I had the pleasure of meeting BelleBooks CEO and acquiring editor Debra Dixon at the 2012 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. BelleBooks, Inc., was founded in 1999 with a focus on Southern fiction. In 2008, they launched the Bell Bridge Books imprint, which publishes titles in a variety of genres, including mystery/suspense, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, romance, general fiction, women’s fiction, non-fiction, and literary fiction. Although their website lists middle grade fiction as a possibility, Dixon said they are not currently acquiring manuscripts for the middle grade market.
They’re the most author-friendly publishing company I’ve ever met. –Pam McCutcheon
For more about Belle Books and Bell Bridge Books, see their About page.
WHAT THE EDITORS WANT
This page (accessed via the FOR WRITERS page) provides an overview of the different types of projects they produce:
On the Light Side:
1. Sweet, warm, relatively wholesome women’s fiction including “hen lit.” Books with an inspirational/Christian theme are fine, but we emphasize that we’re not known as a Christian publisher and our main focus is the general fiction market.Example: In July we’re publishing EGRET COVE, by Margaret Nava, about a mature woman from Indiana who finds a new lease on life by moving to a Florida trailer park.
2. Cozy mysteries. This year we’re publishing MURDER TAKES THE CAKE by Gayle Trent and BelleBooks is launching THE MERRY ABBOT MYSTERIES (set in the carriage driving world) by Carolyn McSparren. We’d like to find more great mystery series which explore unique and colorful worlds.
3. Compelling, well-researched Civil War fiction. We publish inspirational/historical author Jacquelyn Cook(MAGNOLIAS,SUNRISE)in our BelleBooks imprint and in July we’re launching BOOTH’S SISTER,by Civil War scholar and storyteller Jane Singer from Bell Bridge Books. Both books are heavily researched novels based on true stories.
4. Young Adult Fiction. We’re still looking for that elusive first title. If you’re a “Southern Louise Rennison,” that would catch our attention. Humor is always a plus. Read Meg Cabot.
On the Dark Side:
1. Dark, gritty, serious urban fantasy & horror. Vampires, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night on the mean streets of contemporary life.A book we’ve currently bought is an epic series about a clan of vampires. (Right, epic means the series spans centuries. You can never trust guidelines.) Read Laurell K. Hamilton, Robin McKinley (Sunshine), Patricia Briggs, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, etc.
2. Young Adult fantasy fiction. Yes, we’d love to find the next Harry Potter, but our primary focus for the moment is publishing for the teen market. If you read Holly Black, Stephanie Meyer, Laura Whitcomb (A Certain Slant Of Light), Neil Gaiman, Scott Westerfeld, Robin McKinley etc. you’re probably writing something we’d love to see. We’ve just acquired a contemporary fantasy of magick by Marilee Brothers. Her voice is so compelling she made us want that book after reading only 8 pages in a contest a year ago—that’s all she entered…8 pages. Once we established Bell Bridge Books, we hunted her down. (Folks, voice is important.)
3. Fantasy. We’re happy to look at “swords and horses,” and just about any fantasy you’d like to query, but the writing has to be fabulous. You’ve got to bring something unique to the table. Anne Bishop’s Jewels novels are an example. (Anne Bishop has contributed to BelleBooks’ Mossy Creek series.) Who doesn’t love George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Kate Elliott, Robin Hobb, Dave Duncan, Glen Cook, David Drake, Simon R. Green, C.S. Freidman, Lois McMaster Bujold, Anne McCaffery? The list goes on. We’ve left many fabulous authors off that short list, but you get the drift.
