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pinocchio
10-15-2009, 01:57 AM
Haven't located any other threads for this in the AW labyrinth, please redirect me if I'm posting in the wrong place.
After what seems a zillion rewrites of a fiction MS, I'm hauling it in for a professional manuscript assessment to decide whether it's worth continuing or time to let it go.
Any positive/negative experiences of the MS assessment? Any agencies particularly recommended? (I'm in Aus, but am willing to look o/s.) This costs a lot of money so I want to research as much as possible before committing!

Gillhoughly
10-15-2009, 02:09 AM
Save your money for the time being.

See if you can get a beta-reader here on AW (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=30)!



Hiring an assessor violates "Yog's Law (http://www.sff.net/people/yog/)."


Post 10 pages on the "Share Your Work" to see how the opening hits other writers.

Here's an AW thread on MS assessments (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=53815).

It mentions assessors in Australia and that they're pretty useless.

The only assessor who counts is the acquisitions editor.

Get some feedback and work on the next book!

KTC
10-15-2009, 02:11 AM
Listen to GILL!

AnonymousWriter
10-15-2009, 02:13 AM
Ditto the two before me.

Matera the Mad
10-15-2009, 08:23 AM
Really! There are a thousand or so very good manuscript assessors visiting this forum every day. Snag a few and see what they say.

JJ Cooper
10-15-2009, 04:43 PM
Recently at a local writer's group that I popped into, the guest speaker for the evening was the owner of a Manuscript Assessment Service and also owner of POD business.

She started her talk with 'no new author will get published in Australia without first having their MS assessed' and 'no new author will be published by traditional publishers in Australia unless they've self-published - just like Matthew Reilly did'. Every person in that room nodded as if they've heard the wisdom before.

At the end of the sales pitch I introduced myself as a new author who landed an agent and traditional publisher without having to go through a manuscript assessment. Her response - 'You're the first I ever heard of. Must have slipped through the cracks.'

There is only a handful of 'legitimate' agents over here and most are closed to submissions at the moment because they have a full book and are getting quality referals from current clients and writing centres, pitch sessions etc. I'm noticing a trend of assessment services popping up more regularly in literature advertising and converstaions amongst those yet to be published.

A Sydney agent blooged on this subject and received an interesting reply from an agent/manuscript assessor - http://callmyagent.blogspot.com/2008/08/assessors-and-agents-reply.html

My thought is that if you can't get the MS polished on your own then you will struggle with the editing process if you land a publisher. Trust me, it can be intense. You need to understand the editing process and professional advice given by up to four editors over months of editing.

Good luck.

JJ

Phaeal
10-15-2009, 05:51 PM
What Gill said. Save your money. Unless, of course, you want to hire me. ;)

NicoleMD
10-15-2009, 06:39 PM
A professional manuscript assessment can be very helpful in spotting structural problems and other deficiencies that keep and okay story from being a good story. Picking the right person is the tricky part, someone who will do an honest, professional job and that ideally clicks with your story.

That said, it's best to exhaust your free resources first so you can get the most value for your money if you decide to go that route. A professional assessment an investment, the same as taking a writing course, and you can learn a lot from it that you'll be able to use down the road on future projects.

Nicole

Namatu
10-15-2009, 08:12 PM
A professional manuscript assessment can be very helpful in spotting structural problems and other deficiencies that keep and okay story from being a good story. Picking the right person is the tricky part, someone who will do an honest, professional job and that ideally clicks with your story.First, you can learn to do much of this yourself. There are always areas we can remind blind to as authors, however. If you're lucky, you can find a beta reader who can spot those areas for you and constructively suggest how to fix them.

pinocchio
10-15-2009, 11:25 PM
Thanks all. Looks like I've got a definitive answer.
As with most first novels, this one was the site of all my first mistakes as a writer. It's also the one that I'm most bound up in, so the ruthless editor in me has a hard time getting in. I was looking for a MS assessment because I recently had an excellent rejection letter from RH (for a different novel), which gave me a few pages of precise critique. The critique was so spot-on that rewriting the problematic sections was easy and I had that MS picked up by an agent within a month. I was hoping a MS assessment would be an extension of such excellent advice.

But I guess I'll be in the Beta forums (after NaNo) instead. :)

Swordswoman
10-16-2009, 03:41 AM
Thanks all. Looks like I've got a definitive answer..

Well, not quite, pinocchio.

I'd absolutely agree with others here that you should exhaust all the free options before considering going the assessment route - and I'd have to agree these services are expensive.

