This year, knowing that there are many writers out there who want a dispassionate, professional assessment of their work, either because they have had it rejected without comment, or who simply want to ensure that it is in the best possible condition before sending it to an agent or publisher, we are adding another dimension to the agency by re-launching our Manuscript Appraisal arm. As a former Fiction Editor of Woman's Own and Woman & Home, in the days of superb magazine fiction (we serialised Ruth Rendell, Dick Francis, Joanna Trollope, Jeffrey Archer, Rosamunde Pilcher, Maeve Binchy, Ellis Peters, Agatha Christie, for example) the deepest job satisfaction was gained from encouraging writers who sent in fiction that wasn't immediately publishable but which showed potential - and getting these writers, with constructive criticism and guidance, to publication standard. Helping unpublished authors was a significant part of my training in DC Thomson's fiction department and was honed working on People's Friend where coming up with serial ideas, then researching timeline incidents for the plots for the commissioned authors, was a vital part of the job.
So what do you need to become a great author?
A great plot if it's fiction you're writing and compelling characters; something that will really interest readers if it's non-fiction. These things are vital and completely down to you, the author, and a belief that you can write. So why ask for a critique of what you've written? Because often, when you've got the words down on paper and you read them back, somehow you're not quite happy with the way they gel; maybe the construction wobbles, or perhaps the characters seem one-dimensional and the narrative just doesn't flow. Well, that's where we, the editors, come in, to give you a different perspective that can trigger fresh thoughts by pointing out the areas that need working on, the scenes that need rewriting or moving, the flesh that needs to go on the characters - and the ways to go about doing that.
Why choose us?
With over thirty years of editing, abridging and scouting experience, dealing with fiction and features in magazines, newspapers, book and audio publishing, working for companies such as IPC Magazines, the Daily Express and The Times, HarperCollins, Orion, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Little, Brown, Random House and the BBC, we can take your manuscript, whether it's a novel or non-fiction, and give you a detailed report on what we believe you should do to make it sing.
We delight in working in any genre - crime, romance, science fiction, thriller, children's and all types of non-fiction, including science of the popular/lighter sort, and biography - abridging the autobiographies of politicians and celebrities has become something of a specialist area for us in audio and we have always struck an excellent rapport with those authors we've worked with.
Our intention, at all times, is to inspire and give advice, and to deal with you honestly, clearly and objectively.
What happens next?
As hard-working editors, we are used to meeting delivery dates and, knowing that all authors are anxious for an opinion on their work, any manuscript you submit to us will be returned to you with a full report within 8 weeks at the latest, usually within 4-6 weeks.
We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts - first contact should be via our contact form or letter, stating the nature and length of the work you want appraised. We will then phone you to arrange a date for you to submit your work - it's also a good opportunity to get to know one another. At the same time we will give you the latest date you may expect to receive the report and you should then submit the manuscript, together with the payment. No work will be started unless the fee is paid.