2023 Submission Rules for Best Unpublished Crime Manuscript
The first award for Best Unpublished Crime Manuscript was presented by the Crime Writers of Canada in 2007 as part of the CWC mandate to recognize and promote the careers of promising new crime writers.
The competition is open to (1) Canadian citizens, no matter where they are living, and to writers, regardless of nationality, who have Permanent Resident status in Canada; (2) writers who have never had a novel of any kind published commercially but who have a completed crime novel manuscript. Contestants initially only enter the first 5000 words plus a full synopsis; however, they must have a completed manuscript (50,000-110,000 words) at the time of entry.
Note: Crime novels include capers, cozies, detective stories, espionage, police procedural, and any other type of mystery, suspense, or thrillers. If you are not certain that your submission qualifies, please contact us at
Like many other professional writing organizations, CWC will no longer accept printed copies of work except in exceptional circumstances. All submissions should be in digital format only. From the initial submissions, up to ten (10) authors will be asked by the judges to submit their completed manuscripts. A shortlist of up to five (5) finalists will be selected from these completed manuscripts. Until the finalists are announced at the Shortlist Events on TBD, authors cannot announce or promote their entry.
ECW will provide an additional judge to the Unpublished jury panel in the final phase of judging, so all finalists’ submissions will have been read by the publisher.
The winner will be announced in May TBD and receive the Unpublished Award statue along with a $500 cash prize from ECW.
Definition of a Crime Novel
A crime novel must contain a crime (but not necessarily a murder) that is solved or thwarted by a protagonist and carried out by the main character. The crime must be integral to the plot.
The contest is open to all writers who fulfill the following eligibility requirements:
- You are a Canadian citizen, regardless of place of residence, or a writer, regardless of nationality, who has been granted Permanent Resident status in Canada.
- You have not had a novel, or novel-length work of fiction (50,000+ words), of any kind, published commercially whether in print or electronically (i.e., e-book or published on the Internet) or self-published in any genre, including literary fiction under your given name or a pseudonym, and/or written alone or jointly with another author.
- You do not have a contract from a publisher for your manuscript. If you accept a novel contract during the course of the contest or if you decide to self-publish, you must notify us. In the interest of fairness to other writers, your manuscript will be withdrawn without refund.
A novel that has an ISBN or ASIN is considered published commercially.
If you are published in the areas of nonfiction, short fiction (novellas and short stories), poetry, or plays/screenplays, you are eligible to submit.
You are welcome to submit the same manuscript in subsequent years, provided it was not shortlisted for the Unpublished Award and that criteria 1 to 3 are still met.
The decision of Crime Writers of Canada as to whether a manuscript is eligible for the Unpublished Award is binding.
Entrants must submit:
- One (1) digital PDF document containing:
- the opening 5000 words of their completed crime novel
- a 500-word synopsis of the novel. The synopsis should be of the entire novel. The synopsis is a crucial part of the submission; it's the only way the judges can assess your plot development, so take time to write it.
- A completed entry form and entry fee for each submission.
Manuscript and synopses must be:
- In English.
- Single-spaced on 8.5" x 11" page or A4 paper using 12-point Times New Roman or Courier, with 1-inch margins.
- Include a header in the upper left-hand corner containing the title of the manuscript on each page of the excerpt, synopsis, and manuscript. Do not include your name in the header.
- Make sure that each page is numbered.
- Submissions should be saved in PDF format using the title of the manuscript followed by the year of entry (2024)
- Please see the Unpublished Award Style Guide for more details.
Deadline - 15 October 2023 @11:59 PM PDT or earlier.
We regret that entries received after this date cannot be considered.
- $35 per manuscript
25% Discount Price for CWC Members
- $26.25 per manuscript
To receive the CWC member pricing:
- Membership must be in good standing
- Indicate on the form that you are a CWC member
Option 1 - Online payment via form
- Click the appropriate link to enter your submission. Members: https://crimewritersofcanadastore.ecwid.com/CWC-Awards-of-Excellence-Unpublished-MEMBER-PRICING-p90390040. Non-Members: https://crimewritersofcanadastore.ecwid.com/CWC-Awards-of-Excellence-Unpublished-NON-MEMBER-PRICING-p231936562.
- After completing your payment online, email your PDF submission to
- Please include the manuscript title and order number in the subject line
- If entering more than one manuscript, send one email with the order number and one of the manuscript titles in the subject line. In the body of the email, list the titles of all the manuscripts attached.
Option 2 – Cheque or e-Transfer
Follow Step 1 (above) or complete a printable entry form.
E-transfers should be made to: . Please include your confirmation number with the payment.
Cheques should be made out to Crime Writers of Canada. Please include a copy of the entry form(s) or confirmation from the online form. For your peace of mind, please request a delivery receipt from your courier or post office as the confirmation of receipt will not be sent by the Awards Manager.
Send your payment to:
Crime Writers of Canada Awards
ATTN: Ludvica Boota
716 Thicket Way
Email your PDF submission to with the manuscript title and entry year (e.g., 2024) in the subject line. In the body of the email indicate that you are paying by cheque and include your online confirmation number if applicable.
All payments must be in Canadian funds. No exceptions will be made.
Submissions must be emailed by 15 October 2023 @11:59 PM PDT or earlier.
Authors will be notified no later than 31 January 2024, but potentially as early as 15 November 2023, if they have made the longlist and will be required to immediately submit, by email, their complete manuscript, in PDF format or be immediately disqualified. The semi-finalists will also be asked to provide a 100-word book blurb, a 50-word bio, and an author photo via email. Instructions for longlisted submissions will be provided in the notification email.
Do not advertise that you have made the long list or publish excerpts from your manuscript until the shortlist is announced. If you do, you may be disqualified, as only anonymous entries will be adjudicated.
Judging & Scorecard
Entries are purged of all author identifying information before being sent for judging. Scorecards will be used to determine the longlist, shortlist, and winner. In the initial round, submissions will be judged and scored by a panel of three jurors. Those entries not qualifying for the longlist will receive their scorecard on or before March 30, 2024.
All scorecards will be returned on or before June 30, 2024.
Deadline: Submissions must be emailed to the Awards Manager by 15 October 2023 @11:59 PM PDT or earlier.
The Unpublished shortlist, along with the other Awards shortlists, will be announced on Wednesday, 19 April 2024 online.
The winner will be announced in May TBD. All shortlisted authors will be sent details about this event.
The winner will receive a special Unpublished Award statue as well as a cash prize of $500 from ECW Press. However, if there is no clear winner, none will be declared.
Submissions must be emailed by 15 October 2023 @11:59 PM PDT or earlier.
Printable entry form (For those who prefer printed forms, and are paying by cheque.)