But I'd also recommend you read the AW thread Gill posted in its entirety. The focus quickly shifts to UK assessment agencies, which even at the time of that thread (2007) were taken seriously by literary agents and publishers. Since that time this is even more the case, and the agency quoted as saying they had no interest in manuscript assessment services (Curtis Brown) now uses at least two of them as literary talent scouts. Victoria Strauss mentions a couple specifically (The Literarary Consultancy and The Writers' Workshop) which I would personally have to recommend.

Because there's at least one thing a top ms assessment service can do for you that a beta reader can't, and it's this:

If they genuinely think your work is marketable, they will pass you on to a good agent with a recommendation - and their recommendations are taken seriously. That's not just 'I heard somewhere' stuff, it's the real deal. If you look at that thread, you'll see it's just what happened to one of our most successful AW published writers - aruna. It also happened to me.

I'm not special. I'm certain sure I could never have landed such a good agent so quickly on my own - if I ever could have done it at all. The Writers' Workshop did it for me. They gave me an excellent editor with several published works in my own genre, and who even wrote in the same format (multiple first POV). She gave me her report (which was very helpful) but also passed me to the company's boss who gave the ms a second read for free. We discussed possible agents, he e-mailed one of them (a very, very, prestigious one), and here's an edited version of her reply which he forwarded fifteen minutes later:


Dear XXX,
>>
>> I am absolutely delighted that it is my turn, and particularly with
>> this one which sounds right up my street. Please do get XXX to
>> send both the glorious sounding novel and XXXXX as
>> soon as possible. I am very much looking forward to reading.
>>
>>


Being polite? I delivered the ms the next day, and three days later she was my agent.

The novel isn't glorious at all, but the point is that an agent took this service's recommendation very seriously.

How helpful this will be to you I don't know. The Writers' Workshop does take overseas writers and does have good contacts with US agents, but I'm afraid I haven't a clue as to their contacts with Australian ones - though they're very approachable if you want to ask them.

But I felt I should post this anyway, if only because other writers might do a thread-search for discussion of manuscript assessment, and I think it's as well if we give a complete picture. I feel I have been unbelievably lucky in this business, and it would be rather selfish of me to hug my little secret to myself if there's a chance it might help someone else the way it helped me.

Yes, it was expensive. But I believed in the book, I invested in it - and it was the best decision I ever made.

Louise

childeroland
10-16-2009, 04:05 AM
Are The Writer's Workshop and The Literary Consultancy very expensive?

Swordswoman
10-16-2009, 05:10 AM
Are The Writer's Workshop and The Literary Consultancy very expensive?

I think so - but then I'm not rich. The cost is perfectly reasonable, given what you're getting - ie maybe as much as two days solid work from a published expert in your field entirely devoted to you (plus the business overheads on top of that). But it's still a lot. I had to decide which of various essentials was most important to me at that time - and plumped for the book. My writing meant more to me than new clothes.

In the end, I saved money too, on all the manuscript submissions I never had to make - but there was no guarantee that would be the case. If they'd liked it, but hadn't thought it quite ready to go to an agent I might have still had to do all that anyway.

However, if you look at the thread Gill posted, you'll see at least one UK publisher who normally wouldn't look at unagented submissions claimed they would actually consider manuscripts that come with a good assessment from a reputable service. In short, the ms service performs some of the same function as an agent - it's a filter for publishers, and suggests anything that gets through is at least worth reading. I have no experience of this system in practice, but it suggests going this route could still open doors even without the personal 'hey, you really have to read this one!' bit. As I say, I don't personally know of anyone who's had this experience, but it's there on the thread.

You can find their rates and lots more up-to-date information than I've got on their websites - TLC (http://www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk/) and The Writers Workshop. (http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/)

Good luck either way!

Louise

blacbird
10-16-2009, 11:31 AM
"Do not seek the treasure!" -- John Turturro, as "Pete" in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Sooner go for the Nigerian inheritance scam than hire manuscript assessors.

caw

Swordswoman
10-16-2009, 11:48 AM
Sooner go for the Nigerian inheritance scam than hire manuscript assessors.

Why?
I'm interested.

JJ Cooper
10-16-2009, 04:13 PM
Because there's at least one thing a top ms assessment service can do for you that a beta reader can't, and it's this:

If they genuinely think your work is marketable, they will pass you on to a good agent with a recommendation - and their recommendations are taken seriously. That's not just 'I heard somewhere' stuff, it's the real deal. If you look at that thread, you'll see it's just what happened to one of our most successful AW published writers - aruna. It also happened to me.

Louise

I'm thinking it may be a little different in Aus, Louise. I recently discussed this issue with my agent (who is listed as a legitimate agent and is one of the biggest in AUS) and she stated that she paid no attention to manuscript assessment services. Recommendations from assessment services accompanied the MS in the slush pile.

