A manuscript appraisal is optional. You do not need to have your manuscript appraised. If you are confident with your writing, your story, and you feel ready to move on, go for it. If you would like to create the best possible version of your manuscript, keep reading.
An appraisal usually happens after beta-reading, which can be done by your writing friends and often involves a manuscript exchange.
Why should you have your manuscript appraised?
- You’ll have a better product to submit to publishers or to publish yourself.
- You’ll learn about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
- It reduces the time spent rewriting.
- It is done by a qualified person who will give you an objective and constructive report.
When should you have your manuscript appraised?
You will learn a lot about your writing from an appraisal, but do not expect it to take the place of a good writing course. If you are still at the beginning stage of your writing journey, and you have to choose between a course and an appraisal, a course will be better for you. If you have been writing for a while and feel confident to share your work, and you are comfortable with the basic theory of creative writing, an appraisal will help.
Ask yourself, is your manuscript the best that you can make it? Are you satisfied with your story, but feel that something you cannot identify is missing? Are you worried about structure or do you want an objective, professional evaluation of your work? Then it may be time for an appraisal.
Are you ready for a manuscript appraisal?
Receiving feedback is a big step for any writer. I will be kind, but honest. When I submit my own work that is what I expect and I have assumed the same about you. I will help you identify the good parts of your story and I will show you where you can improve.
A manuscript appraisal, or assessment, is also called a critique, but I prefer the word appraisal. An appraisal will highlight the strengths and provide suggestions to improve weaker areas.
A good appraisal can shed new light on problem areas. It highlights inconsistencies or holes in the plot. It helps identify unnecessary or unbelievable characters. It can point out important descriptions and setting details versus padding. You get the idea.
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If you want a quotation for an appraisal, please click here: Appraisals
Testimonials for manuscript appraisals
Sometimes when we find something truly wonderful we want to scream about it from the mountain tops. Other times we want to guard it jealously and hide it away, knowing when the secret gets out you will have to share it with others. Mia Botha is that hidden gem I want everyone to know about, but wish I didn’t have to share her with the rest of the writing world. I’d love to quietly sit back and take all the praise for her sharp insights, and intuition, but I know the world will discover her. Talent can’t be hidden forever, and exceptional talent can’t be held back at all. Mia took my manuscript and didn’t just read it, she became invested in the characters, the plot, the setting and helped me bring them to life on paper in a way that they had only lived in my head and heart. She took an extraordinary amount of time to ferret out my real story to keep my manuscript focused, not to mention commercially viable. There is a secret formula to getting your manuscript noticed by agents and publishers and Mia knows it. I can’t thank her enough for making my first novel a reality, and making me a better writer in the process. Thank you Mia, I wish I could keep you all to myself.
I just want to tell you I have gone through your notes for the second time. They are so valuable. I have wanted a thorough reading ever since I finished my manuscript and have given it to a few friends but only received cursory “atta boys”. I knew there was a lot lacking. I needed the critique you have given it.
I submitted my long-languishing manuscript to Mia for an honest appraisal, looking for ideas and suggestions where to take the story. She read it with such close scrutiny that she seemed to know the characters better than me and saw immediately how a slightly different overall scenario would best suit the motivation of the characters, enabling me to resolve a number of plot issues. Her overall assessment and annotated script have given me a lot to work with and the confidence that using her suggestions, and they are only suggestions – there is no pressure or imposition of her views on your story, I will be able to write a second more viable draft. Her inputs were invaluable and I’m sure without them my story would still be in that bottom draw.
Writing is a creative process, a gift to authors, wordsmiths and poets, who expose their all to hidden audiences. And in turn, appraisers, editors are the guardians, the carers, of those who travel far and wide to create the wonderful books, stories and poems released into the Universe. Mia is a good guardian
I sent you a short story of mine called “The Dress” for a manuscript appraisal some time ago. I was very happy with the outcome and I rewrote my story based on your advice. I thought that I would let you know that it has recently been accepted for publication by a UK website!
Mia’s honest appraisal of my short story, ‘A White Lie’ was great. The suggestions she made on how to improve it were valid and very clearly laid out. They are definitely suggestions I will be working on.
