Five Must-Know Facts About Manuscript Appraisals

by Qate Blanjett

laughing at book

Manuscript appraisal is one of the cornerstones of the publishing process. It can help you become a better writer and turn your book from a piece of trash even your best friends belittle you for to a best-seller. Simply put, manuscript appraisal is when someone reads an early draft of your book and gives you notes on different structural elements of your story, such as pace, tone, plot, and character.

The feedback you’re given can be life-changing. Many people don’t know this, but George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice was originally a series of cookbooks before a manuscript appraiser convinced him to turn in into the medieval fantasy saga we all know and love today.

Below, I ask and answer five questions about manuscript appraising which I think hope illuminate the process to the uninitiated.

Do I need a manuscript appraisal?

This is an important question to ask yourself. The short answer is, if you haven’t written a book and don’t want to be an author, then no. If so, then yes. The long answer is the same thing but written in a more long-winded, roundabout way that someone who does manuscript appraisal can help you make more concise.

What kind of appraisal service should I choose?

With the rise of digital publishing, more and more appraisal services have been sprouting up. But how is an inexperienced author supposed to know who to choose? Generally speaking, it’s more convenient to pick somebody local, but if you have a small budget, outsourcing the job to West Africa is another good option. Still, you have to be careful. Some red flags to look for:

  • Companies that require a blood sample
  • Companies that don’t have or know what a “website” is
  • Companies that offer an appraisal within 24 hours
  • Businesses registered as toothpaste manufacturers for tax purposes
  • Testimonials that refer to the company as a “bunch of shitheads”
  • Companies that only offer appraisals in the form of “would bang” and “would not bang”

How do I know if my manuscript is ready for appraisal?

Ideally, you’d like to have the best possible draft of your work ready when you start to appraise. But more realistically, you’re a really shitty writer, which is why you’re doing the whole appraisal thing in the first place. So just get to where ever you feel is good and let the people you’re paying do the hard work.

What sort of feedback can you expect?

This is a tough one. Because you’re really just tossing a coin. Some appraisers are less professional than others, and will resort to personal attacks and name calling. They’ll say your ideas are “borderline genocidal” and “a symptom of the decline of political debate in this country.” More level-headed appraisers will be more constructive and positive, telling you “you’re one of the ones who gets it” and “not afraid to offend the snowflakes.”

What should I include when sending in my manuscript for appraisal?

Below I’ve compiled a list of the definitely yeses, definitely nos and definitely maybes.

Definitely Yes

  • Your manuscript
  • A cover letter
  • A killer mixtape
  • A short synopsis
  • Some chocolates or other types of sweets
  • An author bio that forgoes some of your more personal beliefs, such as that of your views on miscegenation

Definitely No

  • Hair and most other types of human remains
  • Somebody else’s manuscript
  • A copy of an already published best-seller
  • Erotic photography of the author
  • A personal manifesto that definitely includes your views on miscegenation

Definitely Maybe

  • Deer hair
  • An assortment of jerked meats
  • An author bio that explains your fragile mental state and likelihood to resort to self-harm when faced with criticism
  • Erotic photography of an attractive person
  • Your return address

10 Big Mistakes New Authors Make

by Truitt Collyns


1. Limiting your marketing venues

With the rise of digital platforms most new authors know to take advantage of online social media marketing (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Breitbart), but most stop there. And in doing so, you prevent yourself from reaching so many key demographics: the elderly, Luddites, obese people with fingers too fat to type, the poor, convicts without access to electronics, people who never really considered owning a phone or computer, or even those who prefer spending time outdoors. But fortunately, there’s many other marketing avenues available even to the most inexperienced authors that will give your work the necessary exposure. Try, for example, taking a printed copy of your book to your local library and reading it loudly in a crowded area. If it’s a comedy, make sure to laugh boisterously at your own jokes, and if it’s horror, scream during the most intense sections. If time is not a factor for you, consider transcribing your first few chapters in chalk on the sidewalk, preferably in your town’s highest foot traffic areas. And if money is not a factor, skywriting is another option.

2. Writing for fun

Simply put, writing is a job, no different than being a doctor, plumber or general secretary of the United Nations. And just like those jobs, it’s a soul-crushing, mind-numbing endeavor that will make you question the purpose of your existence daily. And although if you have the talent and put in the hard work it’s likely to pay more than any of those jobs, it’s still not something anyone would consider fun. So if you’re going to quit your day job to write full time, make sure you’re doing it for the money and fame and not because you think it’ll be easier and more relaxing than teaching autistic children how to read.

3. Getting a professional book cover

You’ve all heard the maxim “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s one of the first things they teach you in school. That’s right: Even little children know that you’ve got to look inside a book to know if it’s worth reading. Yet new authors will pay hundreds of dollars to graphic artists to design a book cover, when that money could be spent on more important things, like food stamps, alimony or insulin.