In Aus, there is absolutely no advantage that I'm aware of by going through an assessment service in order to get a step closer to the agent/publisher.

JJ

JJ Cooper
10-16-2009, 04:31 PM
Thanks all. Looks like I've got a definitive answer.
As with most first novels, this one was the site of all my first mistakes as a writer. It's also the one that I'm most bound up in, so the ruthless editor in me has a hard time getting in. I was looking for a MS assessment because I recently had an excellent rejection letter from RH (for a different novel), which gave me a few pages of precise critique. The critique was so spot-on that rewriting the problematic sections was easy and I had that MS picked up by an agent within a month. I was hoping a MS assessment would be an extension of such excellent advice.

But I guess I'll be in the Beta forums (after NaNo) instead. :)

A little confused here. You have an agent? An Aussie agent who picked you up after RH rejected the novel?

So a few things stick out here.

If you have an agent there is no need for an assessment service.
You pay your agent in percentage of royaties (no upfront costs) for advice and professional service that should be able to answer the question you're asking.

I'd need some convincing that a legitimate agent picked you up after RH knocked the MS back (the option of submitting to RH has vanished after rejection).

I'm guessing the agent you signed up to also does assessment services. And, she may be asking for upfront costs.

Then again, I may be way off the mark. Who's your agent?

JJ

KTC
10-16-2009, 04:36 PM
THE WRITER DOESN'T PAY.


JJ--I love your story about you standing up and telling that asshat about your success. I guess she wanted to SCAM everybody in the room that day. (-;

Swordswoman
10-16-2009, 04:46 PM
I'm thinking it may be a little different in Aus, Louise. I recently discussed this issue with my agent (who is listed as a legitimate agent and is one of the biggest in AUS) and she stated that she paid no attention to manuscript assessment services. Recommendations from assessment services accompanied the MS in the slush pile.

I think you're right. As Gill points out, that AW thread found nothing at all to recommend the Australian based services of this type (at least at the time). It's also clear there are a lot of scam-operations on the ms-assessment model in the US, and some pretty iffy kickbacks going on everywhere (including, in my opinion, some of the services in the UK).

So, no, I certainly wouldn't recommend these services in a general way. All I know of my own experience is that Victoria is right to single out the UK as a generally different way of doing it, and one that is gaining increasing respectability.

Personally I think it's a pity it has to be this way at all. In the 'olden days', publishers paid people with experience to read their slushpiles, but now there are so many people convinced they can write that editors have to save the money and rely on the agents to be the gatekeepers. But increasingly, agents also can no longer afford to pay qualified people to read 2,000 manuscripts a year of which maybe 3 will be marketable enough to justify adding to a client list - and so in come the assessment services to weed out the chaff for them. All it means in the end is that it's now the authors who pay for their own filtering, because there are so many people who believe themselves capable of writing publishable work that the market is effectively flooded.

I wonder how long it will be before the assessment services are swamped too, and the next step will be to pay someone who can help you get in at an assessment service...:D

Louise

Phaeal
10-16-2009, 06:05 PM
The agent is already one middleman between writer and publisher, and it's widely agreed that reputable agents don't demand reading fees. Why would we want to add an additional middleman who does charge reading fees?

I'm not putting down legitimate freelance editors. But I'd hate to see it become de rigeur for every writer to have to pay for one in order to get to an agent. I've already spent tens of thousands of dollars writing my books, given how much paid work I could have done in those hours I spent laboring on MSS.

childeroland
10-16-2009, 07:13 PM
I think so - but then I'm not rich. The cost is perfectly reasonable, given what you're getting - ie maybe as much as two days solid work from a published expert in your field entirely devoted to you (plus the business overheads on top of that). But it's still a lot. I had to decide which of various essentials was most important to me at that time - and plumped for the book. My writing meant more to me than new clothes.

In the end, I saved money too, on all the manuscript submissions I never had to make - but there was no guarantee that would be the case. If they'd liked it, but hadn't thought it quite ready to go to an agent I might have still had to do all that anyway.

However, if you look at the thread Gill posted, you'll see at least one UK publisher who normally wouldn't look at unagented submissions claimed they would actually consider manuscripts that come with a good assessment from a reputable service. In short, the ms service performs some of the same function as an agent - it's a filter for publishers, and suggests anything that gets through is at least worth reading. I have no experience of this system in practice, but it suggests going this route could still open doors even without the personal 'hey, you really have to read this one!' bit. As I say, I don't personally know of anyone who's had this experience, but it's there on the thread.