The appraisal was thoughtful and thorough and has given me advice I can refer back to in future.
I’ve always had people telling me I write well. But Mia’s advice gave me what I had been pining for – an honest appraisal with practical tips on how to use dialogue, body language, setting and unique descriptions to improve my writing.
The appraisal was competent, and thorough. It really helped me to see where I can improve my writing and inspired me to try harder. I can recommend this service to anyone that wants an honest, yet sensitive appraisal without the fear that they will be ridiculed or short changed.
Your appraisal offered more than I expected, was honest, positive and professional and has motivated me to spend more time writing and more importantly editing and polishing.
Mia has been beta reader/ mentor/ all-around awesome and kind human being – she was the first person to review the very first draft of #HowManyHellos and played a critical role.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I really appreciate this feedback, it is invaluable.
General Manuscript Appraisal Information
What can you expect when you have your manuscript appraised?
Each appraiser has a different process and offers different forms of feedback. Make sure you know what to expect. I have used my own process as an example, I cannot speak for others, but this how I do appraisals and what I recommend.
Know who will be doing the appraisal.
- Companies often have teams of appraisers. Be sure you know who will be reading your work.
- If the appraiser is a freelancer, spend some time researching them.
- Make sure the person reading your work is someone who teaches creative writing or is an experienced manuscript evaluator. Just because someone reads a lot or did a semester of English Lit, does not mean they can give you guidance.
- Google the person or the company, check their website and read their bios and check their reviews.
Know what format the feedback will take.
- A fiction appraisal discusses and evaluates how you applied or subverted the theory of fiction.
- It should highlight the strengths and pinpoint the weaker areas of the manuscript.
- Most appraisers offer a report and, depending on the length of the manuscript, this will be a few thousand words.
- Each appraiser has their own process and format. For example, I use both a written report and detailed comments throughout the manuscript itself. I return two documents to the writer. This helps me explain the theory and the feedback in general and in detail. Once the writer has read the documents, we meet online to discuss any questions the writer may still have.
- The appraiser can suggest a way to fix some problem areas, but they should only be suggestions.
- The appraiser should not rewrite your work. They might offer examples though.
What and how much will the appraiser read?
- Most appraisers charge per word or per page. If you are paying for the whole manuscript that is what must be read.
- Most appraisers will read it at least twice or three times, and will reread some sections several times, should it be needed.
How long will an appraisal take?
- The reading is the most time-consuming part of the process and it is repeated several times.
- Keep in mind this is not a casual read. The appraiser does not kick back with a cuppa on the couch, but instead sits upright at their desk and reads your manuscript as if it is the most important piece of writing ever. You’ve shared something very special with the appraiser, and it is an honour to be one of the first people to read a story. It is also a great responsibility.
- Discuss timelines with the appraiser. Most of the time, my appraisals are booked a few weeks in advance. I usually save 4-6 weeks for a full-length manuscript. This includes reading time, and time to ‘step away’ from the work, and time to make the comments and write the report as well.
What will a manuscript appraisal cost?
- This varies from appraiser to appraiser. They may ask for a short sample of your work before they calculate a price.
- Most appraisers charge per word or per page. Make sure you know what they offer and what to expect.
What is not included?
My Terms and Conditions state the following.
- I do not edit the manuscript.
- I do not represent publishers.
- This is an advisory service and cannot guarantee that the manuscript will be published. The appraisal is a signpost towards creating a publishable manuscript.
You should not, at this stage, be considering editing, proofreading, or grammar fixes. I do mark typos and highlight glaring mistakes, but that is more force of habit and not the purpose of an appraisal.
What to watch out for:
- The only people who can offer you publication is a publisher. Beware of people who claim affiliation with publishers and promise publication. Research is important.
- Check their terms and conditions. Be careful if they have none.
- Be careful if you cannot find this person on the internet or if you can’t find reviews or recommendations from previous clients.
- Many self-publishing companies offer critique services, but again, do your research. Remember, they get their money regardless of the quality of the work you submit.
In conclusion, an appraisal is an investment in your writing and in yourself. Financially, it is a big investment. Use it as a tool to improve and bring you closer to publication, but only do so when you are ready. Good writing comes from learning and practice.