So, you’ve written the first draft of your manuscript and you’re not quite sure where to go from here. Do you send it to beta readers first? An editor? Do you wait until you’ve gone through it a second time?
The answer is fairly simple.
If you’re on a budget, I’d advise you to start with alpha readers. Those are the people who read the very first draft—the one that’s still messy and unfinished. They help you figure out where you want to go and offer feedback or suggestions for scenes and such. If your manuscript is already completely finished and self-edited to the best of your ability, you can send it to beta readers for feedback. Betas read the finished manuscript. They give you their honest opinion as a reader, not an editor. What works for them, what doesn’t work for them, pacing, big picture stuff.
From there, your manuscript is going to be as good as it can be without a professional. So what should you do? Do you need developmental editing still? Or just some technical editing to catch the spelling and punctuation errors? That’s where the assessment comes in.
An editorial assessment is the first overview of your manuscript by a professional editor. They will read through the entire manuscript and provide thoughtful, in-depth feedback about your plot, characters, structure, consistency, and style. Do you have a plot hole? They’ll point it out and offer suggestions to fix it. Do your characters all blend into one? They’ll help you craft distinct personalities for each of them. They will discuss your book’s strengths and weaknesses and parts that need to be extended or cut. They will also provide you with a revision strategy to best help you with your work. This is the chance to fix the bigger problems before diving into the language of the manuscript.
This assessment will often lead to much better characterization, structure, and themes in your manuscript. If you’ve previously self-published your book and it’s not doing very well, an editorial assessment can help address those critical issues and lead to revisions that make your book soar.
You may be asking why not just go to a content editor directly. Why the extra step? Well, the truth is that some manuscripts just aren’t ready for developmental editing, which rests at a line-by-line level rather than the big picture. This is where the big parts of the manuscript will change—major plot points, adding or reducing characters, and major revisions to make your theme stand out. For these things, it’s much more effective (and cheaper) to go with an assessment.
What an editorial assessment looks for:
What is the premise of the book? Is that idea clear?
What is the main conflict of the story? How is it portrayed? Does it make sense? Do the antagonist and protagonist each have reasons to be part of the story? What are the side conflicts?
Are there any plot holes? How can they be fixed?
Is the setting/are the settings realistic? Are they vivid?
Is the worldbuilding well done, or are there parts that need a bit more explanation?
Are there any scenes that cause confusion or that need elaboration?
Are the scenes written in the right order?
Are there any scenes that are unneeded?
Is the book the correct length based on industry standards?
Does your book invoke the correct emotional cues? Are there enough emotional cues?
The beginning—strong or not? Is it the right place to start the book?
Are you using the right point of view? Is it the right tense?
What is the market/target audience for your book?
How is the pacing? Is it too fast, too slow?
Are your characters realistic? Do their actions make sense, whether logically or emotionally? Are they unique?
These are only a few questions that the editor will address in their assessment. And, as mentioned above, an editorial assessment is a lot cheaper than line-be-line developmental editing. You’ll encounter a range of prices on places like Fiverr and Reedsy but expect that you’ll pay around $10-12 USD per 1000 words for an average assessment. In Canada, that would be around $14 per 1000 words.
Expect a lengthy letter in return. Depending on the length of your manuscript, you should receive quite a bit of feedback from your editor, and typically, they’ll allow phone or video calls to discuss that feedback, to brainstorm revisions, address your questions or concerns, and strategize how to get to your publishing goal.
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