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Is it just me?

Or is this common practice in an industry I admit I don't know as much about as I'd like?

I admit up front that I know pretty much nothing about what's standard for the Romance genre in our industry, and maybe offers like this are common. The reason I got this at all is because in order to show up for someone's chat in the Luna forums, I had to sign-up, and signing up apparently meant I wanted the eHarlequin newsletter. Either that or, as I was running late, I didn't actually read much beyond the "we own all your words and can quote them whenever we feel like without paying you" part, which meant that I was reluctant to participate freely in those forums, i.e. there could have been an opt-out that I missed, but I was also in the process of missing the reason I was signing up in the first place.

And the small post on accessibility has kind of turned into a state of the genre thing, and is a thousand words long, with digressions and rambling, which I'm not at all certain is pointful because the state of the industry now is actually a year or two old (the consequence of lead-times, among other things).

ETA: I can't think of an sf/f genre publisher or agent who could offer these services, and not be pilloried. I won't go into a long rant about why I think it's not a good idea to submit 400 pages of manuscript this way, unless anyone thinks it's not self-evident. Oddly enough, I probably wouldn't feel as squeamish if an individual were offering the same services -- but submitting to someone specific doesn't carry the weight of a large and well-known publisher behind it. And I think the PiTA factor of offering these services would outweight the dollar per hour value of actually doing the work, on an individual basis.


Oct. 24th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)
I dunno, it looks (admittedly there may be fine print I missed) like a fairly legitimate critique service, and they don't seem to be promising publication or anything else other than a professional critique.

And if they do a halfway decent job, their rates are reasonable, too. This doesn't look like a scam to me, unless folks are sending their work in under the mistaken belief that they'll have some sort of in with Harlequin's lines as a result of having it critiqued.

Now, if they begin recommending writers get their critiques before they submit, then I'd be uneasy.
Oct. 24th, 2006 07:34 pm (UTC)
I can't agree, Janna. Maybe it is different in the romance genre, but this sets off all my scam alarms. The manuscripts are going to be reviewed by "professional, experienced critique editors to assess the romance novel manuscripts, under the supervision of the Learn to Write director," but nowhere do I see any credentials for these supposed professionals. Are they professionaly-published writers? Are they editors? Are they interns at Harlequin making extra money? Are they English graduate students? It doesn't say -- which means it could be anyone. I note also that "Learn To Write Director" is not a synonym for "Harlequin Editor."

You're going to pay $1/page for this critique by an unknown somebody, which means for a 300-page novel, you're talking an investment of $300. In return, you're going to get a "two- to three-page editorial critique for a complete manuscript."

I teach creative writing classes at a local university. I give two page critiques regularly to my students (for just a short story), six or seven of them every week -- and in addition, I line edit as I'm going through their manuscript and make marginal notes where I have questions, concerns, and issues, all of which this 'service' specifically says they won't do. A two-to-three page critique will usually about an hour to write, once I've read the story. And it only takes an hour because I'm actually thinking about what I'm saying and not giving 'generic' advice.

In two to three pages, you can't possibly touch on anything but "big picture" items when you're talking about something as lengthy and complex as a novel. I daresay you don't even need to do anything beyond the lightest skim of the manuscript to get enough information to find two pages worth of problems on which to comment. My (admittedly skeptical) bet is that these 'professional, experienced critique editors' will spend at most two hours on any given manuscript and critique, mostly because they're probably being paid, oh, a flat $50 fee per critique or the like, with the rest of the money going to the company and the Director's salary. No, I don't know that's the case, but it's certainly my suspicion.

I seriously, seriously doubt that anyone will be getting $200 - $400 worth of feedback from this. This looks and feels to me like a pure money-making scheme. I don't find the rates reasonable at all for what you get in return.

My advice would be to find a good critique group and get the advice for free. It'll be just as valid. Maybe moreso, since they'll be doing it for the right reasons.
Oct. 24th, 2006 07:53 pm (UTC)
And see, everyone I know who's critiqued professionally charges in the $200-300 range, so that seems reasonable to me, since it's comparable with reputable critiquers I know. (I don't know how much line editing they do or don't do.) And as a freelancer (though I've not critiqued fiction, only edited business nonfiction), I'd bid that much for 4-6 hours of work; it would take at least that much to read a novel and write up even a big picture critique on it.

On the other hand, not knowing who your critiquers are is more of a concern.

And I'd always go for a critique group over a professional critique anyway, unless maybe I had a specific issue I was particularly frustrated with, and this wouldn't be the place for that.

So I'm not sure this is the best place to start, but I also don't get the impression it's actually a scam, and I think they likely deliver what they say they do, at what looks to be a reasonable rate.