Chapbook Open Reading Period

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

The Summer 2017 Chapbook Open Reading Period is June 5 – July 5.

The reading fee for the Summer 2017 reading period is “pay what you want.” You set the reading fee. See the FAQs below for a little more information on why we’ve adopted this model.

Open submissions to Bull City Press, unlike entries to our contests, are not made anonymous to our readers.

Submissions information is at the bottom of this page. Poets may also submit a manuscript to The Frost Place Chapbook Competition.

Formatting your manuscript

  • For poetry chapbooks, we are accepting manuscripts between 18-30 pages, single-spaced.  For fiction and creative nonfiction chapbooks, we are accepting manuscripts between 22-48 pages, double-spaced.
  • 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.
  • 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 or works by multiple authors.
  • We cannot accept manuscripts that contain visual art.
  • Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but entrants are asked to notify Bull City Press immediately if a manuscript is accepted elsewhere.
  • All submissions must be made on our Submission Manager system.  We do not accept manuscripts by e-mail.


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

There is no set reading fee for our Chapbook Open Reading Period.  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 are you introducing a “pay what you want” option for the Chapbook Open Reading Period?

One problem we have with a publishing model that includes contests and reading fees is that it excludes writers with low or no income, 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. Consider it a contribution to the reading process for a small, independent press staffed by volunteers and run out of a basement.  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 collections 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 not having any 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.

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?

We will accept at least one chapbook from this open reading period.  In summer 2016, we accepted two collections– one in fiction and one in poetry.  We’d love to accept multiple collections again!

Which books were selected in previous Chapbook Open Reading Periods?

2017 – Ryan Napier, Title TK
2017 – Leah Silvieus,Title TK
2017 – Connie Voisine, And God Created Women
2016 – L.A. Johnson, Little Climates
2016 – Michael Parker, Everything, Then and Since

What about questions that you haven’t answered here?

Ask us on Twitter (@bullcitypress)!

Pay what you want

Click the graphic below to visit PayPal.  When you arrive, you’ll be prompted to enter the reading fee you want to pay to submit your manuscript under Item Price.

Submit your manuscript

Visit our submissions manager to submit your manuscript.  Under “genre,” select “2017 Chapbook Open Reading Period.”


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.