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Venerable, highly reputable UK publishing imprint Jonathan Cape has announced that it will be throwing open the doors for the whole of June this year, inviting open submissions of fiction ” from new writers of high calibre and imagination.” This ought to be of interest to any aspirant or even established writers. But it also invites some interesting speculation – which could be on the mark, or a shot in the dark. You decide.

Jonathan Cape originally opened in the 1920s, and boasted writers such as Ian Fleming and James Joyce in its prime. Part of Chatto and Windus from 1969, the imprint was incorporated into Random House in 1987 and is now part of the Penguin Random House behemoth, where it is siloed under Vintage Books. According to the announcement, submissions, which can be emailed in, “should be an initial 50 pages of prose fiction. These can be part of a novel or novella, or short stories. The pages can be finished work or a work in progress.” Graphic novels are also eligible for consideration.

So much for the opportunity. Now for the speculation part. I wasn’t aware that Cape was closed for submissions. Even if it had a notice on its door advising would-be authors to go elsewhere, it was my preconception that Cape would receive brown envelopes by the score every day, containing unpublished works for consideration. And that’s simply the author-generated slushpile, let alone all the prospects that literary agents must bring to its attention.

So does this gesture indicate a wider trend? Are established publishers running short of quality submissions as more and more new authors try the self-publishing route instead? Or are they simply worried that they are missing out on the new writing epidemic, and concerned to make sure that they don’t miss out on any of the good stuff going out there? Are they worried that too many good writers are buying the Hugh Howey argument that self-publishing or independent presses not only pay better, but also have better exposure on the Amazon top sellers list? In short, is Cape’s move born of desperation?

I could be completely misreading this – glad to hear if so. But I’ll be very interested to hear of other established publishers suddenly instituting new author-friendly policies to induce more writers to walk in through their doors. Let me know.

 
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