Quirk Books editor, Jason Rekulak, developed the idea for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies after comparing a list of "popular fanboy characters like ninjas, pirates, zombies, and monkeys" with a list of public domain book titles such as War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and Wuthering Heights. He turned the project over to writer Seth Grahame-Smith.
[Rekulak] called me one day, out of the blue, very excitedly, and he said, "All I have is this title, and I can't stop thinking about this title." And he said: "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies". For whatever reason, it just struck me as the most brilliant thing I'd ever heard.
Grahame-Smith began with the original text of Austen's novel, adding zombie and ninja elements while developing an overall plot line for the new material; "you kill somebody off in Chapter 7, it has repercussions in Chapter 56". According to the author, the original text of the novel was well-suited for use as a zombie horror story:
You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there ... It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence. From my perspective anyway.
In early 2009, awareness of the forthcoming novel rose due to attention from Internet bloggers, newspaper articles, National Public Radio, and TWiT's MacBreak Weekly podcast. In response, the publisher increased the initial print run from 12,000 to 60,000 copies, and moved the publication date to April 1.