Is a Manuscript Assessment Worth the Investment?

In this post, I explore what a manuscript assessment is, what its advantages and disadvantages are and how it differs from a developmental edit.

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Why a manuscript assessment?

A full developmental edit can be invaluable, especially for a first-time author. The detailed, objective feedback provides a fresh perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of your writing skills. It also looks at the overall structure of your novel and how it can be improved.

But there is no denying it can be expensive.

As a first-time indie author, having an editing budget is almost certainly a big consideration, especially with no guarantee of generating an income from your writing.

An alternative way to find out where your writing is at and which won’t break the bank, is a manuscript assessment (also known as a manuscript critique, review, appraisal, evaluation or structural report).

What ?

A manuscript assessment is a paid-for service provided by an editor. A good assessment will:

  • Give objective and constructive feedback.
  • Build confidence by pointing out your writing strengths as well its weaknesses.
  • Give an honest opinion as to whether the book is ready for the next stage of editing
  • Provide suggestions on how to improve aspects of your craft
  • Advise on how to research your target audience in order to improve your novel’s selling potential

It is usually presented in the format of an editor’s report with very little to no annotation directly on the manuscript.

The editor’s report will likely be broken down into sections focusing on aspects such as plot, characterisation, dialogue, character arc and pace, and provides suggestions on areas where improvement is needed.

After reading through the report, you should feel as if you have a clear idea of the next steps to take to move your novel along.


It’s best to wait until you’ve completed a thorough self-edit of your novel and if possible, after it has gone through its beta reads.

If you are looking for feedback for an incomplete story, you’d be better off finding a critiquing partner, or writing group.

What are the advantages of a manuscript assessment?

  • Unbiased and objective feedback (something you wouldn’t get from friends and or family)
  • Less financial investment than a developmental edit, so affordable for writers with a smaller editing budget.
  • The benefit of an experienced editor’s expertise and knowledge
  • Receiving the feedback within a couple of weeks of the date they start work. (NB This will be dependent on the length of your work, its complexity and your editor’s schedule)
  • Increased confidence

What are the disadvantages of a manuscript assessment?

  • No comments are made directly on the manuscript so it is not as detailed as a full developmental edit
  • The editor’s report won’t give extensive examples of how to fix any issues
  • It is usually a one-off service although some editors may offer follow-up calls and emails at an extra cost
  • There is no guarantee your novel will be published (although this is true of any of the editing stages)

Once you have decided that a manuscript assessment is the right choice for you, your next step is to find an editor.

How to choose an editor

It’s important to choose an editor who has knowledge of the genre you write in. This means they will understand the conventions of that particular genre and advise on the marketability of your work.

The most experienced editors will attract a premium rate for their services, but there are others with smaller portfolios who still have a lot of knowledge and insight to offer and who charge a lower rate.

The best advice is to contact a few and see who you feel you can work with. Having a good relationship with your editor will benefit you as a writer and help your work to reach its full potential.

I hope you’ve found this post useful and helped you decide whether investing in a manuscript critique is for you.

I’ve added some more resources below on manuscript assessments and on where to find an editor.

Feel free to leave me a comment and if you think this post has been useful, please like and share.

More resources

Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading Directory

Alliance of Independent Authors

Tracey Chick is a freelance editor and book coach specialising in historical fiction (including gothic and myth based fiction), adult fairy tales and memoir.

She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

Visit her website at Tracey Chick, connect on Twitter at @WriterTjcLinkedIn and Facebook.

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