What is Manuscript Consultation?

Manuscript consultation is more than editing. It’s a comprehensive approach to understanding your book’s strengths and weakness. It’s a promise to professionally and sensitively provide you with the feedback you need to truly make your book stand out.


How is manuscript consultation different than line editing, copyediting, or proofreading?

When you hire a manuscript consultant, you get an expert personal advisor who can give you the craft and marketing advice that you need to make sure your book gets the attention it deserves. My goal is to understand who you are as a writer and what you want your book to “do.” Then, I’ll work to help bring you closer to your goal.


Your consultation will focus on elements like characterization, pacing, plot/story, voice, scene craft, etc. Is your story emotional and compelling? What is it doing well? Where does it need some work? A manuscript consultation with a qualified professional can be invaluable for making sure your book is in its best possible shape. The consultation will also include a market analysis.


Though my consultation does not officially include proofreading or line editing (cleaning up sentence structure), I will often note errors when I spot them or suggest some line edits as I see fit.


What is your background?

I started working in the publishing industry shortly after graduating with my BA in English almost fifteen (ah-hem) years ago. In my mid-twenties, I interned at a well-known literary agency in Manhattan, then began representing my own client list there. I was told it was my aptitude for editorial feedback that specifically earned me a spot at the agency, and I worked with a number of authors, critiquing their books before the manuscripts were submitted to editors for evaluation or publication with major publishers. Eventually I realized that I couldn’t shake the writing bug, and so I shifted my focus to my own writing.


My first four novels were published under the pen name Lisa Dale with major publishers Hachette and Penguin, starting in 2007. Those books (smart contemporary romances and women’s fiction) were published in countries all over the world and earned a nomination for a RITA, the most prestigious award of the genre. My books also earned Top Pick accolades with Barnes & Noble, Romantic Times, and Bookpage Magazine. Publisher’s Weekly and other magazines have routinely given my books great reviews.


While lecturing and speaking at writer’s groups across the country and locally, I also earned my MFA in creative writing with a fiction emphasis at Farleigh Dickinson. There, I was awarded a fellowship as the assistant editor of the award-winning magazine, The Literary Review. My fiction was nominated for Best New American Voices as well as The Pushcart Prize anthology. An extensive list of publishing credits is available up on request. Along with writing for many lit mags, I’ve also written for The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog, Fodor’s, The Writer, and other well-known venues.


Currently, I write under the pen name Lisa Van Allen, and my books with Ballantine (Random House) have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today lists. I am represented by one of the best literary agencies for my genre in the industry. I had a baby in 2015 and will be taking the long road toward my next book publication, which is why I have time in my schedule right now to selectively take on clients for manuscript critique.


In my many years of publishing experience, I estimate that I have read approximately 7,000+ query letters (and counting, as I continue to work with authors on their proposals). I truly love working with writers (I love books and I love learning!), and it would be an honor to consider working with you.


What genres do you work with?

Currently, I specialize in the genres of women’s fiction, young adult, popular or commercial fiction (romance, thrillers, mysteries, SF, horror, etc.), mainstream or general fiction, literary fiction, memoir, and blended genres. If you don’t know what genre your book could fit into, don’t worry. I can help.


What genres do you decline to work with?

At the moment, I do not work with children’s books.


How does your manuscript consultation service work?

I will closely read your book with an eye toward the techniques of storytelling, making marginal notations as I go. You will receive a very detailed editorial letter (the same kind of letter professional writers receive from their editors) giving you a gentle but frank assessment of your book’s strengths and weaknesses. You will learn how your book might fare in the current publishing market, and you’ll see what you can do to achieve a more compelling narrative. You will also receive specific suggestions about how to augment your book’s strengths while playing down its weaknesses.


You consultation can also include a thirty-minute phone consultation to talk about my editorial suggestions. I find that these live “meetings” can be very energizing and extremely helpful, since the conversation will revolve around your publishing questions. We will fine-tune your roadmap to your goals.


Do you give advice about marketing?

In a word, yes. Discover what you can do to better attract the attention of lit agents, publishing house editors, reviewers, and book lovers. Your personalized editorial letter will help you identify your book’s niche and recommend strategies for positioning your book within the larger publishing industry.


Do you offer self-publishing advice?

If you are considering self-publishing, you’ve got many options open to you. You will not face the same kinds of limitations/restrictions that a traditionally published author with a paying book deal might possibly face. That said, if I can offer any specific suggestions about positioning your book for self-publishing, I certainly will.


What will a manuscript consultation cost?

Because manuscript consultation is different than line editing or on-going coaching, it is the most budget-friendly way to spruce up your book. I am willing to critique your entire book or just your proposal (the first three chapters, query letter, and a synopsis).


For a quote, see the submissions guideline below.


How do I know you won’t copy my book or my book idea?

I’m a writer too. Plagiarism is disgusting. Your work is safe.


Submissions Guidelines

I strongly believe that chemistry is very important for a good writer-editor pairing. There will be some books that just don’t click with me. And when that happens, I feel it’s my moral obligation as a writer to “pass” on the book. No one wants a critique from an editor who doesn’t actually like the project they’re working on. That kind of partnership can be very detrimental to a writer’s outlook.


To submit a sample for a quote, or to ask questions, send an email to:


 l m vanallen AT g mail. com


(No spaces in the email address above.)




  • Your REAL full name (and pen name, if applicable)
  • The first 25 pages of your book (via attachment). If possible, send your work in standard publishing industry format (double spaced, standard margins).
  • How much of your book you would like critiqued (total number of pages)
  • Your bio
  • Whether you prefer your book be critiqued in Word or as a hard copy printout
  • A note about what you hope to achieve with manuscript consultation, and what your dream is for your book overall