Manuscript Assessments


Our suite of manuscript assessments is essentially short and simple. All are prepared according to the infinitely varied needs of our writers and the unique challenges of their projects; none are forced to fit a laid-down format or formula. What need is there for further complication?

Full Manuscript Assessment

This is our standard assessment, afforded to writers who want an appraisal of a complete – or largely complete – work for prospective commercial sale. This can be finished novel or screenplay or a non-fiction work. (Please note that we do not assess poetry.)

We do not distinguish or charge for differing levels of detail: all our assessments are thorough – we simply don’t know how to read and evaluate a manuscript in any other way.

Our Full Manuscript Assessments are typically 12-20 pages in length, although this is not capped and our editors will make sure all of the key aspects are covered sufficiently. They are fully customised to your needs as a writer and the demands of your project. We do not tick boxes. We do not apply a formulaic template. We do not patronise or engage in platitudes, and we assume that all our writers are grown-ups, robust professionals and serious about their writing. Instead, we emphasise practical writing disciplines; specific techniques that give clarity and precision, that support captivating and engaging prose, that help your writing flow and enable readers, agents and publishing editors to keep turning the pages.

The assessment deals with every aspect of your submitted work: we consider its value as a whole, especially its marketability as a commercial proposition; we examine the suitability of its overall structure and the strength of the narrative; we look for points of disengagement – places in the narrative where readers’ attention is likely to flag – and provide practical means of addressing them; above all, we consider elements of style and discipline, flushing out instances where there is lack of clarity and precision or of repetition and ‘overwriting’. If the project is a work of fiction, we pay particular attention to pacing, characterisation, narrative perspective (Point of View), authenticity of dialogue and plausibility (paradoxically, credibility is often an aspect of greater consideration for a novel than for a work of non-fiction).

The assessment ends invariably with clear recommendations for action and an indication of what we consider the next steps should be for your project.

Above all, our assessments are candid and scrupulously honest: we will never give false encouragement in the hope of landing repeat fees from clients whose projects have little real projects of enjoying commercial success.

Editorial Assessment

The Editorial Assessment is becoming increasingly popular with our client authors. In addition to the Full Manuscript Assessment described above, there are two enhancements.

First, the editor provides a fully annotated copy of the manuscript that both complements the report and makes it easier for clients to make numerous improvements under their own steam. (Please note that this provision should in no way be regarded as amounting to a professional edit. See our Editing Services.)

Second, the package includes a one-to-one meeting with the editor who carried out the assessment, at which the client can explore further the challenges and opportunities identified and any other aspects of the project. The cost of the package provides for an hour of the editor’s time, though some editors may be disposed to spend a little longer with the client at their discretion. (Meetings are offered at a times and venues that are convenient for the editor – usually near their home or office – though most of our editors are fairly flexible and some of them travel regularly in the course of their publishing-related work.)

Submission Package Assessment

This is where we assess and advise on a partial manuscript or sample of your project. There are typically two instances where you may find this useful:

The first, as the name implies, is where you feel you may be ready to submit material to publishing editors and or literary agents for the first time, and seek an appraisal first on the quality and impact of your submission package. Perhaps you have already made some approaches that have not borne fruit and would value an independent assessment before resuming.

As you are probably aware, individual agents and publishers have fairly uniform expectations about the components of a submission package. Though their specific requirements should always be checked out first, most ask for the first three or four chapters of an intended book, together with a one or two-page synopsis and a covering letter. These are the components that are covered by your assessment, which will give you the feedback you need to make sure that your submission package is the best it can possibly be and significantly improve the prospects of an agent or editor asking to see the balance of your work.

Remember that most of us at Border Scripts are not primarily writers, but publishing editors who are well accustomed to receiving submissions ourselves and also deal with literary agents on a regular basis. We are practically familiar with the approaches that work – and with those that don’t.

The other useful application for the Submission Package Assessment is at the opposite end of the writing process. As most writers are fully aware, completing a book or screenplay of any standard can be an exhaustive and time-consuming undertaking. You may wish to subject a sample of your manuscript to independent scrutiny to help you determine whether it is worth pursuing or whether your time and energy would be better spent on something else – perhaps another writing project.

Our Submission Package Assessments are subject to the same care and thoroughness as our other assessments; the fees and length of the assessment report (typically 8-12 pages) simply reflects the lesser volume of reading material.

Submitting Your Manuscript: a Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Please tell us a little about yourself, your writing project and your requirements by contacting us.

    Would this be a debut publication or have you published work before? Is this a biography, a business book, a children’s book, an academic work, a screenplay or a novel? If it is a novel, is it a crime thriller, a romance, comedy, a family saga or a literary work?

