Monday, January 9, 2012

Writing for Black Library

In the summer of 2010 I stumbled upon Black Library's page of submission guidelines.  Their submission window is annually from May 1st through July 31st.  I had a few ideas rumbling around in my head and decided to give it a go.

At first I was motivated by simply wanting to write about some of the ideas I had about the 40k Universe, and perhaps putting my own take on it. 

But another thing that motivated me was the books that have come out of the Black Library in the past.  Black Library, with its prolific cadre of authors, has put out tons of material of varying quality.  Some of it I have found engrossing, for example Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn trilogy.  Some of it has been...frustrating to read, and I find myself thinking "I know I can write better than this."  It might be conceited to say that; after all, these guys are published writing professionals and I am not.  But I can't count the times I've read a Black Library book and certain scenes or descriptions either make me roll my eyes or even lower the book with an exasperated "Come on...!"  There are times when I think some books are written more for adolescents than for adults, which, considering GW's target audience, they probably are.

That audience aside, I decided I wanted to write about things that I as a reader would want to read.  I had several ideas, and the thrust would have been a series of linked novels about a war between the Imperium (focused on the Imperial Guard and the Imperial Navy) and the Tau Empire (specifically one isolated sept world and its sub-colonies).

The plot for Novel One (working title: Only War) was the lead up to the conflict.  The isolated Tau Sept world of Viridis, low on resources, desires to expand into territory claimed by the Imperium.  The Imperium, not ready for a fight, resists diplomatic overtures without rejecting them outright--they are playing for time.  Political intrigue, conspiracies, and assassinations abound on both sides, and ultimately the Tau are driven to launch a surprise attack against the Imperium.

The plot for Novel Two (working title: The Charge of the Danoans) chronicled the opening moves of the war as seen from both sides.  An unprepared Imperial planet comes under attack by a Tau invasion force, and poor leadership decisions on both sides lead to desperate situations for both the Imperial and Tau protagonists caught in the thick of the fighting.

The third submission was a short story, telling the tale of a Fire Warrior named Doran who is stuck under a vain commander.  Doran struggles to follow the path to the Greater Good while trapped in a situation where he is effectively powerless.

Following Black Library's submission guidelines, I submitted all three stories (three chapters for each novel with synopses, and a 1,000 word sample from the short story) within the window.  Black Library's guidelines state that if any submissions were accepted, they would contact that author withing 8 weeks of the submission window closing.  Rejected submissions would not receive a response.

Well, I waited the eight weeks, and...nothing.

No big surprise, but disappointing nonetheless.

My guess is that they didn't fit the tone of what BL wants to publish right now.  After all, Only War, in the words of a friend of mine, was more of a political techno-thriller than the "war porn" that Black Library usually puts out.  I will allow myself the conceit that the writing isn't so bad that they were rejected out of hand. 

Since the rejection, I've been wondering what to do with the submissions, other than just file them away into oblivion.  I've been considering posting them up here.  Since they've already been rejected and I can't publish them on my own because of the IP considerations, I don't see any real harm in doing so.  So I guess my question is, should I bother?


suneokun said...

I'd be a shame to just waste the content, butdo the terms and conditions stipulate a 'holding pattern' for later acceptance?

Darkwing said...

I've thought about that. I rechecked the Black Library Submission Guidelines, and now they say:

"Writers whose work we consider fit for publication will be contacted within 4 months of a submission window closing. Rejected submissions will not receive a response."

So the contact window has increased from 8 weeks to 4 months. But even so, that deadline has passed as well. I would think that even if what I submitted wasn't what they were looking for, if they liked the writing itself, they would have contacted me regardless.

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Jack Badelaire said...

As the one who suggested the "techno-thriller" angle, I agree that it just isn't want GW wants to market right now. No space marines, no dice. The first novel was, as I said, more of a "Tom Clancy does 40K" with a lot of plot and counterplot coupled with good action sequences, rather than Dakka Dakka Dakka Chop Chop Chop. I know I'm selling GW short, but having read things like the Blood Drinkers series or the Ultramarines books, if the plotting is too intricate, I can't see it appealing to your average bolter-addicted 16-year old.