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What it's like to receive a manuscript appraisal back from the editorial team

I'll admit from the start that I'm fortunate enough to know my editorial team personally. I work with them and see them daily and how they engage with edits and manuscripts, so I have the benefit of knowing how awesome they are and how professional they are when they deal with people's ideas and legacies. I think that will really impact how I feel going into a manuscript appraisal or an edit, as opposed to someone who doesn't know their editing team personally, or even anything about an editing process. So, when I talk about what it's like to receive a manuscript appraisal back from the editorial team, I'll try to bear that in mind!

My publishing journey so far

I have a couple of books on the go at the moment, all in different stages of the publishing process. Some are even still in planning and writing, while two are actually on their way to getting published.

It's an awesome journey, and as I have the benefit of knowing both sides of the journey, being on the publishing team and the author side, I thought it would be cool to write about it so others got to see what the journey to publishing a book is like.

At the moment, in the publishing process, I have a children's picture book in illustration and a new adult fantasy book in manuscript appraisal.

I've received that manuscript back from manuscript appraisal and have started working on the feedback, so thought I'd describe what it's like to receive your manuscript from a manuscript appraisal.

What it's like to receive a manuscript appraisal back from the editorial team
Get your notepad ready to take notes on your manuscript appraisal!

How you feel when you receive your manuscript appraisal

Waiting for a manuscript appraisal can be tough. It's weeks of anticipation, no matter how much you try to occupy yourself with other things! Even moving back to writing book two in the same series or discussing illustration details for my other book didn't distract me from wondering how the book was going. Even knowing my editor didn't help! I kept worrying about her not liking the story or wondering if I'd left some dodgy grammar or spelling in there (which, me being one of the proofreaders of the publishing company, I thought they'd give me some friendly teasing over if I had), or whether they thought it was an awful book that should never see light of day again.

Of course, I'd worked super hard in planning, writing, re-planning, re-writing, re-writing, editing, editing, editing, checking ... the process goes on ... that I knew it wouldn't be like that, but still, I still worry!

(When you work super hard on something for years, of course you worry. Especially when you care and you want it to be one of your life careers.)

But, I was also stupidly excited. After so long looking at my book and all those versions, I couldn't wait to hear a third party's thoughts, particularly a professional's, on how I could further enhance my book to make it even better for myself and my readers.

So, the day it came back, I was over the moon. Nervous and over the moon. I couldn't wait to see what the feedback was and what I could work on next.

And this, I think, is the key thing to remember: you got a manuscript appraisal for a reason—to learn how to make your book better. So, when you see that feedback on there how to make it better, remember that's what you got it for. Not to be told the book is perfect and needs nothing done to it (unrealistic, every book can always have something done to improve it, but also pointless. Do you really want to pay money to a professional to be told there's nothing to do?).

It was awesome. So much great feedback on the benefits of the book and how to make it even better: just what you need and expect from a manuscript appraisal.

What kind of things does a manuscript appraisal look at?

This might vary from company to company, depending on the publishing house, but you can bet that most manuscript appraisals look at similar things. These are the sorts of things you can expect to find on a fantasy or fiction manuscript appraisal:

  • Concept

  • Story summary

  • Structure (of the overall book down to the sentencing)

  • How well it's executed

  • Conflict

  • Writing skill

  • POV

  • Perspective

  • Language

  • Characters (major, minor, traits, descriptions ... the whole shebang)

  • Settings

  • Plot development (and which story structure did you use or is recommended)

  • Style

  • Marketability

  • Overall conclusion and next steps

  • Action points on how to improve each of the above and more

  • Plot holes, missed areas, extra questions, etc.

It's a lot, so you can see how super helpful this will be in helping you figure out where you are with your book and how you can work to improve it before going into editing.

For example, think you can work on your plot structure? This will show you what you have and how to improve it! Want to know more about the marketability of your book? Read no more than your own, personalised manuscript marketing review!

What it's like to receive a manuscript appraisal back from the editorial team
Want to know how to improve your manuscript and more effectively self edit?

How is a manuscript appraisal helpful with writing a book?

This is where a manuscript appraisal is great: it shows you what you can enhance yourself before you go into edit, where you're paying for an editor's time. Ideally, you want to do as much as you can on your manuscript yourself so that your manuscript is in the absolute best condition it can be before heading to an editor. Then, you're using the editor to make it even better; to push your writing abilities and book beyond your current capabilities into the next level, using their pro knowledge to push yours.

