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Thread: [Display / critique] Manuscripts Online

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Annwyn's Avatar
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    [Display / critique] Manuscripts Online

    Does anyone know if this assessment agency is legit, or any good at all?
    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Annwyn
    Does anyone know if this assessment agency is legit, or any good at all?
    Thanks!
    A cursory view of their website, www.manuscriptsonline.com, shows that it's an agency that charges fees to "assess" your manuscript. Rates begin at $365, and go up incrementally based on how many thousands of words the ms has. Not only that, but if you resubmit your ms later, for reconsideration, you get a reduced rate. It's not exactly an editing service, because they don't appear to edit, merely review.

    They explain that for your fee, you recieve the following:
    • Authors receive a succinct detailed written report on their manuscript.
    • Authors are then invited to raise questions about issues raised in the report, and to seek further guidance according to their specific needs, or indeed to raise any matter concerning writing and publishing.
    • The assessor then responds to the author's questions and comments as comprehensively as possible within an allotted time frame.
    • Finally authors are invited to 'debrief' with the administrator of the service through a conversation in which any outstanding matters are addressed and a clear direction for the work is established.
    • Authors also can elect to go through a second round of consultation with their assessor, subject to negotiation of time and fees with the service.
    What they DON'T say, anywhere, is exactly what this "assessment" includes. Is it just someone going through with a spellchecker marking off typos? Do they make suggestions as to plot holes, continuity, character goofs, etc? None of this is discussed at all.

    What they also DON'T say is how they are qualified to assess anythign submitted. The owner of Manuscripts Online, a gentleman named Richard Lever, does in fact list his own extensive credentials, but no one else is even named. If you go to the Authors and Exerpts page of their site, there are posted excerpts from works, along with the "assessor comments". Draw your own conclusions about the qualifications of the assessors.

    So as to the "are they any good at all" question, that all depends on what your definition of "good" is. If by "any good" you mean will they do what they promise to do, which is take your money in exchange for reviewing your ms and providing some sort of assessement, it appears that they do that.

    A bigger, and more important, question might be whether authors really need to pay for this service.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW
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    If you feel you need such a service, you should find one recommended by someone you trust.

  5. #5
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Manuscript assessment services are common in Australia (where this one is based). Some are legit, and it's possible that authors may personally benefit from the critique they'll get from the service (though there are certainly alternatives to paying for critiques).

    However, this kind of claim, from their Overview page, is dubious:
    Manuscript assessment is highly recommended by the publishing industry. While a favourable assessment report is no guarantee of publication, it can be a foot in the door to agents and publishers.
    Some time ago, I asked an agent for the Australian branch of Curtis Brown how he, and other agents he knew, regarded assessment services. He told me that he personally did not pay attention to assessments, in part because so many of the services are unqualified, but mostly because he preferred to make his own assessments, and not rely on other people's. Other agents he knew felt the same.

    - Victoria

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW Annwyn's Avatar
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    You guys have a point...hmm...Will be wary of this one!

  7. #7
    Where's my tea, please...? PeeDee's Avatar
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    You could go find a friendly ten year old and have them write up a report on your book. You could probably get it done for $25 and a bag of skittles.

    Legit or not, I don't get it, I guess.

  8. #8
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    It can't be a very popular business. A quick business lookup on the business.gov.au website shows that it has never had a turn over of more than $50k. Even with the most optimistic view, this means fewer than 3 manuscripts being accepted from Aussies per week .. in the entire business.

    It also isn't a company .. the ABN number quoted (apart from a typo in one digit) shows that it's just the trading name for him personally.

    His website is also partly display site. To quote:
    The Internet provides further opportunities for promoting authors’ work. Contact us to find out how authors can get a web presence at Manuscripts Online, including having an excerpt of their work posted on the site.
    Mac
    Last edited by Mac H.; 12-10-2006 at 01:26 PM.

  9. #9
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Assessment agencies are also quite accepted in the UK, and jave been used by many published authors, including myself. It all depends, of course, on who is doing the assessing - how qualified they are. Some of them have links to literary agencies and can help you get a read; or vice versa, some literary agencies in the UK use assessment agencies as scouts.
    I have heard of one author who, when she got her rejection letter from Bloomsbury, found a brochure from an assessment agency in the envelope, and a mention that she might need help making her ms publishable!
    I know it would have taken me far longer to find an agent/publisher without one, but then I was lucky in finding a good one at the first try. The bottom line is: be careful.
    The thing is, though, that you do NOT sned the assessor's report towhoever you query, no matter how positive it was.
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  10. #10
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PattiTheWicked
    What they DON'T say, anywhere, is exactly what this "assessment" includes. Is it just someone going through with a spellchecker marking off typos? Do they make suggestions as to plot holes, continuity, character goofs, etc? None of this is discussed at all.

    .
    I woul dtake it for granted that THIS (the bold part) is what is assessed, not grammar and typos.
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  11. #11
    Where's my tea, please...? PeeDee's Avatar
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    But why not just get a few beta readers? I mean, there is no more or less technical way to assess characters, plots, things like that. It's all just showing it to readers, isn't it?

    I don't know. I would just show it to beta readers, or friends, or something.

    I think I probably just Don't Get It.

  12. #12
    Comic guy Bartholomew's Avatar
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    Take a creative writing workshop at the local community college; you'll get the same thing from whoever's running it, as well as the opinion of all the people in the class. Bit cheaper, too, I believe.

  13. #13
    Feel the power! J.S Greer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PattiTheWicked
    A cursory view of their website, www.manuscriptsonline.com, shows that it's an agency that charges fees to "assess" your manuscript. Rates begin at $365, and go up incrementally based on how many thousands of words the ms has. Not only that, but if you resubmit your ms later, for reconsideration, you get a reduced rate. It's not exactly an editing service, because they don't appear to edit, merely review.

