Noting that Penguin Australia was accepting unsolicited manuscripts for its Aussie Chomps series (books of 10,000 to 12,000 words, for readers 8-12), I began to write one some months ago. I set a deadline of February 21, 2010, and have 7800 words so far and the story fully realised in my mind.
Being paranoid, I sometimes check Penguin's website to see if they're still taking unsolicited stuff. Oh, calamity! Tonight I found out they had stopped, instead of saying they were NOW taking it, it now says, "As of the 11th December, 2009 the Books for Children and Young Adults department will NOT accept unsolicited manuscripts. This is likely to be reviewed at the end of February, 2010."
What happened? Had they been flooded with unsolicited manuscripts to the extent that they wished to stop taking them? Had they decided the series wasn't profitable or in demand and so no new stuff was needed?
I'm heartbroken having spent a lot of time and energy on crafting something just for them. I take it the solution now is on completion of the book to look for an agent. I'm keen on reading your opinion of what happened to make them change their minds and whether I still have a shot, any kind of shot.
Don't panic. Breathe. Repeat if necessary. Because here's what you just did: you overreacted. You say that you're 'heartbroken' but that's a fairly strong reaction to something that might or might not have been the real situation. And you just expended valuable energy that could have been better utilised in your writing.
Penguin will open their doors again, they just periodically close the submissions for their children's list. No doubt it's because they're overwhelmed and just need to catch up. It would be drawing a long bow to say that they'd decided to stop publishing the series - Chomps have been around for a while. However, even if they did cease to publish the series, that's nothing you can control.
The moral of the story is to not plan on anything being set in publishing world - Penguin didn't say they'd have submissions open indefinitely, you just presumed that that was the case. In this way publishing world is no different to non-publishing world. Nothing is for sure. Everything changes. That's life.
So I say again: Don't panic. Breathe. Repeat if necessary.