Writers seeking feedback for their latest book face several editorial options, including developmental editing, copy editing, and even feedback from friends and family. 

In addition to these options, it is also worth considering a manuscript assessment.

In this article, you’ll discover details of what a manuscript assessment entails; 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?

The best way to think about a manuscript assessment is a broad overview of your manuscript. 

While developmental and copy editing provide detailed action-focused feedback, a manuscript assessment is 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 manuscript assessment, is a paid service that assesses a piece of creative work, either in part or in full (depending on your budget and needs), and provides feedback. 

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 report will differ for each novel, the following elements are an essential focus. 

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

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 manuscript assessment 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. 

A manuscript 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 a manuscript 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.

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 a manuscript 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, a manuscript assessment might just be the answer. 

What you get with a manuscript assessment

The exact makeup of your manuscript assessment will vary from company-to-company, but all will contain the following essential elements:

  • A written summary of the critical aspects of your book that need attention, these will focus on, but not be inclusive of readability, narrative, characterization, dialogue, voice, presentation, things to watch, and the synopsis.
  • A breakdown of each chapter evaluating what worked and what didn’t.
  • An actionable list of the areas that need particular attention when editing, and rewriting, a novel.

Final Thoughts

A manuscript assessment can be a highly valuable, affordable method of gaining professional feedback for your book. However, you must approach the service with an understanding what you will get and what you will not. 

A good manuscript 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 a manuscript assessment might be the perfect solution.