You’ve written a book. Congratulations! But now what will you do?
- Shove it in a drawer and spend the next few years telling people wistfully ‘I wrote a book once, you know…’?
- Convince yourself it’s the next Harry Potter and send it priority mail to every publishing house in the country?
- Develop your book further and discover whether it really is the next Harry Potter or is best left in the drawer?
If you chose the third option then you’ve come to the right place. As a publishers’ developmental editor, I’m well equipped to assess manuscripts – to see what’s working and what could be improved, and to take a view on publishing potential. My book critique service helps authors develop their writing and gain realistic feedback on their manuscript to inform their next steps.
Why commission a book critique?
A book critique (also known as a manuscript critique or manuscript assessment) reviews your book, looking at elements such as structure, writing style and content. As an author, you’re too close to your book to spot most problems, weaknesses and inconsistencies, but a professional book critique helps you address issues, further develop your book and get a better idea of its suitability for publication.
My role is not to criticise and knock an author’s confidence, but to offer constructive feedback. I’m sensitive in my approach, and I make a point of telling authors what’s good in their writing as well as where they can develop. Above all, I’m always honest (there’s no point commissioning a critique unless you want the truth).
While accepting constructive feedback is difficult, it really does help you grow as a writer. A critique is a great first step in the editorial process, before diving into developmental work or polishing the language.
I offer two levels of book critique: comprehensive and budget. The following sections outline the differences.
Comprehensive book critique
The comprehensive book critique is a report on the ‘big picture’ of a book. In the report, I summarise my opinions on and recommendations for the book in certain areas, like genre, audience, title, writing style, characterisation, setting, plot, structure and readiness for publication.
This critique is the industry’s standard manuscript appraisal (increasingly, agents and publishers are requiring authors to commission a critique before submitting their work). The critique gives you a clear picture of which areas you may want to develop and how you may take the book forward for publication.
Sometimes a critique is abundantly positive, and I recommend, after a copy-edit and proofread, that the author submit the book to publishers and agents. Sometimes I tell an author that the book is unlikely to have a market, or has fatal flaws. Often, however, critiques fall somewhere in the middle, and the author uses the critique to take the book to a higher level.
Budget book critique
My £100 budget book critique is designed to offer a quick and concise opinion on the two questions to which authors want an answer:
- Is my book any good?
- Will it sell / get published?
Before investing your time, energy and possibly money into developing a book, it’s a good idea to find out whether the manuscript has potential.
For the budget critique, I examine the synopsis (outline) of your book and the first 10,000 words. From this I get a feel for your book as a whole and your ability and potential as a writer. I then write a one-page report outlining my impressions, whether you can develop the book, a brief indication of how you may do so, and whether I think the book will be, or could be, of interest to a publisher and to readers.