TLC Services Questions Answered
On this page you can find some FAQs about TLC’s services and what we provide writers of all levels. If you have a burning question about TLC’s services that isn’t answered elsewhere on our website, we hope you’ll find the answer below. If you’d like to read some FAQs on the Publishing Industry, you can find a dedicated page on Publishing FAQs.
We hope you find what you are looking for here but if not please contact us.
The Literary Consultancy is the UK’s leading manuscript assessment service. We provide expert, market-aware editorial advice to writers at all levels writing in English. For full information browse this site.
We run an established and successful online mentoring scheme called Chapter and Verse.
Founded in 1996, TLC was the UK’s, if not the world’s, first editorial service. We have been in business a long time, and are here because we passionately care about writing and helping writers understand where they stand, how to improve their work, and where possible to find markets. We will not mislead an author about their chances, and are here primarily to give honest, professional feedback on work submitted to us, by our team of over 80 professional readers. Each manuscript that comes in is hand-matched with a suitable editor by the Editorial Services Manager.
TLC is the only editorial service to be supported by the Arts Council England – we are a National Portfolio Organisation – and since 2001 TLC has been able to provide a quota of bursaried manuscript assessments to talented writers from low-income households alongside our regular commercial service (which is open to all).
We are well-regarded in the publishing industry, and work with a number of first-class literary agencies, publishers and self-publishing platforms. We realise that there are various ways into publication for writers these days, and we keep on top of developments in order to give relevant, up-to-date advice. A few examples of writers we have helped to publication can be found on our Success Stories page. Do also see our Client Feedback page, a page that is important to us, as our main aim is to help writers who take their work seriously to improve their writing, whatever stage they are at, and whatever their aims.
We manage our readers carefully, keep an eye on the quality of their work for you, and whilst we cannot always promise we will tell you what you want to hear, we will be honest and objective, which we believe is what writers need to develop their work.
We are not a faceless platform, and have a small in-house team who are happy to talk to see if what we offer is likely to be the right thing for you, at this time in your writing career. We provide editorial services for all writers, from first-time novelists to poets working on collections, agented writers needing help ahead of publication, writers developing short stories for competition submission, non-fiction enthusiasts, and budding screenwriters and librettists.
We provide writing advice to writers working at all levels, from those very much working on their first draft to those writers who already have agent representation. We offer detailed information about what an agent or editor will think of your work, and can explain why your writing may or may not be successful, in commercial or literary terms. If you would like a professional opinion on whether you are heading in the right direction or reasons why you may have been rejected then we can certainly help. We can also help you work out if self-publishing is a good option for you. We ask for a covering letter with each submission, so this is the place to write down any concerns or questions you may have, and to give us a little information about where you are in your writing career, so we can make sure we choose the right reader for you.
Only the writer will know if they want an editorial assessment, and if that might be useful at a particular stage of their writing. Often this is either before you have invested too much time, or after you have finished, though writers come to us for all sorts of reasons. We are here to help if you would like it, and are in a position to use our service.
What is a manuscript assessment?
A manuscript assessment provides the writer with a document giving feedback that can be likened to a ‘developmental’ or ‘structural’ edit of the work submitted. This kind of editing tends to be most useful near the earlier stages of your writing with a project, before copy-editing and proofreading, which should always come last, and might not always be needed (more on this below). Whether you are submitting an extract (we accept the first 15,000 or the first 30,000 words as extract lengths) or a full length project, you will get constructive feedback on your story and writing at the level of the narrative; what’s working, what’s not working, and how to fix it. The assessment report will be returned within 4-6 weeks of submission as a PDF per email, and will highlight areas for improvement including genre, story, plot, pacing, characterisation, POV and a market appraisal. We do not issue an assessment template as we don’t find it helpful to restrict our readers to specific sub-headings; we ask them instead to respond to the text with a view to helping the writer troubleshoot those areas that are most in need of developing or amending in order to move the project forward. At TLC, we will hand-match your manuscript with a reader to ensure your manuscript gets the attention it deserves.
For more information on the manuscript assessment process, please see here.
Broadly speaking, manuscripts will go through three stages of editing.
1) Developmental editing
This type of editing usually requires the writer to do some re-writing, as it looks at structure, continuity, plot, character and story; all the main aspects of a manuscript. Editorial comments are provided as either a report, a line edit, or a combination of the two, and will usually provide constructive directives on the general approach of the manuscript, with comment on its commercial potential and suggestions for improvement.
2) Copy editing
A copy editor will ensure your manuscript is correct in terms of spelling and grammar, consistency, and continuity, going through the document in details with marks on the page (either online, in Tracked Changes, or on the hard copy). This stage of editing is for polishing, for instance ahead of submission to agents. It’s also essential for self-publishing authors, as this service will be provided in-house by traditional publishing houses, and it’s important not to skip this if you are going straight to market with your book.
