Discover Mystery Contest

The Winner of the 2013 Discover Mystery Contest


It was a tough year judging. We had a lot of really excellent entries, and we had an enjoyable time reading through each of them. But it’s time to announce a winner.


Uniformly Dead by Peggy McKee Barnhill

Murder in the Master by Judy L. Murray

A Practicum for Murder by Carmen Will



Dog Shows Are Murder by Eileen Brady

Miss Brady’s cozy about a veterinarian turned reluctant sleuth stole our hearts and our imaginations. Celebrity judge Earlene Fowler (herself an Agatha winner) had this to say about it:


“A delightful and lively mystery that introduces Kate Turner, a veterinarianย with heart, humor and a new penchant for solving murders. ย A promising first novel that will leave readers begging for more.”
Watch for Miss Brady’s new book to be published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2014! Congratulations to all of our participants on jobs well done!

146 Responses to Discover Mystery Contest

    • I’m also wondering when your next Discovery Mystery Contest will open. I thought I might’ve missed it online because it is getting close to June of 2014, but I can’t find any information on it anywhere.

  1. As I read the intro to this announcing of the winner post and was about to hit the “read more” button, I had a flashback to a different (non-PPP) contest where I had my heart in my throat waiting as an unpublished author to see how my book fared in the judging.

    It’s a terribly anxious moment, leading to heartbreaking sadness for all but the jumping-up-and-down-high-fiving winner. My sincerest congratulations to Eileen. And my hardiest brothers in arms hugs to Peggy, Judy and Carmen for I too ended up on the short end of that judging stick.

    But do not be sad beyond today, because armed with your finalist status in a competition conducted by this great publishing house, I have no doubt your manuscripts will find their way into print. Mine did…and yours are probably better:)

  2. It’s enormous that you are getting ideas from this post as well as from our dialogue made at this place.

  3. Hi – I just entered the contest, and I noticed that the dates on the submission form are the ones for last year. I believe the deadline this year is a month earlier. Just thought I should check.


  4. I just submitted my entry, which went through fine, but it said that entries were closing on April 30, 2013 and not March 30. Is that a typo? If not, I wish it had been changed on here, because I literally only discovered the contest yesterday
    Thanks in advance for your clarification.

  5. Hi, I’ve tried several times to send in my entry, but it doesn’t go through. Twice I had a notice that ‘the card code is invalid’ (not true) and another that Safari cant’ find the server. Can you help with this? Thanks, Chiquita

    • Hi!
      Basically, if the card code starts with a 0, the form kicks it back. It’s a weird quirk, and we are working on it. Do you have another card you can use?

    • Sorry, that’s my only credit card, but I have a Paypal acct, or can send cash. Or I can borrow a friends’s card, but it will not be in my name, if that’s alright, Chiquita

  6. Hi, when I first learned of the first Mystery Writers Contest the winner and runners up for 2012 were already decided. I am curious what happened to the four also rans from that contest. I should have written their names and book titles down but failed to do so. I can’t locate any existing links back to that page. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Hi Sterling,
      We asked those people to submit their manuscripts through our standard channels. We’ve been working with at least two of them to get their books published that way. This contest has been a great way to find new talent. Good luck this year!

  7. Hi,

    A question about eligibility. If the novel that I’d like to submit currently is appearing in a local, trade newspaper as a running serial, but without my name on it, would you say that it has already appeared in print form? The paper has been running about four chapters at a time in each monthly issue since December. The first three installments carried my name. Now it’s anonymous.

    I agreed to submit this copy before I knew of your contest. What is your verdict? Can I submit this to PP’s contest or should I choose another route, possibly a general submission?


    • Interesting! I would say that it still eligible. We may want to revise in the printed edition, and would, of course, give credit to the newspaper, but it would still be the first time that it appeared as a book. Good luck!

