Chapbook Open Reading Period

Bull City Press is an independent small press with fifteen years of publishing experience.  We select manuscripts through an open reading period. Manuscripts of poetry, fiction (particularly flash fiction), and creative nonfiction are welcome during this process.


The Summer Chapbook Open Reading Period is May 15 – June 15.

The reading fee for our summer reading period is “pay what you want.” You set the reading fee. This year, as we navigate the debilitating costs associated with the collapse of Small Press Distribution, we hope that those who have the means to be generous will do so.

See the FAQs below for a little more information on why we’ve adopted this model.

Open submissions to Bull City Press are not made anonymous to our readers. Because we are an all-volunteer operation, reading times for submissions vary based on the number of manuscripts each volunteer can carefully read while still attending to their day-to-day lives away from Bull City Press. A minimum of 90 days will pass before we’ve assembled a long list of potential manuscripts to consider. Typically, final results are announced in October.

Please read the guidelines carefully. The link to submit—a large green SUBMIT NOW button—is at the bottom of this page.

Formatting your manuscript

  • For poetry chapbooks, we are accepting manuscripts between 18-30 pages, single-spaced.  For flash fiction and flash creative nonfiction chapbooks, we are accepting manuscripts between 20-90 pages, double-spaced. For collections of prose, we are interested in manuscripts where most individual pieces do not exceed 2,000 words. 
  • Page counts do not include front and back matter, such as the title page, table of contents, acknowledgments page, or about the author.
  • Manuscripts should be submitted in PDF or Microsoft Word (.doc and .docx) formats only. We highly recommend PDF formatting if you want to ensure that your page breaks, indentations, and other manuscript formats are kept as you intend. 
  • Include your contact information on the front page of the manuscript.
  • Include an acknowledgments page listing previous publications of poems, stories, or essays.
  • Manuscript revisions are not permitted after submission. If accepted for publication, you will have the chance to submit an updated manuscript.
  • All manuscripts by a single author writing in English will be considered. Previous book publication is not a consideration.  At this time, we will not consider collections of translations.
  • We cannot accept manuscripts that contain visual art.
  • Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but entrants are asked to withdraw immediately if a manuscript is accepted elsewhere. You may withdraw your manuscript through our Submission Manager system.
  • All submissions must be made on our Submission Manager system.  We do not accept manuscripts by e-mail.
  • Please do not withdraw and re-submit the same manuscript during the reading period.
  • Please include a brief cover letter in the “Comments” section.
  • If your chapbook is a section of a larger work, please indicate that in the “Comments” area of our Submission Manager system. We occasionally publish full-length books and may ask to consider the larger work for publication. However, we do not accept submissions of full-length works during this open reading period.


What does it cost to enter the Chapbook Open Reading Period?

While our Chapbook Open Reading Period does have a fee to enter, there is no set reading fee: you determine the fee you will pay. While most presses charge $12 to $25 to read chapbook manuscripts, we’re leaving it up to you to decide the value of having your manuscript read by the staff at Bull City Press.

Why have you introduced a “pay what you want” option for the Chapbook Open Reading Period?

One problem we have with a publishing model that includes contest and reading fees is that it excludes writers with low or no income; and writers with no access to institutional support from MFA programs, conferences, and foundations. That system inherently privileges a subset of writers based on criteria other than the merit of the work.

We believe that if the books available to you are to represent the broadest possible range of voices, there must be submission options available to writers who don’t have the means to pay those fees. So we’ve introduced an option that allows writers to determine what fee they will pay… or pay no fee at all.

We ask that if you can afford to pay, you do. Just this spring, we were hit with high costs connected to the collapse of Small Press Distribution (e.g. fees to have our inventory returned to us & uncollected revenue from SPD for copies sold prior to their dissolution).  Consider whatever you give as a contribution to the reading process for a small, independent press staffed by volunteers and run out of a basement.

More than ever: every dollar you contribute helps us keep the lights on and print more books.

What will happen to the fees you collect?

