Assessing the Assessor.
edited: Friday, February 14, 2003
By Sally Odgers
Posted: Friday, February 14, 2003
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Assessing the Assessor.
I first discovered I had a talent for manuscript assessment back in the 1980s when I was acting as 'reader' for a literary agent. Some of the mss I read were very good. I recommended these. Some were pretty hopeless. I put these aside to be sent back to the authors. Many were in between. They were good stories with just a few problems.
"This is easy to fix," I said to my employer. "Shall I write and tell the author what needs doing?"
"No," she said. "If you do that, writers will try to fix it, then send it back. If it's still not right, they'll be annoyed and disappointed."
As far as I could see a simple; "No" with no reason given was just as disappointing.
A friend of a friend sent me a ms she'd written and asked for my opinion. I gave it, and pointed out some flaws in the plot.
"Thank you!" she wrote. "You're not the first person who's ever told me what was wrong, but you are the first to tell me how to fix it!"
More stories came in. People rang me up to ask how they should get their books published. I found myself spending hours on the telephone while pots boiled dry or my meals got cold. I wrote a "How-to" for authors, and many of them read it... but they still wanted personal advice.
I prepared handouts.
They wanted personal, specific advice.
I decided to have a Writers' Information Evening at my place. I advertised it locally, and put a modest charge on attendees. After all, I was offering valuable information. I don't teach writing for nothing...
I prepared supper, spent hours making up information sheets and got my family fed and settled in the other room.
I had four bookings, which was disappointing.
No one turned up. That was even more disappointing.
The next time someone telephoned, asking my advice, I asked her if she'd seen the advertisements for my Writers' Information Evening.
"If you'd come, you could have had two hours to ask all the questions you wanted," I said. "I'm busy right now. If I have another evening next month, will you come to that?"
What to do? No one wanted to come to my advertised evening, yet several people wanted to tie up my telephone (and my time) for two or more hours at once.
I was tired. I hated to refuse help, but I preferred to give it at times that suited me.
In the end, I took a two-pronged approach to the problem. I launched a web site with all kinds of general information for writers. You can find it at http://www.sallyodgers.com . I also launched a business called Affordable Assessments. You can find that at http://sallyodgers.50megs.com/mentor.htm
The first caters for the general, the second for the specific. General information is free. Specific advice on how to fix problems in your own specific mss costs a very modest amount. If people telephone me now, I direct them to the appropriate service.
General publishing advice?
No, it's all there. If you have a question that isn't there, you may send it in an e-mail. But look on the web site first.
Want me to look at your ms? Fine. Go to Affordable Assessments and follow the instructions. How long? How much? Why? What? When? It's all there, on the site.
Feel like paying me a virtual visit?