Book Manuscript Critiques

Book Manuscript Critiques

by Author and Editor Barbara Brabec

pen and blank book suggesting to journal or write a book

IF YOU'RE WONDERING if the book you've written is worthy of publication and whether it might find a good market, a critique of your book manuscript will answer those questions and probably lower your editing and publishing costs too.

With a lifetime of experience as a professional writer, editor, trade book author and independent publisher, I bring my entire lifetime of knowledge and experience to the table each time I elect to work with a new client, and that relationship is always a personal one.

I no longer accept editing work, but critiquing manuscripts gives me an enjoyable change of pace. Equally important is the fact that I love to read, and being able to encourage writers at any level of expertise is important to me at this stage of my life.  

I am interested in book manuscripts that relate to my lifetime of experience and mirror my personal interests, passions, and Christian beliefs, as reflected in my books and all the writing on this site. If your book falls into one of the following categories, I’d love to hear from you:

 Memoirs and Biographies
How-to BooksCookbooks
Books for Christians
Uplifting Fiction and Novels

Client Testimonials

AS A LIFELONG READER of fiction by best-selling novelists and a writer skilled in writing dialogue, I am highly qualified to critique fiction and dialogue, which is a problem for most first-time authors.

Robert Frost once said, "You can be a little ungrammatical if you come from the right part of the country," which may be true if you're writing dialogue in fiction. But where a self-published book is concerned, being "a little ungrammatical" could prove not only embarrassing but harmful to your professional image. A self-published book that has not been professionally edited will surely bring unfavorable reviews, and there will be no good word-of-mouth advertising, which all authors need for maximum success.

REMEMBER: If your first book isn't well written and edited, no one will read your second.

What You’ll Get in a Manuscript Critique

FIRST, you’ll get my honest, unbiased opinion about the quality of your writing, the potential market for your book, its overall strengths and weaknesses, and whether it’s likely to be of interest to trade publishers or if you should plan to publish it yourself. (For self-publishing guidance, see my articles in the Writing & Publishing department.)

My critique of your manuscript prior to its being edited will not only result in a much better book, but could save you hundreds of dollars in editing fees. That’s because I am always specific about content that needs to be clarified, completely rewritten, moved from one place to another, or simply removed.

Often, a book with a high word count can be greatly improved simply by removing some of its content—selected chunks of text here and there, or whole chapters that might be used in a sequel. In a book, less is often more.

Although I no longer offer manuscript editing services, these testimonials from satisfied authors attest to my skill and experience as an editor, which is essential when critiquing a manuscript.

My critique will cover the following points:

.The Book as a Whole: What I took away from it, and whether you’ve convinced me that your expertise or experience in the subject matter is credible. (If your author credentials are not indicated in the manuscript, it would be helpful to have your BIO for reference.)

.The Book’s Audience: Tell me how you see your intended audience, and I’ll tell you if I find your book appropriately written for that audience and whether it’s likely to hold readers’ attention. (Perhaps I’ll see an even larger market for your book than you can see at this time.)

.Book Title and Subtitle: Does it convey the book’s content and have no apparent problems from a trademark or marketing standpoint? If it does, I’ll discuss them, and if I find the title or subtitle lacking in any way, I will offer suggestions for improvement.

.Use of Copyrighted Material: First-time authors often unknowingly violate the Copyright Law by illegally using content from the web or other sources without permission or proper citation. But everything one writes is protected by the Copyright Law—even content that is not officially copyrighted (such as letters to your Mom)—and there are limitations as to how much content an author can use under the Fair Use provision of the Law. I can’t give legal advice here, but I have an excellent layman’s knowledge of Copyright Law and will bring to your attention any quoted material in your book that I think is problematic.

Quality of Writing: I’ll give you my opinion of how well you write and what you might need to do to improve your writing. My manuscript critiques do not include copy editing, but as I read I’ll start a list of common grammar and punctuation errors you’re making so you can do some self-editing before you send your manuscript out for copy editing. (Every author should have a couple of good grammar books on their bookshelf.)

