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Are paid picture book critiques worth it?

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Hi!
I was wondering if paid picture book critiques by an agent or professional (experienced) author are worth the $? Did the critique actually help you sell your manuscript? I've been unable to attend conferences. I'd love to hear your experiences in this. Thanks!
~Tina
#1 - July 19, 2011, 06:48 PM
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Hi Tina,
I haven't paid for one, but I thought I would mention that I have seen publishers' guidelines specifically state NOT to include a professional assessment with your MS because it will not influence them whatsoever. My personal opinion is, if you think you need advice or help with a MS and you don't have a critique group to turn to, then go for it (provided you can afford it). But keep in mind that assessments can be very subjective. As an example, I entered a very simple (sparsely worded) MS for very young children in a competition. A bonus of of the comp was that you get written assessments by two independent judges. Of the two assessments I received, one judge gave the MS ten out of ten, and the other gave it around a six (from memory). Best of luck.  J.
#2 - July 19, 2011, 08:01 PM
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Will agree about never sending a critique with a submission (though I didn't think that was the question) and that good critiquers can give you at least as much great feedback.

That said, I would add that while an agent's or editor's paid critique can be either extremely helpful or extremely useless (it's still just one opinion), one is MUCH more likely to be helpful and worth the money after you have already worked on the piece AND revised it more than once based on crit partner feedback. And while I value CPs a lot, too, I have also found that editors and agents are usually more blunt and, more importantly, more focused on the most important issues in the ms. related to marketability (not just whether they like it or not, or whether it is "good" or not. Loads of good work dosen't sell, and there are lots of ms. that CPs like but that still aren't awesome enough to be marketable. And some CPs are much, much better than others, and the only way to know the difference is experience with them and comparing their feedback to professional feedback.

And then I'll add that no matter what, it's just one opinion, and editors and agents can only give that feedback from their own perspective. The work one agent thinks doesn't work at all and will never sell is the next agent's bestseller.
#3 - July 19, 2011, 08:27 PM
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I agree with Julie M. A paid critique is a good way to get a professional viewpoint . . . but it's just one viewpoint. Others will see it differently. Of the paid critiques I've received, I got one from an editor once who really pointed me in the right direction with the manuscript. So much so, she shared it with her collegues when I revised. In an arranged critique group at a conference, the two ladies who shared with me did not share the same interest as the editor for my story.  A paid critique is good facetime with a professional. Being prepared with questions specific to improving your work will help you get the most out of it.
#4 - July 19, 2011, 08:29 PM
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I think paid critiques can be very helpful, but I would check references before signing up with someone. Usually, there are people on these boards (or on the website of the person offering the service) who can speak to the quality of the critique.  And, I'll echo those who have suggested whatever is submitted for a critique should be really polished first.
#5 - July 19, 2011, 09:04 PM
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I'm one of these people who rarely has an extra penny, so when I was given the money for a paid critique as a gift once, and paid for the critique and found it . . . well, useless, it really hurt.  As said above, they can vary greatly. 

I'd only ever pay for another crit. from someone I'd never worked with before if I had extra money to blow.  Some people do and to them, chancing it is totally easy and worth it.  For me, I've only had unpaid writer friend critiques since.  My crit group gives me great insight, opinions, and advice for free and they're all wonderful, published writers!
#6 - July 20, 2011, 06:29 AM

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I don't know about a paid critique, but I can say Anastasia Suen's picture book workshop helped me sell. Quickly! I put Princess Peepers through her second workshop and it sold. I also did the first one and sold Multiplying Menace shortly afterwards. Worth every penny!
#7 - July 20, 2011, 07:19 AM
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 :thankyou  Thanks for your input, everyone! It gives me lots to think about. And Pam, how encouraging to know you sold your pb's after taking A. Suen's workshops! I loved your Princess Peepers book!
~Tina
#8 - July 20, 2011, 07:09 PM
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I paid for a critique of my first picture book and it was incredibly helpful in making me realize it was NOT ready to be seen by the world. 
#9 - July 21, 2011, 12:46 AM

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Thanks, Tina! Good luck in your paid crit decision and your writing!  :goodluck
#10 - July 21, 2011, 06:53 AM
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I say the RIGHT picture book critique is definitely worth paying for.  A paid manuscript critique was part of Lisa Wheeler's picture book bootcamp... and her comments and encouragement were INVALUABLE. In fact, thanks to Lisa's notes and nudges, I was signed by Flashlight Press for my first picture book that debuts next May.

So my two cents is, find the right professional, and the money for a PB critique would be wisely spent.

Carrie Clickard
Victricia Malicia, 2012
#11 - July 31, 2011, 02:46 PM
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 :bunnyrun  Thanks, CarrieLee for sharing your experience w/Lisa Wheeler's bootcamp. Congratulations on getting this pb contract w/Flashlight! Very encouraging!
~Tina
#12 - July 31, 2011, 10:58 PM
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Girls Guide to Manners, Legacy Press Kids 2014
God Is So Good coloring book, Warner Press 2013

Heather Hatch

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If you think your piece is really ready or oh-so-near-to-it, and the paid critique you are talking about is an editor or agent critique offered as part of a scbwi conference, and you've studied the bio's and lists of those editors and think there is at least a 50% chance of an emotional or logical connection I'd say, absolutely. Not as a one-time sales tool, but just as a matter of course over time. It's a way of putting your work in the way of "getting lucky". It's definately been the best action for me to take,  a quantum leap for my work, three manuscripts out of five times running. Only once was it a kind of 'flat' experience, in terms of the editor liking my manuscript. But it turned out in that case, what I learned and talked to the editor about, in other ways, and in her assessment of myself as a professional (needed ego hitch-up) was worth it just for the experience, hands down.
#13 - August 01, 2011, 09:29 PM

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Thanks, Heather, for your advice. I'm glad you had great critiques.
~Tina
#14 - August 01, 2011, 11:38 PM
Seasons of the Asian Pear Tree, Schoolwide Fall 2015
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God Is So Good coloring book, Warner Press 2013

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One problem, however, is that you do not get to choose who does your critique at the national conference (or even at my regional).  Here is where things can go wrong:  One year my rhyming pb was assigned to an editor who does not 'do' rhyme. She also was so jet lagged that she kept referring to my story as one about a goat (no goat was in the story).  She spent a total of seven minutes with me.