    • Hello, I’m trying to send in my entry to your Discover Mystery Contest, but the form keeps coming back with a notice at the top which says, “Ensure all values are in proper format.” I’ve looked over the form several times, but don’t see what I’ve done wrong. Can you help? Thanks

  8. Hello,

    I have a manuscript with illustrations that I would like to submit. Is it possible to send along the document with the images, or do you prefer only the text? The document with illustrations is about 83mb in size with 90k words.


  9. Hello, I would love to enter the contest, but for some reason, the Website is not accepting my credit card number. Is there an alternative way of paying the entry fee, perhaps sending you a check? Thank you, Roseve

    • Hi! There is a problem with credit card numbers that start with zeros in the CVV field or any field. i would try a different card. If that doesn’t work, go ahead and shoot me an e-mail and we will figure something out ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Jessica Tribble

  10. I’ve tried to submit my novel, A REASON TO KILL, but although I completed everything on the entry form, the message repeatedly says to fill in all valid items. The only problem seems to be that the security code on my credit card is 007, and the system keeps deleting the two 00’s. What to do?

    • Unfortunately, there is a bug with the software we use to gather the credit card info that won’t accept those leading zeros. Do you have another card that you can use? If not, please drop me an e-mail (, and we will work something out.

  11. Hi, I have a question about the submission. Understanding you are mainly looking for unpublished mystery authors, how much editing are you all looking for the manuscript to have? Do we need to seek the services of a professional editor or can a couple of beta readers looking for grammar errors and such do it? Thanks.

    • Excellent question. We would like it to be as clean as you can make it. So, the fewer holes and grammar issues, the better. But use your best judgement. Most of our authors do not first employ an editor.

  12. Hello, I’m interested in the Discover Mystery Contest. It is currently the end of January, so the March 30th deadline is approaching quickly. Is there an entry form for this contest? And what is the entry fee? Thanks for your help, Chiquita

  13. Jessica – For those of us who are not winners, will we have the benefit of a rejection e-mail with comments that were made by your Discover Mystery readers? For instance, it would be quite helpful to know if the submission was set aside based on the synopsis or, if the mss was read, the reader quit reading at such and such a chapter. We may as well get acquainted with the language of rejection!

    • Hi John,
      As we noted in the original entry guidelines, unfortunately, we are not able to provide comments and feedback. I do want to encourage everyone to submit via our standard submissions process where you can get feedback. Just be sure to mention that you entered the contest so our editor doesn’t think she’s lost her mind and rejected/accepted you before.

  14. Congrats to Ronald Sharp (Human Pest Control), and the other finalists. Best of luck with publication.

    And thank you Poisoned Pen Press for the opportunity. I look forward to the contest next year. I promise to do better.


  15. Just out of curiousity, now that the entry deadline has passed, can you tell us how many submissions you received???

    May is going to be the longest month of my life!

  16. I read through the comments and see that you are ok with the manuscript being around 100k words. Mine is currently at 112k. Is that WAY too large, to where I need to cut it down prior to submission, or is that ok?

  17. I entered my novel A NAME TO DIE FOR in your contest two weeks ago. Since then I have made substantial improvements. Is it possible to withdraw the first and enter the second by April 30?

    • Sadly, we can not void out the previous file. The way the system is set up, the only way to resubmit is to repay the entry fee, which frankly just doesn’t feel right. Sorry I don’t have better news ๐Ÿ™

  18. Can you please check if you got my submission. I got an error my card pin not valid? Not sure why. Thanks

    • It does not appear to be here. Try a different card. If you security code contains a leading 0, the system won’t accept it for whatever reason. I’ve reported the bug, but it hasn’t yet been fixed. Sorry and good luck!

  19. Just a few more days until the contest starts. Anyone have a case of the jitters? I probably check this page about ten times a day now.

    On a different note. I would be willing to read someoneโ€™s manuscript if they would read mine. The first three chapters/Query would be another option for anyone with less time on their hands. Myself included.

    • Yes, I have the jitters, too, though I only check the site every few days.

      And I’d be willing to read your mss. But sure how to contact you, however, in a less public way. Let me think about it. For now, you can check for me here.


