This page explains my expectations and requirements for submitting fiction, non-fiction, and works in genres other than epics and sagas. To see the submission guidelines for epics and sagas, click here.
What I'm looking for
I am seeking submissions in the following genres:
- literary fiction
- rock ‘n’ roll stories (fiction or non-fiction)
- crime novels
- historical fiction
- dystopian speculative fiction
In all cases, I’m looking for lean, direct prose; flawed and conflicted three-dimensional characters; realistic dialog; dry, wry, and ironic humor; conflict, tension, and drama; unexplained psychological wreckage; and acerbic social commentary.
I want books that are direct, minimal, fast-paced, and relevant. I want page-turners that have something to say. For examples of what I'm talking about, please see the list of "reference points" for each category, below.
What I don't want
I am not looking for overly-introspective novels that rely on flowery prose, detailed description, chronic indecision, emotional hand-wringing, or therapeutic exploration. If your literary model is Stendhal, D.H. Lawrence, Hawthorne, Oe, or Dreiser, please shop your novel elsewhere.
Flowery prose is acceptable if it comes in short bursts, sounds like Baudelaire, and supports a solid plot, strong characters, and a sharp ear for dialog.
PLEASE: No vampires, werewolves, zombies, morphing left-handed albinos, or other flavor-of-the-month paranormal romances. I know that stuff sells, but I don't read it and I have no interest selling it.
For editorial submissions, please send me the following:
- A brief (one or two page) summary or outline of the book.
- A two or three chapter sample. Please, no more than 50 pages.
- A biographic sketch and list of your previous publications.
- Your contact information (e-mail address and telephone number).
Please put "Submission" as the Subject line. I will do my best to respond to you promptly. If I like your work, I'll provide you with an address so you can mail me the full manuscript.
The following lists of writers and titles should give you a feel for what I am looking for in each genre. If your style or content resembles any of these writers, I’m interested in seeing your work.
For literary fiction, I prefer prose that is lean and content that is kind of dark and leaves the reader thinking. I also like wry, pointed humor and "coming of age" stories. My personal literary heros are Chinua Achebe, Pearl Buck, Charles Bukowski, Anthony Burgess, Erskine Caldwell, Jim Carroll, Willa Cather, Louis Ferdinand Céline, Pete Dexter, John Fante, William Golding, Knut Hamsun, Papa Hemingway, Jerzy Kosinski, Pär Lagerkvist, Harper Lee, Naguib Mahfouz, Cormac McCarthy, Carson McCullers, Larry McMurtry, John O’Hara, George Orwell, Jose Saramago, Budd Schulberg, Hubert Selby, Betty Smith, Booth Tarkington, Hunter Thompson, Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker, Tobias Wolff, and Markus Zusak.
I really like alternative rock music, so I'm interested in music biographies, oral histories, memoirs, or books on the once burgeoning and now failing music industry. Some personal favorites of my include Please Kill Me, The Dark Stuff, Wonderland Avenue, and The Hit Men. If you've got an interesting idea for a book on music, I'm all ears.
For crime novels, I like it hard boiled all the way: James Ellroy, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Horace McCoy, Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke, David Mamet, William Gresham, Andrew Vachss, Lawrence Block's mid-period Matt Scudder novels (I loved Eight Million Ways to Die), Charles Williford's Hoke Moseley novels, and early stuff by Thomas Harris.
A good story is a good story, so I'm open to just about any era. However, I don't want stories that strongly reflect current values. I want your story to transport me to the story's time and values. The work should be well researched and accurate.
A few titles that I like include Frans Bengtsson's The Long Ships (a near perfect novel), Lindsay Clarke's The War at Troy (a good retelling of an ancient story), Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (a modern masterpiece) , Mary Renault's stories of ancient Greece, and Crete and Sigrid Undset's Krisin Lavransdatter (historical fiction at its best).
I'm also interested in historical adventure novels, such as Clavell's Shogun, Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo or Three Musketeers, or Samuel Shellabarger's Prince of Foxes.
For speculative fiction, I want dark, gritty stuff that is driven by character, plot, moral dilemmas, and political manipulation. I want stories that ponder the unintended consequences of misguided social policy and the misuse of emergent technologies.
I also see suffering as being essential to existence, so I don’t want stories about utopian societies—unless the story exposes the utopia as artificial and an actual dystopia. Stories that critique, satirize, or expose the dangers posed by the purifying visions of religious fundamentalists, political reactionaries, or radical progressives are particularly welcome.
I do not want hard-science stuff that is infatuated with gadgetry. Technology must be incidental to the story, not its focus. The stories must be about people and society.
To me, the cornerstones of this genre are 1984, Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, The Lathe of Heaven, and The Handmaid’s Tale.