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Manuscript Submission Guidelines

Penguin Random House South Africa comprises the imprints Penguin Books South Africa, Struik Kinders, Struik Lifestyle, Struik Nature, Struik Travel & Heritage, Umuzi and Zebra Press

Penguin Random House South Africa will consider submissions in the following categories:

  • General and literary fiction
  • General non-fiction (sport, environmental issues, business, politics, African interest, current affairs, history, military history, etc.)
  • Illustrated non-fiction – nature guides and general books pertaining to nature and environment; children’s nature; travel and heritage; cookery, health, gardening, etc.)
  • Narrative non-fiction (memoir, biography, autobiography, travel writing, etc.)
  • Children’s books

Penguin Random House South Africa will not usually consider the following submissions:

  • Poetry
  • Short stories
  • Religion
  • Educational/academic
  • Scripts for plays, television or film

If you feel your manuscript falls within our guidelines, please send us your manuscript proposal. Please ensure that your submission adheres to the guidelines stipulated on the different websites for the various imprints above. Submissions that do not comply with these guidelines will not be considered for publication.

For Penguin Books South Africa:

If you are submitting a work of fiction, narrative non-fiction or general non-fiction, please send us the following:

  • 3 sample chapters,
  • Synopsis of the plot
  • Short author biography.

Please do not send the entire manuscript at this stage.

Manuscripts must be typed. We do not accept handwritten submissions.

We do not accept manuscripts via fax.

Submissions can be made by email to publishing@za.penguingroup.com

Owing to the volume of submissions we receive, the assessment process may in some instances take up to six months.

Self-publishing

If you wish to opt for self-publishing, you can visit a professional services business such as Partridge Africa (Partridge is a partnership between Penguin Random House and Author Solutions LLC) which provides fee-based assistance to self-publishing writers.

Their key services include:

  • Pre-publication
  • Publication
  • Marketing and Publicity
  • International Print and Digital Distribution

Frequently Asked Questions

The list of Frequently Asked Questions below should cover most queries new authors have about the submissions process. If you have any additional queries about publishing a book with Penguin that are not covered here, you are welcome to email them through to publishing@za.penguingroup.com and we will endeavour to respond within a week.

1. What types of books does Penguin Books South Africa publish?

2. Is there any work that Penguin Books South Africa will not consider for publication?

3. What do I need to submit?

4. What does ‘unsolicited manuscript’ mean?

5. Who can I consult if I have general enquiries about publishing in South Africa?

6. Do I need a literary agent?

7. How do I find a literary agent if I would like one?

8. If I send my manuscript to Penguin Books South Africa, will it automatically be considered for publication by all the Penguin companies around the world?

9. Do you publish authors who are not living in South Africa?

10. What does Penguin Books South Africa look for in a manuscript?

11. Is it necessary to have my book edited before I submit it to Penguin Books South Africa for evaluation?

12. Who do I contact if I would like a freelance editor to look at my work before I submit it to publishers?

13.
Before I write my book, can I send Penguin Books South Africa a proposal to gauge interest in the topic?

14. Is someone from Penguin Books South Africa able to meet with me so I can explain the concept behind my book before I submit it?

15. Do I have to finish my book before I submit it to Penguin Books South Africa?

16. Your guidelines stipulate that you need the first three chapters of the book, but some of my best chapters are later in the book. Can I send these instead?

17. I have an idea for a book but I need someone to help me write it. 

18. In what languages does Penguin Books South Africa publish?

19. Can I submit my handwritten manuscript to Penguin Books South Africa?

20. I have written a children’s book but I do not have an illustrator. Is it necessary to have the book illustrated before I submit my story to Penguin Books South Africa?

21. Will Penguin Books South Africa provide me with a reader’s report if my book is not accepted for publication?

22. My work has been rejected by Penguin Books South Africa before, but I have now done substantial editing/re-working of the manuscript. Am I able to re-submit?

