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An editorial assessment, or a manuscript evaluation, can be incredibly insightful for authors during the beginning stages of their writing process.
But what exactly is a manuscript critique? And what do book editors need to include when writing a stand-out editorial assessment?
What Is an Editorial Assessment?
Did you know there are many different types of editing?
An editorial assessment is a close, critical reading of a manuscript and evaluation of the book’s main ideas, structure, and storytelling techniques such as plot, pacing, characterization, dialogue, and more.
In the early stages of the editing and publishing process, an editor assesses the strengths and weaknesses of your book, offering suggestions for areas of revision.
Think of an editorial assessment as an appraisal or report, giving you an honest look at what you have to work with before jumping back into your next draft.
Book Editors vs. Beta Readers
Book editors are not the same as beta readers. While a beta reader might flag something off in your book as a second set of eyes, a book editor will always offer constructive feedback in your manuscript evaluation—assessing marketability along with being the reader’s advocate.
Editorial Assessments vs. Developmental Editing
You may be wondering about the differences between developmental editing and editorial assessments.
Developmental editing—fiction projects, especially—has more to do with outlining a detailed revision plan and heavy rewriting.
An editorial assessment or letter includes broader feedback through margin notes.
While line editing is a word-by-word edit and developmental editing involves heavier rewrites, a manuscript evaluation keeps a pulse on the overall strengths and weaknesses of your book.
How Much Does an Editorial Assessment Cost?
Editing project costs differ significantly based on the type of project, the level of editing, the timeline constraints, and the editor’s experience and expertise.
But since developmental editing is much more labor-intensive than a manuscript assessment, authors will expect to pay closer to copyediting fees for an evaluation—unless it’s baked into other editorial services.
If you’re wondering how much does an editor cost for a book, keep in mind the rates per page, hourly rate, or words per page will vary based on many factors.
What Is Included in an Editorial Assessment?
Here’s my editorial assessment checklist to ensure you write a killer evaluation, helping your author develop a plan for revision.
Step one: A close, critical reading of the manuscript. I notate the manuscript with initial feedback in the form of questions, comments, and suggestions. Some editors only provide feedback in an editorial letter.
Step two: Write a comprehensive editorial letter with constructive feedback on the following elements:
- Overall character development
- Thoughts on POV and POV changes
- Dialogue and voice
- Marketability and comparative titles
- Plot structure or holes
- Overall flow and pacing
- Driving question, idea, or thesis
The constructive feedback is an editor’s gut check. Here’s what’s working. Here’s what’s not. You can include quotes directly from the manuscript, refer to specific scenes or pages, and even consider its marketing potential.
An editorial assessment should include a summary of the book in the editor’s words, which can be helpful for creating marketing copy. It’s also helpful in narrowing the focus of your book.
Step three: Outline next steps for revision in the editorial letter. While Developmental editing is when editors would roll up their sleeves and get to work, a manuscript critique is a diagnostics report.
For next steps, I also like to include “homework” in the form of writing exercises or further reading if I think it could improve certain characters, scenes, or other elements of the story.
In a manuscript critique, an editor can suggest creating a book map and other structure tools that might be beneficial during the revision process.
I always make sure to list any questions I may have while reading, which are most likely questions the target readers will have, too.
In an editorial letter, make sure to be:
- Author-centric: Be encouraging in your critique with constructive, nonjudgmental feedback.
- Actionable: Help the author carve out a clear path forward rather than sharing feedback that’s overwhelming or too open-ended.
- Educational: While your focus should be on the bird’s-eye view, you should still cite clear examples and always use every opportunity to help the author hone their craft.
- Tactful: It’s important to be honest in your critique with useful feedback, but remember to be gentle and provide praise and encouragement for what the author did well.
RELATED: What Makes a Good Editor?
Frequently Asked Questions about Manuscript Evaluations
Is it worth getting a manuscript assessment?
It’s worth getting a manuscript assessment if (1) you choose the right editor who knows your category, (2) you’re wondering if your book will reach its intended audience, and (3) you feel stuck in the revision process and want a little more direction on what to tackle next.
how much does an editor for hire cost?
Freelance editors choose their own editorial rates, and it depends on the nature of the work, an editor’s experience, and the level of editing needed. To learn more about editorial costs and industry standards, check out the Editorial Freelancers Association.
how long does an editorial assessment take?
This depends on an editor’s schedule, but typically a manuscript evaluation takes around three to five weeks. It’s important that an editor has plenty of time to stew over a book before writing a manuscript critique!
What are the processes of evaluating a manuscript?
Typically, an editor’s process for evaluating a manuscript is to read the book, providing initial comments, suggestions, and questions directly into the document, and then dividing the editorial letter into what’s working, what’s not working, and a plan for revision.
What is a partial manuscript evaluation?
A partial manuscript evaluation or editorial assessment is when an author just wants to know if the story they’re working on is worth pursuing.
Authors provide a set amount of words, usually anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000, an outline of the remaining chapters, and any other relevant information, i.e., what’s giving them pause or why they’re stuck. Partial editorial assessments don’t cost as much, of course.
This post has been all about editorial assessments—also known as manuscript evaluations—and what’s included in this service. If you’re curious about developmental editing or other levels of editing, check out my editorial resources!
If you’re interested in starting or expanding your editorial business, check out my e-course, Freelance Editing 101: Launch or Grow Your Editorial Business.