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Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize

Win a book deal and the chance to be published by Penguin Michael Joseph

Penguin Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books, is a leading publisher of commercial fiction and non-fiction.

We are proud to be entering our second year of The Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize to find new authors from underrepresented backgrounds who we can bring to the widest possible readership.

Last year, we asked for submissions in the crime/thriller genre and were thrilled to announce Claire Wilson, whose debut novel Five by Five publishes 29th August 2024, as our first Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers Prize winner.

This year we are looking for love! If you’re a budding romance author we want to hear from you. We’re looking for a commercial romance with a romantic love story at its heart.

What's the prize?

The winner of the Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize will receive a publishing contract with Penguin Michael Joseph, worth at least £10,000, and representation by the Janklow & Nesbit agency. All shortlisted writers will also receive one-to-one editorial feedback and guidance from an editor or agent.

Romance hits from Penguin Michael Joseph

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Submit your entry

Submissions close on Monday 5th August

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Who are the judges?

Hannah Smith


Hannah Smith is the romance publisher at Penguin Michael Joseph. Hannah grew up in Scotland and started her career at HarperCollins imprint Mills & Boon. A champion of romance since the very first moments of her career she’s since worked at Head of Zeus and Bonnier. Hannah publishes a wide range of romance including Carley Fortune, Annie Crown, Emily Rath, Etta Eason and Elle Everhart.

Emma Leong


Emma is a Literary Agent at Janklow & Nesbit UK. Her publishing career started here at J&N in 2019, with a background in both Law and Psychology. She is editorially focused, representing new commercial and literary writers and keen to build and nurture international careers for them, working very closely with the New York office and Translation Rights team. Her clients include Anise Starre, Chukwuebuka Ibeh, Olivia Petter, Helena Echlin, Rupert Dastur and on behalf of the US office, Aisha Muharrar, Katherine Min, Rose Dommu to name a few.

Leah Davis


Leah is a radio presenter and comedian who broadcasts nationally on Capital Xtra. Being incredibly passionate about books, Leah founded and hosts the CapitalXtra Book Club podcast. Each episode promises to "uplift and highlight black voices, while educating audiences on topics like racial injustice, female empowerment and more".

Previous guests include Caleb Azuma Nelson, Candice Brathwaite-Aboderin, Yewande Biala, and Jordan Stevens. Leah has appeared as a guest on BBC Radio 4's 'A Good Read', and has hosted several panels at book festivals over the past couple of years, including the Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Henley Literary Festival. Leah launched herself as a stand-up comedian in 2022 and has received a number of accolades including reaching the final of Funny Women 2022 and being a semifinalist in the British Comedian of the Year 2022 awards.

Bea Carvalho


Bea Carvalho is Head of Fiction at Waterstones, responsible for the company’s overall fiction strategy, the management of key title campaigns including Book of the Month, and the selection and promotion of new fiction titles for the chain’s bookshops and website. Prior to joining the central buying team in 2011, Bea worked as a bookseller in Waterstones bookshops around London including Hampstead, Oxford Street, and The Economists’ Bookshop. In 2022, Bea and her team launched the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize, and she has acted as a judge on several prize panels including The Wainwright Prize, The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and The Evening Standard Stories Competition.

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Undiscovered Writers' Prize FAQs

Answering all your questions about the Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize.

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Competition terms and conditions

1. By entering the Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers Prize, each applicant agrees to be bound by these terms and conditions (Terms and Conditions).  

2. The Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers Prize (Undiscovered Writers Prize) is open to all writers aged 18 years or over and who are a resident of the UK and the Republic of Ireland (Applicant), except for the permanent employees (including their families) of The Random House Group Limited, Penguin Books Limited or associated companies of the Penguin Random House group (Publisher), or the permanent employees (including their families) of Janklow & Nesbit UK (Emma Leong).

3. Only one entry per person.

4. This opportunity is only open to writers who come from backgrounds which are currently deemed under-represented in the publishing industry.  This will be self-defined by Applicant as part of the application process. This will likely include but will not be limited to writers of Black, Asian, and other Minority Ethnic heritage, LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) communities, disabled writers and writers who come from a socio-economically disadvantaged background.

