Manuscript Assessment

Making Your Book All It Can Be

How does a writer know when the manuscript of their book is ready for publishers and readers? After many months or years of drafting and rewriting their manuscript, writers are too close to their work to see it with fresh eyes.

Test Readers

Many writers initially turn to family and friends as ‘test readers’ for opinions on the quality of their manuscript. But what does a writer do if those initial opinions vary widely? If one test reader loves the manuscript and another thinks it is patchy, then whose opinion does a writer trust? If the first test reader doesn’t like the manuscript at all, does this mean the project should be abandoned? Or if the first test reader’s praise is over the top, does this mean that publishers will flock to offer a book deal?

There are many famous books that were rejected by multiple publishers before becoming mega-sellers. In other words, plenty of so-called professional test readers get it wrong. The first Harry Potter novel was rejected by 12 publishers before being accepted by Bloomsbury. Twilight by Stephanie Meyers was rejected by 14 out of 15 literary agents. The novel that launched Stephen King’s career, Carrie, is said to have been rejected by 30 publishers.

Professional Manuscript Assessment

A professional manuscript assessor can help a writer diagnose the strengths of a manuscript as well as specific areas for improvement. Any reader can tell you what they do and don’t like, but suggesting and explaining specific revisions that will bring out the best in a writer’s draft requires a hard-won combination of experience and skills.

Euan’s background as a senior editor for a major publisher and as a published author of fiction and non-fiction books created an ideal launch pad for much more direct involvement with the assessment and development of manuscripts from their early stages. After some of his creative writing students at university and TAFE had multiple novels published, Euan extended his manuscript assessment services to writers from all walks of life in a broad range of genres.

Euan’s assessments of fiction or non-fiction manuscripts provide a minimum of 2,500 words in written feedback. It is vitally important that writers are presented with the strengths of their manuscript before moving on to areas for improvement. Otherwise, writers can think they are back to square one, rather than 80% of the way there.

Specific Priorities for Improving Your Manuscript

Each assessment provides a prioritised list of specific suggestions for improving your manuscript. The overall structure might need re-ordering, some sections might work better if expanded, others might be better shortened. Sometimes passages of narrative summary might work better as vividly described scenes incorporating characters in dialogue. Can the dialogue be sharpened by the use of subtext?

Are there too many run-on sentences or does a writer’s preference for short sentences make the writing style seem choppy? How might metaphor, simile and symbolism be employed to maximise impact? Sometimes certain passages that are perfectly clear to the writer (and their assumptions) are vague, ambiguous or even misleading to the reader – fresh eyes can tell.

If you are writing a novel, memoir or fiction based on lived experience, do the middle chapters ramble or meander? Does the protagonist make the most significant decisions at the crucial turning points in the story? How effective is the climax and does it show the protagonist has overcome or been ruined by their major character flaw? Is it on target for your core readership?

Assess then Edit

These questions are primarily concerned with the broader aspects of your work, rather than the line-by-line quality of your grammar, spelling and punctuation. There is no point in starting a detailed edit of your manuscript if sections are going to be cut, shortened, moved or expanded.

If you feel ready to present a draft of your manuscript for assessment – which takes the sort of courage that any published author can empathise with – then please email Euan with your request.


Manuscript assessment rates for both fiction and non-fiction are primarily based on the number of words. The following rates are a guide: