Undiscovered Writers' Prize FAQs

All your questions answered below.

What will I win?

The winner will receive an offer of a publishing contract worth at least £10,000, and representation from DHH Literary Agency. They’ll be mentored through completing their manuscript by a Penguin Michael Joseph Editor, and the book will be published on the Penguin Michael Joseph list.

All the shortlisted writers will receive one-to-one editorial feedback and advice on publishing from a Penguin Michael Joseph editor and/or an agent at DHH Literary Agency.

Who is eligible to enter? What does “under-represented” mean?

If you feel that your community, or your background, needs a stronger voice and a platform in publishing we would love to hear from you.

We’re looking for writers from any background that’s currently deemed under-represented in UK publishing, including but not limited to writers from a socio-economically marginalised background, Black, Asian and minority ethnic writers, LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) writers or disabled writers.

This will be self-defined by the applicant during the application process.

Do I have to write about my background? Is there a certain kind of crime/thriller novel you want from an under-represented writer?

No! You might choose to have a main character who is similar to you or to set the book somewhere you know, but equally you might want to invent a new Secret Agency, or have your main character be a serial killer. Providing your novel is a crime/thriller story, there are no limits or stipulations on your setting or characters.

Can I still enter if I have a great idea for a novel in a different genre e.g. romance?

For 2022/23, we are only accepting entries within the crime/thriller genre. However, this will be an annual prize, and next year we will be looking for submissions in a different genre. Keep an eye on our social channels @michaeljbooks for news!

For more information about other great opportunities from Penguin Random House, as well as lots of helpful advice about getting published, check out the ‘Getting Published’ hub here.

How do you define a crime/thriller novel?

Crime and Thriller is a very broad genre, ranging from traditional mysteries where the main character solves a crime, to psychological thrillers where they wonder who they can trust, to action thrillers where they face a race against time in dire peril. In general, if your main character is primarily focused on solving a mystery, surviving against the odds, or saving a loved one and/or the world, that’s the kind of book we’re after.

What do I need to include in my entry? What is a “pitch”?

You can enter via the form, and all you need to include is the first 2,000 words of the book, and a short pitch. A pitch just means a little bit of information about the book, and especially about what will make a reader want to pick it up. For example, you should think about questions like what the story’s about, and what makes it unique? You don’t need to tell us all the details about what will happen, but you should be clear about what’s going to be the thing that will keep us gripped, whether it’s a mystery to be solved, or a threat to be overcome.

You can also find lots more useful advice about writing a great pitch via the Getting Published hub.

I've only just started my book project. Can I still enter?

Yes, providing you have enough material to complete the application form – the first 2,000 words of your novel, and a short pitch to tell us why we should be excited about it. You have until 30th November to send us the material, so we hope you might have time to start that book you’ve always been meaning to write.

What will happen next? When will I find out if I’m the winner?

We’re expecting a lot of entries, so we’ll need a little while to read them. We’ll contact everyone by 10th January 2023 to let them know if they’ve made it to the next round, when we’ll ask for a longer piece of writing from the novel to help us choose our shortlist – we’ll also give you time to write that.

On 24th March we’ll announce our shortlist, and again give them a little more time to write a bit more of the novel before making their final entry. The winner is due to be announced next August.

Will the judges read every entry?

The judging panel will read all shortlisted entries. Members of the team from Penguin Michael Joseph and DHH Literary Agency will be reading and reviewing every entry.

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Undiscovered Writers' Prize

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Will I get any feedback on my application?

Due to the volume of submissions expected, we unfortunately are not able to give individual feedback to every applicant. If you are successfully shortlisted, you will receive personalised one-on-one feedback on your work from one of our editors.

What if I win and I don't accept the terms of the acquisition/advance? Can I take my project elsewhere?

We would hope that we can agree a deal that is acceptable to you. However, if you decide that the terms are unacceptable, you are entitled to reject them. In that event, we may select another winner from the group of shortlisted writers.

If I win, when will my book be published?

A publishing schedule will be drawn up depending on the project and taking into account how much material is already written, and a publication date will be decided collaboratively, with the winning writer, your agent, and Penguin Michael Joseph. For most books, we would expect to publish approximately a year after a final manuscript is delivered.

Can I enter if I already have a literary agent?

Unfortunately not. We want to discover new voices and writers who don’t already have access to the publishing industry. The winner will be offered representation by DHH Literary Agency.

If you already have a literary agent, you can ask them to submit your work to an editor at Penguin Michael Joseph separately from this prize.

Can I enter if I've already had work published? What if I'm self-published, published in another format or genre, or published as part of an anthology?

We aren’t able to accept applications from writers who have had a book published in the UK before. We would be happy to receive applications from writers who have been published in another format altogether such as a magazine or newspaper.

Can I submit my project to you outside of the prize?

Penguin Michael Joseph does not accept unsolicited submissions while the prize is open, but we are continuing to receive submissions via literary agents. Please follow us on social media to find out more information on how to get published.

Can I submit more than one manuscript?

Unfortunately not. We are accepting only one entry per applicant. 

Question not answered above?

Get in touch with us on Twitter: @MichaelJBooks or Instagram: @MichaelJBooks.

For further advice and opportunities from Penguin Random House on getting published, click below.

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