There are several types of editorial feedback a writer can use for their books. These include developmental editing, copyediting, and even proofreading. However, one often overlooked type of editing is a manuscript assessment. 

Since a manuscript assessment is a less well-known type of feedback, it is not uncommon for writers to be unsure of what they will get for their money.

In this article, you’ll discover more about manuscript assessments, what is involved, and what you can expect. 

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 reads your manuscript as a whole, paying close attention to your story’s structure, character development, plot development, pace, setting, consistency etc. 

In pragmatic terms, what will happen is that the editor will read your manuscript and produce a multi-page report. 

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. 

Final Thoughts

For many writers, determining is a manuscript assessment is right for their work in progress is a very personal choice. However, for writers that are looking for a broad overview of their work, are seeking early professional feedback, or just need a cheaper alternative to a full developmental edit, then a manuscript assessment can be a perfect choice.