Can I submit a whole story/novel?
Please only send a maximum of 500 words.
Can I choose my own theme, rather than using the ones provided?
You must incorporate at least one or more of the themes on the list. You can interpret them in any way you choose, but your story must include one of them.
Can I send my submission via email?
All submissions must be sent via the submissions form. If you are unable to submit via the form or online please email [email protected]
What is a pitch?
A pitch should be an ‘appetite-whetter’ that tells us what your story is about, who the characters are and what they’re trying to achieve. Use it to really excite us about your idea.
Will I get feedback?
Due to the volume of entries, we are unable to provide feedback on all submissions.
Can I send more than one submission?
Although there isn’t a limit to the number of submissions you can make, keep in mind that we are looking for quality, not quantity. The number of entries doesn’t increase your chances of being accepted, so it may be worthwhile to work on your very best idea and discuss other ideas later if we accept your submission.
Why don’t rejected submissions receive a response?
While we aim to respond to all applicants, the number of entries we receive means we cannot respond to everyone. If you have not heard from us after 100 working days (20 working weeks), please assume you have been unsuccessful.
What time period can I set my story in?
All submissions should be set in the contemporary timeline for each setting.
Can I include an established character in my pitch?
We recommend that you don’t use any previously established characters from other Black Library novels/short stories or Games Workshop publications.
Will I need to have written my entire story by the end of the submissions window?
No, you won’t need to have the whole story written. If we are interested in your submission, we will work with you to produce the finished story.
I was one of those who started working for Black Library through an open submission window. Based on my experience, my tips for aspiring writers would be as follows. Firstly (and this should go without saying), follow the submission guidelines to the letter. Read them carefully before you put your package together, and then go over them again meticulously afterwards to make sure what you have written conforms to the guidelines.
Secondly, remember that everyone else submitting will, like you, be familiar with the lore. So in the limited number of words you will have to work with (and don’t go over that limit!), you need to show that you know how to tell a story, and do it well. Polish that prose, and make that sample shine. Make it grip your potential editor so they want to know what happens next.
I came through the Black Library open submission process in 2012 with my short story ‘The Tilean’s Talisman’. My one killer piece of advice for aspiring writers aiming to do the same would be to just get on and do it. Don’t wait.
My first impulse when I discovered the submission window was to hold off, hone my craft, get it right next year when I had more time. Ignore that impulse. 2013 didn’t have an open submission window. I don’t think 2014 had one either. Whether you find yourself with a month, a week, or even just a day until the window shuts, if you want it, go for it, and go for it now.
My main piece of advice would be this: to consider that what’s fun to write isn’t necessarily fun to read.
If you’re writing fan-fiction for yourself or your friends — which is a cool and honourable thing — you can indulge whatever esoteric writerly whim you fancy. If you’re writing for a commercial IP then you have to think hard about what stories the fans will want to read, and how they’ll want things to play out. Hopefully, as you’re a fan too, this imaginative leap won’t be too arduous, but it’s worth dwelling on a bit.
Looking back at the books I’ve written, the ones that worked best were the ones where I thought really hard about why a particular faction or character would get into a particular situation, and how things would pan out for them specifically in the Warhammer universe (which, as you may have noticed, has rather different rules and logic to the real one), and why this would be compelling for a fan of the setting to read about. This sort of thinking won’t guarantee a good story, of course, but if you’re thinking of pitching something to BL then it’s probably worth spending more time on such questions than on agonising over how many adjectives you’re using (to which the answer is always, in any case, ‘too many’). This isn’t, I should stress, an argument that you should write cynically ‘for the market’ or engage in blind fan-service because writing fiction is at bottom a labour of creative love and it has to reflect your own voice and interests. It is, however, a reminder that the ultimate arbiters of whether a story is worthwhile aren’t the writers (much as we might wish it otherwise) but the readers.
This particular piece of advice is repeated so much that if you’re not already sick of it, you soon will be. There is a reason for that though – it really is the best advice there is.
To become a successful writer you must both read and write as frequently as possible, preferably every day, even if only for a bit. If you have patience and perseverance, you’ll get there. As a frame of reference, it took me a decade of trying (and probably around a hundred story rejections).
More specific to writing for Black Library, don’t try to shoot for the star(fort)s too soon. The sample pieces I wrote for Black Library that first got me noticed were just a few hundred words about an ork fighting an Imperial Fist. By all means look for the unique angle and a neat twist, but don’t try and convince the editors of the merits of your galaxy-spanning plot concerning the C’tan, Guilliman and the return of the Old Ones. Good, clean prose will show your potential, and at the submissions stage that’s all you’re actually trying to do.
It took me a long time to become a writer of fiction. I was a journalist first though, so I suppose I kind of cheated. While I was working on science fiction magazines, I had the opportunity to meet lots of publishers, agents and authors. I’d ask each one about writing as a job, and I got a lot of useful tips and advice.
However, one thing struck me as I watched other would-be writers ask similar questions at conventions or seminars. Some rejected the advice they were given out of hand. Quite often there was an air of “Well, you don’t like my story/point of view because you can’t appreciate my genius.” Needless to say, I’ve never seen a single published story from any of these people. So, my top writing tip is this.
Seek out advice from whichever professional you can, and then listen to it. If you can get your friends and family to read your work, listen to them too. I warn you that you are not going to like what you hear. Your first attempts at fiction will be bad. Your grand ideas will often be hopelessly flawed. This second is especially true when writing for a fiction line like Black Library, where there are a whole host of continuity, tone and business issues that dictate what kind of story will get published. It’s no good sitting there defiantly saying “I think it’s a good idea for a story”, as one fellow did in an open pitch meeting I was at after the publishers themselves have told you it will never, ever work.
Don’t get downhearted either. Becoming a professional writer requires a fine balance of self-belief and humility. It’s as bad to be insecure as it is to be arrogant. I wasted a lot of time moping about my fiction. The trick, and this is where so many writers fail, is that you have to believe you can do it, but you also have to learn how. Having the ability to write is not the same as having the skills to write a story. It is only the beginning.
Know how your story will end. It might not be the literal last line, but it should be an idea about the final scene, the last beat of the story, the final impression that the reader will take away. This helps in two ways. Firstly, it means that you know where your plot is heading from the start — it’s easy to begin with a lot of enthusiasm and then lose steam if you don’t have an idea of what you are aiming for. Secondly, the ending helps to cement the theme of the story — not what happens, but what the story is about. It could be a single theme or several, but the ending should be the culmination of everything the story has been building towards.
The most important thing you will need is endurance. At every stage of being a writer, there are endless things that will scream at you to stop, to go do something else, that you are too tired, that you have had enough. You need to keep going, and to make a habit of keeping going. If you can endure, then everything else is just a matter of time and effort.
Find people who will tear your work apart. Your instinct will be to want to hear nice things about your work, how well you have done, how talented you are. This instinct is dangerous, and the nice things that people say about your work are mostly useless (apart from that sometimes vital confidence boost to get yourself across the deadline). You need to find people who will tell what is wrong with your work, what hasn’t worked, or isn’t clear. This is the stuff that makes you better – seek it out; listen to it; learn to value it more than praise.
Work on your prose. Sentences, punctuation, word choice, rhythm, and all the rest – you can never be too good at the core mechanics of writing. You can have the most amazing idea ever, but if you can’t express it so that readers understand it and are moved by it, then it’s not worth much. Work on your prose.