Wannabe Author Syndrome: Cheap, Craven & Conned? How $300 Can Get a Writer a Brutally Honest Manuscript Review

I am so tired of hearing unpublished writers (I won’t call a writer an author until he/she can actually show me a bound book or a buyable online version) wail about not being able to find a literary agent or get published or get readers to buy direct. Last night I practically leapt across a dinner table to throttle a wannabe author because he simply could not or would not absorb what I was telling him—that what he desperately needed was someone to assess his book and let him know if it was good or bad.

Over the main course I listened politely to the very familiar saga of an 80,000 word novel that had taken three years to write and that was destined to turn his life around as soon as his literary genius was revealed to all. Over dessert I nodded encouragingly at the synopsis of the story. Over coffee I braced for what I knew was coming next. Would I read the manuscript?

NO! The answer is NO. I will not read a total stranger’s manuscript. I will not spend hours and hours curled up reading a manuscript or an online book unless I know the writer and for personal reasons want to make the time available to read his book. I consider reading a manuscript, any manuscript, A LOT LIKE WORK.

However, since I had been to this fire before, I was ready. “Thanks,” I said. “I’d love the opportunity, but I’m just too busy to do a manuscript-read justice.” (Long face. Mine and his.) “However,” I suggested, “you have the right idea. It would be an excellent move to have a few friends read the manuscript, take notes on their comments, spend some time considering them, and then STOP BEING SO CHEAP and pay, yes, PAY a professional to have that dog-eared, oft-mailed, constantly-rejected magnum opus BRUTALLY evaluated. I could give him some names of reviewers, I thought, but he didn’t ask if I knew any.

Hold the Latex Gloves. No Manuscript Doctor Required! 

You’ll notice I am not talking about a “manuscript doctor.”  I’m talking about a person who will evaluate the manuscript without any requirement for multiple office visits and ongoing resections. No rewrite. No edit. No dragging the old blue pencil through page after page or turning on Microsoft Editor for a line-by-line edit. A read. A thorough read from cover to cover, even if the person reading your manuscript has to strap on a brace to keep her head upright and eyes open in order to survive to the final paragraph.

Two, No, Make It Three, Reasons Wannabes Don’t Hire Book Reviewers to Tear Into A Manuscript.
 
There are only two reasons I can think of that a wannabe author would not hire a professional to assess the potential of a manuscript:

1. Too cheap to part with the money. Are you kidding? How much of your life did you put into this manuscript? What’s the dollar value of that time, effort, and heartache? Ask the people who had to mow the lawn for you because you were too busy writing your book in the evenings and all weekend for THREE years. They’ve invested, too.

2. Afraid of the answer. Gulp. Aren’t we all? Yes, you can go around describing yourself as a struggling, downtrodden, intrepid author whose manuscript has received multiple rejections. You know what? After a certain amount of time, you are not an author, struggling or otherwise, and you are not kidding anyone.   (Long face: Yours!) Maybe you just have to hit the delete key and chalk that manuscript up to a “learning experience.” What you will find out, however, from the paid reviewer is whether you have some latent talent, rather than no talent. And THAT is worth finding out, the sooner the better. On the other hand you might — you never know — have a winner and (with permission) you can grab a few lines from the professional reviewer’s critique and run with it to the nearest literary agent.

Oh, wait, there is a third reason writers won’t pay a reading fee:

3. Bad press. Everywhere you turn on the Internet publishing pundits scream: NEVER pay a literary agent at a literary agency or an editor at a publishing house to read your manuscript. If they ask for money upfront, they are thieves! I agree that you do not want that kind of review! You do realize, however, that it is routine for agents and editors to farm out manuscripts to freelance reviewers and editors to evaluate or edit. You do know that Publishers Weekly pays a stable of reviewers to cough up 250-word reviews routinely, and, in fact, has commissioned reviews for over 100,000 books since 1987. (The Wicked Witch does her homework…sometimes.) So it is just fine to hire an independent book reviewer. Just fine.

If you’ve got the dinero, you can get the review.

How Do You Get a Book Reviewer to Jump Through a Hoop of Fire?  Can you spell C-A-S-H?

