Submission Guidelines

At Bella Books, we believe stories about lesbians are an essential of life—and so do our readers. We are interested in acquiring manuscripts that tell terrific stories about lesbians, for lesbians. Love, life, adventure, drama—we’re looking for imaginative and entertaining stories that illuminate and celebrate our realities and fantasies.

We also believe that our readers have high standards for exciting, fresh plots, and that they relish hours spent with engaging characters whose complexities, struggles and triumphs celebrate their hopes and dreams. They want books they can’t put down, stories they think about for days afterward, and characters so compelling they wish they could meet them.

To provide our readers with the kinds of stories they demand and deserve, we publish lesbian romance, mystery, action/thriller, science-fiction, fantasy, erotica and general lesbian fiction. If you believe your manuscript will meet our needs, we welcome your submission.

Answers to frequently asked questions and information about our editorial philosophy can be found here. The remainder of this document addresses the mechanics of submitting a query to Bella Books for consideration.

Submission Process
Our submission process requests specific information required for a thorough analysis. We will promptly acknowledge its receipt and let you know within 90 days if we are interested in pursuing rights.

To send in your manuscript you must follow the instructions in this document. We want to build a strong partnership with our authors, and part of that partnership is professional standards. To put it bluntly, your ability to follow these instructions will go a long way to ensuring your submission receives careful and thorough consideration.

Your submission package must be e-mailed to submissions@bellabooks.com. This e-mail address should be used for no other purpose. It should include the following elements:

  • E-mail, with the title of your manuscript followed by the author’s name as the subject line. The body of the e-mail can be blank.
  • Cover Letter, in a single Word-compatible document, as an attachment (some mail programs call it an "enclosure"). Your cover letter should include:
    • Short bio, your legal name, complete publishing history, if any, and all pen names in use;
    • Your complete contact information, including e-mail and a telephone number where it is acceptable to leave a message about your submission;
    • An explanation of any rights that might not be available for us to acquire, if applicable (see below under Other Issues You Should Consider);
    • Why you feel your manuscript will appeal to lesbian readers.
  • Synopsis, in a single Word-compatible document, as an attachment. Please follow the Bella Author Formatting guidelines in the PDF available here. This document should include:
    • Plot summary, including how the story ends, of no more than 750 words;
    • Character and setting description of no more than 250 words;
      Word count of your completed manuscript. (Please note, we are most interested in stories at least 60,000 words or more in length.)
  • The complete manuscript in a Word-compatible document, as an attachment. Again, follow the Bella Author Formatting guidelines in the PDF available here to ensure your title page contains the information that we need.

Any further correspondence regarding your submission should be sent to editorialdirector@bellabooks.com. Please do not inquire about the status of your submission or manuscript review unless the timeframes for our response (given above) have elapsed.

Other Issues You Should Consider
Your submission package and final manuscript should reflect your best work. We understand everyone makes mistakes, and rely on a team of editors and proofreaders, but we expect any submission to have a competent level of format, style and usage as reflected in the Chicago Manual of Style. Bella Books themselves serve as excellent indicators of the standards of grammar and style we expect.

We consider a submission of a project to be an offer from the author to enter negotiations for a contract for publishing and distribution rights in print and digital formats. That means that the person submitting it should have the clear, unencumbered right to do so, that no other publisher is currently considering its acquisition and that the rights we may wish to acquire are available. As a small press we can't invest evaluation resources only to find that the project is under contract or otherwise encumbered. If there is any issue with the rights to the manuscript you are submitting, please include an explanation of the issues in your cover letter.

The submission process outlined above is the only way your manuscript will be considered, and it applies to authors and agents alike.

Thank you for your interest in Bella Books. If, after reading this document, you have questions about the submission process, please direct them to editorialdirector@bellabooks.com.

- Linda Hill, Publisher
- Karin Kallmaker, Editorial Director


Frequently Asked Questions
Bella Books’ Submission and Editorial Process

What is Bella's editorial philosophy?
Our success in producing appealing quality literature is the result of our editorial approach to mentoring authors. Authors tell the stories. Authors decide how long a story needs to be, on the characters that populate her story and the twists and turns of plot that ultimately deliver a satisfying read. Our debut and veteran authors continue to garner awards and rave reviews for their work.

Once an author has developed her story to the best of her instinct and ability, we feel an editor’s job is to guide and suggest substantive ways to bring out the most in the author’s efforts to tell her story in the best way possible. We believe in investing in an author’s long-term career, and use our editorial perspective and production options to maximize both the author’s and our own investment in her craft.