23. I’ve self-published my book already. Can I submit it to Penguin Books South Africa?

24. What sort of information should I include in my introductory letter?

25. How long should my synopsis be?

26. How long should my manuscript be?

27. How should I format my manuscript?


28. How do I ensure my copyright is protected when I’m sending my manuscript to Penguin Books South Africa?

29. How will I know that my manuscript has been received by Penguin Books South Africa?

30. If I’m still waiting for an answer from Penguin Books South Africa, can I send my manuscript to other publishers?


31. How long should I expect to wait for an answer to my proposal?

32. How will I know if my work has been rejected?


33. How will Penguin Books South Africa contact me?

34. If I send my manuscript via post, will Penguin Books South Africa post it back to me after it has been evaluated if I include a stamped self-addressed envelope?

35. How long does it take to publish a book?

36. If my manuscript is accepted for publication, will I need to pay Penguin Books South Africa to print it?

37. If my manuscript is accepted for publication, how will I be paid?


38. What royalty percentage does Penguin Books South Africa offer authors?

39. What happens if my book is accepted for publication?

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What types of books does Penguin Books South Africa publish?

Penguin Random House South Africa will consider submissions in the following categories:

  • General and literary fiction
  • General non-fiction (sport, environmental issues, business, politics, African interest, current affairs, history, military history, etc.)
  • Illustrated non-fiction – nature guides and general books pertaining to nature and environment; children’s nature; travel and heritage; cookery, health, gardening, etc.)
  • Narrative non-fiction (memoir, biography, autobiography, travel writing, etc.)
  • Children’s books

Penguin Random House South Africa will not usually consider the following submissions:

  • Poetry
  • Short stories
  • Religion
  • Educational/academic
  • Scripts for plays, television or film

2. Is there any work that Penguin Books South Africa will not consider for publication?

Penguin Random House South Africa will not usually consider the following submissions:

  • Poetry
  • Short stories
  • Religion
  • Educational/academic
  • Scripts for plays, television or film

3. What do I need to submit?

If you are submitting a work of fiction, narrative non-fiction or general non-fiction, please send us three sample chapters, a synopsis of the plot and a short author biography. If you are submitting a work of illustrated non-fiction or children’s literature, please ensure that your submission adheres to the guidelines stipulated on the website of the relevant Penguin Random House South Africa imprint.


4. What does ‘unsolicited manuscript’ mean? 

An unsolicited manuscript is one which is sent to a publisher without the publisher requesting/ commissioning it. 


5. Who can I consult if I have general enquiries about publishing in South Africa?

You should contact the Publishers’ Association of South Africa (PASA) on (021) 425-2721 (or go to www.publishsa.co.za) who will be able to answer most questions on publishing and publishers in the country. The book, How To Get Your Book Published in 30 (relatively) Easy Steps by Basil van Rooyen (Penguin Books South Africa) is also a valuable source for South African authors.

6. Do I need a literary agent?

You do not need to be represented by a literary agent to have your work considered by Penguin Books South Africa.

7. How do I find a literary agent if I would like one?

Most South African publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts, but if you would like to find a literary agent (particularly if you would like your work considered by overseas publishers), you can consult The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. 


8. If I send my manuscript to Penguin Books South Africa, will it automatically be considered for publication by all the Penguin companies around the world?

No. Your book will only be considered by Penguin Books South Africa. Most overseas publishers, including the Penguin Group companies around the world, do not accept unsolicited material and require submissions to be made through literary agents. Unfortunately, we cannot divulge the details of editors at other Penguin Group companies. 
If my book is accepted for publication, will it be published by Penguin Books internationally? 
Not necessarily. Penguin Books South Africa may offer rights or copies of our publications to our overseas companies, but the decision to publish/sell the book in their market is entirely at their discretion. 


9. Do you publish authors who are not living in South Africa?

Yes.

10. What does Penguin Books South Africa look for in a manuscript?

Penguin Books South Africa is ultimately lookingto publish books that will work within the South African trade book market. Originality, high writing standard and market appeal are therefore essential.

11. Is it necessary to have my book edited before I submit it to Penguin Books South Africa for evaluation?

This is entirely up to you. Obviously, the more polished a manuscript is, the more likely it is that it will be accepted. That said, if it is accepted, it will go through an in-house editorial process before it is published. 


