POISONED PEN PRESS IS CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR SUBMISSIONS 

We generally open submissions once a year. Keep checking our website, and subscribe to our newsletter for updates. The best way to know if your manuscript would be a good fit with us is to check out our current titles.
Due to the high volume of submissions and to marketing realities, we have some restrictions.
  • We do not consider simultaneous submissions.
  • We consider works between 60,000-90,000 words.
  • We seldom consider self-published or Print-On-Demand (POD) writers.
  • We seldom consider writers who have been previously published in the mystery genre.

We almost never consider manuscripts which use the following themes as the central focus of the story:

  • Incest
  • Murder of children; child abuse
  • Abuse when it’s a pivotal point or supplied motivation all by itself
  • Serial killers whose point of views are part of the narrative
  • Serial killings or psychopathologies that depend on exceptional gore

Evaluation Criteria

Excellence in writing: Above all, you must show us that you treat writing as a craft, not just a means of relaying information. There is a difference between exposition and art. Show us art!

Originality: Someone somewhere said something about there only being seven (or nine, or twelve, depending on your internet search engine) basic plot lines for stories. That doesn’t mean you can’t set yours apart. We may skew towards traditional mystery–where solution of the puzzle drives the plot–but that doesn’t mean your characters, setting, and voice need to be conventional. In fact, we’d prefer they weren’t!

Voice: See Originality. Give us your quirky, your downtrodden, your snarky, your unintentionally ironic. You get the picture.

Character: It sounds trite, but your characters should leap off the page, punch us in the face and steal our spot in the coffee line.

Plotting: Here’s where we get back to the “traditional mystery” thing. We want sleuthing; we want clues and red herrings and plot twists, and “DAMN! I never saw THAT coming.”

Setting: Anywhere, anytime, so long as it supports and enhances your plot and allows your characters to shine. The right setting almost becomes a character itself.

Dialogue: Should suit your characters and setting. No modern slang in historicals, no flowery language in modern police procedurals. Nothing takes a reader out of a story quicker than dialogue that doesn’t ring true to the time, place, or speaker. Also, avoid excessive dialogue tags (“he said”/”she proposed”/they queried,” blah blah); these tend to slow the pace, and are often completely unnecessary (she proffered).

Final, IMPORTANT Note: Please, please PLEASE—do NOT begin your story with a description of the weather, unless it is so integral to your plot that removing it would damage the story irrevocably and cause you acute existential anguish. There’s a reason why the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” is so often lampooned (and is, in fact, the inspiration for an annual writing competition where contestants strive to submit their absolute WORST opening sentences. Really! Here’s the link: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/).