You can find their rates and lots more up-to-date information than I've got on their websites - TLC (http://www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk/) and The Writers Workshop. (http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/)

Good luck either way!

Louise

Thanks. I already have a coupla fulls out, but if they don't work out, this Hillary Johnson isn't looking too bad to me right now, idk.

Swordswoman
10-16-2009, 07:30 PM
The agent is already one middleman between writer and publisher, and it's widely agreed that reputable agents don't demand reading fees. Why would we want to add an additional middleman who does charge reading fees?.

Er...we wouldn't, Phaeal. That's why I said it's a pity.:D

I don't think any of us are disagreeing on the principles. I'm only saying that not all assessment services are by definition bad or useless, because some writers, even here on AW have actively been helped by them. Valid, no?

There's another point though, which also affects us as writers. While there are many very dodgy advertised 'book doctors', who make vague claims as to unspecified experience in editing, the two services I've mentioned myself are run by experienced published writers, as you'll see if you look at the sites. They're people like Gill, or Uncle Jim, or others at the high end here. What they're effectively doing is being beta readers for money.

Yes, of course, it's much, much better if we can get that service for free, and we've all already agreed that option is the first one to try - but you'll also note that many of those top end writers don't generally beta-read for free. That's not remotely a criticism - they don't do it because they're too busy writing their own books, or for any number of equally good reasons, and it's also unfair to expect it of them.

A writer is a professional, who needs to make a living like anyone else. Some supplement their income by running workshops (much the same thing, actually - and writers pay to attend those). Others teach writing courses in colleges and even give feedback on written work (again, much the same thing). Many of the people working at TLC or WW do these too. Why not? I have friends who are doctors and solicitors. I may well expect them to chuck me a free bit of advice from time to time, just as people like Gill or Uncle Jim do here on the boards - but I would not expect them to sit down for maybe 20 hours and write a full, detailed critique of my novel, discuss it with me afterwards, then maybe go to the trouble of contacting an agent on my behalf. I would expect even less for them to do it for a stranger, and for every stranger who asks.

I don't do professional ms assessment. I do sometimes beta-read for free, though not as much as I'd like. I have a horrid deadline which means I don't have time to do more, but I also have a decent enough income from writing so I don't need to. But I know not all writers can afford to work full time, not even successfully published ones, and I don't grudge them making money this way.

Yes, money flows towards the writer. But in the two outfits I've mentioned, these are writers too...

Louise

ETA - I don't think Hilary Johnson is a writer herself, but she does list her relevant experience very specifically, and if our own aruna recommends her I'd be inclined to take that seriously. Her site (http://www.hilaryjohnson.demon.co.uk/)looks encouraging, I think.

waylander
10-16-2009, 08:27 PM
I also used a paid editor for my first novel.
I would emphasise that I exhausted the free options available to me, including a very talented crit group and a crit from a subsequently published novelist. My novel was pretty good when it went to the editor, with serious interest from a major publisher. It was much better when I finished the rewrites he suggested. He also got it looked at at another major publisher. I subsequently got an agent with that draft of the novel. No it didn't sell - 'good novel not what the market wants right now'.
The editor was relatively expensive - several hundred pounds sterling - but in the context of how much I had already invested in the novel (both time and money) I felt he was good value. I still think so now.

childeroland
10-16-2009, 08:43 PM
Waylander, did you use one for your second novel?

Swordswoman
10-16-2009, 09:10 PM
Waylander, I just want to say 'big respect' to you for posting that experience.

One has only to look at the great long lists of books (all Googleable, all checkable) that these various agencies have helped to publication between them to know there are a lot of writers who have benefited. But you don't often hear them saying so, which is why so many people hear only the negative stories.

I can understand that. I'd love people to believe I'm just so brilliant I got my deal all by myself - but it wouldn't be true. I had help. In my years as a script editor I often had to sit in meetings or even award ceremonies hearing writers take kudos for scripts and stories I knew for a fact owed as much to a specific editor as to the writer herself, and I determined never, never to be like that.

I'm not planning to use a service for my second book, because I now have a fabulous agent who will give me first-class editing advice herself - but I know it's largely down to that service that I have that agent in the first place.

Louise

Phaeal
10-16-2009, 10:07 PM
As I said, I have no problem with legitimate freelance editors. If a writer wants to employ one, or more, and has the money to invest, fine. I would just hate to have it become standard practice for writers to pay for MS assessments before agents would look at their work.

That would be adding another middleman, and a paid one.

Swordswoman
10-16-2009, 10:19 PM
I agree, Phaeal. 100%. I was looking to a dystopian future, not something I ever, ever want to see happen.