    Give us the basics of what it is about – for example: an account of the Battle of Zama based on the latest archaeological research… a hard-boiled action thriller set on the streets of Sao Paolo… a book about how to improve your selection interviewing skills… a dramatisation of political machinations during the Suez Crisis…a family saga set in 19th century Liverpool… a controversial new biography of Jerry Lee Lewis… a literary novel about a boy who ends up floating on the Pacific in a lifeboat with only a Bengal tiger for company… etc. These brief essentials will help us select the most appropriate editor for your project.

    Do provide us with any history you feel may be helpful or relevant. For example: how much commercial writing experience do you have; have you already submitted your work to publishing editors or literary agents and, if so, what was the outcome?

    Please let us know if this is a completed manuscript or a work-in-progress and provide us with a word count for the material you would like to submit.

    What sort of assessment package do you wish from us – or would you like us to recommend something to you based on where you feel you are with the project and any challenges you may be experiencing?

    You may also wish at this stage to flag up specific aspects that you would like your editor to address and on which to provide advice (or you may prefer to do this at a later stage in a covering letter accompanying your manuscript).

  2. We will reply to you typically within 24 hours, providing either a proposal or simple acknowledgement of your expressed requirements and confirmation of the costs. We will also let you know what you can expect us to achieve by way of turnaround time, from the receipt of your manuscript to the despatch of the assessment. We may, at this stage, be able to give details of your editor. We will seek confirmation that you have read and accepted our terms and conditions. Confirmation can be made by printing and signing our Terms & Conditions statement and enclosing this with your manuscript, or you may sent us a simple confirmation by email that these have been read and are accepted.

  3. Assuming you are satisfied with the above, send us your material. For a Full Manuscript or Editorial Assessment, all we really need is your manuscript, although you may opt to include a synopsis and or a covering letter that emphasises anything you would like your editor to pay particular attention to and cover in the assessment.

    Your manuscript should be in a simple 12 point font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri or Garamond. It should be double-spaced and with standard margins and saved as a Microsoft Word document.

    Our preference is for both a hard copy and an electronic manuscript (attached to an email – please do not send discs or memory sticks in the post); the latter is especially useful to editors wishing to include extracts from your manuscript in your assessment report.

    For a Submission Package Assessment we will also need a synopsis (one or a maximum of two pages) and a covering letter. Your covering letter in this case should be written as if to a publishing editor or literary editor.

    We may ask you to send your package to us at Border Scripts (see contact details) or provide an address to send it directly to your editor. If it is inconvenient or time consuming for you to print a paper copy, material can be sent by email and we can print it at an addition charge of 10p per page.

    Finally, remember to provide return postage and packaging for the return of your manuscript unless you intend informing us that you would prefer us simply to destroy it after the assessment.

    We will inform you immediately by email as soon as we receive what you have sent us.

  4. Send us your payment if you have not already done so. This can be made by cheque or bank transfer.

  5. Your editor will now read your manuscript and any supporting materials most thoroughly and start to prepare your detailed assessment report.

    Once this is ready, we send it on to you – usually by email. Where you have asked for an Editorial Assessment and or where you have sent us the means of return postage, we send your manuscript and other material back to you.

  6. Read and digest your report. As well as giving a thorough, honest and independent appraisal of you project, with clear explanations and examples of how it can be enhanced to make it more marketable to publishing editors and literary agents, there will be clear and practical suggestions about how to proceed further. You may now feel fully equipped to proceed under your own steam, without additional help from us – and this will always be our ideal goal – or it could be that there are further things that we could help with once you have reflected adequately on the assessment and carried out whatever tasks need to be undertaken.

Fees and Charges

Full Manuscript Assessment (Adult & children’s fiction and non-fiction) £325 base fee plus £3.00 per 1,000 words

Editorial Assessment (Includes fully annotated manuscript plus one-to-one feedback meeting with assessing editor) £430 base fee plus £4.80 per 1,000 words

Submission Package Assessment (First 3-4 chapters up to 12,000 words, covering letter & synopsis) £185

Children’s Picture Books 1-2 books, £130; 3-4 books, £170

Film, Stage and Television One-hour script, £220; Feature-length script or stage play, £280

Supplementary Assessments (where you wish to re-submit for a fresh appraisal following revisions in response to any of the above) Subject to a 15% discount

Fast Turnaround Service (Guaranteed within 10 working days) Additional 30% of standard charges

Manuscript Printing (When material is submitted by electronic means only) 10p per page

Methods of Payment