5. The application window opens on 19th June 2024 and the closing date for the submission and receipt of all applications is 23.59 BST on 5th August 2024 (Closing Date).

6. Applicant must: complete all sections of the Undiscovered Writers Prize application form on the Penguin website at (https://www.penguin.co.uk/penguin-michael-joseph-undiscovered-writers-prize) including submitting an extract of up to five thousand (5,000) words from the start of their romance novel in the English language, and a one page synopsis/pitch of the work in the English language (Submission).

7. By entering this competition, all entrants agree to the use of their personal data by the Promoter for the purposes of running the competition as detailed in these terms and conditions.  Details on how we process the personal data of entrants can be found in our Privacy Policy (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/PrivacyPolicy/)

8. All Submissions must be the original work of the Applicant.  If Applicant is unable to produce its Submission without third party assistance, the Applicant must fully disclose the nature (including name of the third party) and extent of that assistance.  

9. Subject to the following, Submissions must be previously unpublished works of fiction, in the romance genre.  Applicant must not be currently represented by a literary agent nor have previously written a novel published under a valid ISBN.  The exception to this is where Applicant has either been published: (i) as part of an anthology; (ii) by a non-for-profit publisher; (iii) over ten (10) years ago; (v) via self-publishing; and/or (vi) published in digital/e-book format only.

10. Submissions received after the Closing Date will not be considered.  Publisher is not responsible for illegible, incomplete, delayed, corrupted, malfunctioning, unreadable or lost Submissions.  Submissions sent by email, post or any other format or medium other than via the Undiscovered Writers Prize Website will not be accepted.  Applicant should only submit copies of their work and should keep backups for their own files.

11. By entering the Undiscovered Writers Prize, Applicant warrants that all information submitted as part of its application and Submission is true (with the exception of any fictional written Submissions), current and complete.

12. All valid Submissions will be assessed by an initial judging panel (Initial Panel) made up of individuals with publishing expertise within Publisher’s organisation and an independent judge.  The Initial Panel will select a long list of up to fifty (50) Submissions (Longlisted Applicants). In determining the Longlisted Applicants, the Initial Panel will evaluate various aspects of the Submission including: the potential for the writing to become the basis of a publication, the quality of writing, the originality of concept behind the writing and the commerciality of the writing.

13. Longlisted Applicants shall be notified by email by 9th September 2024. Longlisted Applicants will be required to submit fifteen thousand (15,000) words of their manuscript, and a one-page outline of their story, including spoilers, by 14th October 2024.   After this date, the invitation will expire and Publisher reserves the right to offer the invitation to a substitute Applicant selected in accordance with these rules.

14. Publisher regrets that it will not be able to give feedback on individual entries (other than that to be provided to the successful applicants at subsequent assessment stages or during subsequent mentoring sessions).

15. All decisions of the Initial Panel are final and not subject to appeal.

16. All valid Submissions from this Long list will be assessed by the Initial Panel, which will then select a Shortlist of up to 10 Submissions (Shortlisted Applicants). Shortlisted applicants will be notified by email by 25th November 2024, and will be invited to submit 20,000 words of their manuscript, or as much as they can by the final closing date of 20th January 2025.

16. In determining the Shortlisted Applicants, the Initial Panel will once again evaluate various aspects of the Submission including: the potential for the writing to become the basis of a publication, the quality of writing, the originality of concept behind the writing and the commerciality of the writing.

17. For the avoidance of doubt, Publisher is under no obligation to select the maximum number of Shortlisted Applicants, if it is felt that not enough of the Submissions are of a sufficient quality.

18. The shortlist will be assessed by a further judging panel, made up of individuals from the Publisher and our guest judges (literary agent Emma Leong, Waterstones representative Bea Carvalho, radio presenter Leah Davis, and Editorial Director, Hannah Smith) (Further Panel). The Further Panel will then choose one (1) winner from the Shortlist by the end of 14th February 2025. The winner will be the entry that in the opinion of the judges is of the highest quality, is the most ready for publication and fulfils the aims of the prize to find undiscovered new writers from all backgrounds, writing stories that are not being heard, and deserve to be read.