It's also what makes me most angry when some so-called book doctors (and scamming agents too) try to imply that is already the norm, and say things like 'no publisher will look at a book that hasn't been professionally edited.' That is total BS - and Victoria makes that very clear on the thread linked in Gill's post.

Louise

waylander
10-16-2009, 10:42 PM
Waylander, did you use one for your second novel?

I haven't actually completed a second novel yet, but I have an agent so it will go to him (via my crit group and other readers).
If I did not have an agent then I would consider using him again.

aruna
10-19-2009, 05:47 PM
If they genuinely think your work is marketable, they will pass you on to a good agent with a recommendation - and their recommendations are taken seriously. That's not just 'I heard somewhere' stuff, it's the real deal. If you look at that thread, you'll see it's just what happened to one of our most successful AW published writers - aruna. It also happened to me.
Louise

Thanks for mentioning me!
Yes, hiring a manuscript assessor (editing service) shortened my time into publication considerably, and what I spent on the service I received many times back through the advance.

Given the choice between a beta reader and a professional service (in the UK these are often people who have been editors at pubishing houses) I woud always choose the professionals; that's just me. Having a beta reader, for me, brings the obligation to return the favour by beta reading for that person, which I really don't want to do. Firstly, I am not particularly good at critiquing the mss of others, and secondly, it takes a huge amount of time to read a full ms, time that I don't have to spare. (Not that I have money to spare, but that's a different matter!) But actually, I don't enjoy beta reading. What if I really hate the story? If it's a returned favour I'd find it hard to tell another person that. It's just not something I'd be good at.

My assessor was H i lary J ohnson. She has a partner in the USA who seems pretty good. And it wasn't that expensive. As far as I can remember, I paid about £300 for he full ms, and before I knew it a top agent was calling me from London!

childeroland
10-19-2009, 08:08 PM
Are there things, story qualities, in a manuscript an English agent would look for that would differ from an American agent so that Hilary Johnson's critique might be less useful to an writer attempting the American market?

aruna
10-19-2009, 09:31 PM
You might be better off going with Caroline Upcher, her US associate, whose address is on that website.

waylander
10-19-2009, 09:58 PM
Depends on the genre of the manuscript. Humour, for example, might be quite different.
In SF/F, I understand, you can run to a slightly higher wordcount for a 1st novel, say 120k v 95k.

childeroland
10-19-2009, 10:47 PM
What if you want to try both markets, U.S. and U.K. (my manuscript runs to 84k)?

NicoleMD
10-21-2009, 03:03 AM
First, you can learn to do much of this yourself. There are always areas we can remind blind to as authors, however. If you're lucky, you can find a beta reader who can spot those areas for you and constructively suggest how to fix them.

But sometimes you just don't know how much you don't know until someone sits you down and explains it to you. Beta readers are wonderful, but they will only get you so far. Sometimes it's far enough. Sometimes it's not.

Nicole

aruna
10-21-2009, 11:17 AM
But sometimes you just don't know how much you don't know until someone sits you down and explains it to you. Beta readers are wonderful, but they will only get you so far. Sometimes it's far enough. Sometimes it's not.

Nicole

Exactly.And the trouble is, you have to take what you get -- and how do you really know how good a beta reader is, who offers to read your ms? How do you know how quick he/she will be? Since they're doing it for free you can't very well tell them to hurry up! I beta read for a colleague this year and I took MONTHS over it. I really prefer to put my money down for someone I KNOW is good and has editing experience with a publisher, and can give me a reasonable time frame.
I've had people offer to read mss for me who never even got back to me. And you can't prod them to hurry, because they're doing you a favour.

Barbara R.
10-21-2009, 05:59 PM
There's no way I can say this without sounding self-serving, so I'll just bite the bullet and say upfront that I do fiction ms. evaluations. I'm a former long-time literary agent, a former editor in a major publishing house, the author of 8 novels of my own, and a teacher of fiction writing; so I feel I've got the chops. What I try to do in my evaluations is to tell the writer what literary agents and editors would tell him/her if they had the time and inclination to respond in detail to all submissions. They donít, so what most writers end up getting is a pile of rejections with no clear idea of what went wrong.

It's expensive to get a professional evaluation, and on my side it takes a lot of time to do them, so I offer a get-acquainted option: first 5000 words read and evaluated for $50, after which we can both decide whether a full evaluation makes sense. I'm not trolling for editing work; it rarely makes sense for a first-time novelist to pay for an edit. But it's really, really hard to get professional feedback until you've sold your work, and it's hard to sell your work without good feedback; so I feel like what I do offer is a useful service.

