Author Tips: 12 Things I Look at in a Manuscript

Barrys Desk Manuscript Pile

While everything is done on computers nowadays with email, cloud collaboration, and flash drives, we managed to dust off a few printed manuscripts to give you the romantic view of publishing.

The following is a guest post by Senior Development Editor Barry Richardson on what he flags first when reading a submitted manuscript for development.

(1) Proposal: Does the manuscript meet our expectations? Is it the book we thought we were getting? Is it what we contracted for? This includes:

  • Does the page count match the contract?
  • Does it cover everything mentioned in the proposal?
  • Has the content, structure, or focus changed from what was originally proposed?

(2) Writing: Is the manuscript written well? Is it engaging and interesting?

(3) Accessibility: Is the manuscript reader-friendly? Do I understand what the author is saying – whether or not I’m familiar with the topic?

(4) Organization: Is the material set up in a logical way? Does the order of the chapters make sense? Within the chapters, do the topics flow from one to the next in a logical progression?

(5) Introductions and Connectors: Are new chapters or sections introduced properly? Is there connecting material that carries the reader from one section to the next?

(6) Subheads: Are there any subheads to help guide the reader through the material? Are there enough subheads? Too many? Are the existing subheads too long, too short, too complicated, too vague? Do they give away too much of the material to follow?

(7) Repetition: Does the author repeat the same information in different places? Is it word-for-word or merely another way of saying the same thing?

(8) Material Needed: Is there anything missing that seems like it should be included?

(9) Excess Material: Is there material that doesn’t belong? Does the author go off on tangents unrelated to the topic at hand?

(10) Copyediting Issues: If there are specific problems with grammar, spelling, consistency, agreement throughout the manuscript, put these concerns in a note to the copyeditor.

(11) Marketing: How does the book compare to other books on the topic? Does it have a unique feature that will help it sell? Does it cover everything that other books on the topic cover? Is there something missing? Is it timely?

(12) Permissions: Is there anything that would prevent us from publishing it today? Do we have permission for everything quoted in it? Are we waiting for any coauthors/contributors to add material?

Barry Richardson is a Senior Development Editor at AMACOM. Our in-house “book doctor,” he helps improve manuscripts while keeping the author’s voice and expertise–whether it’s heavy-duty editing, reorganization, rewriting, or coaching authors. Prior to joining AMACOM, he worked for 25 years at Prentice Hall (P-H). Visit our website for freelance development inquiries. Find more Author Tips on the AMACOM Books Blog.

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3 responses to “Author Tips: 12 Things I Look at in a Manuscript

  1. 25 years ! he must be ancient !

  2. That’s a joke, son … I am sending this link to my friend Greg, who has three books of different types at various stages of development …

  3. Pingback: Guest Post: As a Book Doctor I Will Not Harm Your Book, I Will Only Make It Better | AMACOM Books Blog

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