what is a manuscript review?

I read your writing, be it a short story or a novel, and I tell you what I think. That really is it. I will read your work twice over then compose a lengthy, informed critique (with chapter-by-chapter breakdowns for larger pieces) along with suggestions for improvement. Unless it’s good, in which case I’ll steal it.

 

why do you need it?

Literary agents receive hundreds of manuscripts each week, and most are nowhere near the standard of publishable work- I used to be the person who would read, then more often than not reject, the manuscripts that came in to a major London agency. Of those which were vaguely original, an even smaller percentage were actually handed to real agents to read. Most just didn’t ‘click’. A smaller percentage clicked with the agents, who would contact the writer to ask for the completed manuscript. Then maybe that full manuscript was just… eeh. Perhaps the ending didn’t really wrap up the story, perhaps the second act meandered. For one reason or another most those manuscripts end up in the same garbage pile. The odds of your manuscript ever making it in front of a publisher are vanishingly small, and they, for their own obscure reasons, may not pick the book up. Perhaps they have another work on the same theme by a higher profile author coming out soon, perhaps they think that the dinosaur-erotica trend has peaked.

Every book that has been released to the public via a reputable publishing company in the last century has been edited. Not just for spelling and grammar, but plot consistency, the strength of its characters, the overall snappiness of its dialogue. It doesn’t matter if you’re E.L James or Cormac McCarthy, one or more editors will have been through your work before it sees print, asking themselves ‘is this any good?’ One apparently thought that line in Fifty Shades’ about an inner goddess doing the meringue was a keeper.

Having other people read your work and offer constructive, actionable feedback is the absolute only way of improving your odds of publication.

 

Why me?

I have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from one of the best courses of its kind in the world (not the one in Girls, the other one.) I’ve worked with Random House, Bloomsbury and a kind-of-massive London-based literary agency, as well as putting together two writing anthologies. My writing that hasn’t been published elsewhere is here if you want to make sure that I can string a sentence together.

More importantly, for you at least, is the fact that I’m not doing this for a living, I don’t rent an office and I don’t pay a staff, so I can offer prices that are substantially lower than other manuscript reviewers out there.

 

How much does this cost?

Well…

Do you need something that you don’t see here? E-mail me with a full description and I’ll get back to you with a quote.

 

Small print: I’m not actually going to steal your work. Documents should be submitted in .doc format (not .rtf or .pdf). Pages should be A4 size with standard margins- the default setting when creating a new document in Microsoft Word, Pages and most other word-processing software. Text should be formatted in 12 point Times New Roman font, double spaced. If for any reason you need to deviate from this (for example, if you work contains graphic or typographic elements that are integral to the story) then please ask before submitting.

Payment to be made via Paypal. Deposit of 50% made upfront, refundable if for whatever reason I am unable to finish the project. Payment of the remaining 50% to be made on receipt of an e-mail containing the finished work. For time-based projects such as the full editorial service payment will take place at intervals agreed upon by both parties.

FAQ

what kind of work do you accept?

My focus is on literary fiction written for adults and young-adults. What makes something ‘literary’? Simply put, having a point to make: writing the world’s most awesome steampunk romance isn’t a ‘point’, that the scientific culture of the Victorian age was riddled with unexamined racist and sexist prejudices is a point, even if you’re developing that point by having Nikola Tesla romance Marie Curie on a Zeppelin ride to the moon. If you’ve got something to say then I don’t care what genre you’re using to say it- or even how you’re saying it (I wouldn’t mind a graphic novel for instance.)

For non-fiction I will only take what would be classed as ‘literary non-fiction’- that is, non-fiction that uses the various devices of fiction to make it’s point. This would include memoir and reportage, but would exclude self-help books, polemics and books written on technical or specialist subjects- you can probably find somebody with more knowledge than me in your chosen subject.

Books I won’t take include children’s books (those with an intended audience under thirteen years of age), erotica (fiction where the sole purpose is to sexually arouse the reader- if you’ve got something to say using the medium of erotica then go ahead) and fanfic (unless you’re doing something interesting with the source material.)

If in doubt, just send me an e-mail and ask if I’d be a good fit for your writing- customer satisfaction is much more important to me than making a quick buck, so I will be honest.

how long will it take to get a critique of my work back?

It depends on my workload and the complexity of the piece. My aim will always be to give you the best feedback possible rather than turn a project around quickly by cutting corners. I will be honest with you about how long it is likely to take and update you if for any reason it will take longer.

For projects with an hourly rate the total time that can be spent on the project will be agreed beforehand and time-management software can be used to track my work.

will you help me get published?

No more than it will help you get struck by lightning while holding a winning lottery ticket. Publication by one of the ‘big five’ publishing houses (Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Group, HarperCollins, Random House and Simon & Schuster) is incredibly difficult, publication by indie publishers only marginally less so. Producing better writing will of course increase your chances, but it does nothing to your chance of your work ending up in the hands of an intern with no clout to move it up the ladder or an agent with a hangover who would send a rejection letter to James Joyce until they get some tylenol and vitamins.

If you want to get your work published I highly recommend buying an up to date Writers and Artists Yearbook for your territory, identifying agents that have an interest in works like your own and sending them standard enquiry letters (see here). If you are interested in submitting short stories for anthologies, magazines and competitions then I’d highly recommend Literistic.