This is where knowing all of these things in the manuscript appraisal and how you can approach them yourself is great.

When you're writing a book, particularly if you do it properly and have several rounds each of planning, writing, rewriting, self-editing, and reading, you know your story too closely and start missing those missing areas, developmental issues in characters, and structural inconsistencies. Having someone else look at it and identify those areas is the best thing since white rice. (I'm allergic to bread and live off Japanese cooking, so instead of 'the best thing since sliced bread', it makes sense to me to say 'since white rice'!)

What did I do when I got my manuscript appraisal? AKA: how to review your manuscript appraisal.

The first thing I did when my appraisal pinged into my inbox from the work team was print it. So old fashioned, but I wanted to sit away from the computer and just sit back with a jasmine tea, relax, and read through it all to process it.

So I did.

I made my hot, calming cup of jasmine tea (refer to Uncle Iroh image below for jasmine tea appreciation), found a comfy place on the floor to lie down with a cushion, and just casually read the whole report—not in full detail, but a quick read through to get the overall feeling of it.

What it's like to receive a manuscript appraisal back from the editorial team
Shout-out to Avatar the Last Airbender's Uncle Iroh

Then, I walked away, happily texted those I loved in my life who'd kept asking me to let them know when I got it, and sent a text to the editor to say thanks (likely with a gif, knowing us).

I let it all tick over in the back of my head while I went to do other things, which I remember clearly was a doctors appointment for my annual flu jab and dinner with a friend. Busy night.

The next time I sat down with my appraisal, I was at my desk and opened the manuscript. This time, I went through it bit by bit, making notes of the action points and what I had to do or what I wanted to do. Ever the perfectionist, I wanted to make a note of everything I could possibly do--even if the editor said it was already good, I thought I could always do more if I knew it was something that had been identified as a strength.

I'll talk more about how I approached the manuscript appraisal and acted on it and the journey from there to complete it. For now, I'll just note that it was great to review each of the points, looking at the strengths of my style or my concept or my plot, and ways I could further enhance it or the plot points I'd missed or the time one of my main character's accents slipped in one of the chapters. These small things make the whole essence of the book, and it's great to see them fully reviewed.

Thinking about getting a manuscript appraisal for your book?

Again, because I work in the publishing industry, I feel like of course I would say 'yes' to this, and I really would. Both on a professional level and a personal, author level.

As someone who works in the industry, I'd say that a manuscript appraisal really offers great ways to learn more about your own book, your writing skills, and how you can further enhance your book and your legacy and your future as an author.

As an author, I'd really encourage other authors to get a manuscript appraisal to help them after their self-editing stage and before their editing stage as it offers a full, well-rounded insight into their book that other parts of the process don't. It helped me see how I could grow as an author and the parts I needed to work on, and since working on them, actioning these areas has been a great move for my book.

What it's like to receive a manuscript appraisal back from the editorial team
Now you have your manuscript appraisal, you can type away again to get your manuscript ready for edit.

To sum it all up: what it's like to receive a manuscript appraisal back from the editorial team ...

And now I go back to the way I opened this post—how it might be different for me working with my editing team.

I think it's hard for some writers to give their book to editors, in more than the usual 'nerves'. We hear so many stories about scams, or paying lots of money to an editor who does a bad job or doesn't do much that it can be hard to trust editors if we don't know them. I think this is where it's easier knowing the editorial team. I had no doubt whatsoever sending either of my books in to them for appraisal or editing, and would happily send all of my books from here on to infinity to them. I work with them daily, I know what they're like, how seriously they take their work, their skills, and their great advice, so I trust them completely with my books, which are arguably some of the most important things in my whole life. I've wanted to be an author ever since I was a tiny child, so it's really important to me to know I have the best editing team behind me.

I think this is why I have a different viewpoint here. I never need to worry about them not understanding my book or not doing a good job. I just worry about whether they enjoy it or not, as my key goal in writing is for people to enjoy my book.

And, to that end, I hope that anyone else who decides from here to go and get a manuscript appraisal can see the huge benefits of getting one, what it's like, what they look at, and just how important an awesome editorial team is, and how much it impacts even the early stages of a book's editing journey.

Next I'll write about my process to approaching my manuscript appraisal!


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