Writing a book (whether it’s a novel, narrative nonfiction like a memoir or biography, or a nonfiction book such as a business book or textbook) is an emotionally taxing experience. For weeks, months, or even years, you can spend countless hours pouring your heart and soul into every page. And after all that hard work, one simple question can be enough to keep you up at night – Is my book any good?

Thankfully, a manuscript appraisal is an excellent way of answering that question. An appraisal provides professional, in-depth feedback from an experienced editor. Whether you want to self-publish your book or take the nerve-wracking step of submitting your manuscript to a traditional publisher, this feedback can help you to fine-tune your writing.

So what exactly is a manuscript appraisal and how can it help you to address any weaknesses in your writing?

Manuscript appraisals – a useful first step on your publishing journey

A manuscript appraisal involves a professional editor evaluating your writing and providing unbiased feedback to help you to improve your book. While copyediting deals with the finer details of your written content, including grammar, punctuation and spelling, a manuscript appraisal focuses more on the narrative elements of your novel or the way in which you’ve structured your nonfiction book.

The editor will read through your entire manuscript before compiling a detailed, objective report. A manuscript appraisal will point out your strengths and weaknesses as a writer by evaluating specific areas in your novel that require more attention such as the plot, characters, pacing, and dialogue. If you’ve written a nonfiction book, a manuscript appraisal can help ensure that your text consistently remains relevant to your specific subject area rather than going off on unnecessary tangents.

In the case of fiction writers, your draft manuscript might have a groundbreaking, original plot that’s let down by underdeveloped characters. Or your characters might be endearing and relatable, only to be hampered by a slow narrative pace or unrealistic dialogue. By having a professional editor assess your fiction manuscript, you’ll get direct feedback from someone who knows what’s involved in creating an engaging story.

For nonfiction writers, it’s important to retain a consistent theme throughout your book. You’ve chosen your book’s topic for a reason, but it can be very easy to get bogged down in too much exposition or loosely-related but superfluous diversions. Getting a manuscript appraisal from an experienced editor can help you to stay focused and keep your written content on track.

Advantages of a manuscript appraisal

Asking friends and family to read your draft manuscript has its merits but it usually doesn’t result in unbiased feedback. Those people closest to you are unlikely to provide critical feedback because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

While reading any form of criticism of your writing can be challenging, it’s also the best way to refine your narrative and develop as a writer. An experienced editor will deliver independent feedback tactfully and honestly that will help you to identify how to take your manuscript to the next level.

After potentially spending years of your life working on your book, it’s easy to become too close to your writing. While being passionate about your story is great, you could be overlooking some glaring issues. A manuscript appraisal will expose your writing to a fresh, impartial pair of eyes. This is a crucial step to receiving honest, constructive feedback.

A manuscript appraisal can also help you maximise the marketing potential of your book, particularly if you’ve decided to go the self-publishing route. The appraising editor can provide feedback as to how suitable they think your manuscript is for your target audience or market. This invaluable insight can help you identify how readers and/or publishers might respond to your book.

Manuscript appraisal process in action

Once you’ve submitted your Word manuscript to your editor, they will do a complete read-through of your written text. The next step involves compiling an in-depth report about your book’s narrative elements and your writing style. Each section of the report will include some initial suggestions whihc are designed to help you act on the appraisal feedback.

Most manuscript appraisal services also offer a follow-up mentoring session with the editor. This allows you to discuss the appraisal report findings with the editor via a phone or Zoom conversation – the perfect opportunity for you to clarify any points you didn’t understand.

When should you get an appraisal of your manuscript?

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to the best time for you to consider commissioning a professional editor to critique your book manuscript. While most authors will consider getting a manuscript appraisal once they think their book is finished, others are keen for helpful advice at different stages of the writing process.

Even if you’re only a few chapters in, a manuscript appraisal can still be useful. You might have a fantastic initial idea but you’re not sure how to develop it. Likewise, if you’re struggling to finish your book, a manuscript appraisal may help you put together the final pieces of the puzzle.

The fee for most manuscript appraisal services is based by word count or per page so you can submit as much or as little of your book as you want. A professional appraisal can help you develop and refine your manuscript – whichever stage you’re currently at with it.

What are best options for a manuscript appraisal?

There are plenty of manuscript appraisal services on offer but it’s worth spending a bit of time finding one that matches your ultimate goals for your book. Spend some time comparing quotes from different providers and take into account any other professional book publishing services they offer.

Once you’ve chosen an appraisal service, you’re ready to take the next step on the road towards launching your book out into the world.