      (Good afternoon, Jessica. Hope you are having a good week. Since this is your site, I thought I should at least acknowledge you. mbd)

  20. Jessica, thanks for replying to all the comments. It has helped me get a better understanding of the contest. I submitted my manuscript for the contest, but the words, “FakePath” appeared in the attachment line. I am concerned you may not have received my manuscript. Is there any way to find out if it sent correctly?

    • I had the same thing when I submitted last month, but didn’t think to question it. Thanks, Gary, for putting the question out there. Hopefully our submissions have been received.

    • I don’t see any entries that have missing files. So, I think it is just a tech bug ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. I’ve been polishing up my ms for submission to this contest, but it is complete at 106,000 words. I will cut a few scenes if necessary to enter, but I wanted to check first. Do you have an absolute upper limit for acceptable word count? Thank you!

  22. Jessica, one of the best things about this contest is we will hear from you by the end of May. But is that just if you’re the winner? What if you’re just one of the four score of entries which don’t win? What, if anything, will non-winners hear from you?
    Just asking . . .

    Thank you.


    • Unfortunately, you won’t hear from us directly. With luck, we will e-mail all who entered, but due to the speed with which we have to read these suckers, we aren’t making a lot of useful notes. But we will announce the news of a winner loud and clear so everyone knows!

  23. Hi Jessica. For the question on the entry form, “Have you ever been published,” should we indicate “yes” if we have published short stories but not novels? Thanks. Cathy

    • Yes. It will give you a form that you can fill out to indicate what sort of materials you have had published. Good luck!

  24. Hi…I’ve just tried to submit our manuscript for the contest and got an error message – not sure if I should try again or if you are aware there are technical problems? I did save a copy of the error message if that’s any help.

  25. Now that the deadline is almost here, how stiff is the competition? Can you reveal how many manuscripts have been submitted?

    • Well, the competition is actually quite good. We have received 80 submissions so far. We are very excited. And entering the contest does not exclude you from a future chance at publication through our regular channels. The best part about the contest is the speed with which you will learn the answer: the winner will be announced by the end of May. We look forward to all of the entries!

    • Our submissions are closed while we update our system. We will begin accepting submissions again on May 1. In the meantime, you are welcome to submit to our contest, which is still accepting submissions.

  26. Would a novella of almost 60,000 words be acceptable? I want the story to flow naturally and speak for it’s self.

    • That’s a close call, but close enough for us to take a look. Go ahead and submit and good luck!

  27. I have a novel ready to send but it is in Courier New, and my program makes it almost impossible to switch to Times New Roman. Will that disqualify me?

  28. I have a novel all ready to go, but it’s in Courier New and my program refuses to switch it to New Times Roman. Will that disqualify it?

  29. I’m not clear on this so I’ll go ahead and ask: I have not submitted my work to other publishers, but I have queried agents with it. Is it still eligible for the contest?

  30. I entered the Poison Pen contest several weeks ago and after reading and re-reading my submission, I have added 4+ pages to the front of chapter 1 to make it more EXCITING !!!! Can I send that to you somehow or I could re-submit the entire manuscript again?

    • Unfortunately, we cannot accept any revisions to the manuscript. But I promise, we will make a note and know that those 4 pages have changed. Good luck!

    • Merle McCann on Feb. 3 asked: “Is a thriller OK ?”

      Your regular guidelines allow for “soft thrillers” – how about them?

      I have one, but it’s mainly a ‘treasure hunt’, a quest, a mystery whether the Nazis have an atomic bomb and a US army officer & his men looking for it in the Black Forest. 70,000 wds.

    • A thriller is ok as long as it is not a huge, international conspiracy thriller. Soft thrillers are always welcome as they provide exceptional puzzles and plots. We look forward to reading your mystery!

  31. I understand you “almost never” consider books with paranormals as protagonists. Would you make an exception if the book were a traditional mystery with murders solved by conventional means (interviews and other forms of investigation). The protagonist has magic powers which complicate her life but do not give her an unfair advantage in crime solving. I suspect your answer is “no,” but I hope you don’t mind the question.

