Paying for professional critiques
ONLINE COLUMN: Writing for Children
Published: November 24, 2008
|Will it help my manuscript get published if I pay for a professional critique? |
Yes, it can be helpful to have your manuscript undergo a professional critique. If you have an article or a picture book, send in the entire manuscript. Don't send in the entire manuscript, though, if it's a chapter book, middle-grade novel or YA novel. For these types of titles, a standard three-chapter book proposal is enough.
I worked as an editor for a manuscript-critique service for years. Writers, I found, tend to make the same mistakes page after page after page. It's worth your money only to pay for a professional critique of the first three chapters. Plug in the suggested edits, then follow that advice to improve the rest of your manuscript. Once you've revised your entire manuscript, if you still want to pay for a professional critique, resubmit your revamped three-chapter book proposal. Find out if there are other issues that need to be addressed.
If you decide to pay for a professional critique, be sure to find a critique service that gives value for your bucks as well as positive and encouraging feedback. Another great idea is to pay for an editor to critique your manuscript at a writers conference. Many conferences offer this option. If an editor likes your manuscript, she might ask you to submit it to her.
If you're on a tight budget, though, don't opt to pay for a professional critique until you take your manuscript through various levels of critique. If you're not already in one, get hooked up with a successful critique group today or start your own.
If a critique group can't edit the volume you need quickly enough, network to find at least two other writers who are willing to exchange manuscripts of a similar length. Spend one month reading each others' manuscripts. Write at least two positive comments and one constructive criticism on each page. Keep a notepad to jot down overall suggestions, then meet in person or chat online to discuss strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes it can actually hurt your manuscript to pay for a professional critique. For a manuscript to get published, it must first be targeted to fit a particular publisher like a glove. If you submit your manuscript for a professional critique, chances are you'll get generic suggestions for improvement without an understanding of the specific nuances your target publisher prefers.
If you feel a lack of self-editing skills, sign up as an editor for a manuscript-critique service. Most of your clients will probably be beginning writers, and you'll learn quickly how to more effectively note weak spots in manuscripts. This will help improve your own self-editing skills like nothing else can.
If you're not already a member of one, join or organize a professional critique group of active, published authors in your genre. They'll be able to spot obvious errors in your manuscript.
If you still want to pay, submit your manuscript to someone who has current or past experience with your target publisher. There are a number of critique services available from former editors or agents who can help you fine-tune your manuscript to meet a particular publisher's needs.
--Posted Nov. 24, 2008
Nancy I. Sanders
Nancy I. Sanders is the author of over 75 books, including Readers Theatre for African American History (Libraries Unlimited). Web: www.nancyisanders.com.