Ah hah, get ready for the big surprise. I made a few phone calls and fired off a few emails to very qualified publishing and writing professionals, including Frank Wilson, blogger and book critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who described book reviewers as a “dying breed” because of disappearing outlets in which to ply their trade. He and other reviewers confirmed that if you offer a reviewer $300, in all likelihood that reviewer will jump through a hoop of fire to get the job. (Happy face: the reviewer!) Remember, book reviewers have to work for ever decreasing wages these days. The squeeze is on. Oh, and don’t forget to insist on samples of their published reviews before you commit. Pay more…or less, depending on the length of your manuscript. Think about just how much time will be involved.

What you want is a hard hitting, unflinching review between 500 and 750 words long. Don’t give any background info on yourself or a synopsis a reviewer can use like Cliff’s Notes. (What!) Make it clear that you are paying for a page-1-to-THE END read. Shell out half upfront. Half on completion. Or better, 100% upon completion if you can pull that off. You’ll put the match to the hoop of fire!

Yes, you might get bad news. (No hope…sigh.) You might get good news. (You’re flying high now, Baby!)  More likely, you’ll get something in between. (Dial 911! Time to call a manuscript doctor!)  Most important, what your $300 has bought you is a reality check. Cheap at twice the price, I’d say. What a deal!

Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing ™: I do not read manuscripts. I am quite happy with my Get Published business, which concentrates on polishing the book submission package that literary agents and editors will see. What I will do if you are interested, is pull together a list of people I respect and put you in touch directly. Send me a private email. You always have the option, of course, of making your own contacts. You could start with the Department of English & Comparative Literature at a local college or university and ask for a referral to a book reviewer-for-hire. You’ll get some leads, maybe even the head of the department! Alternatively, email or call your local newspaper’s book critic. Money talks!  

39 Responses to “Wannabe Author Syndrome: Cheap, Craven & Conned? How $300 Can Get a Writer a Brutally Honest Manuscript Review”

  1. Mark D. Says:

    “Sometimes you have to look reality in the eye—and deny it.” Garrison Keillor

  2. Anonymous Says:

    My first reaction is $200, but I usually go low. Might depend too on what you know the person could afford.

  3. Maxine Says:

    Lynne, this is so right. As a professional editor for the world’s top science journal, I endorse what you say: quality costs. You just cannot be serious about writing anything and regard your words as so wonderful that the world is just waiting agog to read them. You need the feedback, the editing, and to do the revisions from independent assessors. And that costs.

    I also agree that the amount reviewers get paid. $300 is generous. But fair—to read and comment on a book–length piece is several days’ work, at the proper professional level necessary for commercial publishing.

    Otherwise, go POD and stop asking your dinner companions for free labour!

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Maxine Clarke is a mega-blogger. She authors seven blogs, mostly about her love of books, publishing, and the writing world. Petrona is her personal blog, which shares the life and thoughts of a mother of two living in the South of England. Maxine has been a science journal editor for most of her working life.

  4. Andrew O'Hara Says:

    What Her Wickedness says is true indeed, but in order to complete this picture it must be pointed out that it will still be one person’s opinion and, even if good, means nothing as far as getting it published. The fact that your paid reviewer (even if it is, yes, your local college teacher) had the well-worn Ben Franklin glasses and good literary hair won’t help much, unless he’s willing to spring for a few good connections. Then we’re talkin’.

    To understand what happens where it really counts—at the agent or editor’s office, where good manuscripts may get 15 seconds or two minutes, whichever comes first, read Michael Allen’s brilliant “On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile” at http://www.kingsfieldpublications.co.uk/rats.html

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing ™: Andy, I disagree with you. If you pick the right reviewer with some strong credentials (which might well include being an author, too), his or her comments would carry weight. And, of course, you are correct that, ideally, if the reviewer liked the manuscript he or she might make a call for the writer. I find, however, that most people are hesitant to step forward and stick their necks out. [Andrew is a retired California Highway Patrolman turned freelance journalist and author. He is editor of The Jimston Journal, “a quarterly online publication for the arts.”]

