We are accepting submissions of full manuscripts for publication in 2021-22.
We are particularly, but not exclusively, interested in women's voices at this time.
Please do read our guidelines.
What is Unlikely Books?
Unlikely Books is the daughter of Unlikely Stories, the electronic magazine of literature and arts at www.UnlikelyStories.org. (Unlikely Books itself can be found at www.unlikelystories.org/unlikely-books).
Unlikely Books began in 2005, when Jonathan Penton, the editor of Unlikely Stories, decided to hand-make some poetry chapbooks. We moved up to full-length books and other presentations in 2010. This web site was overhauled in 2016, with a new logo by K.R. Copeland and a new design by Jonathan Penton.
Who edits Unlikely Books?
Jonathan Penton. Michelle Greenblatt served as co-editor from 2013 until the time of her passing in October 2015.
What kind of work does Unlikely Books publish?
Unlikely Books publishes transgressive literature from contributors to Unlikely Stories. Our vision of “transgressive” is proprietary, idiosyncratic, and possibly delusional, but we believe that when literature legitimately challenges the assumptions of the reader, it has the power to create pragmatic change. We believe that great art always contains activism: that the artist is obligated to understand their work in the context of the environment that created it. We believe that activism can be truly artful, but that “poets” who write moralistic lectures with line breaks need to fuck along back to Buzzfeed. We believe that experimental literature has unlimited psychic potential to enhance and refine the perceptions of its readers, but that experimental authors are often far too slow to admit when their experiments have failed. We believe ambivalence can be passionate.
More details about our aesthetic can be found at the Unlikely Stories FAQ.
How do I buy Unlikely Books?
Once upon a time, all Unlikely Books were made by the folks at Unlikely Books. This became steadily less practical. Simultaneously, print-on-demand services increased in quality and distribution channels.
At this time, all print Unlikely Books are easily obtained through Amazon. Many of our books are also available at Bookshop.org, but Bookshop.org doesn't always list weirdly-shaped books, and our older books were frequently weirdly-shaped. (We're trying to go with more standard shapes now. It makes us sad, but we're trying to wean ourselves off Amazon.)
Current electronic versions are available at the Kindle Store and/or Smashwords, or, in the case of freebies, through direct download on this site. Note that many of our books which are described as “out of print” have a free e-book available for direct download.
How do I submit a manuscript to Unlikely Books?
At this time, Jonathan Penton is Unlikely Books's only editor. He publishes a few books a year, and works intimately with our authors. As a result, it is important that he have a positive working relationship with all Unlikely Books authors. Only contributors to Unlikely Stories will be considered for publication by Unlikely Books. Please see our FAQ there.
If you are a contributor to Unlikely Stories, query email@example.com. A good query will describe your manuscript, remind us of your published work at Unlikely, give us highlights from your artistic résumé, and explain what sort of promotion you can do for your book.
Unlikely Stories Mark V, on the other hand, is wide-open to submissions, of all sorts, from everyone.
Lotta poetry here.
Yes, but we are open to any form of literature. See the next answer, though.
So these Unlikely Books authors, they’re a big deal, eh?
Every Unlikely Book is a big deal to us, and we work very hard, and spend our imaginary dollars, to make each one beautiful.
We believe that art changes society, but attempting to predict those changes is a fool’s game. If someone reads Lolita at the right moment, it can not only save their life, but transform them into someone who can help others. If another person reads A Clockwork Orange at the wrong moment… they might misunderstand Burgess’s intent. Author and publisher must simply do their best and say a little atheist-or-otherwise prayer.
At Unlikely Books, we never underestimate what a book can do if it’s read by one right person at just the right time. Sadly, while Nabokov’s “one person” is allegorical, ours is often literal. Royalties from Unlikely Books are essentially nonexistent. Unlikely Books authors do not pay to be published, but they are often asked to promote their books with live readings, and we don’t have a budget for assisting them in that.
We believe it’s worth it, but we also believe, with so few capitalistic rewards, that it must be fun. We believe in enjoying the process of book creation. We encourage Unlikely Books authors to sleep with their fans. We cannot be held responsible for authors who either accept or reject this advice, because we’ll run away.
Beatles or Elvis?
How can I keep track of news from Unlikely Books?
What an excellent question, buried at the bottom of this FAQ. Unlikely Books’s Facebook page is regularly updated, but Facebook promotes things according to their own metric. The most reliable method is to join our weekly newsletter, which will keep you informed of new material at Unlikely Stories Mark V and Unlikely Books, and also discuss events with Unlikely Book authors.