What? We can contact publishers ourselves? Don't we need agents? Well, yes and no. In most cases, getting an agent is the best way to go because you'll have the opportunity to reach more publishers and possibly negotiate better contracts. But it's not the ONLY way to go.
If your book is high quality, but perhaps "risky" because it doesn't have a clear market niche, such as cross-genre works, emerging genres like New Adult, or novellas, a small publisher may be more willing to take the chance on you. Submitting directly to publishers is also good alternative for all writers of genre fiction, especially romance.
This list is far from exhaustive. There are oodles of publishers out there, many of which are open to unagented submissions, and you can find more on www.querytracker.net or www.writersmarket.com. I chose to highlight these for the following reasons:
- They accept unagented and unsolicited submissions.
- They accept simultaneous submissions.
- They accept electronic submissions.
- They look professional, with attractive, high quality covers (of course this is quite subjective).
- They are traditional royalty paying publishers (they don't charge fees).
48fourteen - An all digital publisher with a social network component. They are open to pretty much all genres. From their website, "We are looking for fresh ideas, no matter the genre. “Cookie-cutter” type novels are a dime a dozen and not for us."
Belle Books - They have been around since 1999 and publish in e-book and print. They focus on Southern fiction, but are open to a variety of genres set in the South or not. They pay an advance. From the website, "Bell Bridge Books is known for nurturing emerging fiction voices as well as being the "second home” for many established authors, who continue to publish with major publishing conglomerates."
Carina Press - A digital imprint of Harlequin. As you might expect, they do a lot of romance, but they are open to genre novels without romantic elements! They do not accept YA or literary fiction. From their website, "If the book of your heart fits into a niche that has very little shelf space in a traditional bookstore, Carina Press is eager to read and potentially publish your story."
Crescent Moon Press - Check out their gorgeous cover for Breathless. A boutique publisher of digital and print titles. They accept sci-fi and fantasy of all varieties. From their website, "CMP prides itself on quality writing, out of the box story lines, and professionalism."
Entangled Publishing - A digital and print publisher for all types of romance, including other genres with strong romantic elements. From their website, "Entangled Books is an excellent option for outside-of-the-box story concepts, authors who want frequent royalty checks, new authors breaking into the marketplace, or prolific authors looking to leverage existing large platforms"
Etopia Press - A digital and print publisher open to almost everything, from traditional genres to non-traditional and cross-genre. They welcome diversity and LGBT works of all genres. They offer an advance for romance. From their website, "Etopia Press is currently looking for the best, most unique, most well-crafted stories out there — and we know they’re out there."
Immortal Ink Publishing - They will open for submissions in May 2012. A new publisher of print and e-books. They are open to a variety of genres but not interested in, "bibles, elves, dwarves, and purple moons." Check out this blog post for more information on what each editor is looking for. In general they look for, "strong characterization, characters who are unusual, fresh treatment of familiar themes, honesty, and depth."
Inkspell Publishing - A new publisher of digital and print romance (non-erotic), fantasy, and YA. Check out their lovely cover for Want. From the website, "At Inkspell, our mission is to enchant our readers with spellbinding tales of magical worlds and lovers."
Lyrical Press - A digital publisher of all types of romance, including other genres with strong romantic elements. From the website, "Authors can expect a personalized publishing experience from Lyrical Press. We believe no author should be left behind."
Quirk Books - It's all in the name isn't it? If you have something a little different, check out this reputable publisher. They've been around since 2002 and have published big titles such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Now that's good quirk. From the website, "Here at Quirk, we are always on the lookout for strange and wonderful ideas. Many of our favorite books have come from unsolicited submissions."
Sourcebooks - This big name publisher is open to unagented submissions of romance, children's, and YA. Lovely covers, such as Haunted. From their website, "We are particularly looking for strong writers who are excited about promoting and building their community of readers, and whose books have something fresh to offer the ever-growing Young Adult audience."
A few more to watch...
These publishers are not accepting unsolicited submissions right now, but occasionally have periods when they do.
Dragon Moon Press
Spencer Hill Press
If you do decide to submit to publishers yourself, I suggest How To Be Your Own Literary Agent, by Richard Curtis. It's a little outdated. Published in 2003, a lot has changed in the publishing world since then. But it has great info about how to submit to a publisher and how to negotiate your own deal.