Thriller, Suspense, and Psychological Horror


From Steph & Noelle:

The warning signs were there: those little red flags. But in the beginning, it all looked rose-colored. You thought you were getting community, belonging, and purpose. Maybe a lucrative new career. Maybe even salvation. Instead, you got control, fanaticism, greed, manipulation, and terror. 

Bring us your fiction stories of fanaticism, fundamentalism, extremism, and control. We want to read about cons people pull off that make our jaws drop. The horrors hiding just beyond the edges of our better judgment. 

We want the kind of monsters who hide in plain sight: charismatic cult leaders with a god-complex (think: NXIVM, Twin Flames Universe) and systems built to prey on the vulnerable (think: Lularoe). Give us MLM puppet masters, unhinged homeschooling movements, manipulative or extreme doomsday preppers, and weight-loss cults. We want characters who will give us a peek behind the veneer of a megachurch, an insider's view of the pressure to recruit for a pyramid scheme, an up-close look at love-bombing in action, along with the emotional fallout. 

NOTE: We’re not interested in stories that revolve around ideologies or theologies. Instead, we’re seeking stories that focus on the ways charismatic predators and extreme ideas lure vulnerable, well-meaning truth-seekers and turn ordinary people into monsters.

We will give preference to well-executed, fast-paced, and dark psychological and suspense thrillers. We want twists that are earned and stories that really move and engage. Grab the reader by the eyeballs and don’t let go. This means well-written commercial prose. Think: The Push by Ashley Audrain, or anything Gillian Flynn writes. We want to create the grown-up version of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Stories you’d want to read around the campfire to terrify your friends. Use your creativity and blow our minds. 

We’re also really hoping for fresh perspectives. Stories told from POVs other than the typical protagonist. Give us villain perspectives, non-Western perspectives, child perspectives, outsider perspectives. Take your best idea and consider if it’s being told via the right character. How can you make it even more interesting? 

NEW AUTHORS: We want to give a few authors their first pro horror sale and maybe even publish someone’s first story!

The submission window will open on Thursday, August 1, 2024, at midnight CST, and close on Friday, August 16, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

General info

From Steph & Noelle:

Movie/TV/Book Comps (NOTE: some titles on this list are documentaries, but we're looking for fiction stories only):

  • The Power, Naomi Alderman
  • The Last Housewife, Ashley Winstead
  • The Girls, Emma Cline
  • The Marriage Pact, Michelle Richmond
  • The Menu (movie)
  • The Monster Inside (Hulu)
  • Dr. Death (Peacock)
  • Wild, Wild Country (Netflix)
  • Shiny Happy People (Netflix)
  • Lularich (Prime)
  • Under the Banner of Heaven (Hulu)
  • Inventing Anna (Netflix)
  • Escaping Twin Flames (Netflix)
  • Frailty (movie)
  • A Friend of the Family (Peacock) 
  • The Vow (Hulu)

Hard Sells:

  • Speculative elements. Please keep paranormal or supernatural elements to a minimum if they're necessary.
  • Experimental prose styles that compromise plot, character, or pace.

Instant Rejections:

  • Explicit or graphic child abuse, or anything that glorifies harm in any way to a child or marginalized group. We understand that many cults include sex abuse, but we'll reject anything that implicitly or explicitly glorifies it.
  • Anything preachy. Just no. Don't make us read this.
  • Hate pieces that target specific people, groups, or religions.
  • Heavy-handed political themes. We understand that belief systems and politics are intricately married in this day and age, but it's easy to get didactic, and it's boring to read.

From Dark Matter INK:

Submission Window:

  • OPEN: August 1, 2024, at midnight CST
  • CLOSE: August 16, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. CST

Tentative Publish Date: Fall 2025

Word Limit: 1000-4000 words, no exceptions. "Shorter pieces preferred." —Steph & Noelle

Pay Rate: $0.05/word, paid prior to publication

Rights: We purchase first English-language rights for print, ebook, web, and audio, to be distributed in all countries throughout the world. We request a 6-month exclusivity period, starting from the date of publication.

Genre(s): Thriller + Suspense + Psychological Horror

Language: English and English translations

Reprints: No

Poetry: No

Multiple Submissions: Kind of. Our submission system will only allow for one submission from you at a time. If your story is rejected, please feel free to submit again.

Simultaneous Submissions: Yes. But please notify us or withdraw your story from consideration at Dark Matter if it is accepted elsewhere before we render our own decision. NOTE: Other publishers have their own guidelines for simultaneous submissions, so please read those as well if you intend to submit to both us and them at the same time.

File Types We Accept: .doc and .docx

Manuscript Formatting: We prefer that submissions be in proper manuscript format, but as long as the document is typed in a clean, legible font, and properly titled and numbered, it should be fine.

Time to Decision: We are currently asking for a response time between 45-60 days from date of submission until we render a final decision on your story. Many stories will receive responses much sooner than this estimate.

We do not accept email queries. No exceptions.

The Editors

Noelle W. Ihli

Best-selling thriller author of Ask for Andrea, Run on Red, and Room for Rent

Steph Nelson

Celebrated thriller and horror author of The Vein, Sawtooth, and The Final Scene

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