So you’ve finished rewriting your book, but you still feel that you need some help. In this post, we look at the appraisal – and why you should definitely have one done.
A while ago, I wrote a post about 5 Things That Happen After You’ve Typed THE END, and since then I’ve received many questions about all the steps and processes. I thought it may be worthwhile to explore each step in a little more detail. Last week we covered Step 1: The Final Draft & Rewriting. In this post, we look at Step 2: The Appraisal.
Step 2 | The Appraisal
The Appraisal is an optional step. You do not need to have your manuscript appraised. If you are confident with your writing, your story, and you feel ready to move on, go for it. If you would like to create the best possible version of your manuscript, keep reading.
An appraisal usually happens after beta-reading, which can be done by your writing friends and often involves a manuscript exchange.
Why should you have your manuscript appraised?
- You’ll have a better product to submit to publishers or to publish yourself.
- You’ll learn about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
- It reduces time spent rewriting.
- It is done by a qualified person who will give you an objective and constructive report.
When should you have your manuscript appraised?
You will learn a lot about your writing from an appraisal, but do not expect it to take the place of a good writing course. If you are still at the beginning stage of your writing journey, and you have to choose between a course and an appraisal, a course will be better for you. If you have been writing for a while and feel confident to share your work, and you are comfortable with the basic theory of creative writing, an appraisal will help.
Ask yourself, is your manuscript the best that you can make it? Are you satisfied with your story, but feel that something you cannot identify is missing? Are you worried about structure or do you want an objective, professional evaluation of your work? Then it may be time for an appraisal.
If you want a quotation for an appraisal, please click here: Appraisals
What can you expect when you have your manuscript appraised?
Each appraiser has a different process and offers different forms of feedback. Make sure you know what to expect. I have used my own process as an example, I cannot speak for others, but this how I do appraisals and what I recommend.
1. Know who will be doing the appraisal.
- Companies often have teams of appraisers. Be sure you know who will be reading your work.
- If the appraiser is a freelancer, spend some time researching them.
- Make sure the person reading your work is someone who teaches creative writing or is an experienced manuscript evaluator. Just because someone reads a lot or did a semester of English Lit, does not mean they can give you guidance.
- Google the person or the company, check their website and read their bios and check their reviews.
2. Know what format the feedback will take.
- A fiction appraisal discusses and evaluates how you applied or subverted the theory of fiction.
- It should highlight the strengths and pinpoint the weaker areas of the manuscript.
- Most appraisers offer a report and, depending on the length of the manuscript, this will be a few thousand words.
- Each appraiser has their own process and format. For example, I use both a written report and detailed comments throughout the manuscript itself. I return two documents to the writer. This helps me explain the theory and the feedback in general and in detail. Once the writer has read the documents, we meet online to discuss any questions the writer may still have.
- The appraiser can suggest a way to fix some problem areas, but they should only be suggestions.
- The appraiser should not rewrite your work. They might offer examples though.
3. What and how much will the appraiser read?
- Most appraisers charge per word or per page. If you are paying for the whole manuscript that is what must be read.
- Most appraisers will read it at least twice or three times, and will reread some sections several times, should it be needed.
4. How long will an appraisal take?
- The reading is the most time consuming part of the process and it is repeated several times.
- Keep in mind this is not a casual read. The appraiser does not kick back with a cuppa on the couch, but instead sits upright at their desk and reads your manuscript as if it is the most important piece of writing ever. You’ve shared something very special with the appraiser, and it is an honour to be one of the first people to read a story. It is also a great responsibility.
- Discuss timelines with the appraiser. Most of the time, my appraisals are booked a few weeks in advance. I usually save 4-6 weeks for a full length manuscript. This includes reading time, and time to ‘step away’ from the work, and time to make the comments and write the report as well.
5. What will an appraisal cost?
- This varies from appraiser to appraiser. They may ask for a short sample of your work before they calculate a price.
- Most appraisers charge per word or per page. Make sure you know what they offer and what to expect.
- If you want a quotation for an appraisal, please click here: Appraisals
What is not included?
My Terms and Conditions state the following.
- I do not edit the manuscript.
- I do not represent publishers.
- This is an advisory service and cannot guarantee that the manuscript will be published. The appraisal is a signpost towards creating a publishable manuscript.
You should not, at this stage, be considering editing, proofreading, or grammar fixes. I do mark typos and highlight glaring mistakes, but that is more force of habit and not the purpose of an appraisal.
What to watch out for:
- The only people who can offer you publication is a publisher. Beware of people who claim affiliation with publishers and promise publication. Research is important.
- Check their terms and conditions. Be careful if they have none.
- Be careful if you cannot find this person on the internet or if you can’t find reviews or recommendations from previous clients.
- Many self-publishing companies offer critique services, but again, do your research. Remember, they get their money regardless of the quality of the work you submit.
In conclusion, an appraisal is an investment in your writing and in yourself. Financially, it is a big investment. Use it as a tool to improve and bring you closer to publication, but only do so when you are ready. Good writing comes from learning and practice.
In the next post we will discuss editing and learn why an edit is always a good idea. If you have any questions about the appraisal process feel free to ask.
If you want a quotation for an appraisal, please click here: Appraisals
by Mia Botha
Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice
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