Ask someone to name a handful of book genres and the answer will likely be fairly predictable. From thriller and mystery to romance and fantasy the literary world has evolved to revolve around a number of well-established and familiar genres.
There are of course sub-genres and nuances to be found within these but broadly speaking this is what you’ll find on most bookshelves, libraries and book stores around the world. This makes sense not only from a categorisation perspective but as readers' tastes evolve over time, there’s a Darwinian survival of the fittest element at play with whichever books resonate most solidify their place in the market and those that don’t land as well fall by the wayside.
The downside to this however is that at times readers are presented with a predictable and conventional set of offerings with little space or opportunity for anything that breaks the mould. Publishers can be reluctant to take chances as they tend to prioritise anything that minimises the financial risk and gives them the highest percentage chance of turning a profit.
One company looking to forge its own path and in turn create pathways for authors and their books that don’t fit neatly into these boxes is Ulysses Press. In this review, we’ll explore who they are, and exactly what it is that they do as well as discuss whether they are worth considering for any writers seeking to have their work published.
What is Ulysses Press?
Ulysses Press began in the front bedroom of the Berkeley, California, home of founders Ray Riegert and Leslie Henriques in 1983. At its conception, Ulysses only published one book, the “adventure travel guide” (a brand-new concept at the time) to the Hawaiian Islands, Ray Riegert’s Hidden Hawaii. The book became a success, and the publishing house expanded its adventure travel coverage to new locations, eventually releasing Hidden guides on far-flung destinations around the world, from Belize, Tahiti, and the Yucatán to New England, the Florida Keys, and the California Coastline.
As the press continued to evolve and as the publishing industry changed, Ulysses began publishing outside of travel, first venturing into religion and spirituality and then health and fitness. With the rise of the internet and rapid advances in computing and e-commerce, Ulysses once again moved with the times and utilised data-driven methods to establish itself as a cutting-edge indie publisher seeking out new opportunities on a myriad of subjects.
In 2011, Ulysses was named on the Publishers Weekly top 20 fastest-growing independent publishers list and has subsequently been featured consistently ever since. In the same year, Ulysses opened its first office in Brooklyn, New York.
Today, the publishing house maintains a bi-coastal presence and focuses on highly targeted niche groups that aren’t being offered the books they want by the big corporate-owned publishing houses, who as we mentioned earlier have a tendency to be more risk averse. At Ulysses, they believe that, as pop culture changes at the speed of the Internet, books have a powerful role to play in the world. Above all other media, books offer readers a trusted source for information and a vital escape from the highly connected, digital world.
What Do Ulysses Press Publish?
As mentioned Ulysses is genre-agnostic and instead focuses on giving both under represented authors a platform as well as introducing readers to less orthodox offerings. Below is a selection of ‘featured books’ as per their website that will provide more insight into their work.
Panic Attacks Workbook – David Carbonell
Drawing Faces – Lise Herzog
Teach Writing with Growth Mindset – Dr Sara Hoeve
The Microdosing Guidebook – C J Spotswood
The Reality Shifting Handbook – Mari Sei
Intro to Igbo Mythology for Kids – Chinelo Anyadiegwu
Houseplant Tarot – Minerva Siegel
Luna Finds Love Everywhere – Dr Shainna Ali
Break Free from Narcissistic Mothers – Hannah Alderete
Cross Stitch Like a Queen – David Hastings
As you can see with everything from hobbies and self-improvement to spirituality and mental health, Ulysses really does offer a home for any and every type of book.
Can Authors Submit to Ulysses?
In a word, yes. Ulysses does accept unsolicited manuscripts for the genres they publish into. Before submitting a manuscript, they advise that writers take some time to familiarise themselves with their list and to consider how their book will enhance their publishing programme.
Their publishing program seeks to move along the cultural cutting edge. They stay ahead of the competition by publishing books at the forefront of emerging trends and by finding unique angles on established topics unexplored by other publishers.
When it comes to finding new books, they are especially interested in titles that fill demonstrated niches in the trade book market. They seek books that take a specific and unique focus, a focus that can differentiate a book and make it stand out in a crowd.
Submissions should be emailed to an address as per their website and should include the following.
⁃ A brief 2-page synopsis of the book.
⁃ An annotated table of contents
⁃ One or two sample chapters
⁃ An author biography
⁃ Market research and target market
⁃ A brief comparison with competitive titles
They also state that due to their size, a wait of at least 3 months is to be expected before a writer can expect a response.
What are some alternatives to Ulysses?
The primary alternatives to submitting to Ulysses would be either submitting to another publisher or pursuing the route of self-publishing.
A writer may consider another publisher if they feel their work does not align with the vision of Ulysses Press. Given their self-described ethos of seeking niche offerings, some writers may feel like a more mainstream publisher fits better with their work.
Self-publishing is an increasingly popular route particularly given the advent of e-readers and e books. The autonomy retained as well as the benefits of schedule flexibility and a higher percentage of retained royalties is unsurprisingly an increasingly popular option.
Ulysses Press Review – Final Opinion
In conclusion, Ulysses Press is evidently a successful publisher with a clear mission. They deserve enormous credit for their avant-garde approach and willingness to take risks that provide authors with unique opportunities often not afforded by mainstream publishers.
From a writer's perspective however, that does not necessarily mean they will be the best option when seeking to have their work published. If they feel their work fits in with the ethos of Ulysses and are accepting of the time it may take for a reply having made a submission, then it may be a good option.
If not, however, self publishing may indeed provide everything they need particularly given the sheer volume of resources readily available now to writers pursuing this course of action.
Ultimately it will be down to each writer and their individual circumstances but a combination of a conventional submission whilst exploring self-publishing may provide the best of both worlds.