Author Submission Guidelines - The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories

Submission Guidelines: The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories

Edited by David Marcum

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories was created by David Marcum in 2015 to provide new Holmes adventures in the traditional Canonical form, as a pushback against modern non-canonical versions, and to remind people that Holmes and Watson are heroes. Initially intended as a 3-volume set, it has now grown to over 30 massive books, approaching 700 stories from over 200 contributors worldwide.

Royalties for the MX anthology go to support the Undershaw school (formerly Stepping Stones) for special needs children, located at Undershaw in Hindhead, England, one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former homes. To date, the books have raised nearly $95,000 for the school.

Authors whose contributions are selected receive a copy of the book in which their story appears. The authors retain all rights to their stories. Many authors are repeat contributors and have written enough stories to collect and publish them in their own books.

The books have received a number of starred Publishers Weekly reviews, with individual authors called out for praise and recognition. The books have also had several celebrity forewords by bestselling authors like Lee Child, Jonathan Kellerman, John Lescroart, Nicholas Meyer, Peter Lovesey, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

All submissions should be completely Canonical, and written as if they could have appeared alongside the original stories in The Strand magazine. There can be no aspects of parody, no actual supernatural encounters, and no anachronisms or references to modernized television shows that use Holmes’s name. Events established in the original stories can’t be revised or replaced – for example, a new and different first meeting between Holmes and Watson won’t be accepted. No major characters can be killed or damaged – put them back on the shelf for the next author as you found them when you’re done.

The majority of the stories are narrated by Watson, but some exceptions can be made. For instance, we have had stories told by other Canonical figures, such as Wiggins, or related in third person about Professor Moriarty, etc. As long as the story is set in the correct timeframe, within Holmes’s world, and not contradicting The Canon, this type of non-Watson-centric story will be considered.

Holmes and Watson should act and speak as they do in the original stories, and should not do anything that wouldn’t be found in The Canon. (i.e. After an argument, Watson shouldn’t angrily move out of Baker Street, with no contact between him and Holmes for months, and one should never have Holmes or Watson as the murderer – which has been submitted far too often by authors trying to be “edgy”.) Holmes and Watson should be presented as heroes. All aspects of the mystery should be explained, with the steps of Holmes’s solution revealed at the end. Holmes cannot simply gather all the participants and tell a long solution which he appears to know magically with no foundation.

The stories should fit chronologically within the timeline of the original stories. (For instance, a story published in the 1920’s doesn’t mean that it occurred in the 1920’s.) Holmes and Watson had very specific events occur in their lives, and new stories must fit around those events without contradiction. If there is any question during the writing process about whether something will work, please contact the editor for chronological guidance before proceeding.

Each set of the MX anthology volumes are arranged chronologically, usually in multiple simultaneously published books. A number of authors now write several stories for each set, widely spaced chronologically – as in 1880’s, 1890’s, and early 1900’s – so that they will appear in different books, thus allowing their works to appear in more volumes and adding to their own personal bibliographies. Multiple story submittals in this manner are encouraged. 

The stories should be approximate Canonical length, 6,000-10,000 words, although some shorter or longer exceptions will be made. No specific formatting is required for submittal, as all stories will be re-formatted to the “house” style before being read and evaluated. (For those who are curious, some of this formatting includes Times New Roman, 11 Font Size, use of Oxford commas, no double spaces, paragraph indentations 0.3 with no lines/spaces between paragraphs – these all have to be removed, as real books don’t format that way – and Holmes’s instead of Holmes’.)

Please send the most final version that can be produced, as the editor now receives over 200 stories per year, and cannot read partial stories or outlines, or workshop through developing ideas. If any revisions are sent after the submittal, please show them in red so that they can be found and dropped into the editor’s file, as new files cannot be accepted once initial formatting and editing have begun. 

After the editing process, revisions may be required if the story is provisionally accepted, and these often take the form of fixing identified plot threads or correcting some aspect of the narrative that conflicts with chronological events that were occurring at that time in Holmes or Watson’s lives. Typically, the best stories are those that follow the original Strand model and simply investigate a case from beginning to end, without attempting to provide a game-changing “event” story.

The MX anthologies are usually published two times per year, an “Annual” on May 22nd (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday), and a themed set in the late fall. The spring Annuals contain general Canonical cases with no set theme, and the fall books have had themes such as Christmas Adventures, Untold Cases (such as The Giant Rat of Sumatra), and stories which have seemingly supernatural solutions, but in the end must have absolutely rational explanations. The deadline for the spring volumes is December 31st, and June 30th for the fall books.

The final requirement is simply that the stories must be good mysteries in general and feel like Canonical Holmes stories. All submissions will be considered, but the editor has final decision as to what will be included.

Submissions or questions can be sent to David Marcum at:

Thank you for your interest, and I look forward to reading more excellent Canonical adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

David Marcum

Editor, The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories