Our Submissions policy

When you have written a book, it can be tricky to know who to contact and how. The first step is to get to know the publishers who you think would be the best fit. You’ll find information about Birlinn and our imprints here on our website but follow us on social media too – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok.

Literary Agents

You might want to reach out to a Literary Agent. An agent will work with you to present your book to best advantage when submitting to publishers. They have good knowledge of what publishers are looking for at any one time. You can find details of agents online or in the Writers and Artists Yearbook.

Direct submission

If you have a work that you really believe would fit the areas covered by our imprints (Arena, Birlinn, BC Books, John Donald and Polygon), we would like to hear from you. Please email with a synopsis and sample material, and make clear why you think your work would suit our list, why you think you are best placed to write the book and which editor it should be shown to (see below). And please remember to keep things concise.

Meet the Birlinn editorial team:

Hugh Andrew (MD) is our commissioning editor for the Birlinn imprint (history, biography, Scottish interest, nature writing, politics, art and mapping) and BC Books for children. Andrew Simmons is our Editorial Director.

Hugh Andrew founded the company 30 years ago and continues at the helm today with a particular interest in commissioning Scottish interest, history and mapping titles along with children’s books.

Andrew Simmons has worked at Birlinn from the early days. He is our Editorial Director, with a particular interest in nature-writing, memoir, history, literary non-fiction, current affairs and international politics, biography, food and drink.

Authors we work with

Hugh and Andrew work with authors right across the Birlinn list including Alistair Moffat, Patrick Laurie, Mollie Hughes, Polly Pullar, Patrick Baker, Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Fraser, Ghillie Basan, Sue Lawrence, Cameron Wyllie, Mary Contini, Nikki Welch, Angus Macdonald, Angus Roxburgh and many, many more.

John Donald

Mairi Sutherland, Managing Editor

Mairi Sutherland is managing editor for the John Donald imprint (academic books on Scottish history, archaeology, architecture and other aspects of Scottish culture).

She has worked for a wide range of academic publishers and joined Birlinn as a freelancer in 2006.

Meet the Polygon Team (fiction, literary non-fiction, poetry, music, film):

Alison Rae, Senior Editor

Alison Rae

After working in marketing, music and the arts, I joined Polygon twenty years ago as a freelancer to manage the fiction list.

I’m looking for

Strong female voices of all ages in fiction and non-fiction. Memoirs. Music titles.

Essentially, a well-crafted story that will keep me up at night, make me laugh and make me think. A little darkness is fine.

Not my thing

YA and historical fiction.

Stuff I like

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Viv Albertine, Eve Babitz, Nicola Barker, Emma Cline, Percival Everett, Helen Garner, Pascal Garnier, Yukio Mishima, Agnes Owens, David Peace, Jean Rhys, Jon Ronson, Lorna Sage, Roberto Saviano, Georges Simenon, Jim Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut and John Waters.

Authors I work with

Odafe Atogun, Ronan Bennett, Jo Caulfield, Nick Cave, Stuart Cosgrove, Paul Dalgarno, Matt Haig, Robert J. Harris, Zoë Howe, Mick Kitson, Jenny Lecoat, Josie Long, Lynsey May, Ken McNab, Denise Mina, John Niven, Alan Parks, Lemn Sissay, Douglas Skelton, Tracey Thorn, Alan Warner and Louise Welsh.

Edward Crossan, Editor

Edward Crossan

After leaving university, I joined Birlinn as an intern. I joined the Polygon team in 2015 as Poetry Editor. My editorial role has now expanded into fiction and non-fiction.

I’m looking for

Books that I can get lost in with beautiful, engaging writing. I’m interested in good storytelling that is innovative in form and approach – books that challenge existing preconceptions and explore new ideas. I am specifically interested in finding new voices which centre different perspectives, literary and commercial fiction, reading group fiction, narrative non-fiction and poetry.

Not my thing

Humour titles and illustrated books.

