by Qate Blanjett
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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