17 September 2010

Professional Manuscript Assessors: Part Two

continued from yesterday Thursday, September 16, 2010 by JJ McConnanchie

Genre is an important element to consider when placing your work in the hands of a professional.  When choosing an agent, you wouldn’t look for someone to rep you if you write fantasy and they only rep romance novels  Think similarly when choosing someone to assess your work.  If writing for young adults, find someone with experience in the young adult market.  If you write historical romances, look for someone who writes historical romances, or has edited a few, or at least someone enjoys reading them.  Steven Roy, author of the soon to be published THE STRANGELANDER, is sceptical of manuscript assessors, but agrees that if you are going to choose someone, “you’ll need someone who has [current] experience in the genre market.”  It is important that the person you choose is on the same page as you.  Otherwise their opinion of your work could be skewed – in the wrong direction.

Where your assessor is based (local or international) is also worth considering.  I live in New Zealand and I looked at getting my manuscript assessed by someone here.  Eventually I decided against specifically looking for a New Zealander.  Firstly, it’s about five times more expensive, but most importantly it is because I am not writing a New Zealand-centric novel.  If I was, picking someone from New Zealand would have become important, but in my case I did not feel that it was necessary for this particular manuscript.  You must find the person who can contribute the most to your writing, no matter where they are in the world.

Prices for manuscript assessments vary wildly (anywhere from 200 USD to 1000 USD and up), but price isn’t always important.  Lee Pletzers, urban fantasy/horror writer of novels including THE LAST CHURCH and THE GAME says of an assessor he is currently working with, “what she has found and her recommendations are worth more than what I paid.”  However you still want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.  Find out what your assessment will entail.  What length of assessment will you get?  Will you have the chance for a follow up discussion?  Some assessors include a light edit for the price.  Do your research and work out exactly what you are paying for to avoid any disappointment.

Mary McCallum, manuscript assessor and author of 2008 Montana NZ Book Award (Best First Book of Prose and Reader’s Choice) winner, THE BLUE, says, “an unpublished writer owes it him or herself to get a practiced eye over it before putting it out there – that way he or she knows it is some of the best work they can do.”  Of course, a professional assessment isn’t guaranteed to get you an agent, or to turn your book into a masterpiece.  She also says, “Some books sink out there, some swim, some fly to the moon and back”, arguing that even if you do get a publisher, that does not mean it will succeed once it is out in the competitive book world.

Regardless of how your book is received, if it does find its way into the wide world, as a writer we all want our work to be the best it can be.  If you do your research and find the right person, a professional assessor could help you improve your writing, your manuscript and perhaps lead you one step closer towards the goal of publication.  But no guarantees.

JJ McConnachie discovered writing about 2 years ago when she realized her musical talent was limited to jamming a few songs on a guitar and decided to leave it that way.  JJ has been an incredible supporter of Peevish Penman and is hands down one the best writer buddies to know online.  She invites writers to connect three ways: 

Tweet me: @WritersBlockNZ
Stalk me: http://writersblocknz.weebly.com/
Read me: http://writersblocknz.weebly.com/blog.html

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