  5. Bernita Says:

    I mow my own freaking lawn.

    Such people are a pain, and probably the sort who will also buttonhole a doctor at the buffet and want him to look at that mole on their back.

    Nevertheless, such an opinion is still one person’s subjective taste.

    And I’m not sure any agent or publisher would be impressed by a paid-for review. 

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing ™: Bernita is from Ontario, Canada. Her blog,”An Innocent A-Blog—Journal of a Barely Post-Luddite Miranda,” is very funny.

  6. Sam Says:

    I think the book ought to go through a critique group (thinking Critters Critique or Zoetrope online studio here) before it goes to a 300$ a pop reviewer. I read slush, and only about one manuscript in ten is worth going past the first paragraph. Most authors write in a vacuum and it’s a pity. If you have access to the internet you have access to critique groups, writers’ workshops, the whole Strunk and White ‘Elements of Style’ is online, I believe.

  7. Lynne Says:

    “Thank you also for writing out loud what many of us have wanted to tell author wannabes. ‘Hire an evaluator’ is excellent advice.”

    Marydell

    (Picked up from Bookblog.) 

     

  8. Bob Mayer Says:

    I think it can be simpler– and less expensive– than that. I’m not a fan of reading an entire manuscript for critique. I prefer the one page cover letter, one page synopsis (yes, one page) and the first couple of chapters. This tells me if the author has a good idea (cover letter), good story (synopsis) and solid writing. Reading the next 350 or so pages ends up with a lot of repetition on things like point of view, character development, dialogue, etc. Also, doesn’t this sounds a lot like what you would send an agent initially?

    For those who are interested, Jennifer Crusie and I are conducting a free (yes, free) on-line novel writing wprkshop on our blog for all of 2007 at http://www.crusiemayer.com/workshop.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Thanks for dropping by, Bob. I agree that the query letter, synopsis and first few manuscript pages are what an agent or editor want to see—and all three items better be terrific at-a-glance or you know what happens! However, this posting is about the step writers should take BEFORE approaching yet another literary agent or editor. Writers need to find out if they have a marketable product to offer a literary agent or editor in the first place. Don’t you agree?   

  9. Ed Says:

    I’m a freelance book reviewer (most of my reviews are for Frank Wilson at the Inquirer). From time to time I get requests from authors to read their work, but the approach is usually, “Hey, check out my book (self-published) and review it for the newspaper.” I say no because I can’t afford to spend time reading and writing a review for free (and, of course, I have little control over getting my review published). If someone did offer me to pay me, then, hell yeah, I’d read their manuscript. As a reviewer, I’m a professional reader. I get paid to read books and give my opinion. I’d be more than willing to read someone’s manuscript and give a 750 word review for $300.

  10. Beth Says:

    Why is it that writers seem to think that a “free lance” book reviewer CANNOT be objective or won’t be objective just beause he or she is being paid?

  11. Lynne Says:

    “What you get for your money: a professional critique of your work. I can’t get you an agent. I can’t get you a publishing deal. I don’t know if an agent or publisher would be more willing to read your manuscript if you have had it reviewed by me. I can only offer you an honest assessment of your work which you you can use (or not use) to better your manuscript.

    Ed Pettit

    (Picked up from The Bibliothecary posting today called “Will Read for $.”)

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Thanks, Ed, for the link and your comments in reference to ”Wannabe Author Syndrome.”

  12. Kelsey E. Johnson Defatte Says:

    Why do some writers bristle at the thought of hiring a reader? I think there’s an attitude among some unpublished writers that goes something like, “What makes you so special?”

    I believe that until the untried writer goes through a critique group or two, he or she will never appreciate the comments a paid reviewer makes. Critique groups bring a bit of reality to the table, gearing the writer up for what paid professionals can offer.

    With critique groups, I suggest entering a group of no more than eight total members, preferably of like genre, with at least two writers who are more advanced in their writing abilities than you. The general rule of thumb in a critique group is, “If three or more folks say ‘dump it’, for gawd’s sake dump it.”