You can absolutely find beta readers here on the forum, or you can join a writing group that critiques each other's work for no charge. But I teach writing workshops that entail peer critiques, and I find that they are not nearly as rigorous as my own.

I understand all the folks here who advise you against paying for a critique. There are a ton of sharks out there in the waters, just looking to prey on aspiring writers. I'm not one of them, and I'm proud of the fact that Absolute Write has posted my writing classes on their short list of legit classes run by real writers.

I'm hardly the only person who offers this service, so look around. Make sure that any evaluator you consider has real, verifiable credentials and makes no inflated claims. Anyone who claims that all their clients go on to publish is either a huckster or is shilling for a vanity press.

childeroland
10-21-2009, 07:07 PM
Do assessors commonly help out with queries/synopses also?

Barbara R.
10-23-2009, 02:35 PM
Do assessors commonly help out with queries/synopses also?
Very often they do, by arrangement.

seun
10-23-2009, 04:40 PM
In 2001, I paid to have a manuscript assessed. If I'd been a better writer, I would have known there was no point. If I'd known about this site, I'd have REALLY known it.

Everything you can learn on your strengths and weaknesses you can learn here.

aruna
10-23-2009, 05:04 PM
In 2001, I paid to have a manuscript assessed. If I'd been a better writer, I would have known there was no point. If I'd known about this site, I'd have REALLY known it.

Everything you can learn on your strengths and weaknesses you can learn here.


But did this site send your ms to an agent?
My mansucript service did. So there was a very huge point to my using one!
I liked also the fact that the feedback I got was specific to my ms.
All in all, it was the right move. And for some people it will remain the right move, if not for you.

seun
10-23-2009, 05:35 PM
But did this site send your ms to an agent?

Nope although it was a pretty bad book.

Swordswoman
10-23-2009, 07:11 PM
Nope although it was a pretty bad book.

I think that's the point.

Sending even a 'not very good' book to an ms assessor is a waste of money, because you'll only learn what even a mediocre beta-reader ought to be able to tell you. Sending a 'pretty bad one' is like sneezing constantly and paying a private doctor to diagnose you with a cold.

When you know the book is as good as you can get it on your own, when you've had all the free help there is and still want a qualified objective eye on the whole thing - that's when it's worth considering. If the book's good enough, you can get a result like aruna's. If it's not, you'll at least get good advice as to how you can make it so.

Not everyone wants to invest that much in their work, and indeed not everyone should. Good services (and Barbara R's sounds like one to me) will let you submit a partial sample to decide if it's worth it for you.

It has to be up to the individual writer, doesn't it?

Louise

childeroland
10-23-2009, 07:37 PM
Nope although it was a pretty bad book.

Did you ever improve your book, seun?

seun
10-23-2009, 09:54 PM
Did you ever improve your book, seun?

I did use the advice I was given to improve it, but to be honest, the problem was with the overall story as well as my abilities at the time. As an idea for a book, it was OK but nothing special. Even being a better writer now, I couldn't make it a great book.

IceCreamEmpress
10-24-2009, 04:38 AM
But did this site send your ms to an agent?
My mansucript service did.

I think this is a big difference between UK manuscript services and US manuscript services. People reading this thread who are writing and/or submitting in the US need to be reminded that US manuscript services are not "scouts" for US agents or publishers, and that a US manuscript service provider who claims to provide that service is at best mistaken.

I think that Barbara R. made an excellent point here:


Make sure that any evaluator you consider has real, verifiable credentials and makes no inflated claims. Anyone who claims that all their clients go on to publish is either a huckster or is shilling for a vanity press.

Swordswoman
10-24-2009, 05:19 AM
You're right, Empress, and I think we should keep repeating it. So far the only ms assessment services we've had positive feedback on are from the UK, which seem to operate in a completely different fashion from either the US or Australia. This also bears out what Victoria said in that original thread.

For the record, can anyone confirm the US system is still as it was back then? Barbara's service sounds good - are there any other reputable ones at all? Do any of them actually scout for agents now? It would be useful to have up-to-date information.

Similarly, I don't want to imply a blanket recommendation of 'all UK assessment services are good', because I'm quite sure they're not. For that reason, it might be helpful if anyone has poor experiences of such services in the UK to tell us about them here - for instance, Seun, if you feel yours wasn't that great, do let us know.

