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.

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!

Ross Mountney Blog Tour

‘Meet’ Ross Mountney on her Blog Tour this February


Ross Mountney has been writing about parenting and home education for many years, firstly as the author of ‘A Home Educating Nobody’ in the newsletter of Education Otherwise, then moving on to writing her own books. In her own words, she says that she writes ‘…to help and support others. To encourage and inspire others to make choices, to be who they want to be, and to live an individual and inspired life.’

A quick glance through her many reviews show that she is doing exactly that!

“I have read Ross’s books and articles for years and I have to say that I always feel more relaxed and inspired after reading them – thanks Ross for reassuring and inspiring me so many times during the past 20 years!”( on ‘A Home Education Notebook’)

“This is a beautiful account of one family’s journey through home education: why they chose to do it, how they started, the ups and downs and the wonderful experiences they had along the way. I found it truly inspiring and would recommend this to anyone starting out on a home educating adventure.” (on ‘A Funny Kind of Education’)

“I hardly ever write reviews, but was compelled to with this book. It is amazing. I am so thankful to Ross for writing such an insightful, reassuring, informative, uplifting and inspiring book.” (on ‘A Home Education Notebook’)

(Reviews on Amazon)

And now we are pleased to give you a chance to ‘meet’ Ross. Well, sort of… virtually anyway! In February Ross will be taking part in a Blog Tour. If this is not something you’ve come across before, you can think of it as a little like a book tour, only instead of physically appearing at venues, Ross will be appearing as a guest writer on other blogs.

We are very excited about the wonderful bloggers who will be hosting Ross’s posts on their blogs during that time; Becky from Family Budgeting, Hayley from Downs Side Up, Louise from LouiseWaltersWriter, David from DadvWorld, Keris from Happy Home Ed and Holly from Natural Mumma. Ross will also be featured on The Home Education Podcast around that time. Huge thanks to them for taking part.

Ross will be talking about parenting, home education and writing – check the schedule below to see where she’s going to be on each day, pop in to ‘meet’ her there and take the chance to have a look around each of the inspiring blogs she’s stopping at. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter if you’d like reminders closer to the time!

Blog Tour Dates:

Thursday 2nd Feb – www.family-budgeting.co.uk and The Home Education Podcast Episode 43

Friday 3rd Feb – www.downssideup.com

Saturday 4th Feb – www.louisewalterswriter.blogspot.co.uk

Monday 6th Feb – www.dadvworld.com

Tuesday 7th Feb – www.happyhomeed.com

Wednesday 8th Feb – www.naturalmumma.com

Thursday 9th Feb The Home Education Podcast Episode 44

Writers’ workshops, competition results and new books out

We’ve been discovering that there’s a lot of writing talent in our local area of Fenland in Cambridgeshire. On 19th June we ran our ‘Prose to Print’ workshop, which was supported by Market Place; 24 people came along to find out more about traditional publishing, self-publishing and indie presses. In the afternoon we were joined by authors Sue Welfare, Jon Lawrence and Darren O’Sullivan who shared their experiences, answered questions and gave tips. It was a fantastic, if tiring, day. Thank you so much to the wonderful participants for their enthusiasm and to the authors for their inspiring and uplifting talks.

The Writers’ Panel at Prose to Print


If you missed it or you live too far away to attend, fear not! We were delighted that local film maker David Johnson of DMJ-Imagery came along to record the afternoon panel session. The videos are still in post-production, but as soon as they’re ready we’ll let you know and you’ll have the opportunity to watch all three speakers give their talks and see the Q&A session that followed. They’re incredibly interesting to all, and invaluable if you’re a writer; they really are not to be missed.

At the end of the day we announced the results of our inaugural Short Story Competition. Open to writers in our local area, we asked for stories of no more than 1500 words on the theme of birds. It was judged by Sue Welfare and Jon Lawrence and the results were:

In third place, Song of the Blackbird by Rosemary Westwell. The judges said Rosemary’s story was ‘vividly written with a great sense of place and a nice rhythm and pace to it.’

In second place, Seasons Past by D S Benjamin, which the judges thought was a ‘mature, poignant and beautifully written exploration … Beautifully paced and observed.’

And in first place, The Last Moa by Gemma Wells. The judges both picked Gemma’s story as a clear winner, commenting that it was ‘beautifully composed and written…We get a fabulous sense of place and the two voices are rich and distinctive. I love the casual and appropriate use of the Latin and indigenous names – not talking down to us as readers, nor explaining, but giving us context which allows us to understand, while also giving as a vivid glimpse into the world the writer has created. Fabulous!’

Congratulations to all! You can read Gemma’s story in full here

Are you a writer? Would you like the opportunity to work on your creative writing skills with other writers? Building on the success of Prose to Print, we are currently developing a series of workshops on creative writing for novelists. If you are within striking distance of March in Cambridgeshire, and you think this sounds like it could be for you, please email us to express your interest. There’s no commitment.

We’re still busy on the publishing side too. A Home Education Notebook came out on 27th June to a great reception and 5* reviews. Huge congratulations to author Ross Mountney! We’re just putting the finishing touches to Ross’s new book, The Wrong Adventure, which sees Harry from Who’s Not In School? up to more mischief! Once again illustrated by the talented James Robinson, it will be out soon. You can buy all these books from our shop.

Coming soon in 2016!

We are very excited to be working on more books that are planned for publication next Spring.


James IllustratingThe Wrong Adventure

The much anticipated follow up to ‘Who’s Not In School?‘, by the same author/illustrator team of Ross Mountney and James Robinson. Harry’s digging in the garden and doesn’t want to stop. How far will he get?

Left: James demonstrating his illustration at an event


Tales from my Home Education Notebook

Ross Mountney’s new book for home educating adults, in which she presents a collection of articles and blog posts she has written over the years, all updated and with new material in addition. The 52 chapters provide a weekly boost for home educators to inspire and encourage.


The Hospital Hoppities

When you’re in hospital so often it’s easy to get fed up and bored. But things can certainly become more interesting when you discover the Hospital Hoppities!
A book especially for children and families for whom hospital is a place where they spend a lot of time…
Written by Charlotte Hartley-Jones, illustrated by Anita Kariba.


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