Proofreading is the final stage of editing before a book is ready to go into production (for publishing in ebook or print format), or during production (when the proof layouts for either ebook or print are ready). Final typos and visual errors are ironed out, and the manuscript is given a last polish to ensure it’s clean and ready to go.
Can TLC help me with copy editing and proofreading? How much does it cost?
At TLC, we work with a small pool of trusted copy editors and proofreaders, many of whom are CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) certified. As this service is carried out by freelancers, quotes will vary slightly, but roughly speaking projects will be costed at £30-£60/hour.
To enquire or request a quotation, please email with details of your manuscript. We will need to see a few sample chapters and please let us know the total word count of work you wish to submit, as well as providing a brief synopsis/overview, and some details about what you are hoping to achieve (i.e., please tell us if you are looking for a copy-edit ahead of submission to agents, or if you require a full copy-edit and proofread because you are planning to self-publish).
Do I need to pay for manuscript assessment?
For a manuscript assessment to be useful to you, it will need to be read by an editor who is suitable for the project you are working on, and who has the right experience and skills. Not everyone who reads or writes is necessarily also a competent editor. Our pool of readers is carefully selected, and we work closely with them, and know their skill-sets, expertise, preferences and work methods. We value their experience, time, and work, and our fees reflect this, and are in line with suggested editing rates provided by the NUJ and CIEP.
If you cannot afford a partial or complete manuscript assessment, you can ask us about our regional partners, who might be able to champion you for a Free Read courtesy of the Arts Council. Please note that this scheme is strictly designed for low-income clients, and not available to all. An application process is involved to assess the merit of the work, and relevant official paperwork will be required to prove your financial circumstances.
There are individual editors who also work as assessors, but we believe that you will be better served by a company like TLC, where the in-house team make the writer-editor match, monitor quality control, and help with industry liaison. You also get a range of choice from within our editorial pool, which an individual cannot offer.
TLC has a unique online programme of support for writers called Being A Writer, that prioritises wellbeing and creativity. There is a strong community here, with a forum, courses, and regular monthly Sunday morning Write Club. For a more structured year of writing, you can also find a community programme via Write Club Plus, which runs annually from January to December, with signup in the lead up to Christmas. We also have a lively and dedicated online community on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as a monthly e-newsletter to give you news and updates on events and promotions, as well as relevant industry announcements and advice.
Should I submit an extract of my work or the whole thing?
This depends on what kind of advice you are looking for (and also on your finances). If you can manage it, a complete assessment is best as our reader can check over your whole work and comment on its structure. However, if that is difficult then you can submit an extract, and still gain a good deal of information about the viability and direction of your book. Some writers choose to submit the equivalent of the first 50 pages because this is roughly the amount submitted to an agent so they would like to make sure their submission is perfectly polished. (It is worth bearing in mind that if an agent calls in the remainder of the work it should be of as a high a standard as the first three chapters.) It might be the case that a writer has received many rejections and is at a loss to know why. Other writers send in an extract to us because they are at a much earlier stage in the writing process and would like to know that they are heading in the right direction. Obviously the advice a reader can give on an extract is limited as they have to rely heavily on the synopsis to find out what direction the book takes. Whilst they can comment on the plot or structure, for example, as laid out in the synopsis, they won’t know how well executed the plan actually is.
If you decide to send in a full-length manuscript then a reader will comment on such things as structure, style, plot, narrative, characterisation and so on, depending on where they think the problems lie in the manuscript. We do not issue templates to our readers, as we think the best approach is to allow the reader the space to identify the key problems and suggest practical solutions, rather than being bound to a certain number of headings for feedback, which may not always be necessary, or relevant.
How should my manuscript be presented?
For submission of your manuscript, Word docs and PDFs are acceptable. Please include a synopsis. Please ensure that your manuscript is correctly formatted before uploading. Fiction and non-fiction manuscripts must be in 12-point, double spaced, and page numbered. When submitting digitally, please ensure that the text is submitted as one single file – please do not submit separate files for separate chapters, for example. Poetry can be presented in its original form. Script formatting guidelines can be found on the BBC Writers Room page here
We are happy to accept work by email (please ensure you follow our Submission Guidelines).
If you need help understanding the information above, please download our example PDF on our Manuscript Formatting page.
What happens if I don’t like my manuscript assessment?
It can be extremely challenging receiving feedback on work that is important to you, particularly if you have been working on a book for a while, and sometimes a writer will react negatively to a report on receipt. This is because it may not tally with where you thought, or hoped, you were ‘at’ as a writer. We recommend that you take time to put the report aside for a little while and then come back to it more than once. Often, the initial reaction is emotional, but a second read will bear more fruit; you should be able to see where the report is suggesting you look again, with a more objective eye, in order to really improve the work and make it stronger in the long-term. It is important to remember that even published writers will receive several sets of editorial notes, often lengthy and detailed, and can feel set back before they get back on the ‘writing horse’ and apply themselves to a rewrite. It may also be that the report encourages you to consider letting a project go, and starting something new armed with some practical advice and reassurance of what your skills are. Even the best writers have been known to write all the way through a draft before realising something isn’t right, and starting again. This can feel daunting, but our job is to be honest with you about whether the writing is going anywhere useful, or might be re-directed, amended, revised, whether with tweaks or radical changes, to make it stronger, and better.