    They explain that for your fee, you recieve the following:
    • Authors receive a succinct detailed written report on their manuscript.
    • Authors are then invited to raise questions about issues raised in the report, and to seek further guidance according to their specific needs, or indeed to raise any matter concerning writing and publishing.
    • The assessor then responds to the author's questions and comments as comprehensively as possible within an allotted time frame.
    • Finally authors are invited to 'debrief' with the administrator of the service through a conversation in which any outstanding matters are addressed and a clear direction for the work is established.
    • Authors also can elect to go through a second round of consultation with their assessor, subject to negotiation of time and fees with the service.
    I daresay that the same service is offered here in the "Share your work" forum.

    Here it's free, you know who is giving you feedback, and in most cases you are in a back and forth type of a feedback session, getting more bang for your "un-buck" so to speak.

    I would even bet that if you PM'd someone you held in high esteem here and asked them to critique your WIP, they would.

    It's a shame more people arent aware...
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  14. #14
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeeDee
    But why not just get a few beta readers? I mean, there is no more or less technical way to assess characters, plots, things like that. It's all just showing it to readers, isn't it?

    I don't know. I would just show it to beta readers, or friends, or something.

    I think I probably just Don't Get It.
    The concept of "beta readers" isn't very widespread in Britain. Nor are critique groups and all the other things you have in the US. I know of one British (paying) online forum, Writewords, which has a critique service similar to SYW, and in fact I did put up the first chapter of the novel I wrote last year there. I got some good critiques but honestly, I would have been embarassed to keep posting one chapter after the other there. I wanted a professional assessment of the WHOLE novel by someone who has worked in the industry and knows what agents and editors are looking for; that's what I got. It's a big job, and frankly, the idea of asking someone whom I have never met to read my entire ms for free is embarassing to me. I was lucky for my last novel; someone I trusted volunteered without my having to ask. But I actually prefer to pay. And what if your beta reader asks you to read their ms in return, and it's really, really bad? Or you really really hate it? I'm the kind of person who has difficulty telling someone "this sucks". Thats' why I'd prefer to give a fair price for a fair service.

    Also, in the UK these services often have connections to people in the industry. So if they come across a really good ms they can connect writer and agent, as happened in my case.

    When I wrote my first novel I was living in Germany. I did not know a single other writer or any one at all connected to writing. I suspect that many beginning writers are like that. So I think it's a good thing to have critique services of good repute; not only can they help a first time author get their ms into shape, they actually work as scouts.
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  15. #15
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Just wanted to add: it's not something I would do at this point in my career, or recommend to anyone else who has been writing novels regularly. But for a first timer with a mess of a novel - as my first book was - it is something to consider if you can afford it.
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  16. #16
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeeDee
    But why not just get a few beta readers? I mean, there is no more or less technical way to assess characters, plots, things like that. It's all just showing it to readers, isn't it?

    I don't know. I would just show it to beta readers, or friends, or something.

    I think I probably just Don't Get It.
    I used a 'book doctor' here in the UK for my novel. The novel had already been through several beta readers, including a full critique from my writing group. All I can say is that the paid critique picked up on things my other readers had not and gave the work an extra level of polish. I consider that it was money well spent. Unless your beta readers include people with publishing experience or writers with several published novels to their name, then I don't think you will get the level of critique that you will from an expert reader with industry experience. The 'book doctor' I used is a very well known former editorial director with decades of experience in editing works in my genre.

  17. #17
    Bored at work fanatic FergieC's Avatar
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    Aruna - which service did you use in the UK, out of interest? If you don't want to put it on the board, you can send me a PM. I'm thinking of using one for my current MS, so would be interested in any recommendations...

    A quick business lookup on the business.gov.au website shows that it has never had a turn over of more than $50k. Even with the most optimistic view, this means fewer than 3 manuscripts being accepted from Aussies per week .. in the entire business.

    It also isn't a company .. the ABN number quoted (apart from a typo in one digit) shows that it's just the trading name for him personally.
    If it's just one guy, isn't that a good thing that he's not accepting hundreds a week? I mean three a week would be about the limit a single person could do and give good feedback.

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW Annwyn's Avatar
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    Come to think of it, I'd be interested as well... I've had one friend read it, but she hates critiquing - she loved the characters, loved the plot, hated the ending cause it didn't finish, but to her my writing is just writing and not a career project. I need an opinion if it's actually any good, has any flow, grammatical no-nos, plot consistency etc, etc...Damn it, I just want to know if I've written a good novel *theatrical wave of hand* Okay, seriously though...PM me too if you aren't willing to post it!

  19. #19
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Sure! She is Hilary Johnson, http://www.hilaryjohnson.demon.co.uk/
    If you write her tell her hello from Sharon!
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  20. #20
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    I see that Hilary now has an American affiliate, novelist Caroline Upcher.
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  21. #21
    Bored at work fanatic FergieC's Avatar
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    Cheers Aruna!

  22. #22
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bartholomew
    Take a creative writing workshop at the local community college; you'll get the same thing from whoever's running it, as well as the opinion of all the people in the class. Bit cheaper, too, I believe.
    Didn't read this post before. Bartholomew, not all people have access to a community college or a writing class. Besides, what I wanted was individiual personal attention on one particular manuscript, not writing instructions. I had the book in had; I just wanted help in getting it publishable. Also, many different opinions - especially from people who are amateurs themselves - can lead to confusion.
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    ~ Rumi

  23. #23
    MaryKaye
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    The excerpts from assessments shown on the web site seem to be all positive. There's no way to evaluate whether they are able to give concrete, useful criticism of weaknesses from this! That makes me very uneasy.

    Mary Kaye

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