Manuscript Assessments

Our manuscript assessments provide the lens that will help guide you through the next stages of manuscript development. You can think of it as a health check, or a reality check.

Illustration of an open book

Looking at the big picture

It is hard to step back from your own work and see the big picture in the same way an independent, professional editor can.

Whether you are wanting to submit your work to a publisher or agent, a development program, 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.

Assessment of a full manuscript

Our full manuscript assessments involve a close reading of the complete work. Notes and edits are made on the manuscript, but the main feedback is contained in a detailed editorial report which covers structure, narrative development, character development, style, language usage, and any other relevant area. The report draws attention to the strengths and weaknesses in the current draft and is designed to guide you through the next stage of manuscript development.

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, providing suggestions on how to strengthen the draft, as well as giving you feedback on how it might be received by agents and publishers.

Hands about to mark a document with red pen

Assessment of a partial draft

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.

Get in touch for more information or to discuss your project.

A person looking through a manuscript

What our authors say

‘Laurel’s assessment of the first 12,000 or so words of my manuscript was extremely helpful. She has an impressive knack of asking the right questions to help zero in on the heart of a story. This illuminated the path for me in my next draft, as I undertook the difficult task of carving away unnecessary detail or distractions in what was, at that time, an unwieldy 200,000 words. Our early collaboration helped me to submit a polished 50-page excerpt to my publisher of choice, resulting in a contract more quickly than I might have dared to hope.’

Kyra Geddes
The Story Thief
(Affirm Press)
Manuscript assessment and mentoring
The Magician's Way by William Whitecloud

‘Laurel treated my manuscript with a deep appreciation for exactly what it was, both in terms of its style and content. I was very impressed with her deft and economical touch. With surprisingly few flourishes she managed to enhance my own voice while massively improving the structure and readability of my manuscript. Of all the aspects of writing and producing my book, working with Laurel was by far the most pleasant. She’s a magician, no doubt about it!’

William Whitecloud
The Magician’s Way
(Wizdom Press, New World Library)
Manuscript assessment, structural editing
The FInest Gold by Brad Cooper

‘Laurel was among the first to offer constructive feedback on my early attempts at the manuscript which would (7 years later!) become The Finest Gold, a memoir of my competitive swimming career. Writing is a mercurial act, and the sooner you get help pushing it around, the sooner it takes shape. Thanks Laurel.’

Brad Cooper
The Finest Gold
Manuscript assessment
Bella's Backyard Bullies by Samantha Turnbull

‘A couple of years ago you assessed my children’s manuscript. Just letting you know that after letting it collect dust for a while I sent it off earlier this year and I’ve just signed a four-book deal with Allen and Unwin. I had no idea if it was decent or not, but your extremely positive feedback gave me the confidence to try my luck with a publisher. So, thanks!’

Samantha Turnbull
The Anti-Princess Club Series
(Allen & Unwin)
Manuscript assessment
A Dangerous Daughter by Dina Davis

‘I’ve been meaning to write to you for ages, but have been flat out with the promotion and launch of A Dangerous Daughter. You’ve been an enormous help and inspiration to me all through the painful months of draft after draft, keeping me going when my confidence flagged, and finding flaws that I missed myself. Thank you again for all your help.’

Dina Davis
A Dangerous Daughter
(Cilento Publishing)
Mentoring and manuscript assessment

‘Laurel was easy to communicate with, very clear in her thoughts and prompt with her responses to any questions I had. She edited an early draft of the manuscript, and gave me valuable feedback on structure, grammar and the style of my writing. I found her comments to be insightful and relevant, and an important basis for writing the next draft of the book. I would happily use Laurel’s services again.’

Jamie Mushin
Quit for Life
(Penguin Books)
Manuscript assessment

‘Laurel Cohn was a wonderful surprise. I never expected to find an editor with such a fine and sensitive talent, as well as being thorough and conscientious. She was able to advise me in ways which greatly improved my work. Indeed, saved it!’

Victoria Thompson
City of Longing
(Australian Scholarly Publishing)
Manuscript assessment

‘Very many of my readers have complimented me on the structure of the book. It was your suggestion that I change this from a chronological order to moving it back and forth from the love story to the death story. You were so right, and I know this book is much better for your professional input.’