INDIVIDUAL EDITOR PREFERENCES
Scroll farther down on the FOR WRITERS page for submission guidelines for individual editors, such as the following info for Debra Dixon:
Debra Dixon (Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Young Adult)
We’re happy to look at “swords and horses,” and just about any fantasy you’d like to query, but the writing has to be fabulous. You’ve got to bring something unique to the table. Anne Bishop’s Jewels novels are an example. (Anne Bishop has contributed to BelleBooks’ Mossy Creek series.) Who doesn’t love George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Kate Elliott, Robin Hobb, Dave Duncan, Glen Cook, David Drake, Simon R. Green, C.S. Freidman, Lois McMaster Bujold, Anne McCaffery? The list goes on. We’ve left many fabulous authors off that short list, but you get the drift.
Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
Dark and Gritty is a sweet spot. We like dark. But we’ll look at lighter books, too. And we love dark books that can also deliver great humor. Feel free to submit, vampires, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night on the mean streets of contemporary life.
Read our authors Kalayna Price and Anthony Francis. Other authors you should read: Ilona Andrews, Laurell K. Hamilton, Robin McKinley (Sunshine), Patricia Briggs, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, etc. Again, the list of great authors is long and distinguished.
We will look at straight, traditional horror. Voice is incredibly important for this genre. Flinging bloody body parts around isn’t enough. You need a plot. A good one. A fabulous character and a voice that makes us forget that traditional Horror is a small target to hit when you’re trying to find readers. There is no getting around that this is a niche market with smaller sales and fewer readers.
Steampunk, Gaslight, ________punk, Weird West, etc.
Bring it. We’d like to see it.
This is well-loved by our Suspense/Mystery editor. Please query Pat Van Wie.
We’ll look, but be warned. Romance masquerading as fantasy doesn’t work for us. If you don’t regularly read urban fantasy, horror and “regular” fantasy, that lack of familiarity with the fantasy genre will show in your writing and your plotting. We want strong, fresh books. SF/futuristic are welcome.
Non-fantasy Young Adult
Our list aims for the teen reader and the cross-over market. If you’re a “Southern Louise Rennison,” that would catch our attention. Humor is always a plus. Read Meg Cabot. We’d love to see books featuring teen boys as protagonists. We’re happy to see dark edgy books on serious subjects.
Young Adult fantasy fiction
Yes, we’d love to find the next Harry Potter, but our primary focus for the moment is publishing for the teen market. Read our authors Parker Blue, Marilee Brothers and Trish Milburn (coming soon). If you read and love: Holly Black, Stephanie Meyer, Laura Whitcomb (A Certain Slant Of Light), Neil Gaiman, Scott Westerfeld, Robin McKinley, Suzanne Collins, Lauren Destefano (Wither) etc., you’re probably writing something we’d love to see.
Middle Grade Fantasy (very limited list)
We might do one title a year. Check out our author Bill Allen – HOW TO SLAY A DRAGON.
Regency Urban Fantasy
Yep. You read that right. I’d love to see some fabulous “urban fantasy” inspired Regency.
TOP REASONS FOR REJECTION
Check out this great list…
We don’t publish ___________________. (Fill in the blank with poetry or any one of a hundred other genres we don’t publish, but that you submitted anyway.)
Your query letter bored us to death, wandered in circles, spent more time on how brilliant you are than on pitching the story (which is all we care about).
“Close but no cigar.” These submissions are certainly competent, but the stories are flat. The writing is flat. They don’t bring anything new to the party. The authors don’t have a unique distinct voice, which is especially important for genre and critical for a small press.
Books masquerading as the “current big thing.” These are books the author wrote just because a friend told them, “Hey, urban fantasy is big. Write that.” (Or whatever) When you don’t read and love a genre, we can tell. So, be sure you read well and widely in a genre or sub-genre before submitting to us.
Tired old plots that don’t have sparkling new characters that fascinate.
Thanks for joining me for the first in the new Friday Publishers’ series, where we’re taking a look at publishers who will considered un-agented submissions. You might also be interested in Small vs Big Six Publishers: What’s the Difference? to learn more about the different types of publishers out there.
This series is all about YOU, the writer-in-the-trenches. What else would you like to know? Please add questions, comments, or additional info in the comments!