4. Forgetting to cultivate your image

Just like musicians and actors, authors aren’t really selling their books – they’re selling themselves. Experts say that after the title and the first chapter, the most important part of your book is the author photo. Readers want to relate to the people telling them stories. Do you think Stephen King would be nearly as popular as he is if he didn’t inspire people by showing them that even hideously ugly people could attain fame and fortune? And what’s more likely: that people like Dan Brown for his sharp blazer/sweater combos, or for his writing? And JK Rowling showed millions around the world that you could be a successful author and a woman.

5. Disregarding the competition

Most new authors feel their work can succeed on its own merits. They tell themselves that so long as my story is well-written and people can relate to it, I’ll have done my job. But real authors know how cutthroat this industry is. To get ahead, you’ve got to be willing to go on the offense. Let’s say I’m a prospective buyer and I’m looking for a new sci-fi adventure story. Am I just going to pick a book at random? More likely, I’ll choose work by an author who doesn’t support ISIS, or whose writing doesn’t “suck a bag of dongs.” People forget Robert Ludlum rose to prominence after publicly decrying Tom Clancy’s use of “underage orphan ghost writers.”

6. Forgetting to tell your publisher to get an IBSN

7. Putting page numbers in the middle of pages instead of at the bottom

8. Not paying tribute to any of the myriad satanic secret societies to which so many agents and editors at New York publishing houses belong

9. Using the “hunt and peck” method of typing.

10. Forgetting that agents and publicists are open to bribes, blackmail and extortion. 

Five Tips for Writers Considering Self-Publishing – And More Tips

by Truitt Collyns 

cash money

Let me set the scene – perhaps it’s a familiar one. You’re sitting at your desk one morning, an open bottle of vodka to one side, a loaded pistol to the other. Your manuscript has just been rejected by your favorite publisher, such as, for example, Dragon Eagle Publishing. But even though a full day of raucous drinking and gunplay should cheer you up, it’s not going to introduce your masterwork to a larger audience.

So perhaps it’s time to consider self-publishing. But first,  reflect on why your story was rejected in the first place. For example, did you know that more than 75 percent of manuscripts Dragon Eagle receives are rejected solely because the author had an ugly-sounding name? Names like Jett, Shadow, Kirisitiana? That’s your aiming for – none of this John, Herman, Virginia or Gertrude nonsense. But it’s not always the name. For example, maybe you had some beta readers – friends, family, co-workers – appraise your work. Did any of them describe it as “bad,” or “not good,” or “not worth publishing?” Have any refused to talk to you since? Well, maybe that’s a sign you still need to make some minor tweaks.

But let’s say you got a great pseudonym, a clever title and a story people can at least feign interest in to maintain your personal relationships. Here’s some tips and information about the world of self-publishing we hope can guide you.

1. Do your research

This is probably the most important step your self-publishing journey because not all ebooks are created equal and not every solution is going to work for your project. Therefore, when you Google “How to Self-Publish My Ebook” don’t just look at the first page of results. This is going to require you to go to all the way to page 6 or 7. (Unless, of course, your settings are different and you don’t just get the standard ten results per page).

2. Your local neighborhood library is a great resource…

… of cheap labor because of its large homeless population. You can have these people write and post reviews to Amazon, Lulu and Goodreads, create ad copy, and even design covers if you hit the jackpot and stumble across a former art major and mother of three whose house recently burned down due to faulty wiring.

3. Promote your book

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Once your book is ready to upload, you’re going to need to spread the word. So get to it.

4. Remember that books aren’t sandwiches.

This is an important one when considering your audience and their needs. Keep in mind, sandwiches are just something to provide humans with nourishment and energy. Books are also not washing machines, tiny umbrellas you put in cocktails, nice fleece blankets or 2008 Honda CR-V’s. A person who needs those things doesn’t necessarily need your book. (Books are, however, a well-maintained ceiling fan).

5. Consider marrying into a rich family, or waiting until you make your first million, to start publishing

6. Or, failing that, consider all possible corporate tie-ins

7. Make sure you’re using the subjunctive correctly

8. Enter every contest, even if your book doesn’t fit the topic. Trust me, the National Jewish Writing Society doesn’t want to read any more about the Holocaust.

9. Be the smartest, loudest and preferably tallest member of every writing organization you join.

10. You’re almost there.

So you’ve done everything we’ve said. You did your marketing research and promotion, you’ve created a cover, everything’s formatted, you know who your audience is and you feel success is on it way.

Well, you couldn’t be more right, because the next thing you’re going to do is hit the “Cancel Publishing” button, not upload your book to the platform and ask for a refund if you need to. Because you’ve passed the test and shown Dragon Eagle Publishing you’ve got what it takes to make it in this business.

Send everything to us and we’ll get the contract prepped and ready to sign. Welcome to the Dragon Eagle family, Mr. (or possibly Mrs.) Writer. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?