Manuscript Evaluation Christmas Cards

Gray Christmas CritiqueAre you struggling to find a perfect holiday gift for the writer(s) in your life? Send a some seriously supportive love to their mailbox this season! For the next month, I’m offering my new 50-page critiques with a special card you can have mailed straight to your literary loved one. You can choose from either a minimalist gray card or a bright, Looseleaf-green card.

Once they have the cards, writers can use the provided codes to schedule a critique whenever it will be most useful for them and their work.Green Christmas Critique

Order a manuscript critique today by visiting Looseleaf’s online store.


Honest Editorial Feedback without Gatekeepers

Iron Gate of PublishingThe rise of electronic self-publishing has led many authors to circumvent the traditional “gatekeepers” of the publishing world. In some instances that means a wonderful book with a niche audience or a cross-genre appeal finds its way to an audience even though a large press can’t afford to take a risk on it. Sometimes a great author gets more control over his or her process. Other times it means something awful joins the abundance of books already on the market because the author used self-publishing as a last resort.

Edan Lepucki, a literary fiction writer, recently talked about the issue of last-resort publishing when she wrote an article entitled “Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011-2012: A List.” Her reason #5 was “I Value the Publishing Community.” She talks about how she values editorial input and the layers that get added to a novel when an editor works on it. She says:

I know you can hire experienced editors and copy-editors, but how is that role affected when the person paying is the writer himself? What if the hired editor told you not to publish? Would that even happen?

As far as Looseleaf is concerned, the answer to whether or not that would happen is sometimes. It depends on what I’ve been hired to do. If I’ve been hired to copyedit, then I will copyedit. The publishability of the manuscript is not the problem I’ve been hired to solve: I’ve been hired to address its coherency on a grammatical and syntactic level. I will do what I’ve been hired to do. Likewise, the copyeditors at your favorite publishing house probably don’t control what goes to press, just the grammatical state in which it goes to press.

Copyediting is not the only thing you can hire an editor to do, though. Looseleaf offers manuscript evaluations (as do many other editing companies), which are essentially an in-depth way of answering the publishability question. In an evaluation I look at plot, character, and overall coherency, which also means I put myself in the reader’s shoes and analyze whether or not the book in my hands adds anything to the market. In the editorial letter I send to the author afterwards, I include positives, negatives, and an overall judgement on the manuscript.

Lepucki asks how the editorial relationship is affected when the editor is an employee of the author. The truth is that the freelancer–author relationship is not the same as the in-house editor–author relationship. A freelancer does what he or she is hired to do. If you want honest editorial feedback, hire a freelancer to give it to you and you’ll get it.

But Lepucki asks a question I can’t answer: “What if the hired editor told you not to publish?” That is a question for the author, a question that applies to all self-publishing authors. If you’ve decided to publish something on your own and hire someone to offer his or her opinion on your decision, are you going to listen if you get told you’re wrong?

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Looseleaf Manuscript Evaluations & Critiques

This week I’m going to look at each of Looseleaf’s editorial services and tell you what they are, when you need them, and some tricks you can use to do some editing yourself before you hire it out. I’ll post about one service a day, in the order a manuscript typically undergoes them in a full publishing process. That means today is manuscript evaluation day.

What Is a Manuscript Evaluation?

Manuscript Critique ScalesWhen I evaluate a manuscript, I read the whole thing in as few sittings as I can manage. This allows me to look at how the book functions as a whole: the plot arcs, the character arcs, the promises the writer made at the beginning, whether or not those promises paid off in the end, etc. I look at repetitive quirks the writing has (do you always use –ing phrases?), consistency in the dialogue, and anything else I can think of.

I do not edit grammar (though if there is a grammatical error the author consistently makes I’ll make a note of it), I don’t consider whether single sentences might be better placed differently, and I don’t tighten the wording. All that is for later, more fine-tuned editing. Manuscript evaluations are for grasping the big picture and making judgment calls about it.

When I’m done reading and making notes to myself, I write up a multi-paged letter (the length depends on the length and quality of the manuscript I’m evaluating) in which I discuss things that work well, things that don’t, recommendations, and cautions about where you need to be careful about the fixes you employ.

When Does a Manuscript Need an Evaluation?

There are three times when you might want a manuscript evaluation: early, late, and in a special case.

Early. If you’ve finished your manuscript and you’re about to dig in and do heavy revisions, you might want a manuscript evaluation to give you some guidance. A manuscript evaluation will point out the things you should keep and the things that need tweaking, so that editor letter can come in handy as a road map for getting started.

Late. If you’ve been querying and submitting and people are asking for your partial or full manuscript, but ultimately they’re passing, you might consider a manuscript evaluation to figure out why. Sometimes you won’t get detailed feedback from the people you’re querying; you will get it from me. This can help you hone a manuscript and get it past a brick wall.

Special Case. If you have something specific you want to do with your manuscript, but you’re not sure how, a manuscript evaluation can again give you the road map. Maybe you need to cut a substantial amount from your manuscript but you’re too close to the work to see what can and should be cut. Maybe you’re trying to popularize a scholarly work for a general audience and you’re not sure if what you’re doing is effective. Whatever the special case may be, announce that purpose in your request for a manuscript evaluation and I can focus on that purpose in your editor letter.

How Can Authors Evaluate Their Own Manuscripts?

If you’re early in your revision process, you may choose to evaluate your manuscript yourself or use free alpha or beta readers. When you’re doing evaluations, keep a few questions present in your mind:

  • Who is your audience? Are you communicating to that audience?
  • What insights are you communicating? Do you communicate them well?
  • Does your tone change a lot over the course of the manuscript, or in unpleasantly unexpected ways?
  • Are your characters flat stereotypes or fleshed-out people? Are they consistent and competent? Are their arcs believable?
  • Is the dialogue didactic or stilted? Does it feel organic and unique to each character?
  • If you’re writing informative nonfiction, is the takeaway explicitly linked to what you’re saying, and is it apparent what you want the reader to take away? (This is also relevant to fiction and creative nonfiction, but subtlety is more advised in those genres.)
  • Are there any sentence constructions or errors that are repeatedly problematic?
  • Are there any lapses in logic or plot holes?
  • What is your theme? Is the theme present throughout? Is that theme useful to your target audience?

More questions will likely apply to your manuscript, and you’ll have things you want to ask yourself throughout based on your individual story or purpose. But these basics can get you started in the right direction. As always, the more objective you or your beta reader can be, the closer you’ll come to an editorial opinion.

Other Editorial Services

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