I'll mention one which isn't a scam but I wouldn't recommend, and that's Cornerstones (http://www.cornerstones.co.uk). It's the oldest and best established, but it takes a percentage of a writer's first advance on top of its fee if it manages to place them with an agent. There's nothing illegal about it, and they admit it openly, but it does seem rather mean to make a writer pay twice. I also dislike the fact that for this reason agents tend to recommend Cornerstones in their submissions guidelines - with other services it's the agent who pays any finder's fee, but with Cornerstones it's the poor little writer.

Ideally we'd be able to treat these things the way we do agents and publishers, and post warnings and recommendations in the B&B forum - but unfortunately those threads seem to turn quickly into an 'all assessment services are bad' discussion, which doesn't help people weed out the possibly useful from the outright scammy.

Louise

childeroland
10-24-2009, 05:47 PM
Will good UK assessors do the same thing for US writers who submit to them, if they think the book worthy?

Barbara R.
10-26-2009, 09:04 PM
For the record, can anyone confirm the US system is still as it was back then? Barbara's service sounds good - are there any other reputable ones at all? Do any of them actually scout for agents now? It would be useful to have up-to-date information.

Louise


I think that's the point.

Sending even a 'not very good' book to an ms assessor is a waste of money, because you'll only learn what even a mediocre beta-reader ought to be able to tell you. Sending a 'pretty bad one' is like sneezing constantly and paying a private doctor to diagnose you with a cold.

When you know the book is as good as you can get it on your own, when you've had all the free help there is and still want a qualified objective eye on the whole thing - that's when it's worth considering. If the book's good enough, you can get a result like aruna's. If it's not, you'll at least get good advice as to how you can make it so.

Not everyone wants to invest that much in their work, and indeed not everyone should. Good services (and Barbara R's sounds like one to me) will let you submit a partial sample to decide if it's worth it for you.

It has to be up to the individual writer, doesn't it?

Louise


It depends on the evaluator whether they help certain writers find agents. If they promise as part of their service to find each client an agent, they're talking through their hats. The submissions evaluators see are pretty much a cross-section of what agents see, and to be frank, relatively few of them are likely to attract a publisher. Still, when we do come across something really exceptional, it's only natural to try to help the writer find his/her way through the thicket.

[[[When you know the book is as good as you can get it on your own, when you've had all the free help there is and still want a qualified objective eye on the whole thing - that's when it's worth considering.]]]

I agree with this. You want the evaluator to help you get further than you could get on your own, so it makes sense to first take it as far as you can alone.

[[[[Not everyone wants to invest that much in their work, and indeed not everyone should. Good services (and Barbara R's sounds like one to me) will let you submit a partial sample to decide if it's worth it for you.]]]

Thank you. Selfishly, I also see those partials as important tools for me to decide if I want to read the whole ms. Between my own writing and the classes I teach, my time's limited; so I don't encourage folks to go on and do full evaluations unless I think we're both going to get something out of it: the writer some useful feedback, and me some pleasure in reading.And I very rarely recommend a full edit. In most cases, advances on first novels wouldn't even cover the cost of a good private edit, which is very time-consuming; and of course there's no guarantee that even a good book will sell.

IceCreamEmpress
10-26-2009, 10:03 PM
It depends on the evaluator whether they help certain writers find agents. If they promise as part of their service to find each client an agent, they're talking through their hats.

Yes. If a US manuscript service or freelance editor says "I will hook you up with an agent" this is not going to happen. They are either ignorant of how the publishing system in the US works, or actively trying to scam you--neither of which indicates someone you want to work with.

Now, what I've done myself as a freelance editor is say "Here's a list of five agents whom I know work with manuscripts similar to yours" and I have also looked over clients' query letters. So that has, according to some clients, been helpful to them in selling their work.

But there just isn't a tradition in the US of agents taking a closer look at the manuscripts of certain services' or individuals' clients--the help that a US manuscript service or editor can provide is on the writer's end, in helping the writer get the manuscript and query letter to be the best it can be, and perhaps helping the writer identify a short list of agents to target.

In the US, manuscript services and freelance editors don't have a special "inside track" as they seem to in the UK and Australia.

If people are looking in this thread for good leads for US providers of manuscript critiques and editing, let me recommend Nick Mamatas (http://www.nick-mamatas.com/index.php) for people looking to publish in the areas of horror and science fiction.

I have also heard good things about Barbara (see sig in post above), who may be shy about self-promoting here, but who has loads of experience and enough satisfied clients that I've heard from some of them.

Barbara R.
10-26-2009, 10:18 PM
Thank you, Empress, that's very kind.

childeroland
10-26-2009, 11:39 PM
Does Nick do fantasy also? Do you, Barbara?

waylander
10-27-2009, 01:05 AM
Nick for a while edited Clarkesworld Magazine, a very fine pro-level sf/f/h publication. and was renowned for his strongly voiced rejections.

childeroland
10-27-2009, 02:35 AM
Are the skills required to edit short stories the same as those for a novel?

