Beacon Press Review – What Do They Offer?

Christopher Ortiz
February 14, 2023 | 6 mins

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Beacon Press is an independent publisher of serious non-fiction. Their aim is for the books they release to change the way readers think about fundamental issues; they promote such values as freedom of speech and thought; diversity, religious pluralism, and anti-racism; and respect for diversity in all areas of life.

This Beacon Press review will look into more detail about their backstory,  what they publish, the offering they have for authors and whether or not it’s worth consideration for writers looking to have their work published.

Who are Beacon Press & What Do They Publish?

Founded in 1854, Beacon has published many ground-breaking classics, including James Baldwin’s ‘Notes of a Native Son’,  Herbert Marcuse’s ‘One Dimensional Man’,  Jean Baker Miller’s ‘Toward a New Psychology of Women and Mary Daly’s ‘Gyn/Ecology’. In 1971, Beacon printed the Senator Gravel Edition of The Pentagon Papers in 5 volumes. This groundbreaking achievement marked the first time those papers had appeared in book form. Recent publications include a number of widely acclaimed, best-selling titles as well as multi-award nominees.

Beacon’s current publishing program has a focus on religion, history, current affairs, political science, gay/lesbian/gender studies, education, African-American studies, women’s studies, child and family issues and nature and the environment. Beacon and its authors have received National Book Awards, the American Book Award, the Christopher Award, the National Writers Union Golden Pen Award, the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in Book Publication, and the PEN New England L. L. Winship Award and Friend to Writers Award, and has been named the New England Publisher of the Year.

In the words of New York Times best-selling author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz:

“Beacon Press is truly a beacon, shining a light on the past, spotlighting what matters in the present, and guiding us toward a better world. I am honoured and humbled to be a part of the Beacon family.” 

Beacon also publish a social impact report with the aim of making an effort to raise awareness and self-evaluate what their work has done and will do to champion and promote important social issues. The report is available in full for free to read on the website. Steps like this put evidence behind the claims they make regarding their ethos and mission, something which is unfortunately far too rare in the world of publishing, making it particularly refreshing to see. 

Alongside some of their most successful and well-renowned books listed above, below are a handful of titles to give further insight into the types of releases that are typical for Beacon Press.

Notable Beacon Press Titles

  • On Repentance and Repair – Danya Ruttemberg
  • Ace – Angela Chen
  • Nice Racism – Robin Diangelo
  • Not a Nation of Immigrants – Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
  • Jesus and the Disinherited – Howard Thurman
  • Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E Frankl
  • New and Selected Poems – Mary Oliver
  • Kindred – Octavia E Butler
  • Being Huemann – Judith Huemann
  • The Birdcatcher – Gayl Jones

As you can see from this list of titles, their mission statement and ethos are far more than lip service or a set of words. Beacon Press has full commitment to backing up those words with action and championing authors and their writing who align with their goals as a publishing house. 

Can Authors Submit to Beacon Press?

In a word, yes.

However, there are various criteria that readers should consider if they meet before making a submission. 

Firstly, all submissions should be made via email as they will not accept any hard copy submissions. 

If a writer wishes for Beacon Press to consider their work, they must first familiarize themself with the mission statement discussed previously and their various publications. They also ask writers to note that they are not accepting submissions for new poetry, fiction, or self-help books at this time and will not review, respond to, or return submissions of this type.

It’s also worth mentioning that their publishing mission is currently general trade; some of their publications are trade books with an additional scholarly market, but they are not currently accepting submissions for purely academic projects.

If a writer understands the above and still believes their work would be a good fit for Beacon, they should email to the address provided on Beacon’s website, a 250-word query describing the proposal. If Beacon is interested in receiving a full proposal, they will email back within three weeks to continue the conversation. They do state however that due to the large volume of unsolicited submissions, they receive they regret that they cannot respond to all submissions. 

What are some alternatives to Beacon Press?

Of course, writers do have alternatives to making submissions to ARB or indeed another publisher. 

Primarily, this would be for the writer to self-publish. There are various pros and positives that come with this option. 

The main benefits include having creative control and not having your work at the mercy of an editor with whom you may or may not agree with their creative decision-making. Often writers who have spent huge amounts of time and effort on their work will understandably be reluctant to hand it over to someone who does not have first-hand knowledge of the work and therefore will never have as strong a connection as the writer to the writing.

Alongside this, the royalties will of course be entirely your own, which for writers looking to self-publish will likely be of utmost importance as financially it may not be viable to hand over increased percentages. Finally, the autonomy that comes with self-publishing is attractive to lots of writers. Without anyone to answer to and with increasing ease to commence the self-publishing process, this is becoming a more and more attractive option. 

Any writer considering self-publishing of course should weigh up all the above, as well as their own individual preferences and circumstances before making their decision. Ultimately it will be down to each individual what is right for them.

Beacon Press Review – Final Verdict

In summary, it’s transparent that Beacon Press release work not just of interest but of importance. They have a long and varied history of publishing books that both entertain and inform the reader whilst contributing to a wider societal effort to improve lives and give voices to those who may not otherwise be heard or whose voice has something of critical importance to say.

That being said, this mission statement and ethos does create food for thought for any writer. The best way to sum it up is that if a writer’s work fits within the parameters of what Beacon is trying to accomplish and has released in the past, that’s the first step. Second, they have to be honest with themselves about whether or not they have the time and patience to go through a submission process.

Finally, are they comfortable sharing the future success of their work with a team with second-hand knowledge of the work itself? If yes, then Beacon is about the best you can wish for from a publisher, and any writer who goes on to work with them will likely have an enriching and successful experience as a result.

For those writers whose circumstances or books fall outside of these confines, they may find that self-publishing is the best way forward. But it’s worth reiterating that this is going to be a result of the situation not capability on the behalf of Beacon Press.

4 Stars

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