This is a "big picture" critique, from one writer (and reader) to another: Is your book the best it can be? Is it ready for an agent or editor? Has it received a number of rejections without clear feedback? Has it lost steam halfway through? I can read your complete or partial manuscript and evaluate for:
Plot and story arc
Point of view
Organization and structure
Appropriateness for the intended audience
Things I do not do*:
~Rewrite your work
~Provide a line-by-line critique
~Provide a personal referral to any specific editor or agent
~Guarantee publication of your book or advise you on your book's chances for publication (no one can do that).
After reading your manuscript, I will provide a detailed editorial letter offering my overall impression of your work, an honest evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses, and specific, nuts-and-bolts suggestions for how you can take it to the next level. I'll include a list of resources (books on craft, published novels that demonstrate a specific aspect of craft) that can help you get there.
*If you need more specialized services, such as line-by-line editing or proofreading, you might consult experienced children's book editor Nikki Bruno Clapper.
$.01 per word.* (Any frontmatter, backmatter, prologues, epilogues, synopses, or cover letters are included in the word count.)
For example, a 50,000-word manuscript will cost $500 for an evaluation.
Minimum charge is $100.
Resubmission of a previously evaluated manuscript for an updated critique will cost 50% of your original rate. This rate will be applied every time a manuscript (or any itty bitty part thereof) is resubmitted for a new evaluation.
*Why I charge by the word instead of by the hour: Everyone knows the word count of their manuscript (or they should). So you'll know right up front how much my services will cost. Plus, you never have to worry that I'm taking longer than I should just to get more money.
~ Genre (including age range of intended audience)
~ Word count
~ A summary of any previous critiques it's gotten
~ Submission history, if applicable
~ Your goals for this manuscript (To find out if it's ready for an editor or agent? To identify plot holes? To better develop your characters? To address a revision request? etc.)
~ Anything else you think I should know.
Please cut and paste your first 500 words (approx. 2 manuscript pages) into the body of your email. This will give me an idea of the scope of the project. Don't worry about format at this point; I just want to read your text.
I will respond promptly with some initial thoughts, the total fee, time frame for completing the project, and payment terms.
Once we're both agreed to terms, you can choose to send me your manuscript electronically or by snail mail. Either way, a first payment will be due before I start work on your manuscript.
Also please be sure your manuscript is properly formatted, as if you were submitting to a publisher or agent.
Margins of at least 1" all around
Left-justify your text ("ragged right" justification)
"Times New Roman" or similar serif font, 12 point size
Indent new paragraphs; no additional line space between paragraphs
Start a new chapter or section on a new page.
Include a header on every page with your name, book title, and a page number.
Paginate the entire manuscript consecutively; do not paginate each chapter separately.
Also include a separate title page with:
~ your name
~ your contact information
~ your book title
~ its genre
~ approximate word count
If mailing paper, do not staple or bind the pages in any way. Keep them loose (see page numbering, above).
*This is also what editors and agents will want. You want to make editors and agents happy to read your work, don't you?
For review excerpts and other information about my books, please visit my website.
Looking for a different type of critique?
Author Jill Esbaum critiques picture book manuscripts.
Author and children's literature advocate Cynthia Leitich Smith has a list of additional editors and authors who provide manuscript critiques here.
For roll-your-sleeves-up practice on your query letter, visit The Query Shark (who's a well-respected literary agent in disguise).
See a list of standard proofreader's marks here.
For additional information on writing and publishing for children:
SCBWI (The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). Its Resources Library is especially useful for beginning writers.
The Purple Crayon is packed with knowledgeable information on children's book publishing.
You encouraged me to drop my tunnel vision and to be aware of different ways to see (re-vision) my book. You pointed out that it was a series of episodes rather than a complete story. You helped me tighten it by raising a peripheral character to a major one, forcing my protagonist to act rather than react. Thanks for reminding me to always ask how each scene serves the story.
My goodness, Stacy,
What a thorough and thoughtful critique. I see your points, and am so glad to have some kind of master plan to implement. You not only gave an overall, big-picture critique, but you also looked at grammar, passive verb forms, etc. Your suggestions for sample biographies to read will give me a good idea of the different ways in which I might structure mine. Again, thanks for your expertise.
Your query coaching really paid off! A positive response to a query is just one small step, of course. But I feel as though I'd know how to query effectively the next time.
Thanks for helping me to compose a good one.