    • It would not be the first time we’ve had something sneak on through with a paranormal bent. The final decisions would be up to the editorial team, but we are really looking for something fresh. So it’s worth submitting!

  32. I am just following up on Michael’s March 16 query for which I don’t see a reply. Do you want to see the author’s name on the cover page?

    • It doesn’t make a big difference. The manuscripts are going to go through some formatting before they hit the judges. Good luck!

  33. Jessica, sorry to be a bother but I’m about to submit my entry and I want to make sure I don’t do something that would immediately disqualify me.

    Should it be a blind submission? I have a title page with contact information, plus title and word count. Should I eliminate it? Also, the mss has my last name, book title and page number in the header. Should I eliminate my name?

    Thanks for the opportunity. I plan to enter soon.

  34. Who will be judging besides Dana? I knew some of the staff at Poisoned Pen and would like to know if I’m eligible to enter.
    Thank you!
    Diana Manley

    • Hi Diana,
      It will be Elizabeth Weld, Annette Rogers, and me (Jessica Tribble) doing most of the reading with Dana.

  35. In Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market under “How to Contact” you, you indicate that response time to queries is one week; six to nine months to manuscripts. How is it possible, then, for you to select and respond in one month to the onslaught of contest manuscripts you are likely to receive by April 30th? My agent sent, at your request and on an exclusive basis, my first manuscript last December and I was prepared to wait as I finished up the second in a series. I realize the publishing industry moves at glacial speed, however my life is flying by. Submitting the manuscript to the contest would apparently get me a response one to four months faster. Am I correct in this assumption? With 79 book publishers listed in Writer’s Market that publish mysteries, I just don’t have 39 to 59 years left to wait for individual, exclusive responses. Every month counts.

    • We have made special allowances for the sake of the contest and brought on additional helpers. It is true that submitting to the contest would be a faster route.

  36. When you say PPP has made its niche “publishing debut novels” do you mean “debut MYSTERY novels”? I sold a romance years ago, but am not published in mystery. Am I eligible to enter the contest?

    Also, I cannot find the proper format for the ms submission, i,e. title of book (no author name) in header, page number in footer? Correct? Is book title centered, flush left, or right? Do you want Ms in 12 point Times New Roman? Are all these questions answered somewhere and I just can’t find it? Don’t want to be disqualified because my page number is in the wrong place. Also, do we also include a longer synopsis with the ms entry, or just the skimpy 250 word one? Thanks so much.

    • Hi Jean,
      Debut in mystery is just fine. We aren’t too worried about page number location, etc. We prefer 12-pt Times New Roman, flush left (or justified). The short synopsis is what we are after right now. Thanks and good luck!

  37. I probably know the answer to this but thought I’d check. I self-published an e-book of scary short stories. A couple of the stories are also mysteries and the last story in the book is the first chapter of the novel I’d like to submit for the contest. Any problems with that? Thanks so much.

  38. I attempted to send in my entry today but your address section on the entry form does not allow for input of Canadian addresses. When I tried just putting my province, country and postal code in the second line of the address section, I couldn’t proceed to the next page without filling in the address blanks. Can this be fixed, please?

    • ACK! Sorry about that. I have adjusted the form to accommodate Canadian addresses. Let me know if anything else strange happens…

  39. Are you hard and fast on the number of words? I have a manuscript that totals 55,200 words I would be interested in entering. Thanks.

    • Word count is a hot issue this week! Yep, 55K is just fine. We generally follow a plus or minus 5K word rule. Really, we are looking for quality. Good luck!

  40. I am unpublished and would like to enter your contest but am wondering if you will accept an entry that is a bit longer than 90,000 words? My mystery WIP is now around 94,000 words. Iโ€™ve already cut it from 110,000. Also, I wonder if you find another entry (besides the winning one) that you like, would you also offer a contract to someone other than the contest winner? Thanks for answering.