    With paid professionals, do your research. Take suggestions from smarties like our darling Wicked Witch. Then take your paid professional’s comments to heart. You’ll need to lock away your ego, roll up your sleeves, and be prepared to face the fact that there are actual crappy scenes in your (eek!)less than perfect manuscript. Make two copies of your work. Leave one file as is, then slice away at the other with a sharp machete. Simple in theory, rather excruciating in practice. ;-)

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Welcome back, Kelsey! [Check out Kelsey's creepy home page! T. T. the cat ran from the room. Kelsey lives in Wisconsin.] 

  13. Bill Liversidge Says:

    “NO! The answer is NO. I will not read a total stranger’s manuscript. I will not spend hours and hours curled up reading a manuscript or an online book unless I know the writer and for personal reasons want to make the time available to read his book.”

    Er, Lynne, so why did you read – and critique – mine? Which was, incidentally, one of the most generous things anyone has ever done for me.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): You mean why did I subject myself to hours and hours of writhing in my chair in front of the computer reading your online book, A Half Life of One, and cursing your name? Because I made a huge mistake: I read the first few paragraphs out of idle curiosity about online books, and got hooked, big time. I got so frightened reading the story, I had to stick around for the finish to find out if that woman was going to be okay. I still haven’t recovered from the ending.

  14. David J. Montgomery Says:

    $300 would be the minimum I would charge, and even at that price, it would be cheap. I wouldn’t mind the fact that the manuscript could possibly be really lousy so much as I dislike reading manuscripts. (It’s so much easier and faster to read a typeset, bound book or galley. Slogging through anyone’s ms is tedious.)

    Considering that the going rate for most newspaper reviews is around $150-$200, $300 for this seems quite reasonable.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM):  David writes about authors and books for several of the country’s largest newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

  15. M.J Says:

    I did this for my novel back in 1994 before I tried to get an agent. But it was an editor not a reviewer I paid.

    And I think it’s a really smart smart idea.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): M.J. Rose is the author of Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, and her latest, Venus Fix. She is also a contributor to Poets and Writers, Oprah Mag, and The Writer Mag. Rose has appeared on The Today SHow, Fox News and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  You know her blog, right? Buzz, Balls & Hype.

     

  16. Bella Stander Says:

    Yes, join a critique group, particularly of the “junkyard dog variety,” as Miss Snark so aptly puts it. Or take a writing class online or in person; there are a gazillion of them out there.

    I’ve read slush, most of which was absolutely god-awful. One can usually tell in the first paragraph–at the most in the first page–whether the writing’s any good.

    After having reviewed books for nearly 20 years, I haven’t the patience nor fortitude to be the first reader of a wannabe authors’ work. All too often, the wannabe doesn’t truly want an honest critique, but to hear how wonderful their writing is. Then when the reviewer gives an unvarnished opinion, the wannabe gets all huffy and defensive, and argues that the reviewer is wrong. $300 isn’t enough for this kind of headache.

    Another thing: I doubt that many book reviewers want to be hit up by strangers to critique their unpublished manuscripts. I’ll ask around at the National Book Critics Circle meeting this week.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Bella is a writer and consultant to the Virginia Festival of the Book. Formerly the book editor for Albemarle magazine and a long-time contributing editor at Publishers Weekly, she has also reviewed books for Entertainment Weekly, People, The Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. She is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle and the National Press Club.

  17. Bella Stander Says:

    P.S. You’re dead right about the “too cheap” stuff. See my blog post How Much Is Your Career Worth?

  18. David Thayer Says:

    Lynne, I was caught up in your dinnertime story thinking perhaps the manuscript in question might have been set alight by a waiter or blown through midtown by an errant breeze, which could’ve happened after you’d said yes and the manuscript was in your care, custody, and control, creating a “bailment” situation wherein you, having lost the manuscript, would have to type 300 pages of something, mail it to the author with a note attached ( “I really liked it”) and then await the inevitable cross-examination “You liked the talking toads?” Oops no toads in the original.