19. The winner must claim their prize within 30 days of the Publisher sending notification. If the prize is unclaimed after this time, it will lapse and the Publisher reserves the right to offer the unclaimed prize to a substitute winner selected in accordance with these rules.

20. Notwithstanding anything set forth in these terms and conditions if, in the sole opinion of the Publisher, none of the entries (including that of the winner) are of a sufficiently high standard to merit the winner’s prize, such prize shall not be awarded but shall instead be substituted with 10 books of the winner’s choice which are published in the UK by the Publisher.

21. Subject to Clause 21 above, the winner will be offered a publishing contract with Penguin Michael Joseph, with an advance of at least £10,000. They will also be offered agent representation from literary agent Emma Leong, who will negotiate the publishing contract.

22. Publication of the winning entry is subject to the winner entering into a contract with Penguin Michael Joseph, part of Penguin Books Limited (Publisher).  This will afford an exclusive licence to the Publisher, permitting the editing, adapting, publishing and licensing of all or part of the novel in all editions, formats (including print and electronic), in all languages and territories globally, setting out all applicable financial details including a net advance and royalties which is to be mutually agreed between Publisher and Author on completion and acceptance by Publisher of the complete manuscript and providing the Publisher with an option over a second book.  Should entrants not want to grant these rights they should not submit materials. In the event an agreement cannot be reached, as regards the contract, within thirty days of the discussions commencing, the winner shall instead be awarded the substitute prize as set out in Clause 21 above, and we reserve the right to select an alternative winner from the Shortlist.

23. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered.

24. All decisions of the Initial Panel, Further Panel and Publisher are final and will not be subject to appeal, nor will any correspondence be entered into in relation to the competition.

25. The Publisher regrets that entries cannot be returned, nor will the Publisher or the competition judges enter into correspondence or give feedback on individual entries. 

26. By entering this competition each entrant confirms that: (i) his/her/their entry is their wholly-owned creation and to the extent that such entry makes use of any third party materials, that these have been fully cleared unless they are no longer protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights; (ii) no deliberate attempt has been made to base any fictional characters in the novel upon any individual, living or dead; and (iii) the submitted materials contain nothing that is illegal, obscene or of a defamatory nature.  Entrants will keep the promoter harmless from any claims that the entry infringes the personal or proprietary right of any other person.  Notwithstanding anything set forth above, the Publisher reserves the right to choose the most appropriate format for the work on publication.     

27. Events may occur that render the Undiscovered Writers Prize impossible to fulfil due to reasons beyond the control of Publisher.  Should those events occur Publisher may, at its absolute discretion, vary, amend, suspend or cancel the Undiscovered Writers Prize and shall provide notice to all applicants of proposed variations, amendments, suspensions or cancellations.

28. The Publisher may plan promotional events which may require the attendance of the shortlistees and the winner.  The Publishers will discuss such events with the shortlistees and the winner once organised and will seek their express consent before confirming their attendance.

29. Other than those specified above, the promoter shall not be liable for any costs or expenses arising out of or in any way connected with this prize and does not accept any responsibility for any damage, loss or disappointment suffered by the winner as result of accepting this prize.

30. We will make the winner’s name and county available on request to the following email address PMJPublicity@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk (please state the name of the competition in the subject heading 10 weeks after the closing date).  If you do not want your name and county to be made available in the event that you win, please let us know by emailing PMJPublicity@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk. Please note we are required to make the winner’s details available to the ASA if requested.

31. Publisher may disqualify any entrant whose entry does not comply with these terms and conditions (in Publisher’s sole opinion) or who, in Publisher’s sole determination, has acted in a manner that is fraudulent, dishonest or unjust to other entrants including, without limitation, tampering with the operation of the competition, manipulating or rigging votes, hacking, deceiving, using multiple accounts to submit multiple entries, cheating or by harassing or threatening other entrants, the panel or a representative of Publisher.

32. These Terms and Conditions are governed by the laws of England and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

33. The promoter’s contact details are: Penguin Books Limited, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA.