What is a manuscript appraisal for a nonfiction book and why is it important?

When you start writing your nonfiction book, it’s common to start with oodles of enthusiasm but then, as you get further into your manuscript, lose your way. What once made sense, now feels muddled and you’re just not sure if the structure is even working anymore. Cue frustration and procrastination. 

Well, that’s where a manuscript appraisal can be really helpful. 

What is a manuscript appraisal? 

In a nutshell, a manuscript appraisal looks at the structure of your current manuscript and gives you an overview of what’s working and what isn’t. It’s designed to take your writing to the next level and to help you move forward, particularly when you’re stuck.

As an aspiring nonfiction author, you want your book to be in the best shape possible and a manuscript appraisal gives you professional feedback to make this happen. 

Here at Creating Happy Writers, my manuscript appraisal service is called The Book Fix. Most authors who request it are either part-way through their manuscript or they’ve finished an early draft and would like some feedback. 

It’s not the same as a structural edit, which is more detailed and involves significant restructuring of a manuscript. An appraisal is less in-depth but still offers value to the writer.

What type of feedback do you get? 

When completing a manuscript appraisal, an editor will look at many aspects of your nonfiction book, including the following:

  • The overall flow of the book – even if it’s only a partial manuscript – does it make sense to the reader? Does it logically flow from beginning to end?

  • Whether you’re sticking to the theme – so you’re not going off on tangents

  • Do the chapters make sense in the order they’re in?

  • Does the introduction work – are you setting out the rest of the book in the way you’ve promised?

  • The length of the chapters – do they need to be tighter or shorter? Or do you need to combine any to make them more detailed?

  • Are you using relevant stories/case studies to illustrate your points?

  • Are the chapters structured in a way that works and is most helpful to the reader?

With the Book Fix, you’ll get a written report to read through so you know the areas that are working and those that need some development. You’ll also get a call to talk through the report, so I can answer any questions you have. 

The feedback is designed to help you feel more positive about your book – quite often, authors are at a crisis point when they seek an appraisal as they feel like something’s not working. 

And that’s perfectly normal. 

Writing is tough, and if this is your first book, it’s even tougher. Getting some feedback at the midway point can be the most helpful way to get momentum back.

Why is a manuscript appraisal important? 

Now you might think I’d say because you want your nonfiction book to be the best it can be. And yes, while that’s true, a manuscript appraisal can do more than that. 

One of the main benefits is to give you a much-needed confidence boost. Writing is not only hard, but it’s also a lonely endeavour. You don’t get much feedback from people so it often feels like you’re a one-man band. Constantly striving forward, banging your drum with no one telling you if the rhythm’s right or not. 

Yes, once you’ve had an appraisal, you’ll know exactly what you need to do next to level up your book. But at CHW, we’ll celebrate what’s working well already too. Because there will be a lot that’s working, believe me. You may not feel like it, particularly if you’ve been working on it for months and you’ve lost your way, but that’s where an outside perspective can really help. 

It’s someone else looking in, completely detached from the project, that can see things more clearly than when you’re in the thick of it. You know your book so well, it’s hard to see it objectively. 

And it’s that constructive feedback that gives you the boost you need to continue.

When is the right time to book one in?

There is no right or wrong time for a manuscript appraisal – it’s whatever feels right for you. But having several chapters under your belt is best because then you’ll get more bang for your buck. 

Here are a few other reasons to consider investing in one:

  • You’re stuck and don’t know what to do next – an appraisal can give you the clarity you need to continue

  • You’re worried your book isn’t good enough – maybe you’ve got a publishing deal or maybe you’re just not sure if your readers will love it. Whatever the reason you feel this way, an appraisal can help you see the positives and the areas for development

  • You’re not ready to invest in a full structural edit – an appraisal can be a cost-effective way to get some professional feedback to move your book forward. It also doesn’t require you to have finished your manuscript.

  • You want to approach an agent – getting your book into the best shape possible is a great reason to have some professional feedback. You’ve only got one chance to make a good first impression, so you’ll want your book to be structurally strong. 

So if you’re stuck or lost with your nonfiction manuscript and would like some feedback, get in touch today and we can discuss whether the Book Fix is right for you. 

You’ll be so glad you did. 

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