All fees collected will be applied to acquiring, publishing, and distributing the collection(s) selected through this process.  If the fees collected don’t cover those expenses, we’ll make up the difference.

Our staff—including all readers for this open reading period—is made up entirely of volunteers.

If I pay less, will my manuscript receive the same consideration?

We read each collection with the same level of intensity and generosity, regardless of the fee you paid to submit.

What if I can’t afford to pay anything right now?

We get it. A lot of us have student loans to pay off, and there aren’t a ton of high-paying jobs that give writers the flexibility to write. We don’t believe that a lack of money for submissions fees should prevent you from submitting and publishing a collection. So you have the option of not paying anything at all when you submit your chapbook. If you take that option, we ask that you give some of your time to your literary community in lieu of a monetary reading fee. Celebrating the work of writer you admire on social media, offering comments to an emerging writer, volunteering time to a nonprofit for writers, or serving as a reader for a journal or press you admire– any of these would make us really happy!

Can I sponsor another writer’s submission?

Absolutely! The easiest way to do this is to buy any chapbook in the Bull City Press store and enter the coupon code SPONSOR20 when you check out. You’ll save 20% on the chapbook and part of the purchase price will sponsor another writer’s entry to the Chapbook Open Reading Period.

Do you accept previously published work?

Your collection may include previously published stories, essays, or poems provided that you have the rights to include them in a collection (please include an acknowledgments page in your manuscript).  However, we do not accept collections that have been published in their entirety by another publisher or on the Web.

How many chapbooks will be accepted in the Chapbook Open Reading Period?

Each summer, we commit to accepting at least one chapbook from our open reading period. Last year, we accepted two titles: one poetry and one fiction. You can see below a list of selected Open Reading titles from previous years—in 2021 we accepted three. But we don’t want to mislead anyone: we are committing to at least one.  The final number will be determined by our editors’ passion for this summer’s submissions and our volunteer staff’s ability to support the collection(s) we accept through the editorial, design, and post-publication process.

Which books were selected in previous Chapbook Open Reading Periods?

2023 – Arah Ko, Animal Logic
2023 – Daniel Wallace, The Uncollected Very, Very, Very Short Stories of Daniel Wallace

2022 – Maggie Cooper, The Theme Park of Women’s Bodies
2022 – T. De Los Reyes, And Yet Held

2021 – Caroline M. Mar, Dream of the Lake
2021 – Emily Pittinos, Animal, Roadkill, Ashes, Gone
2021 – Katie Jean Shinkle, Thick City

2020 – no reading period

2019 – Britton Shurley, Spinning the Vast Fantastic
2019 – C.T. Salazar, American Cavewall Sonnets

2018 – Siân Griffiths, The Heart Keeps Faulty Time
2018 – John LaPine, An Unstable Container
2018 – Han VanderHart, What Pecan Light

2017 – Ryan Napier, Four Stories About the Human Face
2017 – Leah Silvieus, Season of Dares
2017 – Connie Voisine, And God Created Women

2016 – L.A. Johnson, Little Climates
2016 – Michael Parker, Everything, Then and Since

Does Bull City Press pay its authors?

For books taken in our open reading period, we pay an advance against royalties (but because our chaps are so inexpensive the royalties themselves are not awesome), 10 free copies, and additional copies available at an author discount of 50% or more.

When will selected chapbooks be published?

In order to give our staff and distributor time to really publicize the collection, selections from our summer 2024 reading period will be scheduled for release in spring/summer 2026.

I have a question you didn’t answer here.

Ask us here: https://forms.gle/867c2Uw88CZT9PeW9

Pay what you want

You can pay your reading fee here: https://bullcitypress.com/product/reading-fee-chapbook-open-reading-period/

Submit your manuscript

Visit our submissions manager to submit your manuscript.  Under “genre,” select “2024 Chapbook Open Reading Period,” followed by the most appropriate genre.


Be certain that you confirm your submission– you will receive an e-mail from our automated system to confirm that you have completed your submission.

Bull City Press

We love readers, we love writers.