Critique Services

Thanks for all of your sharing yesterday about critique partners vs. critique groups. I think I can safely summarize by saying, we need a Faithful Friend one way or another.

But what about using a critique service or freelance editor, as one of your Faithful companions for the journey?

When I was preparing my contest entries, I turned to a critique service for help. I happened to run across a contest special by Tiffany Colter of Writing Career Coach. At that time she was offering a critique for $30. Always a sucker for a great deal, I signed up right away!

Since I'd never paid anyone to critique my work before, I didn't really know what to expect. So when her return email showed up in my inbox, I opened it with excitement, just knowing she would sing glowing praises of my writing and tell me I would do great in the contest.

I clicked open her attachment and began to scroll through her comments. My heart pattered to a stop. She had made 56 comments in 15 pages. And while she affirmed what I was doing right, I realized I was not holding a Pulitzer Prize winning novel in my hands.

It took a couple of hours for my heart to resume its normal speed and for me to pick myself off the ground, stop whining, and get to work making the changes. When I actually began to read through her suggestions, a new excitement took hold of me. I saw the possibilities she did, the places I could improve, the new depths I could achieve.

I highly recommend the torturous experience of a professional edit to everyone. In fact, I just put more of my novel back on the rack so that Tiffany Colter can stretch me and my writing to the limit. (Sorry for that bit of medieval humor.)

The drawback to a critique service is the cost. You may have to pay hundreds of dollars to have an entire manuscript critiqued. But at some point in our writing careers we have to invest before we start making returns. Everyone has to decide what that point is for them, and then where to invest (professional edit, conference, etc.).

Have you ever used a critique service? If so, which one and what was your experience? Who would you recommend?

Rachelle Gardner has a great list of professional freelance editors on her blog. Click here to check them out. I haven't used any of them, but I trust that her list is top notch.

P.S. For those worried about cost of this kind of service, keep in mind the possibility of using author Christina Berry. She would like to start a critique service at some point and is planning to give bottom rates to first clients.


  1. I am sure the first time you get feedback from a professional is going to least the hard parts. I would definitely invest in such a critique once I felt my writing was as good as I could get it.

    I know I've told you before but my dad is an editor and I plan on using him after I get you to whip me into shape! He is rather scared, I think, of editing my book because he is afraid of hurting my feelings! I told him when the time is ready, I will be ready. That would be the beauty of hiring someone you didn't have a relationship with - you can't take it as a personal attack.

  2. Last year, I finally got the nerve to meet with an editor who I had been part of her editing group and courses. ALthough it lasted only 15 minutes, she gave me some of the most valuable information. Thank you for sharing what happened to you.I need to hear what other writers go through.
    BTW, Kathy Ide is the editor I spoke with and she offers online courses through Christian PEN.

  3. Hi Sherrinda,
    I've had my mom read my novels, and I know a lot of people say that doesn't count! But she's a writer too, has taken writing courses, and all of that stuff. She's published in non-fiction, so I feel like she's a great editing source.

    However, when she's read my work, she hasn't critiqued it to the depth that I've needed. She's been my champion and my encourager, which every writer needs. But I think she doesn't want to hurt my feelings or discourage me by being too critical.

    You're right. Someone you pay doesn't have to worry about hurting your feelings. It's their job. The expectation is already there that they'll find everything wrong! That's what you're paying them for.

    I got some great feedback and advice yesterday about crit. partnerships. We'll have to talk more! I'll email you later.

  4. My first historical romance was rejected (synopsis actually) by Love Inspired. So I sent it to the harlequin critique service.
    Absolutely wonderful advice! I kept the paper because it was so helpful. They look at the big picture, write a three page critique and then there's a check list.
    I'm forever thankful for whoever read and critted my whole story. I'd highly recommend harlequin's crit service to anyone.

  5. Hi Terri,
    Thanks for that recommendation. It is amazing what we can learn even from a small amount of time with an editor! Mine was only 15 pages, but I learned a ton!