Stuff I like

Andrew O’Hagan Mayflies, Douglas Stuart Shuggie Bain, Amy Liptrot The Outrun, Jenni Fagan The Panopticon, Graeme Armstrong The Young Team, Bernardine Evaristo Girl, Woman, Other, Michael Pedersen Boy Friends, James Robertson News of the Dead, Ocean Vuong Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Will Harris Rendang, anything by Kei Miller, Max Porter and Ali Smith.

Authors I work with

Ron Butlin, James Campbell, Jim Carruth, Stewart Conn, Lucy Cruickshanks, Jenni Fagan, Merryn Glover, Andrew Greig, Hannah Lavery, Liz Lochhead, Alexander McCall Smith, Helen McClory, Michael Pedersen, Alycia Pirmohamed, N.E. Solomons, Malachy Tallack, Steven Veerapen, Roseanne Watt. And classics by Edwin Morgan, Hamish Henderson, George Mackay Brown, Norman MacCaig and George Orwell.

James Crawford, Editor-at-Large

James Crawford

I have been a literary agent in London and a Publishing Director in Edinburgh, and currently combine my work as a writer and BBC broadcaster/documentary-maker with my role at Polygon. I joined the team in 2019 with a wide remit to bring in new talent and develop creative commissions for existing, high-profile authors and individuals.

I’m looking for

Great writing. Authors who can make any subject come alive with their passion and insight. Specific interests are literary fiction, crime and narrative non-fiction (especially travel and nature writing), but in general I like to see authors who can push the conventions of genre. I also love creative memoirs or ‘insider stories’ from pop culture, in particular music and film. And I’m very much on the hunt for a modern Scottish Joan Didion – all applications welcome!

Not my thing

YA fiction, conventional memoir, lifestyle titles and cooking.

Stuff I like

Kathleen Jamie Surfacing, Douglas Stuart Young Mungo, Robert Macfarlane Underland, Roisin Kiberd The Disconnect, Elizabeth Kolbert Under a White Sky, Denise Mina Conviction, Mohsin Hamid Exit West, Francine Toon Pine, David Gange The Frayed Atlantic Edge, Darren McGarvey The Social Distance Between Us, Maggie O’Farrell Hamnet and anything by John Burnside, Joan Didion and Geoff Dyer.

Authors I work with

Jenni Fagan, David Greig, Denise Mina and Alan Warner (Darkland Tales series).

Merryn Glover, Kathleen Jamie, Lynsey May, Alexander McCall Smith, James Robertson, Jenna Watt and Sandy Winterbottom.

Arena Sport

Paul Smith, Sports Editor-at-Large

I began my career in journalism in the 1990s, spending the majority of my 16 years in newspapers as a sports writer and sports news editor. The first of 19 titles as an author, primarily sport non-fiction and sporting memoirs, was published in 2007 and I’m passionate about those genres. Freelance work with Arena Sport is combined with my role as a marketing and communications director in the Scottish college sector.

I’m looking for

Engaging, entertaining and original sports non-fiction from established, emerging and new authors. From the mainstream to offbeat pursuits, I’m interested in broadening the reach of Arena Sport by exploring new topics, fresh formats and bringing stories to life from across Scotland, the UK and beyond.

Not my thing

As long as it has a sporting theme, I’m interested in finding out more.

Stuff I like

Guillem Balague Maradona: The Boy. The Rebel. The God; Diana Nyad Find a Way; Michael Calvin The Nowhere Men; Jeff Connor Pointless; Sporting autobiographies written from the heart and anything by the hand of the late and unrivalled Hugh McIlvanney.

Authors we work with

Carrie Dunn, Stephen Proctor, Marti Perarnau, Aidan Smith, Michael McEwan and Jessica Hayden

Note: we don’t accept any submissions by post unless previously cleared with us. Due to the high volume of submissions we receive, we are unable to respond to all submissions, though each one is considered by our editorial department. If you have not heard from us within twelve weeks then your submission has not been successful.