What kind of books are we looking for?

We are frequently asked ‘What kind of books are you looking for? What is it about a manuscript that will make you want to publish it?’

The answer to this isn’t simple. Commissioning editors will often talk about books that have a certain something, that ‘jump out’ at them, and that it’s this personal response that leads them to follow up a submission. I think this is especially true for tiny indie publishers like ourselves. Our resources are even more limited, in terms of money and time, and publishing any book carries a certain risk. We’re going to choose books we really like, so that our enthusiasm is genuine. We can’t fake it!

You’re probably thinking that’s not very helpful, though, so I’ll try to describe the factors that make a manuscript turn our heads. I’m going to be talking about fiction here. We’ll cover non-fiction another time.

At the risk of stating the obvious, your book needs a good story. You need a protagonist, a dilemma, a conflict and resolution, although that doesn’t necessarily mean you need a happy ending.  Your characters need to be three dimensional and convincing. We need to be able to know them and believe that they would take the actions you have them take.

Your theme, or your message, is your subtext. This needs to be implied, communicated through your story, not explicitly shouted from the rooftops.

On a practical level, your book needs to be as polished and professional as it can possibly be. If we take on your book, we will, of course, work with you to edit it and lift it to its best, but it needs to be in pole position to start with. Discuss it with family and friends (if you can be sure they’ll give you an honest response!), your local writing group or one of the many writers’ forums on social media. Find some readers in your target market to test it for you. All these viewpoints can really help develop your story. Make sure you’ve edited it yourself to iron out as many spelling, punctuation and grammar issues as you can. Maybe find someone to proofread it for you. A well-presented manuscript will give you the best chance of success.

All that’s true for any publisher, though. What specifically are we looking for at Bird’s Nest Books and our imprint, Eyrie Press?

You’ve no doubt read on our submissions page that we are keen to publish titles that ‘reflect the lives of individuals and communities that do not often recognise themselves in books’. What do we mean by that? Putting it simply, your book doesn’t necessarily have to be about the community you have in mind (although it can be), but we are looking for writers who can acknowledge the differentness of people and aren’t afraid to include that in their stories.

For example, at Bird’s Nest Books and Eyrie Press we have a particular interest in home education, or indeed any education outside of the mainstream. We would love to see more books that include home educated characters. But we don’t just want them parachuted in, with their background making no difference to their actions. We want to see them intermingled among the details of your story. Whether they are your main hero, their best friend or their next door neighbour, they have a unique outlook on the world and this will inform their motivations and their choices and alter the trajectory of your plot. And we’re not just looking for books about children and teenagers. Your adult characters in your science fiction novel could just as well have been educated out of a school and that will affect the way they approach the problems they face. Through all of this we hope that, bit by bit, the concept of home education will filter through to the reader and that will help dispel any stereotypes and prejudices they may have had.

The same will be true of characters from other communities and only you, the writer, will know what communities you’d like to include. Maybe your character is a vegetarian, or a single father, or an adult who grew up in foster care, or someone who is living with depression and anxiety, or a myriad of other topics…write what you know and share your enthusiasm with us! We’re very much looking forward to reading it.

And the winner is…

It is finally time to reveal the winner of our 2017 short story competition!

The challenge was simply to write a short story with a maximum of 1000 words on any theme and in any genre.

We had some wonderful, inspiring entries; a short list was created and sent to the judges, authors Sue Welfare and Jon Lawrence.

They had to admit they found it very difficult to choose as the standard was so high but, after deliberation, the winner was announced as…

‘Real French Lavender’ by Jon Clynch.

The judges thought Jon’s story was ‘atmospheric and poignant…this story manages to convey a great deal in relatively few words…The dialogue is a skilfully handled and gives a real sense of the character’

We won’t say any more as we wouldn’t want to spoil your enjoyment of it – you’ll be able to read the story in full when it is published in The Fens magazine in November.

Many congratulations to Jon!!