    When I want someone to read a manuscript of mine, I like to set the stage a little: New Jersey pine barrens with my pal Bruno and plenty of baseball bats. Funny how the Lousiville Slugger gets a critic gushing with praise. “This is good, no, honest, this is really good. Love the toads, dude.”

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): I’m still laughing! David Thayer is a contributor to January Magazine. He writes crime fiction and thrillers. His first book review for the Philadelphia Inquirer will be published this month.

  19. Peter L. Winkler Says:

    An agent or editor will, I think, only be impressed by an enthusiastic recommendation from a Big Name Author, and they don’t spend their time doing freelance critiques.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Really, the critique is meant for the writer’s eyes only. I do not recommend hiring a reviewer for the sole purpose of hoping to get something to show a literary agent. The review is meant to help determine whether the writer has written a commercial book. Period. I do disagree with you, though, that the only recommendation that would be taken seriously must come from a “big name author.” Any credentialed reviewer’s critique would carry weight, I think. 

  20. Bella Stander Says:

    I doubt any “credentialed reviewer” would allow his/her critique to be used to market a manuscript–unless to the reviewer’s own literary agent. And maybe not even then.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Bella, I agree. Permission would be required. That should be made clear between the writer and the reviewer.

  21. David J. Montgomery Says:

    I would feel uncomfortable about that aspect of it, too. I don’t mind giving a blurb to someone I know, but I’m not sure I’d want the manuscript of someone I don’t know circulating with my endorsement on it.

  22. Katy Gurley Says:

    As both a writer and a magazine and newspaper editor with long-term experience in working with writers, I can’t imagine sending any unpublished work to a publisher without having my piece read–AND edited by an experienced editor. Sending it to a reviewer is a good idea, but I’d take it a step further and hire an editor. To those writers holding back from a serious critique: Don’t you want your manuscript to shine before you send it off to an agent or publisher? Every writer needs a sharp, but compassionate editor.

  23. Ed Says:

    David,

    Barring a distortion of said endorsement, I don’t see how that’s a problem. If I read a manuscript or self-published book and really like it, then I’d be happy to see that writer have the book published. And if my endorsement carried any weight (which is doubtful anyway) then, yippee, glad I could help get it into more readers’ hands.

  24. Mark D. Says:

    Re Bella Sandler’s comment: “I’ll ask around at the National Book Critics Circle meeting this week.”

    I suspect some would be interested, some wouldn’t, though it’s hard to say what the proportion might be. But she would be performing a valuable service if she kept track of the names of those who would be interested in doing it and made it available.

  25. Tom Clavin Says:

    WW:
    I confess that something I was not at all prepared for as a published author is being approached by strangers and (barely) aquaintances to read their unpublished work. Hey, let’s face it, you rarely have the time or inclination to read the work of friends let alone others. It’s probably a bad idea anyway because you either lose a friend by giving a bad evaluation or by not being honest you doom the friend to pursuing what can’t be attained. Prospective authors really should factor in the cost of an objective evaluation BEFORE sending a manuscript or a proposal to an agent.

      Cover Image   

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Tom, I see you are back from your book tour! Welcome back! I hear that Halsey’s Typhoon is hovering around number 22 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

  26. Lynne Says:

    Some of the links I found to this posting:

    Grumpy Old Bookman
    Jacketflap
    Web Writer by Petrona
    Books, Inq. (See Frank Wilson’s comment. He’s the book critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.)

    Fran’s Writing Whatever (VERY unhappy with my post!)
    Book Blog
    An Innocent A-Blog (VERY unhappy with my post!)

    Word Praise

  27. Bill Says:

    I’ve had a bunch of reviews published, though I’m hardly what you’d call a “top-tier” reviewer. I’ve never had anyone approach me to critique a manuscript, but I’m consistently amazed at the number of people who go to great lengths to dig for my contact info so they can ask me to review their book.

    Bill

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Hi, Bill! Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. [Bill has published articles in Epicurean Online, AllRecipes.com, Burnt Toast, as well as Air & Space, Billboard, Christian Science Monitor. Book review credits include a column in the Australian science mag, Cosmos, and reviews in Apex Online, Kansas Mag, Horror Quarterly, and Ultraverse.]

