UK independent house Salt Publishing, last seen on TeleRead when it decided to stop publishing poetry, has now launched a new and hopefully luckier venture in the shape of Modern Dreams, its new line of digital-only novellas launched “as an extension of its Salt Modern Fiction list.” And the criteria are actually quite specific: “Your novella must deal with 18 to 24 year olds living in contemporary inner-city Britain,” the blurb states, although making it clear that authors themselves can be of any age.We want issue-led works that tell the truth about what life is like for the young in these islands.”

I’d hazard a wild guess, judging from the gritty urban landscapes in the branding graphics for the platform, that Salt is not seeking for precocious tales of sensitive comings-of-age among young Etonians, or the intellectual adventures of today’s Keatses and Chattertons. Yes, it’s all “crime, drugs, fun, hope, immigration, integration, joblessness, laughs, love, loss, loyalty, music, sex, surviving and tragedy in modern Britain.” But who knows? Maybe it’ll have a little more breadth than social worker chic.

What Salt wants is a work of 20,000-30,000 about “young lives in contemporary inner-city Britain … issue-led and utterly fearless.” In return, Salt will not offer an advance, but will offer “a straight 50% royalty on net receipts,” as well as high-quality ebook production and global distribution and promotion. Distribution formats indicated include Amazon Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.

I think I’ll take up Salt’s challenge and submit something utterly fearless – like a supremely cultured and immaculately crafted account of Proustian connoisseurship and hand-holding among the cloistered young millionaires and millionairesses of Kensington. After all, Edgar Allan Poe said that for any writer who seeks “the road to immortal renown … All that he has to do is to write and publish a very little book. Its title should be simple – a few plain words – ‘My Heart Laid Bare.’ But – this little book must be true to its title … to write it-there is the rub. No man dare write it. No man ever will dare write it. No man could write it, even if he dared. The paper would shrivel and blaze at every touch of the fiery pen.”

I’m sure that Salt, with its scrupulous avoidance of cliche, its effortless transcendence of prejudices and preconceptions, and its general fearless fearlessnessness, has come up with exactly the brief to bring in that kind of work. Gritty. Concrety. Asphalty. Breezeblocky. Just make sure it comes dressed in fifty shades of inner-city grey.


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