Our mentoring and focus on quality has reaped rewards: More than 80 of our writers have won or been shortlisted for more than 200 awards, representing more than 170 different books. Accolades range from the LGBT-focused Lambda Literary Foundation to the librarian-driven ALA Roundtable notable books to the lesbian reader and author run Golden Crown Literary Society and many others. Some of our award-winning debut novelists include:

  • Erica Abbott - thriller, romance;
  • Amy Briant - romance, mystery;
  • Nat Burns - romance;
  • Lea Daley - debut;
  • Rachel Gold - LGBT YA;
  • M.E. Logan - debut;
  • Janet Mason - memoir;
  • Robbi McCoy - romance;
  • Jenna Rae - thriller, romance;
  • Pol Robinson - romance;
  • Ursula Steck - mystery;
  • Rebecca Swartz - thriller, romance;
  • Jessica Thomas - mystery;
  • Dillon Watson - romance;
  • Diane Wood - thriller, romance;
  • Jeanne Winer - lesbian fiction.
Our most prolific and decorated writers include: Gerri Hill - romance, thriller; KG MacGregor - romance, thriller; Tracey Richardson - romance; and Karin Kallmaker - romance, erotica. (View the complete list.) Any works by any of our authors serve as an excellent guide to the kinds of stories our readers love.

Our editorial goal is to offer books that appeal to the largest number of readers without compromising the author’s original vision. Hence, in addition to a primary focus on great storytelling and good writing, our selection process takes into consideration the compatibility of an author’s work with our ability to do the very best for it in the marketplace.

What kinds of books does Bella publish?
We are looking for well-told, great stories about lesbians, for lesbians. Though we use genre labels to describe our books, whatever general classification(s) any story may fit into is secondary to the quality of the story itself. Genre classifications help readers find the kind of entertainment they want, however, and are used throughout the bookselling world. We generally define various fiction categories in these ways:

  • Lesbian Romance: A story that ends with two women firmly convinced that there is a chance of permanence and a loving future for their relationship.
  • Lesbian Mystery: A story that promptly includes a murder or crime of grave proportions, and a heroine(s) who either by design or accident is compelled to solve the circumstances.
  • Lesbian Action/Thriller: A story with a central puzzle that may be driven by conspiracy, crime or competition, and might be as big as global politics or as personal as psychological conflict, involving a heroine(s) as a participant in the race to survive danger and solve all puzzles.
  • Lesbian Speculative, Science-fiction, fantasy, paranormal, gothic: A story driven by elements not in our everyday world. Set in the future, in an alternative reality, in a fictional past or some other not-quite-real place, a heroine faces universal challenges that are deeply intertwined with the constraints and opportunities of her world.
  • Lesbian Erotica: A story that contains a highly explicit range of consensual, adult sexual expression and activity.
  • Cross-genre: Any story that combines more than one genre. Many books are cross-genre: a romantic mystery which includes a developing love relationship between partners-to-be; an adventurous romance where the lovers are brought together by solving a dangerous puzzle; a paranormal thriller where a heroine’s psychic abilities are part of the solution; a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story where women working together build lives that include romance, solve puzzles of their world and bring murderers to justice. The combinations are endless.
  • Lesbian General fiction: A story with universal literary themes that may also be told in an unusual voice or narrative structure. It may include stories that cross genres to such a degree that it defies more specific categorization. Books in our Bella Attitude imprint are generally in this category. Bella Attitude is Books without Boundaries.
  • Lesbian Creative Non-Fiction: Memoir, essay, autobiography and biography featuring the lives and experiences of real lesbians.
  • Lesbian Anthology/Collection: Proposals for collections of single author short stories or anthlogies of multiple author short stories will be considered if the final project meets our needs for length and relevance to lesbian readership.
  • Lesbian Short Stories/Novellas: At present, we only accept short stories and novellas from authors currently working with us on other projects.

It bears repeating: Whatever general classification(s) any story may fit into is ultimately beside the point. We are looking for well-told, great stories about lesbians, for lesbians.

How long should a book be?
Our minimum manuscript length for novels tends to be 60,000 words. We believe that this minimum requires a full-scale story arc that results in well-developed characters and complex plots that our readers appreciate. While we will consider slightly shorter novels, we are more interested in longer, more complicated and interwoven stories. At present, we only accept short stories and novellas from authors currently working with us on other projects. We have no maximum word count.

Does my novel have to include sex?
We believe that sexual activity belongs in a story when it belongs in a story. Intimate scenes should be an outgrowth of the unfolding story, and it should contribute to the plot, narrative or character development in a meaningful way. A romance may well have more intimacy portrayed than a thriller—but not necessarily. A thriller may have no sexual activity or be drenched in it from start to finish. The story determines how much sizzle, sex and seduction is natural and enhances the tale. Even in our Bella After Dark erotica line, we require good storytelling along with the kind of sexual content we know our readers enjoy.

What financial model does Bella use?
Though different people use different labels for different models, we think that the word "traditional" describes us best. There is no financial investment required of our authors, there is no post-publication marketing package to purchase and while authors can of course buy their own—or any—book from us at a discount, they are under no obligation to do so. Bella pays royalties to the author based on sales as arranged by contract. Also, all Bella Books authors retain the copyright for their work.

Is there more information available?
Our Editorial Director writes occasional notes about successes and mistakes in submissions. To read the blog visit the Women | Books | Bella and click the topic "WRITER INFO."