  28. Corinda Says:

    BRAVO!!!! Just because someone got a B+ on a 5th grade composition, they think they’re “writers”. You really nailed it!!!! And just because THEY spent three years creating their masterpiece, they expect everyone they come in contact with to spend their precious time reading their precious work!!! I seriously doubt if they would work for free on someone else’s project…
    Thank you for expressing my frustration with “authors”.

    Corinda

    PS BTW, when I first saw your line “Wicked Witch of Publishing,” I thought you were referring to Judith Regan. You should call yourself:  ”The High Priestess of Publishing!”

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Corinda has done book marketing for John Edwards (yes, THAT Edwards!). Fern Michaels, Stella Cameron and Jim Baen. She is also a back-up singer for Bruce Springsteen.

  29. Russell Bittner Says:

    Dear Wicked Witch,

    As a (yes, published) writer and poet by night, but a poor and starving online reviewer/editor by day who’s paid NOT to tell the God-honest truth, I applaud your advice — sound in every respect, including the thud it’s bound to receive from dear-old-writer’s-Mum/Mom.

    Honest reading/reviewing is work. And honest work generally receives at least an honorarium. But caveat poeta/scriptor. You want plaudits from the hands of paid claqueurs? Pay cheap. You want truth? Pay dearly. $300 for an honest review is cheap at any price…including $300.

    Russell (Bittner)
    Brooklyn, New York, USA

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Some of Russell’s prose or poetry can be found at The American Dissident, The Lyric, Ink-mag, Showcase, Deadmule and Underground Voices. By the way, Russell’s comment about reviewing books and NOT telling the “God-honest” truth in a published review is something I might tackle in another posting. 

  30. Michael Allen Says:

    Provocative but right, as usual. Have mentioned it today.

    Michael

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing: Michael Allen’s blog, Grumpy Old Bookman, is rated one of the top ten literary blogs, worldwide, by The Guardian. He also owns and operates Kingsfield Publications and is the author of several books, including How & Why Lisa’s Dad Got To Be Famous and On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile (“the truth about writing and publishing”). Michael lives in Wiltshire, UK.

  31. Lynne Says:

    I actually think $300 is dirt cheap.

    WW of P

  32. Therese Fowler Says:

    When you consider the cost of attending any writing workshop or conference–which so many struggling writers elect to do–$300 for a detailed professional opinion on whether or not a novel is fit for representation/publication does seem cheap. A better use of those dollars, in fact, as long as the paid reviewer is a truly qualified reader of one’s work.

    Seems to me this is key: writers should try to hire someone who has reviewed a lot of the sort of fiction they’ve written. Having taken grad school fiction, novel, and non-fiction writing workshops, I am acutely aware of how important it is that the critiquer “gets” what the writer is trying to do. Aware, too, of how subjectivity can affect a critique–which is why I think pros are better choices than profs (though some of them are terrific).

    Most professional reviewers can weigh in on the quality of the prose and the effectiveness of the storytelling, but unless they understand the conventions of the genre (if the work in question is genre) they aren’t the best judge of the work. So yeah, I say, writers, hire the best-qualified person available, and then hide under your desk until the feeling of terror passes and you can face the feedback that will, if heeded, get you closer to your goal.

  33. Alex Alexandropoulos Says:

    Interesting advice. When I finished my manuscript I had it assessed by a profesional. Yes I did pay my $300. Their advice was that the manuscript deserved to find a publisher. It was favourably compared to Douglas Adams and Jasper Fforde (yipee!). Then I hired an editor and had the manuscript professionaly edited. Several hundred dollars later I have a manuscript ready for publication. So far I’ve got two rejections and one no-reply from editors here in Australia – yes I did include a synopsis and a copy of the review in my submissions. I’ve also had friends read the first chapter. Without exception they have all asked to read the rest. So where do I go next? Perhaps a name change to make the book cover more marketing-friendly?

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Type “slush pile” in the search feature on the right-hand sidebar. You’ll find previous posts that should help you.

