Why do you need an assessment, and which service should you use

You may wonder why a professional assessment or editing of your book is necessary. Isn’t it just another way of ripping off authors? You’ve written a book (which is more than most people manage to do) and you’ve spell-checked and edited it, and your family all love it, and it’s so original, or so like the latest best-sellers, that agents and publishers will leap at it.

Sorry, but that’s not the way it usually works. Publishers and literary agents receive hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions each year. Perhaps 1% of these go on to be published. Some are almost good enough. Some are simply not what publishers are looking for. (Although independent publishers tend to be more open-minded than the traditional ones and are willing to go with something different.) Sadly, most of these submissions – and here I speak as an ex-publisher’s reader and competition judge as well as an editor/appraiser and successful writer – are not good enough to be published. (My first attempt at a novel was terrible. Cut by 2/3 and rewritten over several years, it went on to be published and win an award.) The usual weaknesses of these are too numerous for me to list here, but include weak characterisation, unconvincing dialogue, over-writing, poor narrative pace, plot holes, and general illiteracy.

This is where the assessor/appraiser comes in. It is their (my) job to identify weaknesses and suggest ways of fixing them. This is different from copy-editing or line-editing, most of which you should have done before showing your manuscript to anyone, including your cat, although I do throw in a good deal of basic editing if it’s necessary. The job is to look at the manuscript with a clear, impartial eye and to make constructive criticisms. You are paying me, a professional, to help you produce the best book possible, with the best possible chance of being published. (A useful site on this subject is https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/7-must-know-facts-manuscript-appraisals)

A lot of people have their manuscript (MS) rejected by so many agents and/or publishers that they decide the only thing to do is self-publish. These days this is easy, and it’s a viable option, without the kiss-of-death stigma it used to carry. However, it does involve much more expense than most people realise. And if you are thinking of self-publishing because your manuscript has been rejected a hundred times, it’s not because there’s a conspiracy among publishers, it’s because there is something wrong with it. Yes, we all know of successfully published writers whose books were rejected several or many times but that final breakthrough is often the result of much rewriting and professional advice. Most of the self-published books I see are simply not good enough. The author would have spent his or her money more wisely on a professional appraisal and perhaps editing as well. Those agents or publishers who rejected the book probably did so because it was unpublishable.

For most writers expense is a consideration. This is why I’m willing to look at a ‛partial’ manuscript of, say, the first three chapters or fifty pages. This is usually enough for me to tell you whether the book seems promising or likely to need a lot of work. The drawback to assessing only a partial MS is that I cannot tell you how well the overall plot works and whether the narrative pace is good. However, it’s better than wasting your time slugging away at a book that isn’t likely to work.

The report I send on your MS will be as long as necessary, and will cover all aspects.

Afterwards, I am happy to discuss your book by email or phone, but I don’t do Skype or personal meetings.

Please note that I can only handle manuscripts written in English. Also, by submitting your MS to Between Us, you are stating that it is your own original work.