Meet our esteemed judges

We can’t wait to find out who’s won our short story competition and we imagine you’re the same! We’ll be announcing the winner on Monday 9th – just four days to go – but, while we wait, we thought we’d introduce you to our judges as they’re both published authors and we’re sure you’ll be interested in their books. They are also, quite frankly, both very lovely people!

        Sue Welfare (© Jerry Bauer)

Sue Welfare was a writer of romantic comedy for 20 years, before turning more recently to thrillers, publishing Next of Kin in 2015 and continuing in 2017 with Losing Leah. Writing in either genre earns her stacks of 5* reviews!

We were delighted to have Sue as one of the panelists at our 2016 publishing workshop ‘Prose to Print’, in which she generously shared her tips and advice to the writers in the audience. She was a judge for our first short story competition last year.

Sue lives in Norfolk where she is also an artist. You may well see her at exhibitions, pop up shops and events! She is clearly an extremely busy lady and we are very grateful to her for being a judge again this year.

Browse Sue’s books on her Amazon page.


                               Jon Lawrence

Jon Lawrence was also on our ‘Prose to Print’ panel last year, giving the benefit of his experience as a self-published author. Born in Pontypridd, he now resides in Norfolk where he is also a musician, singer-songwriter and teacher.

Jon’s emotionally charged writing frequently deals with themes such as love, loss and grieving, and depression and receives rave reviews from his readers. His most recent book, The Jack Newton Radio (which, by the way, has a fantastic cover too!) was out in March.

Earlier this year we were delighted to publish Jon’s book of original songs for children, The Music Man’s Songbook, which was illustrated by Gemma Wells, winner of last year’s short story competition!

We’re grateful to Jon for judging the short story competition again this year.

Find Jon on his website and browse his books on Amazon.


Stocking our books in your small shop, online store or community group


We are keen to support small businesses in any way we can, so when Gemma from Our Muslim Homeschool contacted us to ask about stocking books by Ross Mountney in her online shop we were delighted to help by supplying her directly. She has a fantastic website by the way – go and have a look.

If you have a small shop or an online store we’d be happy to talk to you about our wholesale prices, even on very low quantities.

This also applies if you run a community group, or even if you just want to bunch together with a group of friends.

Contact us and let’s chat!

The Only Way Is Indie 2017

After the success of the inaugural ‘The Only Way is Indie’ event, held at Nottingham Writers’ Studio in February 2016 and organized by publishers Dr Teika Bellamy of Mother’s Milk Books and Sara-Jayne Slack of Inspired Quill, another TOWII event is happening. And this time it’ll be even better and bigger! ‘The Only Way is Indie 2017’ will be an excellent opportunity for writers and readers to meet with book and literary magazine publishers, to chat with editors and to better understand the indie publishing scene.

What did people think of last year’s event?
‘Very informative – reassuring. Useful insight into the industry
from a passionate panel.’ Lauren Terry
‘[It was useful] to hear how the indie publishers work with writers and form relationships. Also to hear how they see their niche…’ Lytisha
‘…nice to know publishers who are INTERESTED.’ David R. Thompson

Bird’s Nest Books was delighted to be involved last year and we are very much looking forward to this year’s event. If you are at all interested in the ins and outs of indie publishing, you’re sure to find it a fascinating day.

Small presses attending include Mother’s Milk Books (the organisers), The Emma Press,Mud Press, Paper Swans Press, Stonewood Press, Unthank Books, and us, Bird’s Nest Books.

Sessions planned are:

  • How Publishing Works & A Day in the Life of an Indie Press Founder
  • Illustrators, Artists, Photographers & Their Role in Indie Presses
  • Submitting Poetry & Prose to Literary Magazines and Writing Competitions
  • Getting About in Poetry World
  • For Short Story Writers, Novelists & Non-fiction Writers: Submitting, Editing & the Indie Press
  • How to Get Published by an Indie Press & The Role of an Author

Full details of the day’s schedule can be found here.

All of the publishers are giving their time for free, so the fees will help to cover the travel costs of the publishers, room hire etc. Price: £22 concessions, £26 Nottingham Writers’ Studio members, £30 non-members.