12. Who do I contact if I would like a freelance editor to look at my work before I submit it to publishers?
If you would like a freelance editor to edit your work, or to give you a reader’s report, which may provide valuable feedback, you should contact The Professional Editors’ Group (www.editors.org.za).

13. Before I write my book, can I send Penguin Books South Africa a proposal to gauge interest in the topic?

Yes but it is difficult to assess any proposal properly without reading any actual material, and it is unlikely that Penguin Books South Africa would make any commitment to publish your book based only on a proposal. If you would like to assess whether your book idea is viable, it would be useful for you to consider the market potential of the book (who the readership is, how many people will likely buy a book on this topic, how your book will compete with the existing product already on the market, etc.).

14. Is someone from Penguin Books South Africa able to meet with me so I can explain the concept behind my book before I submit it?No. As we receive so many manuscripts, we are unable to meet with potential authors.  Once you have made a submission according to the guidelines above, and if we are interested in your work, we will be in touch with you to ask for additional material and/or request a meeting.

15. Do I have to finish my book before I submit it to Penguin Books South Africa?

No, although you will need to have at least three chapters and a full outline completed. We only require the first three chapters and a synopsis of the entire book, so you can submit these to us when they are ready. 


16. Your guidelines stipulate that you need the first three chapters of the book, but some of my best chapters are later in the book. Can I send these instead?
It is important that you send the early chapters so we can read the manuscript properly. However, you can send a later chapter if you would like us to look at that too. Please do not send the entire manuscript.

17. I have an idea for a book but I need someone to help me write it. Can Penguin Books South Africa help me write my book?
Unfortunately, Penguin Books South Africa cannot assist with providing ghost writers. We suggest you contact The Professional Editors' Group (www.editors.org.za) or the South African Freelancers Association (www.safrea.co.za) who should be able to put you in touch with a freelance writer.

18. In what languages does Penguin Books South Africa publish?
Penguin Books South Africa publishes primarily in English and Afrikaans.

19. Can I submit my handwritten manuscript to Penguin Books South Africa? 

No. From both an editorial and production perspective, handwritten manuscripts prove too cumbersome for us to consider them realistically for publication. Not only is the handwriting often difficult to read, but if the manuscript is accepted for publication, it will need to be typed up in order to put it through the production process and this will need to be done by the author, not by Penguin Books South Africa. 


20. I have written a children’s book but I do not have an illustrator. Is it necessary to have the book illustrated before I submit my story to Penguin Books South Africa?

No. Penguin Books South Africa will review the text on its merits. We would commission a suitable illustrator should this be appropriate. 


21. Will Penguin Books South Africa provide me with a reader’s report if my book is not accepted for publication?

Unfortunately, as we receive so many manuscripts, we are unable to provide any detailed feedback. Penguin Books South Africa is also not able to enter into written/verbal correspondence if your book is turned down. 


22. My work has been rejected by Penguin Books South Africa before, but I have now done substantial editing/re-working of the manuscript. Am I able to re-submit?

Yes. You are welcome to re-submit according to the standard guidelines in order to increase your chances of publishing a book with us. Please mention that you have previously submitted and why you are re-submitting the manuscript.

23. I’ve self-published my book already. Can I submit it to Penguin Books South Africa?

If you are looking for a publisher to re-publish your book, then you can submit the work to Penguin Books South Africa for review, as per our submissions guidelines. However, if you are merely looking for someone to distribute copies of your self-published book, you should contact the Publishers’ Association of South Africa (PASA) on (021) 425-2721 (or go to www.publishsa.co.za) who will be able to give you details of distribution companies operating in the country. 


24. What sort of information should I include in my introductory letter?

You should include any relevant information pertaining to the submitted material, such as: a brief author biography, if you have been previously published, why you wrote the book, etc.). 


25. How long should my synopsis be?
The synopsis needs to explain what the entire book is about. It can be as short as a few paragraphs, but preferably not longer than two typed pages.

26.  How long should my manuscript be?

The length of a manuscript depends on the book, but as a rough guideline, full-length adult fiction/non-fiction works should be between 35 000 and 100 000 words. 


