Is a manuscript assessment worth it?

Is A Manuscript Assessment Worth It?

Creative writing is hard! Let's not kid ourselves, producing a book that people want to read is a time-consuming and, often, difficult process.

It is also next to impossible to produce a book without some level of feedback from readers and editors.

The problem is that writers seeking feedback for their latest book face several editorial options, including:

However, in addition to these options, it is also worth considering a manuscript assessment service.

In this article, you’ll discover details of what manuscript assessment services entail; you’ll find out the pros and cons of the service and learn if a manuscript assessment is right for you and your book.

What is a Manuscript Assessment?

While developmental and copy editing provide detailed action-focused feedback, professional manuscript assessment services are designed to give a holistic assessment of what is working, but more importantly, what is not and what needs to be changed.

In other words, a manuscript appraisal, or assessment, is a paid service (often based on your book's word count) that assesses a piece of creative work, either in part or in full (depending on your budget and needs), and provides feedback.

It is worth noting that a partial manuscript evaluation comes with some risks. If the editor is unable to see the full scope of your book, it can make an assessment of certain structural issues problematic.

A manuscript assessment (also known as a critique, appraisal, or a structural report) is where a professional editor/assessor reads your manuscript as a whole, paying close attention to your story’s structure, character development, plot development, pace, setting, consistency etc.

The editor will provide a written report on what’s working and what needs improvement. Though the focus of the detailed report will differ for each novel, the following elements are an essential focus.

  • Character.
  • Setting.
  • Plot.
  • Voice.
  • Narrative Arc.
  • Dialogue.
  • Tension.
  • Pace.

What do you get with a Manuscript Assessment Report?

The manuscript assessment report is a detailed explanation of the key areas of your book that are both working and not working. It will provide a wide overview of what needs to be changed and what can stay.

In other words, it provides a roadmap for lifting your book to the next level.

The report will be less detailed than a full developmental edit but will pick up on all of the critical problems and, hopefully, provide solutions.

Editors will critically assess your book using a set of relevant questions. These will vary from book-to-book, but the list below will provide a good understanding of the editor’s mindset.

  • Does the book work?
  • Does the book meet the expectations of the genre?
  • Does the book meet the expectations of the reader?
  • Does the story make sense?
  • Does the story hook the reader?
  • Is the reader fully engaged? If not, why not?
  • Does the story contain plot holes?
  • Do areas of the story feel rushed or underdeveloped?
  • Are the characters successfully developed?
  • Where appropriate, does the story contain sufficient conflict?
  • Where appropriate, does the story build narrative tension?
  • Does the story fit a suitable narrative structure?

In addition to these questions, an editor will also focus their attention on several broader topics, which include, but are not exclusive to, the following:

  • Setting.
  • Character.
  • Narrative viewpoint (point of view).
  • Narrative structure.
  • Voice.
  • Plot.
  • Tropes and cliches.
  • Dialogue.
  • Movement and pacing.
  • Narrative tension.
  • Reader engagement.
  • Market fit.

One thing to note is that a manuscript assessment will not correct sentence-level issues, such as grammar and punctuation. However, if your manuscript contains persistent and significant sentence-level issues, this will be addressed in the report.

When should you get a manuscript assessment?

Deciding when the time is right for a manuscript assessment is a personal choice, depending on you and your book.

However, there are several common scenarios in which a professional manuscript appraisal is the best choice.

You are stuck and don’t know what to do next?

Imagine working on the first draft of a novel, but you have come to a grinding halt; perhaps the book has lost momentum, or the structure isn’t working the way you had hoped, or you have just run out of ideas.

At this point, you don’t want to invest in a full developmental edit and just need some guidance to kickstart the writing process; this is when a manuscript assessment is a perfect choice.

An assessment will give you a clear outline of what is working and what you need to do to get the book to the next stage.

You are worried your book is just not good enough

After investing hours developing your novel, you are now at a stage where you are just not sure that your work is good enough.

You have been focusing on the story for so long that you can’t see the wood for the trees.

This is when an assessment is a great option.

A professional assessment of your work will give you a clear indication of what you are doing right and what’s not working the way you had hoped. The evaluation will provide you with a clear roadmap to what you need to do to lift the book to a publishable standard.

It's the wrong time for a developmental edit

A professional developmental edit is an essential part of the publication process, but only when the time is right.

If you are confident that your book is close to being publication-ready, it is probably time to invest in a developmental edit.

However, what if you are not that confident your book is ready for the world?

What if you are still at the first draft stage but still want professional feedback?

What if you know there are issues with your story, but you still need some guidance on the best way forward?

In these situations, a full developmental edit is just not the right choice. Instead, a manuscript assessment will give you the feedback you need to push your book to the next stage.

You are worried about your book's word count

You are knee-deep in your manuscript and it suddenly dawns on you your book is going to be too long or too short.

You might be writing a novel that is much shorter than you hoped or an epic that's topping out at 150,000 words.

If you are worried about your book's word count, then a manuscript assessment is a perfect solution.

The editor will be able to assess your book and set out a realistic roadmap for the changes you need to make to reach a suitable word count.

Your budget is tight

Let’s not kid ourselves; publishing a book can be an expensive process. Sometimes, you just don’t have the budget to stretch to all the bells and whistles.

While an assessment is not a replacement for a more comprehensive developmental edit, it will provide you with essential feedback at a price that will fit your budget.

So, when the money’s tight, but you still need professional feedback, an assessment might just be the answer.

Final Thoughts

A manuscript assessment report can be a highly valuable, affordable method of gaining professional feedback for your book and your creative writig. This is especially true if you are planning to approach literary agents. Though a literary agent will not care that your book has undergone an assessment, it will produce a better book, increasing the chances of them saying, 'yes.'

This said, you must approach the service with an understanding what you will get and what you will not.

A good assessment will provide you with a clear indication of what is working in your book and what is not. It will NOT provide detailed sentence and chapter level guidance regarding what you need to do to prepare your book for publication.

If you want holistic guidance as to what step you need to take to move your book to the next stage of the publishing process, then an assessment might be the perfect solution.

If you require professional help with your book, our might be just what you need.