Manuscript assessments: sample feedback and FAQs


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Because every book varies, our approach to editing does, too. We never try to impose a rigid format on you and your work. But to give you an idea of what your manuscript appraisal might look like, we've posted some examples below.


The reports are all drawn from recent examples, with details changed to protect the authors' privacy. The reports are condensed for the web, but the original word count is given below. Our manuscript assessments are a minimum of 3,000 words (for full length manuscripts) but may be much longer. See our editorial guarantee here.

Please also note that we deal with every genre and every stage of development. What follows is just a sample. If you want to learn more about editorial feedback, you can find it here. And do see the bottom of the page for some common FAQs.

Click report title to view!

  Fire Daughter A strong novel about surrogacy and IVF.
  Enemy on the Bridge A historical adventure novel.
  Short Stories 3 short stories, by a writer just starting out.
  Rembrandt's Rubies A sophisticated thriller - very close to marketable.
  The Lamps of Paris A literary women's novel set in Paris.
  The Book of Forgetting A fantasy novel for young adults. (2nd report)
  Destructive Forces Short report on a novel's opening chapter


Frequently asked questions

What does a manuscript assessment actually do for me and my book?
A manuscript assessment is basically the gold-standard way to edit and improve your work. Your editor (who will be a professional author or a former commissioning editor at a major publishing house) will read your work in full and give you:

  • A brief description of what's already working fine,
  • A much more detailed guide to what isn't yet working right, and
  • detailed, practical advice on how to fix the things that are causing problems.

By the time you've absorbed the advice you should have a very clear idea of what your book needs and should feel very positive about your ability to do it. Obviously every editing assignment varies and authors are at very different stages of their careers, so it's tremendously hard to offer a standard template for what editorial feedback might look like in your case - but if you explore the examples above, you'll get a sense of the possible range.

Why can't you just do a hands-on edit of my book and give me something that's ready to publish?
It's just not that easy, alas. Nearly all the manuscripts we see have some kind of structural issue. That might be a matter of plotting, or pacing, or characterisation, or indeed plenty of other things besides. Those things basically have to be dealt with by the author if the author's own vision is to be properly realised.

Indeed, we work the same way that every publisher does. An author's editor at a publishing house won't make hands on changes, but will give detailed advice to the author about what needs fixing. That's the right way to work, and its how we strongly prefer to do it.

I want a critique but I haven't completed my book. Is that OK?
Yes. We're happy to work with incomplete MSS - though bear in mind that a writing course can also be a good way to develop your writing if you're a relative beginner. It's your call which you go for.

I've completed my book, and I just want someone to review my agent submission pack. Is that OK?
Yes, of course. Though bear in mind that agents - if they like your opening - will ask for the full manuscript, so it sometimes makes more sense to go for a full assessment upfront. Again, it's your call.

Can I pick my editor?
It normally makes sense for us to choose your editor: we know better than you do who's available and the strengths and interests of particular individuals. But if there's someone who really catches your eye, do let us know. We're always happy to help. If you want to review our editorial team feel free to browse our Fiction editors, our non-fiction editors, our children's book editors and our very fine film consultants.

I know my book is OK so can you just help me get an agent?
No! You don't know your book is OK, unless you have a signed publication contract staring up at you. The process of securing a literary agent always has to begin with editorial excellence. Celebs aside, there are no exceptions to this rule.

I don't want editorial feedback, I just want someone to fix my punctuation.
We do provide good and low cost copyediting (available here), and if you are heading for self-publication, then it's OK to pay for copyediting. If you want regular publication, however, it's seldom the case that it makes sense to pay for copyediting. Contact us if you need to discuss this further.


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