What’s in a name? This a question as old as time and one that most of us will face at some point in our lifetime.
The name of a child, a pet, a business even a car. The depth of connotations and symbolism that can be contained in just a handful of syllables is staggering. Yet it’s potentially most important for a publisher, indeed when your entire life is centred around words and their meaning, how you define yourself is of the utmost importance. Persea Books is a company whose name carries extra weight and interest.
The Persea tree is a wild laurel native to the Near East and Africa. The ancient Egyptians revered it as a celestial tree, believing the stars were its leaves and the sun rose from its branches. Thoth, god of science, arts and numbers, recorder of deeds and measurer of time, and Safekh, goddess of writing and learning, sat at the foot of the Persea and inscribed upon its leaves the names and deeds of those mortals whose important works had secured their eternal life and everlasting fame.
In this Persea Books review we’ll explore their backstory, what they do, and whether or not they are worth consideration for a writer making a submission.
What is Persea Books?
Persea has a wide back catalogue containing hundreds of engaging and consequential books which have covered a wide range of subjects, styles, and genres. These include but are not limited to poetry, fiction, essays, memoir, biography, and revived classics.
Their list has a running theme with the aim of focusing on contemporary issues expressed through individual experience. It reflects the rich diversity of American literature, from Native American onward, and includes a wide selection of works in translation. Persea also has a designated poetry editor, Gabriel Fried, who has successfully introduced a new generation of contemporary American poets to their audience. This shows a commitment to the art form and an ability to take a calculated risk as poetry is unfairly often seen as a medium that belongs in the past.
Finally, they also have a program of literary anthologies which range from essays and poems to short stories and backstories of authors and how they got their break.
Approaching its fifth decade as a publisher, Persea strives to bring the spirit and integrity of independence whilst maintaining the highest standards of literary merit and relevance.
What does Persea Books Publish?
Persea is not focused on any specific genre. They publish literary fiction, creative nonfiction, memoir, essays, biography, literary criticism, books on contemporary issues (multicultural, feminist, LGBTQI+), Young Adult novels, and literary and multicultural anthologies that are assigned in secondary and university classrooms.
Primarily however they are seeking fresh voices, a clear point of view, and well-written work that will endure the test of time rather than be a flash in the pan or too trend-driven. They happily publish debut books and strive to develop long-standing relationships with their authors.
They are not however open to every genre. They explicitly state that they do not publish genre fiction (romance, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers), self-help, textbooks, or children's books. This is by no means the most limited set of genres seen by a publisher but it does provide some boundaries for writers considering a submission.
Below is a selection of titles released by Persea Books to provide some further insight into their ethos.
- One Another – Monique Schwitter
- Our House in the Last World – Oscar Hijielos
- Gateway to Paradise – Matthew Vollmer
- Normal People Don’t Live Like This – Dylan Landis
- The Return of Felix Nogara – Pablo Medina
- A Good Place for the Night – Savyon Liebrecht
- The Dragon Can’t Dance – Earl Lovelace
- Beirut Fragments – Jean Said Makdisi
- Dispatch – Cameron Awkward Rich
- That’s What I Thought – Gary Young
From poetry collections to war memories, this snapshot of releases definitely backs up their claims regarding the diversity of their releases.
Can authors submit to Persea Books?
Yes, although alongside the genre specifications mentioned above there are a couple of steps to take.
Persea says they are pleased to receive query letters via email from authors and literary agents. They however no longer accept physical query letters or submissions. They also have a longstanding commitment to publishing extraordinary contemporary poetry.
Due to their commitment to the poets they already publish, they are limited in their ability to add new collections. If a writer would like to query their poetry department, they can send an email describing their current project and their publication history. Alongside this, they should attach a PDF or Word document with up to twelve sample pages of their poetry. If Persea is interested in seeing more work, they will get in touch.
Queries and submissions should include a cover letter, author background and publication history, a synopsis of the proposed work, and a sample chapter. They also request that if the work is being simultaneously submitted to other publishers to let them know.
They are no longer accepting unsolicited physical submissions; all submissions must be sent electronically and can be sent to the email address provided on their website. Due to the high volume of submissions that they receive, unless they are interested in progressing with the submission they are likely not to respond.
What are some alternatives to Persea Books?
The primary alternative to Persea would be to consider self-publishing. This route is easier than ever before with a plethora of free resources available online to help writers achieve this. Not to mention that with the advent of the Kindle and the popularity of ebooks, there are very few barriers to making this work.
On top of that, there is no wait time to hear back from a publisher to see if your submission has been accepted. Even if it is, the discussions then commence regarding creative control, editorial direction, timeframes etc. This can of course lead to great success but there is no guarantee. Many writers prefer to take matters into their own hands and retain full autonomy over their work.
A writer could of course consider submission to another publisher that aligns closer to their goals or is open to the genre they are working on. Lastly, if a writer did self-publish but felt they needed a boost in the areas of marketing and promotion they could use the services of a promotion company. This would almost certainly result in getting their work in front of new readers but exactly how many and at what cost would have to be determined.
Persea Books Review – Final Verdict
To sum up, if a writer is considering working with an independent publisher, they can’t go far wrong by submitting to Persea.
However, there are some things to be considered. The length of time it takes to create a submission and the uncertainty of whether or not the writer will receive a response creates a level of vagueness that may not be appealing. On top of this, any writers of the genres that were aforementioned as not currently accepted by Persea will immediately rule them out.
Self-publishing may provide a viable route for writers who could make a submission alongside this to cover all bases. It’s certainly advantageous to not put all the eggs in a single basket and the more options open to a writer, ultimately the higher chance of success.