Kate Ramsay
Go With Love
Manuscript assessment

‘Laurel is practical and motivating in her approach; somewhat intuitive too. I enjoy working with Laurel as I know she understands what I am trying to achieve in completing my first book.’

Sallyanne Pisk
Eating For You
(Eating For You)
Manuscript assessment, editorial consultation
Boo and the Big Storm by Wendy Lawrence

‘I’ve got some wonderful news: Boo and the Big Storm is the winner of the Children’s Reader category in the Whitley Awards of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. Thank you, again, for all your help – we wouldn’t have had a chance of winning without your magic!’

Wendy Lawrence
Boo and the Big Storm
(Wild Publishing)
Manuscript assessment, copyediting

Manuscript Assessment FAQs

Fees for manuscript assessments are based on word count. Please get in touch with the word count of your manuscript for fees.

We work with book-length manuscripts and short-form writing (essays, short stories, novellas). We are experienced with fiction (literary, popular, genre fiction), narrative non-fiction (e.g. memoir, travel, history, personal essay), general non-fiction (e.g. personal development, reference, health) and children’s books (picture books, middle grade and YA). Get in touch if you have any questions about the genre of your manuscript.

Yes, we offer assessments on a partial draft, such as the first three chapters plus a synopsis, and, where appropriate, a chapter outline.

We believe this is really a question that only the writer can answer. What we are able to do is to let you know what is working and what is not working in the current draft, and to offer guidance on how to make the manuscript more likely to be of interest to an agent or publisher by developing the text further. It is then up to you as a writer to decide whether you think it is worth putting the required work in. Our aim is to provide you with feedback, advice, suggestions and critical engagement so that you can answer the question of whether it is worth pursuing yourself.

We have some contacts in the publishing world, and if we feel a manuscript will interest a certain agent or publisher, we will use those contacts to help the writer. However, most writers we have worked with have made their own connections with publishers and agents.

Many writers we have worked with have been successfully published, but we cannot guarantee that your work will be picked up by an agent or publisher. While we can offer you the guidance and support to help you produce a high standard manuscript, much depends on your commitment, patience and determination, as well as the vagaries of the market.

See: Editing

For assessments we prefer to work with printed manuscripts as this allows for more dynamic, helpful annotations for the writer. We also request a digital version for reference saved as a single file in Word or PDF. For certain jobs, including writers based outside of Australia, we work on the digital version using Track Changes in Word and inserting comments.

Most copyediting and proofreading is done with a digital version using Track Changes in Word and inserting comments, but can be done on a print out. Most structural editing is done on a print out to allow for more dynamic annotations. Please get in touch to discuss the options.

For both digital and printed manuscripts, please use the following formatting:

  • line spacing: 1.5–2
  • font: Times New Roman 12 pt
  • margins: minimum 3 cm all round (Word default margins are fine)
  • paragraphing: indent first line of paragraphs except the first paragraph of a new chapter or section (consult published novel for reference). Only put spaces between paragraphs where you wish to indicate a section break. Word often has a default setting of space after a paragraph. Please turn this to 0.
  • text should be range left, not justified, which means right edge is ‘ragged’
  • page numbers: consecutive from beginning to end
  • title page to include name and contact details, including phone and postal address

For printed manuscripts only:

  • unbound, with a large clip or rubber band around the pages
  • include self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the manuscript. A prepaid parcel post satchel is often the best option (includes tracking number).
  • We encourage you to print the manuscript double-sided to save paper and reduce weight.

If you have any questions about formatting your work, please get in touch.

See: Mentoring

Your work is considered automatically protected by copyright under Australian law. There is no registration of copyright in Australia or in most other countries (the U.S. is an exception). Through technological protection measures and contracts, you can limit other people’s ability to use or access your copyright material. Keep in mind also that it is extremely rare for writers to have their ideas stolen by others (and you can’t copyright ideas, only text). We do not as a matter of course use non-disclosure agreements as we treat each manuscript as confidential. However, if you wish to send us a non-disclosure agreement, we are happy to have a look at it. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any concerns about confidentiality.

See: Mentoring, Editing

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