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How to choose a literary consultant
Literary consultants are a recent phenomenon, but they’ve radically altered the landscape for new writers. You certainly don’t need to use one, but your manuscript is likely to improve if you do.
What do literary consultants do?
A good consultant should read your manuscript cover to cover and provide a detailed written report on what’s working, what’s not working and how to fix the stuff that isn’t yet right. We’d think that a decent report should be no less than 3,000 words long. Quite possibly, your report will be longer.
Can’t my mum give feedback?
Yes, but a consultant’s job is to be tough and give you informed feedback. Additionally, you need your consultant to be a publishing professional. That means either a published author, a professional literary agent or a professional commissioning editor. Only those people truly understand what a manuscript needs to achieve and how it needs to achieve it to make it a success.
Which would you recommend: an author or a publishing editor?
That depends. Our experience is that if your manuscript is at a very advanced stage – that is, if your writing technique is already very solid – then you will most benefit from a commissioning editor’s eye for the market (or what’s selling successfully today).
Most manuscripts, however, are likely to have some issues of technique. Those technical problems are almost always best addressed by authors, because only authors have the practical daily experience of encountering and overcoming those problems in their own work.
What kind of background does an author need to be a literary consultant?
Two things matter. If an author has achieved success with Random House or Penguin or HarperCollins, then they have excelled in one of the toughest careers that exists anywhere. Secondly, it’s a good idea if the author has written in the same kind of field as you. We have about eighty authors on our team, so we almost always have a consultant who matches your genre very closely. On the other hand, good authors are remarkably versatile. One of our best crime consultants, for example, is a literary author by trade, but he just loves crime novels. So he knows the market well, he has outstanding writing technique, and his clients love his reports.
Will a consultant recommend my work to literary agents?
If your work is strong enough. Agents won’t take work just because a consultant recommends it. They’ll take work if they love it and think they can sell it. And over the years, we’ve found agents for writers who’ve gone on to become bestsellers.
Your focus first needs to be on getting the manuscript perfect. Achieve that, and everything else gets easier.
What kind of costs am I looking at?
It varies, but budget $800 / £500 for a manuscript of about average length. Long ones will be more than that. Kids fiction and YA work will typically cost less.
And I just need to sit back and relax, right?
Feedback is only as strong as the client lets it be. We’ve seen leaden manuscripts turn to gold because the author has been so committed to getting it right. We’ve seen other stunning manuscripts improve still further. Getting good advice is only half the story. Using it is the other, bigger half.
Can you recommend any great literary consultants?
Uh, yes, we probably can.
What you want to look for is (A) one of the world’s largest consultancies, combined with (B) some of the very best editors available anywhere, (C) an unparallelled degree of success, and (D) a firm that is run by writers for writers, with your interests at the heart of everything we do.
Luckily, Jericho Writers IS that consultancy.
We take extreme care to deliver editorial reports that are as good as we’d wish to receive ourselves. We take huge care when we select our editors and keep strict tabs on quality as we go. The result? Dizzyingly well-satisfied customers and a lot, a lot of publishing success stories.
And we’re not just a bunch of (very good) editors. We are also a Club, created by writers for people exactly like you. You can find out more about us here – and we’d be tickled pink if you chose to join us.