. We want to do this by working with and building a community of writers with lived experiences of oppression and struggles for social, political, economic, and environmental justice. We aim to publish and promote these books by working together, being invested in each other’s success as much as our own, and ultimately standing in solidarity with each other (and have fun doing it). Our aim is to bring out a number of such books and anthologies annually in order to establish an ever-growing and 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 indy or self-publishing route, though it has adopted a lot of the creativity and freedom that indy publishing can bring, but in a communitarian rather than individualist way. BSP envisions grassroots community-publishing of marginalized voices of liberation in as organic a way as possible.
Inclusivity not exclusivity. Liberated minds not elite frameworks. Community not insularity.
We do not have a genre specialty. That would limit the deliciously unpredictable and gorgeous possibilities. 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 would be interested. 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, 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. (Check out the questions under the sub-section entitled “Prospective BSP authors should ask themselves” below as you read on).
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 please 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 – Email: email@example.com
Important note: This submissions process description is primarily intended for individual authors. If you’re interested in working on a collaborative anthologies project with multiple writers, please email us to discuss further.
The submission and acceptance process for individual authors is simple:
Submit your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org in the body of your email (no attachments please, they will not be opened). The pitch should be no more than 1000 words, provide a clear description of your project, highlight what you hope to achieve with it and why you think BSP would be a good home for your project. Only email submissions are accepted at this time.
It is important to highlight the anti-oppressive and liberatory aspects of the project, because that is the basis of us accepting it or not. It must be understood that it cannot be just any writing, not even writing that pretends to hint at liberation and resisting oppression as an afterthought. Liberation and resisting oppression should be a core reason for the writing in some way or the other.
Prospective BSP authors should ask themselves:
- Am I writing because I see oppression and inequality in the world around me (including in my own life) and want to fight those injustices with my words?
- Does my writing bring to light injustice and inequality as well as resistance to and liberation from structures of oppression?
- Is my writing ready to be published and go out into the world to fight the good fight against oppression?
- Am I ready to put in work as part of a community to promote my and other’s writing so that it can go out into the world and fight the good fight against oppression?
- Am I committed to living out anti-oppressive and liberatory politics, furthermore to learn and evolve from that standpoint?
- Do I believe in and want to fight for a world without patriarchy, racism, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism, capitalist exploitation, religious fundamentalism, heteronormativity, transphobia, ablesim, ecological plunder, cruelty to our fellow beings in nature and other forms of oppression?
If you answered a fairly unambiguous and energetic “yes” to a bunch of those questions (especially the last two) then you are likely someone we would love to work with.
However, please don’t send us a pitch unless you have your final MS. It should be fully edited for content, flow, and grammatical errors (creative presentation is fine, but not lazy writing), and essentially be a writing project you can be proud of. We do not have the capacity for editing.
Also, please don’t send the pitch unless you are willing to work collectively with other writers, supporting and standing in solidarity with one another, through the entire publishing and promotion of your project, while promoting individual voices and creativity. Remember, we’re a community-publishing endeavor and building an actual community of marginalized voices of liberation is just as, if not more, important to us than the actual publishing.
Now, following the submission of your pitch one of three things can happen: (1) We like your project and are ready to move forward with it; (2) We like your project, but it raises some red flags which need to be addressed before we can move forward with it; (3) We find that your project is unsuitable for us and would probably find a better home elsewhere.
(Number 3 will happen only if your project doesn’t look like it has an anti-oppressive and liberatory core to it, in which case it simply won’t be a fit for BSP. However, we’re still interested in building community and sympathize with the head-banging-against-a-brick-wall ways of getting your book published. We would still be happy to volunteer our time to help you develop a plan for self-publishing and promoting your book, but BSP itself won’t take it on as a project.)
COMMUNITY PUBLISHING WITH BSP
Once we give the go-ahead for publishing, the fun really begins because we’re going to work harder than we ever thought we would in getting our work out into the world. But we imagine it will be a lot of fun, which is really important. We want it to be a rich learning experience for all of us, but also one that’s enjoyable.
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 into other less oppressive options. Some of you might wonder why a non-profit, 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 anti-oppressive 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 you. 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. This will include constructing a book blog, garnering reviews, clearly laying out the various groups of readers to be targeted, generating/implementing a strategy to reach each group, and much more.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING CAVEATS
We are a volunteer-run publishing house and do not make any money from this work or 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 should we become a member-based organization. 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 grand 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. All we’re interested in is good, anti-oppressive writing and building a community of marginalized voices of liberation.
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 an imprint for progressive writers who have been rejected by mainstream publishers (including “indy” small and medium ones) and a strategically-astute, solidarity-based working relationship to get their work out into the world. We’ve put in, and continue to put in, hundreds of hours of research into trying to figure this out (including developing an exhaustive list of email contacts for progressive, anti-oppressive, social justice, liberatory groups and people), we’re learning fast, 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 mean time, we wish you much peace and solidarity.
Broken Shackles Press