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Defining the role of a Manuscript Assessor

September 16, 2009

manuscriptPublishers do not have the time or resources to nurture or develop authors and manuscripts as once perhaps they may have had. Many have been quoted in admitting that they will only show interest in a submission which is more than

95% ready to print. It is therefore up to the author, more than ever, to have their manuscripts in the best shape before submission and this requires expert advice and assistance. The place a manuscript assessor has been long shrouded in uncertainty; but it is with these professional people that your masterpiece can be honestly reviewed and assisted on its way toward being published.

Your first port of call, after you have self edited and perhaps had a trusted friend or colleague edit or look over your manuscript, is to have it assessed. From there, after working on the suggestions they have submitted, you find an editor who suits your style, genre and expectations and begin the process of working with them to polish your work to the standard required for submission and publication. Similarly, if you were looking at going into business or starting a franchise, you would seek specific and professional advice, if you are serious about getting published, ensure you have a budget to cover professional advice.

What is a Manuscript Assessor?

Its an assessment is a health/ direction check of what you have written.  Simply put, an assessor will assist in developing  an authors work to the potential where it can be edited and presented then to a publishing company or a literary agent for representation. A reputable assessor will supply you with a report and a copy of your manuscript with text notes and cross referencing throughout it.  Its then up to the author to work by themselves – or with the assessor ( at an extra charge)  to re-edit their work utilizing the report they are given.

What does an Assessor Do?

The Assessor will supply an extensive report which will look at structure, storyline development, character development, pacing, language usage and the consistency you utilize within your language. Some assessors will also note any legal (liable) issues they may feel are attached to the work.  Some of the things an assessor may also comment on is the pageturnability and general audience acceptance of the material. An assessors role is to understand the essence of the story and the work you have submitted. If they are unable to identify it, then its likely the author is unsure and its certain that the public will be confused as well. A simple way of identifying the essence of your work is to finish this sentence. “This is a story about………. (using up to 15 extra words to complete)”

Whats the Cost?

Assessors generally work per word count, with the usual fees for an 80k manuscript around US$300 – $600. Most countries have voluntary professional bodies for Assessors which have strict membership guidelines and codes of conduct. A professional Assessor will have testimonies and examples of their reports and work readily available upon enquiry.

There are a number of different types of manuscript assessors, some specializing in specific genres or formats, others generalists. Assessors are not necessarily authors but tend to have worked extensively in the publishing field in order to have relevant experience for their reporting. Ensure you have identified exactly what feedback and service you require when you being your search for one of these people.  Regardless if  you are looking to self publish or go down the more traditional paths of publishing, an assessor will  ensure your manuscript is at its best to be presented to whilst giving you detailed feedback with practical tasks and strategies for improvement.

Information was gathered through an open mike interview with three Manuscript Assessors at a recent writers festival.

Next week, I’ll define the role of an editor.

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Manuscript Image by El Chupacabrito via Flickr

Annie Evetts head boggles at the multitude of steps, hoops and rigmorol it appears to take to get published.. remind me why we write again?  ..Catch her growing amount of websites and blogs here

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2 Comments
  1. September 17, 2009 3:04 pm

    $300 to $600 for an 80k manuscript? I urge you to rethink these figures. It takes hours and hours just to *read* 80k words, let alone think about what the author’s done and write a comprehensive critique, or even an overview critique. I typically spend at least a week with a book-length manuscript–usually much longer than that. Minimum wage jobs pay about $300 for a week’s work. I think this kind of work is worth a lot more than that.

  2. September 22, 2009 8:00 am

    I’d definalty have to agree with you on that Paula. Its a lot of work to read someones work and then to give thoughtful and meaningful feedback. The figure came from an open mike session where three manuscript assessors were speaking to writers about their proffessions services. I would suspect that the amount quoted would be at the lower end of the spectrum and that extra services would obviously be more costly.

    http://www.qwc.asn.au/Portals/0/QWC%20Files/Resource%20Sheets/QWC%20Manuscript%20Development%20Assessment%205.pdf

    will give some more information on Assessors and can also guide you to the Australian Literary Association where there are guidelines to payrates – not dissimilar to that in the article

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