"Mr Edit explains why you should be careful about handing over your money to what is effectively an online stranger."
Online literary criticism. A warning
There are hundreds of people currently offering online literary criticism.
For a fee, of course. Some are good. One or two are very good. But the vast majority are at best incompetent, and at worst outright rogues. That's very harsh, I know. But this opinion is built upon talking to dozens of my own clients, exploring the relevant websites, making more than a handful of discreet enquiries, and chatting to numerous contacts in the wider publishing world.
There's not much to be done about the incompetents and rogues. It goes with the territory. People are people. Many, if not all of us are apt to overrate our skills and abilities. And possibly our honesty too. So here are a few tips that might in some small way help you make the right choice and possibly save you a lot of money.
1. Be critical too.
When you visit a new website, study it carefully. I'm not talking simply about reading the words and the promises. Anyone can throw together a few lines of hope and optimism with a tagged-on guarantee. Rather, you should also check the design and layout too. It can be highly revealing. That's because quality professionals generally take a lot of care with their presentation. That doesn't necessarily mean they boast ultra-stylish sites bristling with sophisticated graphics. Their sites might instead be simple. Neat. Basic. But that doesn't imply sloppy. People who care about words usually also care about appearance. Or, if you prefer, packaging. They usually care about spelling, grammar, fonts, colour, and all the other subtle features that make for a good user experience. If the site looks amateur, it could be a warning. Heed it.
2. Never pay the full asking price upfront.
When I receive a manuscript, monograph or article from a client, I first take a cursory look, then look a little closer, and then (if I feel able to add to the work) I offer a quotation. If that's acceptable to the client, I look for a "down payment", so to speak. For instance, if my quote is for £1,000, I ask for £100. Or perhaps just £50. The amount depends entirely on the nature of the work. The editing or critique might be intense. Or it might be simple. What I ask for are sufficient funds to cover my basic costs. Then, if agreed, I take payment and set to work. Usually within a day or two I return the completed text, sample, or chapter, and I look to see if my client is satisfied. If there's some serious fault on my part (which so far hasn't happened), I'll return all funds. If the client is, however, happy and wants me to continue, I look for another £100 or just £50. Sometimes my initial criticism is enough for the client. I might have highlighted some fundamental issues that litter the manuscript; issues that the client can edit at his or her leisure (for want of a better word). Therefore, sometimes my work is quickly finished. But if I need to critique the entire manuscript, I ALWAYS handle it through payment instalments. You should expect the same from your online editor, ghostwriter or critic. There's no need to give the donkey all the carrots at once. Meter them carefully. That's how to keep the donkey interested. Be warned.
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