The Poisoned Pencil seeks YA mysteries

Posted on March 25, 2014


poisonThe Poisoned Pencil Announces First YA Title

The Poisoned Pencil, an imprint of Poisoned Pen Press, is releasing its first title, Janie Chodosh’s Death Spiral, on April 1. The launch brings to fruition nearly two years of planning by imprint editor Ellen Larson and Poisoned Pen president and publisher Robert Rosenwald, who seek, according to Rosenwald, “to fill a void in YA book publishing” with edgy mysteries that feature teenagers.

Larson put out the call for manuscripts in the fall of 2012. “I received 20 or 30 submissions right away, from both agents and authors, and read every single one of them,” she said. Out of that group she plucked a half-dozen with protagonists in the 13- to 18-year-old range, which she signed for Poisoned Pencil. Although Larson and Rosenwald knew what they weren’t interested in, including paranormal, science fiction, and vampire novels, it took a bit longer to establish the Poisoned Pencil brand …


Editors at The Poisoned Pencil are looking for both traditional and cross-genre young adult mysteries (see below for exceptions). They encourage off-beat approaches and narrative choices that reflect the complexity and ambiguity of today’s world. Submissions from teens are very welcome.

What they do not consider:

  • Nonfiction, including true crime and autobiography.
  • Authors who live outside the USA or Canada (because of the difficulties of marketing and promotion).
  • Short stories or collections.
  • Middle Grade fiction.
  • Authors who have previously published young adult mysteries.

What to avoid:

  • Serial killers.
  • Excessive gore or horror.
  • Vampires or other heavy supernatural, SF, or fantasy content. A minor supernatural or fantasy element is possible, but keep it nuanced.

Miscellaneous but important notes:

  • Avoid coincidence in plotting. Avoid having your sleuth leap to conclusions rather than discover and deduce.
  • Pay attention to the resonance between character and plot; between plot and theme; between theme and character.
  • We are looking for clean style, fluid storytelling, and solid structure. Unrealistic dialog is a real turn-off.

Length: 45,000 to 80,000 words

Be sure to follow The Poisoned Pencil Submission Guidelines for the details on their submission procedure. Authors must create an online account to keep track of their submissions. Online submissions only.

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