What will you read?

I review manuscripts for all ages (0–18). This includes all genres of picture books, middle-grade novels, and young adult novels, as well as nonfiction and poetry. As befits my background, I analyze projects from the trade publishing perspective rather than the novelty, mass market, or institutional standpoints.

What will you provide?

I’ll give you a detailed analysis of your work with specific suggestions on how to develop it as a trade children’s book. For fiction I’ll try to address all the basics (story, character, narrative, writing, plot, pacing, structure, and setting). For picture books I’ll also look for illustration potential. For nonfiction I’ll critique writing and structure and pay special attention to format. For all projects I will evaluate market potential and make comparisons when possible. I will mark up your manuscript with my comments and editorial suggestions throughout.

Isn’t that what my editor would do once I get a contract to be published?

Ideally, yes. When editors review manuscripts, they are looking for the book’s possibilities and can visualize or imagine the finished project. In the “olden days,” an editor’s passion for a project could get it acquired. Now, many publishers acquire by committee — there are many people involved in the decision, and most of them are not trained editors who can identify a writer’s potential. Thus, the manuscript that goes to committee must be more final than it would have been in the past. Unfortunately many editors at major publishing houses are overworked and ironically have very little time to edit. Most editors have to focus on books that are under contract, not on possible acquisitions. So, sometimes even if they see the potential in a manuscript, they will decline it if it needs extensive revision before it can be proposed for publication. This is where I come in. I’m approaching your manuscript with a publisher’s eye — my goal is to help you refine and polish it to a point where an editor could ask for minimal revision (or none at all) before the proposal stage.

Will you line edit?

This is one of the things your editor or copyeditor would do once you get a contract to be published. I can do it, but: 1) That might take out a lot of the fun for your editor; 2) I’d have to charge a separate fee; and 3) Your editor may disagree with me anyway.

Will you review art/sketches?

If you have illustrated your own picture book, I’ll evaluate text and art together. Please contact me regarding electronic art submission and additional fees.

Will you review adult manuscripts?

I will if asked and I have time, but I don’t have real-world publishing expertise with adult manuscripts. I am, however, an avid reader of many genres of adult fiction. I can evaluate the same basic elements (plot, character, setting, narrative voice) for fiction and offer suggestions for improvement. For nonfiction I am comfortable evaluating the writing and structure of the book. However, since my speciality is children’s books, those manuscripts would be higher on my to-do list.

Will you travel/give talks/attend conferences?

At the moment I have no plans to do anything other than at-home editing, but I’m open to invitations.

Can you get me published?

Not by my willpower alone. I do have many contacts in the book publishing industry and personal knowledge of several editors’ tastes. If I am enthusiastic about your work and if I know an editor (or agent) who would be equally enthusiastic, I will put my feelers out and see how he or she responds.

What if you can’t help me?

If I read your entire manuscript and find myself at a loss for how to improve it because it’s already in a state where I believe it could be accepted for publication, I will count myself lucky to have read your work and possibly suggest it to one of my contacts if I know of a good match. If I read your entire manuscript and find myself at a loss for how to improve it because I just don’t know where to begin or feel that it has too many basic problems, I’ll return it to you with my regrets. In both cases I will refund 90% of my editorial fee.

Will you take follow-up questions after you’ve sent your evaluation?

Yes. First, please take a few days to digest my comments so that you can ask your questions all in one shot rather than piecemeal — that way, my email inbox won’t get flooded and I won’t miss anything. I will try to respond within a week if my schedule allows.

Will you read my revision after I’ve acted on your suggestions?

Yes. Full fees apply if you want another thorough evaluation.

Speaking of fees, what are they?

My starting fee is $125, which covers my time for reading, note-taking, and a thorough editorial letter. This fee includes evaluation of one manuscript of 1000 words or fewer, or the evaluation of the dummy for a wordless picture book. Every 500 words above 1000 is an additional $5.00. For example, if your manuscript is 1,577 words, the total fee would be $130. If your manuscript is 21,493 words, the total fee would be $325.

If you have a rush project, please contact me with further details and I’ll work out a fee depending on your deadline.