IceCreamEmpress
10-27-2009, 04:11 AM
Someone else I've heard good things about, who concentrates on fantasy in particular, is Stacy Whitman (http://www.stacylwhitman.com/2009/04/21/when-or-if-do-you-need-a-freelance-editor-before-or-during-the-submission-process/).

childeroland
10-27-2009, 04:17 AM
Thanks for the name. :)

Barbara R.
10-28-2009, 04:10 PM
I read any genre of fiction; but I always suggest starting with the 5000-word get-acquainted offer (http://www.nextlevelworkshop.com/html/manuscript_evaluation.html#special), just so we can both see if it's a good fit.

Barbara

Barbara R.
10-28-2009, 04:14 PM
Are the skills required to edit short stories the same as those for a novel?

I think they are, despite the fact that short stories really are very different from novels in much more than length. The structure of a short story is different from a novel, but most other facets --characterization, setting, dialogue, description and so on---are common to both forms. I write novels myself, but I'm a great reader of short stories and have edited quite a few.

carefulwithwords
12-09-2011, 04:06 PM
Hi all, My literary/general/women's fiction/whatever mss is currently in the hands of an editor from the Writers' Workshop. Cost me about $750 for my 74,000words. It's been two weeks, so I might have another two weeks to wait.

The following is a short history of why I decided to take this route:

I finished my first draft of my mss exactly one year ago. Initially, I had about 15 beta readers, about half of them had degrees in English lit or journalism, and I used their feedback to polish it up. I had no idea what I was doing, did very little research on querying and didn't read forums like these. So I royally screwed up and started querying on draft two. Had a request for full. Got impatient after two weeks of waiting (again, I knew nothing!) and nudged. Was R'd the same day. Entered Abna. Made the semi-finals, got a good review from pub weekly. Requeried. Got one request for a full. Waited patiently for 2 months. Form R. Entered another lesser known contest. Was shortlisted and found out one of the judges was a Publishing Exec from Penguin. So I flew out to the ceremony on the hopes of meeting him and finding out what he thought about my book. No such luck at the ceremony. However, I emailed him after and he sent me a paragraph. He said: this was the book which more than any other understood the shape that a traditional novel might have and achieved it. It contains many themes, woven together with care, and a narrative shape which allows these to be explored in a way that was frequently satisfying and illuminating. What it lacked at this stage, we thought, was the psychological depth of character which was needed to bring the story truly to life.....

So I emailed him back and begged him to tell me if this lovely paragraph was just more empty flattery and I should start my next novel or could I really fix this thing. And he recommended the Writers' Workshop. Said they'd help me and if it was good enough they'd help me find the perfect agent. So now I wait.

shaldna
12-09-2011, 04:44 PM
Recently at a local writer's group that I popped into, the guest speaker for the evening was the owner of a Manuscript Assessment Service and also owner of POD business.

She started her talk with 'no new author will get published in Australia without first having their MS assessed' and 'no new author will be published by traditional publishers in Australia unless they've self-published - just like Matthew Reilly did'. Every person in that room nodded as if they've heard the wisdom before.

That woman is a tool.

And this is why I get so angry at people who feed new and inexperienced authors shit.



At the end of the sales pitch I introduced myself as a new author who landed an agent and traditional publisher without having to go through a manuscript assessment. Her response - 'You're the first I ever heard of. Must have slipped through the cracks.'

Guess she didn't want you letting the other writers know the truth.

The sad thing is that so many of those people there will believe her and their careers will suffer untold damage from it.

areteus
12-09-2011, 05:23 PM
I agree with a lot of what has been said on here about not paying for anything you can get for free (or at least putting a ms through as many free avenues as you can before you consider paying for an assessment).

One thing I will say, however, is that beta reading is not free. Ok, you don't pay any cash to someone to beta read your ms and to some that may be free but consider that most beta relationships are on the basis of 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine' in that if someone betas your ms they will expect you to beta theirs at some point... now, how cheap that is depends on how much cash value you put on your time :)

The story above about a manuscript assessor giving a talk... my first thought on that was regarding the massive bias in the source. She wants people to sign up for her service so of course she is going to tell them that there is no other way :)

If you do choose to use a paid service (after exhuasting all the options and frankly I'd get a beta read, do some edits myself, submit and then consider paid options if there was no luck there) then definitely look at the rep of the person involved and treat them the same as you would an agent or publisher - i.e. research the hell out of them and maybe post here in the bewares section asking for any info about them...