On this month's Special Page:

Publisher James Longmore of HellBound Books tells us what he (and other publishers) are seeking from your submissions


Nancy Kilpatrick
Kathe Koja
Joe R. Lansdale
Nicholas Vince
Elizabeth Massie

James Longmore Hellbound logo

An ex-pat Brit with a delicious accent, James Longmore is an accomplished, published author and publisher of horror and all manner of dark things. He is also a ghostwriter of popular fiction. In that latter guise, he writes across a wide range of genres and subjects: novels, shorts, and screenplays. To date, he has four novels, five novellas, and a whole slew of short stories published under his own name by various publishers (under instruction of my agent, I am in the process of republishing them all under HellBound Books Publishing, his own publishing house).

James is an affiliate member of the Horror Writer’s Association, and runs and co-hosts his own podcast/radio show, which is used to promote HellBound Books along with myriad indie authors, artists, audiobook narrators, and publishers.



by James H Longmore, CEO, HellBound Books Publishing LLC


I write this article from two perspectives, both sides of the desk, if you will. Firstly, as co-owner and creator of a successful independent horror publisher, and secondly, as an author of nine novels and countless published short tales of horror, unpleasantness, and dark, creeping things that will have you peeking beneath the bed in the wee hours (feel free to check me out, and maybe even treat yourself to a James H Longmore tome: www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/authorpage_longmore.html

As an author, all I ask of a publisher is they treat me with professional respect, deal with me honestly, and represent my work the very best ways they can.

As a publisher…

Well, where do I even begin?

At the beginning, I guess, since it’s apparently a very good place to start (with my sincerest apologies to Julie Andrews for that one!).

As you can no doubt imagine, at HellBound Books, we receive myriad submissions for novels, novellas, collections, and poetry each and every week, all of which we consider for publication alongside the rather impressive catalog of HellBound Books. From my often-painful experiences of the author side of the table (that’s the lonely, self-deprecating, imposter-syndrome side upon which light rarely ventures), I fully understand the blood, sweat, and copious amount of tears that culminated in thumbing that send key to set your literary baby off into the big, bad, indubitably terrifying world.

And so, we treat each and every one that pops up in the HellBound Books submissions inbox accordingly, and with much love and attention.

As an author sending your beloved book to us, or any other publisher for that matter, it’s a nerve-wracking time that very often spans into months of checking your inbox, your creative mind working overtime to convince you that your work is dreadful (despite what your Mom and best friend may have told you) and the only communication you are likely to receive will be a much-dreaded rejection email.

And, statistically speaking, that’s the most likely scenario (there’s an entire chapter on dealing with rejection letters in our indispensable guide to being an author, The Horror Writer – treat yourself and be prepared!).

So, what to do?

First of all, the moment you press send, forget about it. Yep, push that book to the darkest recesses of your creative mind and start work on the next one (there’s a well-worn industry adage: the very best marketing tool for your book is your next book!).

Remember when your folks would tell you that once you’re out of the exam hall, there’s nothing to be gained by fretting over which questions you could have answered differently, and fretting over if only you’d crammed more on quadratic equations?

Well, that.

Of course, there’s much you can do as an author before the fact to ensure your book stands out above the rest, rises to the surface of the literary deluge, and piques your chosen publisher’s interest...

Naturally, the single most important thing is to have a damned good story. I just can’t emphasize this strongly enough. You can turn in the most well-written piece of work with the fanciest prose and infinitely sparkling vocabulary, but if the story is weak, it’s just not going to sell. After all, that’s what this game is all about. Publishers are businesses like any other, and our authors just love receiving their royalty checks!

At HellBound Books, we are constantly on the lookout for strong, original stories, or popular tropes (pandemic novels, anyone?) done in a unique way – we are not seeking the next Salem’s Lot, we’re looking for vampires done in an entertainingly terrifying way that we – and our readers – never could have imagined!