  34. Lisa Says:

    There’s also a third path for the impecunious writer: ask a dozen of your friends to read Chapter 1. That’s not too much to ask – it probably only takes about 15 minutes. It’s also valuable because if your first chapter doesn’t hook people, it doesn’t matter what happens in the rest of the book.

    If some of those dozen friends ASK to read the rest of the book because they’re hooked, they can give you a book critique afterwards. If no one asks to read the rest… well, there’s your critique right there.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Excellent idea!

  35. staghounds Says:

    Somewhere buried in the book, put a test or two to make sure the reviewer read the whole thing!

    For example,

    “I was born in fortunate circumstances in the American South, and I am just old enough to remember the end of overt segregation. Raised in a respectful environment, I didn’t really begin to understand prejudice and stereotyping until I moved north. There, I found that as soon as I opened my mouth I was ignorant, bigoted, uneducated, and all the other fantasy attributes of the southerner. So I began to “get it” in a direct and personal way reviewer, code word to get paid is hallmark. And I thought I understood the anger and sense of rejection that segregation caused.”

    In Exmoor, I saw that a million people had just been made second class citizens in their own country. Parliament told my hunting friends (and me) that we aren’t wanted. Our contributions, our efforts, our way of life are all rejected. Our membership in the very society is revoked unless we stop being ourselves and accept our place.

  36. Krista WIlson Says:

    I just wanna put in a plug here for your expert and spot-on advice with helping me craft a polished and professional query/marketing proposal. I got lucky–you used me as an example when you were just beginning this Get Published business. I consider that stroke of luck to be the turning point in my career as a writer.

    I just recently pitched in person for the first time, using much of the material you procured from me during our back and forth exchanges regarding the synopsis. The agent asked to see the first 40 pages, and this was after declaring to the whole room that she wasn’t interested in hearing about any new fiction, unless it was award-winning stuff. I had just gotten the news that it made finalist in Heart of the Rockies, and I made sure that got mentioned first–something else I learned from you.

    By the way, I heard from Heart of the Rockies yesterday…I won first place. :)

    Thanks again, Lynne!

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Wow! I’m so thrilled for you, Krista. This is great news. And…you are very welcome!

  37. Billy Says:

    This post really struck a chord, Lynne. I am soooo tired of having people ask me to read their work for free (or virtually nothing) after visiting my ghostwriting/editing website.

    Hey, it’s my bread and butter, but people assume I’m moonlighting or am filthy rich. It’s like asking my mortgage company if I can have a free pass next month.

    I’ve had to completely restructure the way I do business, whether it is with a celebrity or an unknown. You’re right–reading these manuscripts for whatever reason takes TIME!!!!

  38. Christine Frank Says:

    I also think $300 is dirt cheap . . . but I am writing for two other reasons: permission to reprint in my organization’s newsletter or to use it as the basis of an article for them or on my blog (is that two??) Anyway, good work and thanks.

  39. MaryAnna Says:

    Interesting thread. I can’t even recall now how I found your blog, but I like it. I also went and read Fran’s Writing Whatever and how unhappy she was with your post.

    You had me as soon as she said you wrote right-wing crap – I love right-wing crap!

    And I agree, everyone and their brother thinks it’s easy to be a writer, when nothing could be further from the truth. It’s hard, it’s tedious, and it’s lonely. And then when feedback from an editor is slim to nonexistent (non-fiction) you question your skills even more.

    However, one point I agreed with Fran is that it seems (seems) that books used to have free critiques, but that they were friends, or family, or fellow writers that expected the same favor.

    Is it just me or is life so busy now that friends are few and far between, family doesn’t keep in touch and fellow writers all have as much on their plate as you do. So part with that money – hell, I’ll do it for less and I’ve been a fiction judge for more than four years (I gave it up because of lack of time!).

    I truly think the difference between real writers and want-to-be writers (and let me say here that there is nothing wrong with being a wannabe – everyone, and I mean everyone is a wannabe something at some point in their lives) is the ability to keep plugging away: The ability to accept blatant and injurious rejection and the ability to know when to pay for courses/classes and when not to.

    Cheers and here’s to writing in 2008!

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