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How Can A Literary Consultant Support Your Project?

  • By Harry Bingham
  • Published 09/23/2011
  • Fiction

Writing isn’t, for most authors, a full-time job. Book projects tend to be lumpy and tend to leave quite a lot of free time in between. Consequently, many writers, incuding many good ones, offer their literary skills on a consultancy basis. If you have a literary project you want help with, retaining a consultant may well be a good idea for you. But take care – this is a partnership you need to manage right. Things that literary consultants can do for you. If you have written (or part-written) a manuscript, then it can unquestionably help to get professional editorial feedback from a pro author. You shouldn’t look to have your ego massaged, or your confidence boosted. (That’s what your Mum is for.) Instead, you should be looking for tough, critical advice that identifies weaknesses in your work and suggests way to help fix those things. This is probably the single most crucial service for new writers – analogous, really, to the help offered to pro authors by editors and literary agents. Equally, you can pay to get a piece of work copy-edited or fact-checked. That’ll mostly be of value to self-published authors (as those are services often supplied for free by publishers). But if you want top-notch work, you do need to invest in the details. Additionally, a good consultant can help put you in touch with a literary agent if and when your work is ready for that. Don’t ask them to help with that until your work is ready however – if it ain’t good enough, it ain’t good enough. The first step is always a good manuscript.

You can also pay for hands-on editorial work. That’s more expensive, but can turn a manuscript which feels

second-rate to one that feels razor sharp and highly saleable. You should expect to see your document tightened up, made to read better and given a clear market focus. Do make sure, however, that your editor is properly qualified and that the two of you have a clear understanding of goals. Finally, a consultant can morph into a full-blown ghostwriter. That can become VERY expensive – a really top quality ghost may charge as much as USD150,000 / GBP100,000, though most ghosting assignments are little more than a tenth of that price. Again, because this will be a big investment for you, you need to be absolutely sure you are hiring the right person and have a clear (and plausible) set of goals in mind. Things that a Literary Consultant will not do for you No one on earth can get a literary agent for you unless your work is good enough. So forget about the agent, just concentrate on the book. No one on earth can ghostwrite a successful book from a fundamentally dull or unsaleable concept. So before committing to a major project, make very sure that your idea is strong. No one on earth will be prepared to work your ‘genius idea’ up into a book or movie script just for a share of the royalties. No idea is that good. If you want someone to put in their time, you will need to put in some money. It’s only fair. And finally, if you want a successful collaboration with a consultant, do make sure that person is properly qualified. They will need to have sold major texts to major publishers – and ideally to have done so in your field or in a closely related one. You also want proof of their heft with literary agents and publishers – contacts that are solid, book deals you can see.

Oh, and whatever your project is – good luck and happy writing.

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