pathways to publishing > services > assessment




Laurel Cohn's Manuscript Development Services offers detailed feedback and meaningful engagement with your work, guiding you on the next steps towards publication.


Sarah Armstrong, one of Laurel Cohn's clients

Sarah Armstrong
Salt Rain
Allen & Unwin
Shortlisted Dobbie and Miles Franklin Awards 2005

'Laurel's assessment of my manuscript was detailed and insightful. She not only addressed technical matters such as structure and plot, but was able to provide an overview of themes and character development in a way that was very helpful, even in the later edits for publication. I was so close to my manuscript that I had lost perspective and Laurel's report offered me a clear idea of what I needed to do before submitting it to an agent, while also confirming what was working in the manuscript.'


'I have learnt a great deal in the short time I have been writing fiction, mostly by reading, trial and error, as well as taking a few workshops. Nothing, however, beats a professional critiquing of one's own work such as you have given. I am grateful for your input and you have inspired further effort to bring the work up to a publishable level. Thanks again Laurel. I will have no hesitation recommending your expertise to other aspiring writers.'

Robyn Haynes
(assessment of full manuscript)


'I just wanted to say that I am most impressed with the assessment that you have provided for my work. It is comprehensive; it made me think about things that I hadn't considered before and it is written in such a compassionate way that I feel understood yet I have a clear direction on how to do my next version.'

Ruby Usman
(assessment of a partial draft)


'My time with you has been such a help and far beyond my expectations. It's strange how you said so many things that I had fleeting thoughts about and you also managed to get it all to coalesce somehow in my mind. I feel as if you have given me the perfect guidance by seeing the heart of my story which I felt but couldn't put my finger on. Thanks so much for setting me on the right path and I  look forward to working with you in the future.'

Jo Kennett
(editorial consultation)


Manuscript Assessment and Development


A manuscript assessment (or editorial report) provides an independent, professional appraisal of your work. You could think of it as a health check, or a reality check.

Whether you are wanting to submit your work to a publisher or agent, or are intending to self-publish, a professional assessment is an important part of the process of making sure your book will serve your intentions appropriately, and be of the highest standard.

We are experienced in working with fiction (literary and popular), narrative non-fiction (e.g. memoir, travel), general non-fiction (e.g. reference, educational, how-to books) and children's books. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about the genre of your manuscript.

We prepare a written report (3,000–5,000 words) outlining the strengths and weaknesses of your work in terms of structure, pacing, story line and character development, genre, style, language usage, consistency and continuity, and any other issues that may be pertinent to a particular genre and a particular manuscript, such as ethical and legal questions.

The report is designed to guide you through the next level of manuscript development. It will address issues of the 'publishability' of the manuscript and offer suggestions on how to work on the next draft. We have not encountered a manuscript yet that hasn't required at least a little reworking, even those that have gone on to be best-sellers.

There are some basic conventions about writing in terms of the elements listed above — plot, character development, structure, language usage, etc. We consider all these areas and how they are working to achieve the writer's intention. Sometimes this process is important simply to help you clarify what your intention is. Writers can break rules, of course, and if they do it well it can be magnificently successful. But it takes considerable skill to be able to pull it off.

Apart from the basic elements, what do we look for in a manuscript? What makes a manuscript successful in our eyes? At the most fundamental level, the answer is simple and not at all mysterious. 'Do we want to turn the page? Do we want to keep reading?' We approach the manuscript with an open mind and an eye for problem solving. If we stumble over something, or something feels not right, we unpick why. Clearly there is an element of subjectivity in an assessment, just as there is in a publisher's decision to publish, or an agent's decision to represent an author. However, as a professional service with wide experience across a range of genres, we are able to consider the manuscript on its own terms, assessing whether you have succeeded in writing the book you want to write.


We offer assessments on an excerpt of your work, such as the first three chapters plus a synopsis, and, where appropriate, a chapter outline. An assessment on a partial draft can help you understand what is working well, and what may need further development in order to capture the curiosity and attention of a publisher/agent or general reader. While we are unable in these circumstances to offer a detailed critique on how the story unfolds over the course of the entire work, the report can provide valuable feedback on the direction your work might take. 


Editorial Consultations offer writers the opportunity to discuss their ideas, explore options, consider potential issues and pose questions. 

Often publishers and agents are unwilling to discuss a book idea unless they are able to consider samples of your writing or a finished manuscript. However, getting advice early on in the life of the project can be pivotal in helping your intentions become a reality. And sometimes talking through the issues of a book idea is a reality check, saving you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Sessions usually last for one hour (longer by arrangement). Sessions can be held face-to-face or over the phone. Some writers opt for a series of consultations where we can offer guidance and advice at different stages of the manuscript development.