So, your story is brilliant, your characters both engaging and utterly believable, your dialogue as tight and crisp as anything Tarantino has ever written in his life, but how on Earth do you let us know it? How do you shout from the rooftops your book is not only the one we should read right now, but the one we should publish, even if we published nothing else – ever?

Simple stuff, really.

A nice, catchy email header is a good start, albeit one that covers all the bases your publisher asks for in their submission guidelines. Oh yes, and please, please do yourself (and us!) a huge favor: do your homework and take some time out to read the aforementioned guidelines, along with the rest of the website we spend a king’s ransom on building and maintaining. I think you’d be surprised just how many “I’ve thoroughly researched your site and just know my YA, Sci-fi fantasy novel is just what you’re looking for” and “please find attached my Vegan Cookbook in PDF format” submissions!

We publishers go crazy for a nice, well-penned, professional email, too. Nothing too complex or over-friendly – just enough to whet our appetite and give a little insight into you and your book. By all means attach your resume, marketing ideas, and bibliography, too!

As far as your manuscript – the important bit – goes, be sure you’ve adhered to the publisher’s guidelines regarding font, spacing, file format, etc., have checked (and double-checked) your spelling, grammar, and punctuation (HellBound Books has a nifty, free PDF guide for our potential authors to download that helps with many of the common mistakes we see), and possibly even garnered comments and feedback (and tweaked accordingly) from a handful of beta readers you can trust to give you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

And so to the story itself; the whole reason for emailing the publisher you know in your heart is the perfect fit for your book.

Think of your book as a movie.

Think of any popular movie, especially those all-important first three to five minutes or so that sets the tone, grabs you, and sticks you to your seat for two hours or more: the heart-pounding James Bond chase, the savage Velociraptor attack, the discovery of the Pazuzu statuette… you get the general idea.

Now, apply that to your book.

If you can grab your submissions reader within the first few pages, you’re off to a terrific start. Call it a prologue, Chapter One, even a foreword, but it must give us (and your future readers!) a taste of what’s to come, a reason to stick with the next sixty to hundred thousand words, and a sterling excuse to spend the next few hours immersed in the world you’ve so painstakingly created, accompanied by the characters you’ve grown to consider to be close friends.

Try pulling a scene from later in the book, or create a whole new one that hooks your reader in from the off – whatever you decide to do, cram as much into those first three or four pages as you possibly can.

And that’s how you catch your publisher’s attention.

With luck, if your book is what we are looking for, captures the zeitgeist of the day, is wholly unique, and beautifully written, you may well receive that much-coveted publishing contract.

And then, the real hard work begins…

While we invest time and money into marketing and promoting your book – after all, it’s what we publishers have been doing since the Guttenberg presses first rolled – it’s important for an author to appreciate it’s a two-way partnership. At HellBound Books, we spotted very early on in life the direct, positive correlation between authors who sell well and those who actively participate in promotional activities: for example, social media, local, pre-COVID book signings (they will return!), online interviews, and podcasts (HellBound Books has one of those! Check out The New Panic Room!).   

Hey, even the likes of Stephen King have to do book signings!

So, if you’re prepared for all of that, and let your chosen publisher know as much, then you’re definitely in with a fighting chance of becoming a published author!

I guess if I’m to leave you with one final piece of advice, it would be: don’t ever give up. I’m not going to go on about how many times King, Rowling, Tolkien, et al had their work rejected before they ensnared a publisher, you’ve doubtless heard that a million times by now. Nope, all I can say is write to hone your craft, read to learn how to hone it, write some more, re-write…

And, if you’re one of those who haven’t given up, it puts you streets ahead of all those who did.

You get the picture.

If you’ve made it thus far, then I wish you all the very best of luck in your endeavors to become a published writer of horror – that you’ve stuck with me to the bitter end is a sign most positive indeed.

So, send off that manuscript to the HellBound Books Publishing submissions team – and tell ’em James sent ya.