Critique Guidelines

Focus on the big picture. We “content edit” or “developmentally edit”: we examine issues like plot, character, premise, voice, and pacing. We request you DO NOT “copy edit”–that is, nit-picking grammar, punctuation, word choice, etc–unless your teammates specifically request it as an additional service, on top of content edits. You may use the “inline” critique function all you like, as long as you are focused on the story-substance and not style, grammar, or syntax choices. You may make general comments on copy editing issues and offer to help with that in addition to developmental editing eg, “You use a lot of filtering words. Would you like me to highlight them on the next pass?”

All authors have the right to decline all copy-editing input if they do not want it.

All critiquers have the right to decline to give copy-editing input if they do not enjoy giving it.

Support the author’s goals. Everyone has different publishing goals, stylistic preferences, and working methods. Do not assume your teammates have the same ones as you. Ask what they are attempting to achieve in terms of the main point of the book, the style and voice, and also, what final market they intend. A great resource is read their comp titles (novels similar in genre, style, and tone) to get into the mindset of their target demographic, and help them see how to best achieve their goals.

Ask for sources. When making any sweeping statements, such as “adverbs are bad” or “prologues don’t work,” please cite exactly what authority said that. “Some blog on the internet” is not adequate. There’s a lot of scam–or vastly inexperienced–“agents” and “editors” out there. (see Pred-ed and SFWA’s Writer Beware) Additionally, there’s a lot of just plain crap on the internet: “aspiring” authors who have never so much as completed a draft but heard “you have to have a blog,” copying whatever incorrect information they can find so they can meet their “new post every week” goals. SEO is an entire field where people are paid to pad google results for the highest bidder; Jerry paid his way across the world repeating patently untrue and questionably ethical pseudo-facts in ways that made them top google results. We guarantee that a google search for most basic writing questions will turn up bullshit, some of which Jerry put there himself.

Therefore, we ask that you cite the exact publisher, agent, or author and their sales records. Use Publisher’s Marketplace to determine if the person with the opinion actually is involved in selling significant numbers of books in your genre, and therefore has the experience to make sweeping statements about what does or doesn’t sell.

You are welcome and encouraged to give reader reactions: “this interested / amused / appealed to / bored / shocked / turned me off me as a reader.” Every one of us is a person who buys and reads books; customer opinions are valuable! But you must be clear if you are speaking for yourself, as one customer, or if you are quoting an agent, editor, or author who is summarizing the opinions of many customers.

If you can’t find an expert on a subgenre, become one! Look up all the bestselling debuts in close genres (not established authors, debuts) on Publisher’s Marketplace, download the free sample chapters from Amazon, and analyze them all for trends. If the top dozen selling books all have something in common, you now have a very good reason to suggest the author emulate it.

All authors are encouraged to request the sources behind assertions made by any critiquer.