What is a manuscript appraisal?
A manuscript appraisal is when an author hands their work in progress to a professional editor who reads it and evaluates it. Most manuscript appraisal services include a written report of one or two pages with commentary on plot, characters, pace and writing quality and style.
This appraisal allows authors to get an idea of what aspects need improving and what their next steps should be. A manuscript appraisal can let authors know early on whether it would be worth sending the book to literary agents or if the book is more suited to self-publishing.
In a chapter-by-chapter appraisal the editor reads several chapters of the book and makes a comment on each one. They will comment on how the emerging plot, the character development and any pacing or writing issues. For a non-fiction book, this might include comments on structure and content. This feedback can help authors improve their work and give them insights into how readers will receive the book once it is released.
Some authors want to get detailed, honest, constructive feedback on their entire book, while others prefer to focus the editor’s attention on particularly tricky chapters. This is appropriate for books which are not yet at the final draft stage.
Final manuscript review
In this review, the reviewer will not necessarily read every chapter and instead spend time reading extracts. They will then give feedback on the quality of the writing and commentary on the outline of the plot / structure of content, writing style, and technical issues.
An author needs to submit a book outline (synopsis) as the editor isn’t fully reading the text. This gives the editor a clue as to what is going on. Without it, they can’t comment on plot or character development.
Which to choose?
A chapter-by-chapter appraisal allows authors to receive more focused, targeted feedback but a briefer appraisal allows the writer to get a broad overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the work more quickly and inexpensively.
Either type of review might be appropriate during the early stages of writing, or as publication approaches. An author might also seek reviews at more than one stage.