    • Hi Jeannie,
      94,000 words is close enough for government work…and Poisoned Pen Press. We generally follow a plus or minus 5,000 word rule. We will, of course, be considering all of the entries for publication, whether or not they win the contest. Though the time constraints may work against us on that front. Regardless, entry into the contest does not mean you can’t resubmit for regular publication. Hope that helps and good luck with your entry!

  41. I currently reside in the USA but my husband’s work means we will probably need to spend some time living in Europe in the future. Does this disqualify me? I am flexible (kids are grown) and can travel as well as live here for extended periods of time if need be, even though he’s still there working. Also, on the entry form, it asks if I’ve been published before but there is no place to explain that my previous publications have nothing to do with the mystery genre. Will marking “yes” count against me?

    • Potentially moving to Europe does not disqualify you, particularly if travel is something you are willing to do. So don’t worry about that. As for your other query, if you mark yes, it will actually give you a space to talk about your previous publications…or at least it should ๐Ÿ™‚ We look forward to your submission!

  42. It seems like you’ve answered this question six ways of Sunday, but I am still unclear. If we’ve self-published mysteries, can we enter a new, unpublished mystery to this contest? To me, the response to Jane indicates yes.


    • We are really looking for authors who are debuting in the mystery field. Now, if your self-published books haven’t sold much, we might be willing to consider it, but it would weigh on our decision. I hope that clarifies and good luck!

  43. I have had a historical romantic suspense novel published and another one will be out soon. I have now written a new mystery and am wondering if my previously published historical suspense means I cannot enter your contest. My new mystery is also a historical, but it is a true mystery, complete with dead bodies and the sleuth attempting to solve the crime. Thank you.

    • I think that would still qualify, assuming that it hasn’t been heavily marketed as a mystery. We are looking for authors debuting in the mystery genre. This sounds like a more traditional mystery; the other sounds like a romance with mysterious elements. Hope that helps!

    • So far, we’ve received a dozen submissions. But the contest is still a bit new. As is usually the case, we expect the majority of the entries to come in during the last month of the contest.

    • Unfortunately, we cannot consider manuscripts that are being considered elsewhere. If your submission is rejected by the other publishers or you withdraw it from their process, you are welcome to submit to our contest. I hope your manuscript finds a home ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. Wow – 250 words isn’t much for a synopsis. Are you really looking for a synopsis of the entire book or would a pitch or bookjacket-type synopsis suffice? I really hate to give away my great ending if I don’t absolutely have to!

    • We really want as complete/succinct a synopsis as you can muster. This gives us a look at the book at a glance that will help us to decide how to distribute it amongst the judges. We look forward to your submission!

  45. I was disappointed to note that writers from outside the US/Canada are ineligible to enter. Is there any particular reason for this? Maybe I’m missing something but I’m not sure how it’s harder to promote a book written by someone from another country!

    • As a general course of action, we find that foreign authors are not available for signings, appearances, and domestic conferences. So, at least for this year, we have limited submissions to those who live at least part time in the US or Canada. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  46. Hello Jessica!

    Would you prefer a .pdf or a .doc file? (This may be something that’s on the application, but I’m still revising my manuscript and am not ready to send it yet, so I haven’t clicked that link.)

    Thanks much–

    Kelley (Bowles) Gusich

  47. I can’t tell from the contest rules whether or not it is possible to submit more than one manuscript (properly paying the entry fee for each, of course) and submitting them as completely separate files.
    Catherine Hendricks

    • Multiple submissions are permitted assuming there is an entry form and entry fee for each. We look forward to reading your mystery(ies)!

  48. Are you able to provide a copy of the contract that will (or may) be offered? Actually, it’s not clear if winning (or runner-upping, perhaps) binds the author to contracting with PPP. If that is the case, I would assume that posting the relevant clauses of the contract would be something most authors would want to review prior to submitting their synopsis and ms.
    Thank you!

    • The contest prize is a contract with Poisoned Pen Press. As I noted in response to a previous comment, we don’t have a full contract available for review, but I have a few points that I can discuss. Our contract offers an advance ($1000), a royalty schedule (starting at 9% for initial hardcover sales), and a discussion of rights, etc. Our contract is consistent among all of our authors. We do retain world rights. We look forward to your entry!

