Write for Black Library – 2018 Open Submissions Window

It’s been a while since the last Black Library open submissions window, but 2018 has barely begun and the latest opportunity is now available to get yourself published by your favourite purveyor of awesome Warhammer fiction! Hurrah, hooray and let general excitement commence! If you haven’t already seen the announcement on the Warhammer Community site, take a look here for all the details: https://www.warhammer-community.com/writeforblacklibrary/

In case you’re wondering what an open submissions window is, here’s the gist (bear in mind I’m speaking from a position on the outside, so don’t take this as absolute gospel). Most of the time, if you want to get your stories published by Black Library your best bet is to be an established author, by which I mean to get some of your writing published by other publishers, and use that to demonstrate your suitability for writing about Space Marines, goblins, elves and all the rest. If you’re not already published, however, it’s not just a case of emailing your 150,000 word odyssey over to Nick Kyme in the hope that he’ll read it and love it…you need to wait for the right moment.

The right moment is when Black Library hold an open submissions window – these are periods during which BL invite anyone and everyone to send in story pitches for consideration, every one of which the lucky (read: brave) submissions editor reads to see if it’s suitable for publishing. There’s often (but not always) a theme to adhere to – previous windows have been themed around the Deathwatch, or about the Imperium in general.

What’s the deal this year?

It’s even more exciting than usual this year, for various reasons. Firstly, there’s no theme as such and the stories can be set in any of the main Games Workshop settings – 40k, Age of Sigmar, Blood Bowl or Necromunda (unsurprisingly, they’re not after Horus Heresy stories). So now’s the time to work on that T’au vs Necrons story you’ve been meaning to write, or tighten up the pitch (geddit?) for your Orcland Raiders-featuring Blood Bowl tale.

Secondly, this year is the 20th anniversary of Black Library and to celebrate they’re bringing back an absolute icon of Warhammer fiction – Inferno! A regular magazine chock full of short stories, comic strips and artwork, Inferno! was the precursor to Black Library itself being set up, and featured early stories from authors like Gav Thorpe and Dan Abnett who would go on to define Warhammer fiction. Whether or not it’s coming back as a regular magazine or a one-off anthology isn’t clear just yet [EDIT: sounds like it’s going to be a standalone anthology, although that’s not 100% confirmed], but it’s exciting news regardless!

That’s not it, either. In previous years the guidance around submissions has been fairly light, but this time around we’ve been given an impressive amount of information to mull over. I won’t repeat too much of it here, because it’s all available on the Warhammer Community article – you’ve already read that, right? No? Alright, here it is again: https://www.warhammer-community.com/writeforblacklibrary/

I just want to pick a couple of things out of that, to highlight. Firstly, I love that BL have provided a list of narrative types to choose from, asking that each story conforms to at least one of them. Here’s that list:

  • Heist
  • Detective/Police Procedural
  • Adventure
  • Mystery
  • Ghost/Paranormal/Horror
  • War

To me, this says that they’re not just looking for straight-up action stories, but rather are open to a beautifully wide range of story types. How about a Blood Bowl horror story (anything can happen on the astrogranite, after all), or a heist set in the Realm of Ulgu amidst the endless shadows? Perhaps a detective story taking place deep in the Underhive, as an Adeptus Arbites investigator hunts down an ominous mystery? There’s so much potential here, that I’m getting really excited to see what people come up with!

The other highlight, for me, is found when you click on the Common Questions & Advice button at the bottom of the page – below the usual FAQs there’s a LOAD of awesome advice from existing Black Library authors. If you fancy writing for Black Library (and I assume you do, if you’ve got this far in my article), then heeding the advice of authors like Gav Thorpe, Guy Haley, David Annandale and John French (and more) seems like a very, very sensible idea. It’s cool to see guidance from a range of authors too, from newer authors like Robbie to long-time veterans like Gav. There’s some great stuff there, so do check it out!

What do I have to do to enter?

Well…you’re probably best off reading through the actual article on submissions, right? That way you get all the info you need straight from the source. If you just want a very brief summary, however:

  • The idea is to come up with a short story set in one of the 4 settings, conforming to at least one of the narrative types listed above.
  • Make it cool! Okay, that’s me talking and not BL – but their advice is that they’re “looking for a broad range of stories and characters that capture Black Library’s unique mood and tone”. So make it cool!
  • Don’t submit a finished story – you should send:
    • A one-paragraph summary of what your story is going to be about.
    • A 500-word sample of the story, to showcase your writing.
  • Submit those two things via the form in that article.
  • The deadline for submissions is the 10th April 2018.

You can enter as many times as you like, but to me it seems sensible to work really hard to polish and perfect one pitch rather than sending in lots that aren’t as well thought-through.

A couple of interesting bits of advice from the FAQ section:

  • “All submissions should be set in the contemporary timeline for each setting.“
  • “We recommend that you don’t use any previously established characters from other Black Library novels/short stories or Games Workshop publications.“

Good luck to everyone who’s going to submit something – I can’t wait to read the stories that come out of this! In fact…

I’m hoping to see…

I’m genuinely super excited about this, and really looking forward to reading loads of stories from new writers. I’ve thought a little about the sorts of things I would really like to see in Inferno! – I suspect other people will have WAY better ideas than me, but these are a few things I would love to see.

Blood Bowl
Basically I just want to read LOTS of Blood Bowl stories. Keep the humour, create some memorable characters who we can watch develop over the season(s), and mix the on- and off-pitch action. Also, goblin secret weapons – who wouldn’t love to read a story involving goblins on pogo sticks or wielding chainsaws!

Dirty, gritty, low-tech, low-level cyberpunk stories full of all the crazy little touches that don’t tend to work in 40k stories. Bonus points to anyone who includes characters named D’Arquebus, Tundrish or Valence and makes it work!

Age of Sigmar
Honestly? Stories that don’t involve Stormcast, or that show them from a remove, from other perspectives, and in unusual ways. Let’s see Stormcast who aren’t necessarily noble and determined stand-up guys…there’s room for plenty of variety. Also more Kharadron Overlords and cool Sylvaneth characters please!

Warhammer 40k
I’d love to see some really characterful, engaging ‘new 40k’ sort of characters, so maybe squad-level Primaris Marines or some cool, nuanced Chaos characters in the vein of the Ahriman/Abaddon/Fabius/Lucius sort of stories. We don’t need named characters, just cool characters doing interesting things. Alternatively, just more cool stories about Imperial Guard regiments that aren’t the usual big names – there’s endless scope for Guard stories!

Above all, I think I’m just looking forward to seeing new names, new ideas, and fresh stories that shine a light on a wider range of characters, places and concepts in the settings I love. No pressure, then!

I’d love to hear about what you think of this news – are you raring to go with an awesome pitch? Excited to read about something in particular? Let me know in the comments section below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter!

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