Welcome to 55 Fathoms Publishing, the book publishing partner to Orca, A Literary Journal. We are open for queries for both fiction and nonfiction works. Please see the submission guidelines for detailed information.

Although we are a new book publisher, our staff has many years of experience in publishing. We understand what it takes to bring a book to fruition, from editing and cover design, to marketing and distribution. We are committed to working with our writers to achieve a successful book launch and publication run.

Please note: We have selected our first two books for publication, and will be announcing them soon. New queries will be considered for the 2023 publishing year.


About

What, then, is writing of quality? Well, what it has always been: knowing to stick one’s head into the dark, knowing to jump into the void, knowing that literature is basically a dangerous occupation. To run along the edge of the precipice: on one side the bottomless abyss and on the other the faces one loves, the smiling faces one loves, and books, and friends, and food. And to accept that fact, though sometimes it may weigh on us more than the flagstone that covers the remains of every dead writer.

– Roberto Bolaño

The precipice is where we choose to live. It is a place of intelligence and indulgence, where writers refuse to allow their imaginations and talent to be hamstrung by the tastes of the mass market.

55 Fathoms is a place for authors who are too imaginative for literary, and too literary for genre. We don’t want just a story, we want an exploration into ideas and topics that most of the literary establishment ignores.

We like tension, and nuance, and deep subtext. We like to be challenged by a story, not coddled.

What’s in a Name? 55 Fathoms is the depth to which an Orca can dive. Meet our staff.


Guidelines

Please read and follow the submission instructions carefully.

We are looking for submissions of book length works (40,000 to 120,000 words). Unpublished novels and nonfiction works only. Sorry, we have closed to story and essay collections. Also no children’s, young adult, or poetry. We are only interested in those books written in the literary style; mainstream genre works are not a good match for us.

Submissions are free. Of course, as a fledgling publisher we gratefully accept donations. You can do this on the Duosuma or Submittable portals. We accept up to 100 submissions per month.

Fiction: We are particularly interested in books that are high-concept literary, as well as those that exist on the boundary between literary and speculative—books of profound imagination and exquisite writing. In your submission please include a query letter and the first 10 pages of your book. A synopsis of 1-2 pages is optional. In your query letter please provide a paragraph or two focusing on the main plot and themes of your book, with an emphasis on what makes it unique and publishable. Also include a paragraph about you and your writing experience. Don’t be afraid to mention that you’ve never been published before—in some cases that’s a plus not a minus. For help in writing a query letter please see Jane Friedman’s expert advice.

Nonfiction: Topics of interest include current social and political events, science, nature, environment, history, mathematics, and true crime. We will also consider memoir, but your story needs to be much more interesting than a family history. Send a query letter, a table of contents, and the first 10 pages. Although agents and larger publishers often prefer to work with writers to craft a work of nonfiction to the market, we are not staffed for that task, and prefer your book to be completed or near completion.


Our Promise to Submitters:

We respect that there is a person behind every book submitted to us. We respect the time and effort that has gone into every manuscript. We believe that effort deserves honest and timely communication. We promise not to ignore you. We will read every query letter carefully. If the query is engaging we will read your writing sample. If we don’t believe your work is something we want to publish, we will respond quickly and politely. If we are interested in your work, we will let you know. However, a final decision may not take place for several months.

If you ask us a sincere question, we will answer. We also promise to keep our submission portals open during the times we say we will.

Please allow 30 days for us to review your submission materials. In most cases we will get back to you sooner than that. If we are interested in your book we will communicate that to you, however, a final decision on whether we wish to publish your manuscript may take several months.

Please note that for the first year we plan to publish no more than two or three books.


If Your Work is Selected for Publication:

  • We will work with you to edit the manuscript to achieve its final form.
  • We will provide the cover art, and you will have a voice in its design.
  • We will pay a $500 advance. It is our hope that you will use this money to promote the book prior to and after its release. Although we will provide marketing, it is critical that authors help in that effort as much as possible.
  • Once the advance is earned out, authors will be paid 25% on additional net revenues. Net revenues is fully described in our publishing contract.

What do we Mean by Literary Style?

A literary story, to us, is more deeply thought provoking than genre fiction. It is focused more on character than plot. It conveys its meaning largely through subtext. In more mainstream forms of creative writing, generally every line means exactly what it says. In subtext there are meanings that lie below the surface, revealed through subtle phrasing and nuance. Think about how people act and speak in real life. They almost never tell you what they are really thinking. They hide their personal agendas, and act in ways that they think you want to see. Literary fiction captures that aspect of communication. It allows the characters to have hidden agendas and desires, and it reveals them in a subtle way, through what they say and what they do. We believe that creates a better illusion of reality than a mainstream story.

Some other perspectives on the literary writing style: