So you want to submit to Five Rivers

Read the Guidelines!

So you think you’ll try your luck with Five Rivers this year. The first imperative: READ THE GUIDELINES!

Yes, I know that was all in caps. It’s in caps because I’m hoping you’ll actually pay attention to those guidelines. You have no idea how many submissions cross my desk, briefly, which demonstrate clearly the author hasn’t bothered to check out Five Rivers’ guidelines. Or if they have, think their work is so remarkable I will immediately be captivated by their disregard and read their entire 200,000 word novel.

Did you hear me laughing?


What will likely grab my attention

Going forward from Five River’s first decade, I’m looking for more historical and mainstream fiction which is solidly based in Canadian interests. If you’re writing about that, and you’ve READ THE GUIDELINES, you’ll likely stand a better chance of surviving the first three minutes in my in box.

Five Rivers’ catalogue is pretty rife with fantasy and science fiction, so unless you’re a returning author, or your work is truly exceptional, it’s unlikely to find a home here. Sorry about that.

Did I mention I’m keen to see more historical and mainstream fiction?

In non-fiction anything dealing with Canada’s history or experimental archaeology will pique my interest.

What won’t interest me is self-help, new-age pseudo-medicine, religion, or right-wing political agendas. Please no memoirs. No erotica or women’s fiction.

Common Mistakes

What I do see over and over again are the following, and likely to receive a summary rejection:

  • Over-formatted manuscripts, with special fonts and typefaces.
  • Poor grammar, spelling and punctuation, especially punctuation for dialogue.
  • Double-spacing after a period, exclamation or interrogative.
  • Poor research. Yes, I check for things like that, whether the author knows how to rig that ship they have their captain sailing; if their hero can see colour and terrain when perambulating in the dark of the moon; if the inn at which our weary travellers are stopping has a whole cow turning on the spit.
What happens when you submit

I read your cover email, how professionally and clearly it’s laid out, the information you impart. Don’t try to impress me. Just be honest and straightforward. If I like what I read, then I look at your synopsis. Again, I’m looking for clarity and ease of communication. It’s a litmus test, if you will. Then, if you’ve snagged my interest, I’ll read your sample, all the while watching not only for your skill as a storyteller, but your adherence to the guidelines.

If I like what I’ve read, I’ll ask you for the whole manuscript. Once I begin to read the manuscript, I immediately turn on Track Changes in Word. I do that to save time, because at this point I have a serious interest in your work, and by working through a substantive edit from the beginning, I’m able to ascertain how much, or little, editing the piece is going to require, which all goes toward my decision whether to offer a publication contract, or no.

That process may take anywhere from four to twelve weeks, depending on my own schedule, and the amount of work involved in your manuscript. If I find by the half way point the story is falling apart and requires too much investment of my time, I’ll reject the work, and offer an analysis of why I felt the story didn’t work.

It’s important for you to remember this is only one person’s opinion. Another editor or publisher may feel entirely differently. That’s the thing about art: it’s subjective. If I reject you, it doesn’t necessarily mean your work and you need to burn. It just means you didn’t hit the mark with one person. So, your job is to assess my comments, determine whether there’s anything of value there, and go forward accordingly.

Look forward to hearing from you

I do! Look forward to hearing from you!