Black Gate Submission Guidelines
IMPORTANT NOTE: Black Gate is permanently closed to submissions. We are no longer buying fiction.
We’ve left this Submission Guidelines page here to help readers understand the kind of fiction we were looking for as we searched high and low to fill our first fifteen issues.
What We’re Looking For
Black Gate publishes epic fantasy fiction at all lengths, including novel excerpts, as well as articles, news and reviews. We’re looking for adventure-oriented fantasy fiction suitable for all ages, as long as it is well written and original.
The Seven Most Common Reasons We Return Manuscripts
There are lots of reasons a submission might not be right for Black Gate. Here are the most common (and some of the most easily avoidable) mistakes.
1) An electronic submission that arrives as an attachment, rather than straight text in the body of an e-mail.
We delete unsolicited attachments unread. Yes, we have anti-virus software, but it’s tempting fate a bit too much to daily open dozens of attachments from around the world.
2) The story isn’t adventure-oriented fantasy.
Black Gate is a magazine of adventure fantasy, so if you’re trying to get your foot in the door with a work of urban fantasy, magic realism, romantic fantasy, or contemporary horror, the odds are stacked against you. Yes, we buy all those genres, but very, very selectively. About 75% of what we publish is plot-driven epic fantasy with colorful settings and interesting characters, and it is the only genre in which we’re always actively buying.
Try also to be as original as you can in plot and setting. We receive hundreds of Arthurian fantasies every year, and never buy more than one or two. Again, the odds are stacked against you from the beginning with a setting or theme we’re likely to have seen multiple times before.
3) Too violent/adult for our target market (ages 12 and up).
We feel that it’s critical to attract younger readers to the genre, and have advertised ourselves heavily as a family-friendly publication. We have a responsibility to honor that promise to our subscribers.
What is too “adult” for a typical 12-year old? We like to think the 12 year-olds who read Black Gate aren’t really typical, but nonetheless we feel a certain obligation not to confront them with graphic scenes of violence, gore, or intense psychological horror. We ask you to be conservative with profanity as well, when that’s possible. This is fantasy — try to find a more original way to have your characters curse their fate!
Well handled scenes of a sexual nature aren’t as taboo as they used to be, as most modern teens are media-soaked with sexual content long before we get to them, but explicit sex, or sex and violence, no. Homosexual themes are certainly welcome (and in fact we’re still waiting to read the first great YA “alternate romance”), but we’re not interested in heavy-handed gay or lesbian tracts any more than we are in anti-homosexual fiction.
4) The story opens too slowly.
Just because you have 80 pages to work with doesn’t mean you can use the first 25 to explain the detailed politics and history of your world. Give your readers a reason to care first… and that usually means giving them characters they care about.
5) Not enough attention paid to character development (or great story, bland/unlikable characters).
See #4 above. Even a brilliantly plotted piece of fiction will fail if the reader doesn’t care what happens to the main characters… or (worse) actively dislikes them. Yes, it’s possible to tell a tale from the villain’s point of view, but even then the villain must be a believable, 3-D character, and in the best examples is often sympathetically portrayed.
6) Over-used plot devices.
Almost anything to do with slaying dragons, deals with the devil, private investigators in a world of elves and fairies, or ancient gods who’ve adapted to life in the city will usually get you bounced. There are exceptions, but we see these themes so often it’s almost impossible to impress us any more.
While we’re on the topic, if your story opens with an elf, dwarf, thief and ranger about to enter a dungeon, odds are not in your favor. Quick rule of thumb: the less your fiction reads like a gaming session, the more we’re likely to be interested.
7) Overuse of magic.
Black Gate publishes gritty, realistic fiction in which magic often plays a role… but if your story includes dueling wizards with wands and fireballs on page 3, it’s going to be a lot tougher to grab our attention. The further you can distance yourself from routine, by-the-book perceptions of magic and the supernatural, the better.
Six Things That Will Cause Us to Stop Reading
We try to read every submission completely, and respond with as thorough a critique as possible. But in some cases, the diagnosis happens on the first page…
1. Rough prose.
Admittedly, this is the hardest one to self-select for. But if you’re part of a writing workshop or reading circle, make use of it. Seek out honest criticism, not just praise from your friends. Ultimately, submitting to a professional market may be the only real test… if this is the biggest problem with your story, we’ll tell you honestly.
2. Excessive/gratuitous violence in an opening scene.
3. A main character who is obviously a vampire.
We see far too much bad vampire fiction, and if you think you’re going to surprise readers by revealing your hero is a vampire on the last page, you’re dead wrong.
4. Overused settings.
This includes hell, Camelot, any movie studio, or the office of an elf or dwarf Private Investigator.
5. Characters who are clearly superhuman.
Dealing death two-handed while stifling a yawn, etc. It’s impossible to generate any real dramatic tension with such characters, no matter how much angst you saddle them with.
6. The appearance of gods or demi-gods who rescue your heroes.
See #5 above.
We buy first North American serial and electronic publication rights. We pay 3-6 cents/word for fiction up to 5,000 words, $150-$200 from 5,000 to 15,000 words, and $200-$250 at greater lengths, on acceptance. We pay 3 cents/word for all non-fiction.
Black Gate is also looking for artists — for line art, comics, and cartoons. If you have an online portfolio full of dynamic, fun b&w art, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Our response time for physical submissions is 3-5 months. Due to the extremely high volume of electronic submissions, our response time can be significantly higher for e-submissions.
As we publish only twice a year, we currently have space to purchase a maximum of one or two pieces per month. If your story is not accepted for publication, don’t be discouraged. Black Gate is a market with very specific needs. We try to offer feedback on virtually every story we receive, and always enjoy working with new authors.
Black Gate is open to Simultaneous Submissions, provided you clearly state your submission is also being submitted elsewhere in your cover letter.
Black Gate accepts both electronic and physical submissions. Our submission address is:
New Epoch Press
Attn: Submissions Dept
815 Oak Street
St. Charles, IL 60174
Be sure to include your name somewhere on the outside of the envelope. Physical Submissions must also contain a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) or an e-mail address. Please only send us disposable manuscripts. If you need your manuscript returned, please so indicate (clearly) on your cover letter, and make sure you have sufficient postage on your return envelope.
If you are sending via e-mail, make certain the e-mail address you use is the one you wish us to reply to. In the event your address changes after your submission, please be sure to drop us a note. Electronic submissions must be sent as plain text pasted into the body of an e-mail message, not as an attachment or separate file (which are more prone to carrying viruses). Special formatting (such as italics or bold) should be indicated _like so_. To safeguard our computer systems, submissions sent as attachments will be deleted unread.
Novels and Serials
We are interested in publishing longer works of heroic and epic fantasy, including novel excerpts, and serials. Please query first for any work exceeding 25,000 words.
New Epoch Press does not publish novels, and publishes excerpts only from novels which have already been accepted for publication. Please do not send us your unpublished novel manuscript.
A Few Words of Advice
We know it’s a very tough market out there for short fiction at the moment. A lot of professional fiction magazines are overstocked, and Black Gate is no exception. But that certainly doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. While we’re currently not buying in a lot of areas, we are still very hungry for our core requirement, heroic fantasy. The trick is to listen carefully to what we’re asking for, and see if you have anything in your inventory that can fill that need.
Finally, don’t give up. Much of the very best fiction we’ve published has been turned down by other markets, including some of our most acclaimed pieces — fiction that has gone on to be reprinted in Best of the Year collections and other places. Editors are very often forced to reject stories not because they’re inferior, but simply because they don’t fit the market… if it’s not right for us, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a breakout piece somewhere else, and vice versa. Keep trying!