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Publisher Evalutions

I evaluate fiction manuscripts for a publisher, using a standard form crafted by the publishing house. The form contains a list questions, grouped by subject: opening, premise, plot, POV, character, dialogue, and setting. I’m sharing some of the questions here, so you can see specifically how a publisher might evaluate your manuscript.

Does the first page grab the reader’s attention?
Does the first chapter set up the basis for the rest of the story?

Premise and Tone:

Is the basic premise or theme interesting? Believable? Unique?
Is the focus of the work revealed early in the novel?
Is the basic premise of the novel well executed?

Point of View:

Is the point of view consistent throughout?
Are shifts in point of view, if any, necessary and simple to follow?
Is the point of view used appropriately to convey the thoughts or emotions of various characters?

Structure, Plot, and Pace:
Is there a planned series of carefully selected interrelated incidents?
Are there situations that heighten the conflict?
Does the story have a clear conclusion or satisfactory ending appropriate to the genre?
Do the plot and structure sufficiently hold the reader’s interest throughout?

Is the setting described appropriately without slowing the pace of the work?
Does the novel provide an appropriate sense of place?

Does the author provide a clear visual image of the characters?
Does the behavior of all characters seem realistic?
Are the characters presented with realistic challenges and life situations?
Do you feel an emotional connection to any of the characters?
Are characters introduced effectively and for a specific purpose?


Does the dialogue reveal the character’s background or identifying traits?
Is there a good balance of dialogue and action?
Does the dialogue sound authentic, and is it used effectively throughout?

As you can see, publishers have high standards and specific expectations that apply across all fiction genres.


L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist, editor, and the author of the Detective Jackson mysteries, The Sex Club , Secrets to Die For, and Thrilled to Death, and two standalone thrillers, The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. All are available on Kindle for $2.99. She also loves to edit fiction and works with authors to keep her rates affordable. Contact her at:
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  1. How interesting. Now I'm going to look over my Halloween story (currently showing on my Blog) to see if it meets the criteria.
    Thank you so much for sharing that information.
    Blessings, Star

  2. This will be very helpful for authors to use to evaluate their own works and see if they're ready to submit. Thank you L.J.

  3. Thanks for sharing this excellent list of questions, LJ! I'm going to refer all my clients to today's blog so they can check through their manuscript. These points, so well laid-out, will help me as an editor, too! I'll incorporate them into the checklist I use for my manuscript critiques.

  4. Another print and keep post for me. Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information!

  5. Very useful. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thanks for sharing this LJ! I can put this information to work immediately.


  7. Concise, useful tool for evaluating your manuscript. Thanks!

  8. So nice to have this info presented concisely and thoroughly. This would be helpful not only to individual writers in assessing their work, but it would be good for contests and critique groups. When I was judging for The Craft of Writing Conference, we had sheets with similar questions as we evaluated stories. So helpful.

  9. That's really interesting. I'm going to save it. Thanks for posting it, LJ.

  10. This is great information, L.J. I feel like I have a better idea of what agents and editors are looking for when they evaluate our manuscripts.

  11. These are great points for us editors to remember, also, as we work on our clients' manuscripts. Excellent post, L.J. Thanks so much for sharing this info with us!

  12. Excellent post with information that should aid all authors! It's a print and keep!

    Thank you!!!

  13. Very interesting list. Do you have to rate the manuscripts using these criteria? Or do you just need to give an overall report?

    My Darcy Mutates

  14. Many thanks for posting this fascinating and useful insight. I knew about some of the items on the list but definitely not all.

    It's interesting that many recently published books (and ones that go on to win all sorts of awards) would fail many of these points!

  15. This is beyond helpful. Thank you so much :)

  16. I found this to be a very helpful checklist. Thanks. :)


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