  6. Hi Jessica,
    If you have a minute, you'll have to let us know how much you paid for the critique service through Harlequin. Sounds like a great option, especially for those who are targeting Love Inspired lines.

  7. I've had Camy Tang and Kaye Dacus critique some of my work. Great advice from both.

    I know exactly what you mean, Jody, by the excitement of digging in and altering your ms when sound advice is recieved. It really does boost your ms up yet another notch. There is always learning to be had.

  8. Yikes! Paying someone to tell me what's wrong with me--writing, me, one and the same, right?--seems like going to the doctor or dentist:-) I haven't approached a freelance editor. Yet. Like going to the doctor or dentist, I know it will make me all better but . . .

  9. Hi Eileen,
    I've heard of Camy's service through Story Sensei. What were the best things you learned from her? How does her cost compare to others?

    Does Kaye Dacus offer a critique service or did you just get linked with her personally?

    Sorry for the questions! I'm just curious how other services work!

  10. Hi Rebecca,
    As a matter of fact, I just got back from the dentist and I know exactly what you mean! I hate going! (I have to have a crown--my first and so the next visit will be over two hours. Torture!)

    But no pain, no gain. Right? :)Sometimes we can get all the critique we need from writing friends, but sometimes we need that extra boost to put us to the next level.

  11. I have only had my work critiqued in contests and by some of my other writing friends - I've never paid a professional to critique it and to be completely honest, I probably never will. That may be harsh, but I've been writing for so long and been in so many different critique groups that I have learned that there are a million different opinions on things. I guess when I'm having problems, I just bounce ideas off of other people and get their feedback.

    This is all to say that paid critique services are not for me, but I do believe they can be invaluable for others.

  12. If I could find something cheap (like dirt cheap) I would probably be tempted, but as it is these services always seem a little too pricey.

    I did get professional feedback on a screenplay that I wrote a few years back from a contact I had while interning and found the advice to be really helpful in future rewrites.

  13. the only professional services i did was the free one from Inspiration for Writers. i wrote a post about what i learned. they do the first 2 pages of your MS for free! definitely check that out.

  14. I have not considered professional services, but perhaps I should. Thank you for some great information and advice!

  15. You're stretching my memory with Camy, Jody. I believe she charged 2 cents per word. I sent work to her a couple years ago. At that time I still had some trouble with basics so she focused in on that mainly. I actually still need to get back to her. She's a very friendly, focused writer.

    Kaye offered her services through her site. I'm not sure if she still as, I know she's been really busy freelancing for publishing houses and working on her slew of contracted books. But I found her very thorough and helpful with the Genesis entry I sent in for her to critique. I think her special was $20.00 for the 15 pages and 1-page synopsis. She's careful not to mess with your voice when she makes suggestions. That was most appreciated by me.

    Now that I think of it some more, I also sent something years ago to Susan Loher. She's also on Rachelle's list. Again I was still so imature as a writer that she helped enforce the basics mostly.

    I believe you can gain valuable help from anyone, but finding someone whose style of editing fits well with your own needs is a challenge worth pursuing. And, yes, there is a cost, but as with everything in life, anything worth seeking is going to cost one way or another.

  16. Hi Melissa,
    Since I'm newer to the writing path, I don't have the same connections it sounds like you have. And to be perfectly honest, since you were :), I don't have the time to reciprocate critiquing for others (except for the one new crit. partner that I just hooked up with). So since I don't have the time to benefit from the crit. group exchanges, I decided that I still needed the advice but I would pay for it.

    I may not need it down the road, but for now since I have such limited time, I thought this would be the easiest on me!

    Thanks for sharing! It's always good to hear both sides of the issue!

  17. Hi Kate,
    The services are pricey. I have to agree with you there! But fortunately for me, I've been able to take advantage of some discounts and save a little money that way.

