Anyone who has ever sent their writing to an agent or publisher will know that nowadays the writer is unlikely to receive much feedback, beyond a generic, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ letter. Not the most helpful thing when you’re trying to confirm if your work is good enough to be published.
There is an alternative, but unfortunately it’s one that doesn’t come cheap. There are plenty of companies out there who will read and review your writing, and if it’s good enough, some will even refer you to an agent. The best known of these is The Literary Consultancy, an established firm who employ a number of writers and writing tutors to provide feedback.
Price generally depends on the length of your work and how detailed you would like the assessment to be.
But is it worth it?
I was reluctant for a long time to pay the money for a professional critique; as a struggling graduate in my first job post-university, I worried that I couldn’t afford the fee. After trying my luck sending out my manuscript to a number of agents and getting little back beyond a couple of encouraging comments, I finally decided to get my work assessed.
I’d used The Literary Consultancy previously, as part of a Fellowship I undertook with the DigitalCity at Teesside University, but I came across a different service on Twitter that intrigued me.
Claire Wingfield offers professional manuscript editing, and I was keen on her service after reading some of the feedback on her website, and seeing that she offered the option to have your full manuscript annotated alongside the standard report.
Her comments definitely helped me to improve my novel. After working heavily on the first three chapters, based on her assessment, Broken Things was shortlisted in a writing competition with Route Publishing.
I was also lucky enough to win a second assessment from The Literary Consultancy, during a publishing workshop run by New Writing North.
For me, one of the main reasons the critiques have been so useful is because they have supported what I already knew about my own work, but wasn’t confident enough to act on. Whether I always want to admit it, I know what the shortcomings of my own work are, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to improve on them. Having an outsider make the same points is helpful, because it reinforces the idea that my instincts are correct.
The problem with e-publishing is that many books will never be read by a professional editor before they are made available for sale. This can only be detrimental. Having your manuscript assessed can only help to improve it.
Having two feedback reports to work from means I know that my book, whilst not perfect, is still a bit more polished than it might otherwise be. And by having the confidence to trust my instincts, and correct the areas of the story that I know aren’t strong enough, I might actually be able to e-publish something halfway decent.