Book Structure: I’ll discuss whether or not your book grabs me at the start, holds my interest through the middle, and leaves me feeling satisfied at the end; whether your chapters are well structured with good ‘grab me’ beginnings and endings that move the reader forward to the next chapter . . . or leave them wanting; whether you have provided sufficient information or are assuming knowledge on the part of readers; and whether you are repeating yourself or discussing the same topics in more than one place and need to bring those discussions together.

Barbara Brabec “has the rare ability to see the details while keeping in view the book’s overall perspective. Finding her was providential.”– John Horvat, author of Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society

“Her detailed report [and advice] allowed me to pinpoint, polish, and revise certain parts of my draft in need of further attention.” – M. R. James, author of Hunting the Dream—a Memoir.

More praise for Barbara's Manuscript Critiques HERE.

Timeline: Do chapters flow in a logical manner where time or reader understanding is concerned? If not, I’ll point out problem areas. (In my own writing, I’ve often found I could greatly improve a book simply by reordering its chapters.)

.Dialogue (Style and Substance): I’ll comment on whether I find your dialogue believable, crisp and lively, or mundane and boring; also whether your speech tags (“said references”) are attached to dialogue in a way that is not clumsy or distracting. Few first-time authors are able to do this without study or professional guidance. (If your manuscript suffers from these common problems, and you can’t fix them, you’ll need some content or developmental editing, which is more costly than copy editing.)

Descriptions: Have you described characters in fiction or real people in a nonfiction book in a way that makes me care about them? Have you painted pictures with words that make me see places and things in my mind’s eye? I’ll let you know how well or poorly you may be doing here.

Rewriting and Self-Editing Tasks: With my written critique in hand, you’ll know how much rewriting and editing your manuscript needs to be worthy of publication. Using the list of common writing errors I’ll make as I read, you will be able to do some copy editing yourself, which could save you some money when you send the manuscript to an editor. Joe Bell offers a good example:

“I'd written this 106,000-word ‘slab of beef’ memoir titled Of Shadows and Footprints and asked Barbara to take a look at it. What I learned from her critique enabled me to rewrite and self-edit the manuscript from 106,000 to 67,000 words, during which time I turned it into a ‘filet mignon’ suitable for her editing. It was magical for me . . .” – Joe Bell

AFTER YOU'VE STUDIED MY CRITIQUE, you will be entitled to a thirty-minute follow-up telephone consultation ($35 value) to get answers to any specific questions you may have. (Longer consultations are available at additional cost.) I have unlimited long-distance telephone service in the Continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and will be happy to call you if that will save you money.


$3.50/page, with a page being calculated at 250 words

Thus, a 30,000-word manuscript at $3.50/page would cost $420 (30,000 ÷ by 250 x $3.50); 50,000 words, $700; 90,000 words, $1,260, etc. Payment in advance through PayPal or personal check.

Depending on my schedule at the time and the length of your book manuscript, you should allow at least two weeks to receive my written critique (PDF document).

Manuscript Formatting and Delivery Options

I NEED both a printed copy of the manuscript as the reading copy and a Word or LibreOffice document so I can do global searches as may be necessary. If you don’t wish to send a copy by mail or UPS, I will print the reading copy for ten cents a page. This document is necessary for my personal notations and reminders of what to include in the written critique. It will not be returned.

The manuscript should be formatted with one-inch margins all around, double line spacing with paragraph (not tabbed) indents and page numbers at the top or bottom. Use LEFT justification and a readable font such as Times New Roman 12 pt. or Verdana 10. This usually works out to about 250 words per page, which is the standard format required by most editors and publishers.

For my special tips on how to properly format a book manuscript for editing, typesetting, and eBook conversions, read "Book Manuscript Formatting Tips."

Note that "double-spacing" means straight double-spacing; not single-spaced lines with double spacing between paragraphs (Web style). Incorrect spacing of the printed manuscript I receive as the reading copy will make it more difficult for me to make notations between lines and in the margins and will result in a higher critiquing fee. If I am to print the manuscript, then this spacing requirement is unimportant as I will simply reformat a copy of the manuscript to meet my reading needs.

Ready to talk about your book?

NO CHARGE for a fifteen-minute get-acquainted chat.

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