  49. Will you accept snail mail submissions for your contest? Thanks; I look forward to hearing from you. Pat Schultheis

  50. Can you please add two more years on your credit card expiration line. I tried to enter my manuscript but my credit card expires in 2019 and your form will not allow entry of that date.
    Thank you. Barbara Giersch

    • We are cutting a bit more slack on the contest, but we really can’t consider publishing anything over 120,000 words.

  51. I have submitted a synopsis and the first 3000 words of my manuscript to the Debut Dagger Competition in Britain. There are agents and publishers’ representatives among the judges. Does this submission disqualify my manuscript for the purposes of your competition (because of the condition that the manuscript cannot be submitted to other publishers while it is under consideration by Poisoned Pen Press? Many thanks.

  52. I have two questions. First, Your guidelines indicate that the entries will be “judged on the synopses” and the text. Why (and how) are you considering the quality of the synopses as part of a novel contest?

    Second, is your standard contract available on your website for contestants to review before submitting?

    • The synopsis will be used only to ensure that the novel is a mystery. We want to be sure that this new novel will also meet our niche market. The synopsis offers us a quick look at the novel for these purposes. We do not have the contract available, but our contract offers an advance ($1000), a royalty schedule (starting at 9% for initial hardcover sales), and a discussion of rights, etc. Our contract is consistent among all of our authors. We look forward to your entry!

    • Unfortunately, no. Your entry cannot have been published previously in any form. I hope you have another manuscript worth considering. Good luck!

  53. I am a Canadian who submitted a manuscript to you a year ago and would like to enter this contest, but your (thank you – very quick) reply to my submission was, “Because of the current economic climate, we are very wary of publishing authors who reside out of the country. It quickly becomes very costly in terms of marketing, promotion, and the like.” Although you say you will consider Canadians in the contest, I’d like an honest reply as to how likely it is that we would fit in with your future plans. Contests are great fundraisers so I know you don’t want to discourage us from submitting, and you say that the judging is blind, but at the point that you find out a submission is from Canada -and this may be likely from the setting, or even the spelling – will you really want to consider it on a level playing field in these tough economic time?

    • Hi Miriam,
      We are considering Canadian authors for the contest, and the judging will NOT consider where the author lives (as long as it is in the U.S. or Canada). We have several successful Canadian authors who have encouraged us to think a little larger. The settings of our books span the globe, and we are excited to find the best mystery we can discover. The books will be judged only on their manuscript excellence. Thanks for the thoughtful question!

  54. I submitted a query letter regarding my first mystery novel to Poisoned Pen Press on January 6, 2012, and haven’t received a reply as yet. Am I eligible for the contest?

  55. If I have Manuscript A entered in another contest, can I submit Manuscript B to Poisoned Pen? They are totally different. B is a murder, A is not.

  56. My book is not eligible for your contest for three reasons: it’s 100,000 words, it’s not a first, and I’ve committed that mortal sin: given my books to a POD publisher. Nor am I eligible to submit my book to you for publication for these reasons.
    But what if a POD had proved a best seller? Would that make a difference? I’m a three-time cancer survivor, and my memoir about that is beginning to fly off the shelves. It promises to be a very good seller. That should mean that I’ll be KNOWN. I’ll be able to sell my furture mysteries–and I would love to see them published by Poison Pen Press.
    I could shorten the book if necessary. It’s called Night of the Gibbhous Moon and its locale is a women ‘s crisis house, a fascinating setting, as advance readers have assured me.
    I went POD because my agent, Bertha Klausner, died, and publishers would not read my book without an agent. I see no reason why this should disqualify me, and I hope you will reconsider your rule in that regard.

    • Unfortunately, we’ve made our niche on publishing debut novels and selling them as such. It’s a decision we’ve made to help give new writers a chance. For instance, we have never required that an agent represent a manuscript, but have made a habit of looking at new works from a variety of sources. Good luck in your publishing endeavors!

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