27. How should I format my manuscript?

We would prefer manuscripts that:

  • have 1.5 or double spacing

  • use a serif font like Times New Roman, Garamond  or Century, size 12

  • have page numbers

  • use paragraphing
 
  • are not written completely in CAPS

Manuscripts sent via email should preferably be submitted as an attached Microsoft Word document.

28. How do I ensure my copyright is protected when I’m sending my manuscript to Penguin Books South Africa?
According to South African and UK copyright law, your work is already copyrighted without needing to use the © symbol. Copyright can only be assigned to another party if it is in writing.

29. How will I know that my manuscript has been received by Penguin Books South Africa?
If you send your manuscript via email, you will receive an automated response, indicating that your email has been received. If you send your manuscript via post, it is advisable to call our offices a few weeks after posting to confirm that your manuscript has been received and logged.

30. If I’m still waiting for an answer from Penguin Books South Africa, can I send my manuscript to other publishers?
You are not under any obligation to any publisher until you have been made an offer and signed a publishing contract, so you are welcome to submit to various publishers simultaneously.

31. How long should I expect to wait for an answer to my proposal?
The time it takes to evaluate manuscripts often depends on when your manuscript was received (as it goes into a queue), the time of year, and the number of manuscripts we are currently evaluating at any one time. Typically, it takes 4-6 months before we are able to provide any feedback. Manuscripts that show potential may take a little longer as we will need to complete market research and do provisional costings before we decide whether the project is indeed a viable venture. 


32. How will I know if my work has been rejected?

Penguin Books South Africa will let you know if your work has been rejected. If you have not heard from us, it means your work is still being evaluated.

33. How will Penguin Books South Africa contact me?

Penguin Books South Africa will contact you via email or post, so it is essential that you provide your email and/or postal address. We cannot take responsibility for email addresses that have changed during the time it has taken us to evaluate your manuscript, so please make sure you provide us with back-up address information. 


34. If I send my manuscript via post, will Penguin Books South Africa post it back to me after it has been evaluated if I include a stamped self-addressed envelope? 

Unfortunately, as we receive so many manuscripts and because of the time it takes to evaluate manuscripts (meaning that postage fees are often increased during this period), we are only able to post manuscripts back to authors in exceptional circumstances. 


35. How long does it take to publish a book? 

We plan our publishing schedules a year in advance and ‘pre-sell’ to our customers 4 months in advance of publication. You should assume 9 months to a year from the time your manuscript is accepted until the month of publication.

36. If my manuscript is accepted for publication, will I need to pay Penguin Books South Africa to print it?
No. As a publishing company, Penguin Books South Africa pays for and manages the production process (editing, proofreading, typesetting, printing, etc.), as well as distribution and sales. The author will not need to pay for any part of this process.

37. If my manuscript is accepted for publication, how will I be paid?

Royalties are paid to authors as a percentage of the net revenue of the book based on the number of copies sold.

38. What royalty percentage does Penguin Books South Africa offer authors?
The average royalty percentage offered is 12.5% on net revenue. 


39. What happens if my book is accepted for publication?
If a decision is made to publish a manuscript, Penguin Books South Africa will make you an offer based on what we believe to be the sales potential of the book in our market. If the offer is accepted, a publishing contract (containing details of royalty payments and the rights and obligations of both parties) will be drawn up. Penguin Books South Africa will then put the manuscript into production.

If you have any additional queries, Contact Penguin.

Useful Books

The following publications contain much useful information for writers:

Get You Book Published in 30 Relatvely Easy StepsGet Your Book Published in 30 Relatively Easy Steps

by Basil van Rooyen

published byPenguin Books South Africa

 

 

 

Die Afrikaanse Skryfgids

Die Afrikaanse Skryfgids

by Riana Scheepers en Leti Kleyn

published by Penguin Books South Africa

 

 

 

Or if you decide to self-publish...

Alternatively, you can visit a professional services business such as Author Solutions (a member of the Penguin Group) which provides fee-based assistance to self-publishing writers. Their key services include:
  • Pre-publication
  • Publication
  • Marketing and Publicity
  • International Print and Digital Distribution