This said, if you genuinely don’t understand a section of your report, or are feeling unclear, you are welcome to write to us and let us know, and we will attempt to deal with your queries or, failing that, pass your questions to your reader. There is strictly no contact with your editor throughout the process, but our editors are happy to look at any essential follow-up questions submitted within a reasonable timeframe and pertaining directly to anything that is perhaps unclear or needing further instruction.
In rare cases where you feel a report is genuinely less than that which we would expect a TLC assessor to provide, we will take the matter seriously and you can lodge a formal complaint which will be escalated accordingly. Please let us know why you are unhappy. We will do our utmost to resolve matters swiftly.
Why can’t I talk to my reader or meet them in person?
At TLC, we put the matter of writing first, and are committed to managing and looking out for our readers so they can continue to provide you with the best editorial reports. We believe that when writers get involved with editors directly in the case of one-off manuscript assessments and reader reports, this can be problematic. The reader is there to provide an honest, professional, and objective view. It’s essential that this view should be independent. We are happy to pass on a covering letter to your reader in case you have any specific concerns or questions, but strongly advise you to be open to constructive criticism and try not, where possible, to pre-empt. This is the only way to get the most out of your report. The reader is not here to think about the writing led by your own thoughts on how it’s coming across. In fact, often the most useful thing is examining if there is any disparity between the way you view the book, and the way an independent reader ‘sees’ it on reading it fresh, with no prejudice or prior relationship which may compromise a report. A new pair of eyes on a manuscript can really help tease out what isn’t working, and sometimes this can be something fundamental that hasn’t been apparent to you, as the writer, simply because you yourself are too close to the text. This is entirely normal, and common. We’re here to help.
There are many support systems in place for writers, with workshops, reading groups, writing groups, memberships and collectives, and they can be immensely helpful to engage with. However, we are in the business of trying to enable writers to understand what professionalising their writing means. We are here to talk to you if you need, but we want our editors to keep all the time they can for editing. If there is a problem, we will deal with it.
If you do want a higher level of contact with your editor in an ongoing environment, then you might consider the Chapter and Verse mentoring scheme. This is conducted online rather than face to face, but allows you the space and time to develop your writing in a supportive environment, and includes a separate assessment at the end of the process, so that you can still benefit from an independent view to consolidate your time on the scheme.
TLC’s mentoring scheme operates over a 12-18 month period. You will be hand-matched to a suitable mentor and will be able to send in six submissions to your mentor by email or post (up to 10,000 words of prose/non-fiction, or the equivalent in short stories or poetry). You will additionally get a full manuscript assessment on the completed project at the end of the programme, by another editor, also hand-selected for you, and an invitation to our exclusive Industry Day, designed especially for mentees for discussion, tips on how to present yourself to agents, and the opportunity for feedback from our agent and editor guest in a small, supportive group. The scheme is by application and priced competitively. Full details including how to submit can be found on the Chapter and Verse page here.
If your work is picked out as being noteworthy by our readers, you will be considered for our Talent Showcase at TLC’s discretion. Each month, we select a writer whose work we think merits a platform on our site; either a writer whose work has been flagged to us as high quality by their reader, or an author who has come through TLC services and has gone on to publication. The showcase area has to maintain a high level of literary value, so that it will be taken seriously by agents and publishers, as well as general readers.
You will not automatically be recommended to an agent if you pay for a TLC read. Our reputation within the publishing industry rests upon our being discerning, and honest about people’s chances of being published within a commercial publishing environment. We are tough about this, and therefore recommend only those manuscripts which we think stand a chance of successful publication. If you are selected, your work will be forwarded to our Quality Liaison Officer, who works with high quality manuscripts for us. There is no extra cost to you at this stage, but please do be patient as we cannot guarantee that we can connect you immediately with an agent. We will discuss strategy with you and keep you up to date with developments. We may also advise about alternative talent pathways, as our first priority is to serve the work at hand and offer the most relevant advice across all platforms, from traditional agent-linking to self-publishing or digital alternatives.
You may feel ready to start making approaches to agents directly, even if we cannot offer support ourselves. You can find a list of agents in the the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and Writers’ Handbook as well as online. However, you should be advised that agents are extremely busy and you may well have a wait of several months before receiving a response. In most cases you will not be given any in-depth explanation of why you have not been accepted.
If our readers think your work might be marketable, they let the in-house team at TLC know. If the TLC team also think you stand a market chance, they will be in touch with you about approaching agents.
This happens on a one-to-one basis in a manner that is appropriate for each individual client, and with a degree of commitment from TLC that is considered reasonable by us in relation to your own levels of talent and commitment. There is not extra fee for this service from TLC, even though it can take a considerable length of time to help clients find publication.