  18. Hi Jeannie,
    Sounds like a great source for anyone wanting to try a service for the first time to see what a professional edit is like. Thanks for sharing that!

  19. Hi Lady Glamis,
    You may not need the service. You have such a great system with beta readers and other readers, plus your online critique forum!

  20. Hi again Eileen,
    Thanks for taking the time to satisfy my curiousity and to give everyone else a little more info.

    I'm sure there are lots of really great critique services. I guess the challenge is finding one that you can mesh with and afford.

    And I agree. The cost of these services can start to add up. But as I told my husband, I'm investing in my "small business" and there are always start up costs. He could relate since he opened up his own private practice a few years ago and had to pay out money before he was actually making it!

    I almost wonder if at some point, freelance editors will move to the doorkeeping position that agents currently hold. Perhaps there will be a time when agents won't even look at newbies unless they've been recommended through an editing service. Who knows?

  21. I've had critiques that ranged from a few pages to the entire manuscript (and paid for some of those, too). I'd say that critiques are ultimately wonderful, albeit difficult at seeing the first round of comments/suggestions/critiques. I'd also say, make sure you are sending your work to someone reputable and that you can trust, particularly if you're spending money. There are places out there that will skimp on a critique but still charge a hefty sum. I am personally starting to lean toward wanting to find a dedicated critique partner or group, but haven't done the research yet on where to find one. Thanks for the post!

  22. Hi Cindy,
    It's really tough to know who to trust with your MS. I had a great experience with Tiffany for the Genesis entry. And since that was only 15 pages, I figured I didn't have much to lose if I gave her a try. After my experience and after realizing what a great help it was, I really wanted to use her for the rest of my MS.

    As far as critique groups, Lady Glamis mentioned hers in yesterday's comments. And then ACFW also has a sign-up for critique groups. Those are just two options! I'm sure there are many more that I don't even know about!

  23. I've never used a professional service to critique my work, but I will definitely keep the option open for the future. It can be next to impossible to pick up the flaws in our own writing--especially when we don't know what to look for.

    Another thing for authors to consider: what publisher are they targeting. A professional critique from an author who writes single title books could offer contrary advice to someone who writes category romance. There are different needs and expectations with these books as to when the characters' GMC's are introduced.

    On the flip side, someone who understands the "rules" for writing category novels may give incorrect advice about single title books.

    That being said, good writing is good writing, and I'm certain any professional freelance editor would give sound advice about pacing, grammar, dialogue, description, point-of-view, etc...

    Thanks for another great post!

  24. Hi Jill,
    You bring up a very good point about single title vs. category novels. I think we would want to find a professional editor who understands the "rules" by which we write (probably more true to category, although I'm sure it's true of CBA vs. general market too.)

    Once I'm finished with the entire critique of my novel I'll have much more to say about the whole process! But for now, it's been a very good option for me since I have such limited time.

    I'm thinking when I write my queries I can add that I've had my MS professionally critiqued. What do you think? Maybe that will help my chances, maybe not!

  25. I'd be worried about paying for some bad advice. I've had pieces of my ms looked at by several writers and everyone has their own opinion as to what I should do to make it stronger. If I listened to every one of them, I'd be going in circles because what one person likes, the other doesn't, etc...
    I think I'll stick to a critique group where the advice is free and there are enough people critiquing that I can get a rough idea of what really needs to be changed. The rest is up to me.
    Lynnette Labelle

  26. Hi Lynnette,
    Thanks for stopping by! And I think you have a really great point! Even professional freelance editors are bound to come at our work with their own opinions. We will still have to sort out what REALLY needs to be changed versus what is subjective.

    In my case, it boils down to the time factor. I like the idea of being able to pay someone to help edit and not have to reciprocate. But I am just starting a crit. partnership with one person, so hopefully that will give me additional feedback without taking too much time away from writing.

    Thanks for chatting!


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