At the most recent LA conference my manuscript was assigned to an agent who is not terribly interested in picture books (unless you are already published and have a lot ready to publish work to offer).  Her comments were fine, but not worth the $100. I would have preferred to have an author, illustrator or editor, but you don't get to choose.

I'd say go to people who do critiques as a large part of their profession. Be sure to get references ahead of time. 
#15 - August 09, 2011, 04:44 PM
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Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing your experiences. Sorry your critiques weren't very good, and you spent $100 at this last one. Ouch!
~Tina
#16 - August 10, 2011, 12:44 AM
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It is my understanding that there is a big difference between a general critique and a line-edit or line-by-line critique with specific revision suggestions–perhaps it's good to understand exactly what you are getting first.  My critique group is helpful, but I have benefited from editor critiques at a conference as well.
#17 - August 17, 2011, 02:22 PM

It sounds like critiques can be a lot of different things, but to me it's not really an assessment, or an opinion on the value of the work, it's a close reading of your work, probably a discussion with you about your goals, and substantial feedback on how to realize those goals. For a picture book that could mean a line by line critique. I agree with others that it should be pretty vetted, read by several people already, and at a point where they can't help any more (I throw my "first and a half" drafts at my crit group). I've recently paid for a PB critique, if I'm happy with the results I can let you know and refer you.
#18 - August 17, 2011, 03:38 PM

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Thanks for your input Miranda Paul and Kurtis! Sure, Kurtis, let me know how your pb critique turns out.
~Tina
#19 - August 18, 2011, 05:54 PM
Seasons of the Asian Pear Tree, Schoolwide Fall 2015
Girls Guide to Manners, Legacy Press Kids 2014
God Is So Good coloring book, Warner Press 2013

A very belated response.  Lisa Wheeler and Linda Ashman are two of the best critiquers in the business, exceptionally good at rhyme.
I've gotten the best help from pros like this -- and our Verla, of course -- yay, Verla!
Yes, critiques can be expensive, but the pros will give your ms. all the care to detail that they give their own.
Critique group feedback has proved too overwhelming for me, as it's all over the board, and seldom helpful.
It's been my experience that even well-intentioned newbies often simply don't know enough to help other newbies.
Just my two cents.
#20 - October 09, 2011, 10:47 AM

I've had good experiences with paid critiques at conferences and online. 
It's helpful to get a professional opinion from an author or editor.
I've had good experiences with critiques from Erin Molta (editor), Dianne Ochiltree (author), and Roxanne Werner (author).

Ellen R.
#21 - October 09, 2011, 04:00 PM
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Tina, I agree with everyone--it depends on the critiquer. I have been working with Summer Dawn Laurie, former editor at Tricycle Press, who's now working as a freelance editor, and I would highly recommend her. She really has dug into my book for/with me--is encouraging AND honest, and I think her rates are really reasonable. She doesn't have a website, but I put her up as a referral at my website, and you can find her email there.http://www.beckylevine.com
#22 - October 14, 2011, 10:19 AM

I forgot to say that I was happy with the critique I received. Her name is Molly Griffin, http://mollybethgriffin.com/
#23 - October 14, 2011, 11:37 AM

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Thanks so much MrsBear, Becky, and Kurtis! I have many resources from you all.
~Tina
#24 - October 14, 2011, 11:34 PM
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How about doing a little critique shopping all while helping a worthy cause? Auctions are a great way to win some cheap (and some pricey) critiques. I've got one coming up at

http://lightupthelibrary.blogspot.com/

and I'm previewing some items on my regular blog at

http://jeanreidy.blogspot.com/

I'll have critiques by agents, editors and authors. Stop on by this November and see if you find a good match at the right price.

Jean
#25 - October 16, 2011, 12:52 PM
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Thanks, Jean. I'll "stop by."
~Tina
#26 - October 18, 2011, 04:57 AM
Seasons of the Asian Pear Tree, Schoolwide Fall 2015
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God Is So Good coloring book, Warner Press 2013

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Hi!
I was wondering if paid picture book critiques by an agent or professional (experienced) author are worth the $? Did the critique actually help you sell your manuscript? I've been unable to attend conferences. I'd love to hear your experiences in this. Thanks!
~Tina

I wouldn't recommend paying someone to crit your book. There are plenty of crit groups out there online for writers...you can even request crits on this very board!
#27 - October 18, 2011, 06:51 AM

I disagree with that for a few reasons. One is that a professional opinion is harder to get. Another reason is that however helpful a crit group is, and even though my crit partners are professional writers, they do not give me the same level of critique I get from a paid critique. Giving editorial feedback is a specialized skill, something editors do better than authors, and something people who do paid critiques develop as a skill. And of course, somebody who's getting paid is more invested. They'll take more time to really read and respond than somebody trading in kind. And on top of all that, I want to support my fellow professional authors who are patching together an existence by honing critique skills... and work from the premise that that kind of work has value.
#28 - October 18, 2011, 05:17 PM

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Thanks, Wonky and Kurtis for your input!
~Tina
#29 - October 19, 2011, 01:21 AM
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God Is So Good coloring book, Warner Press 2013

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I disagree with that for a few reasons. One is that a professional opinion is harder to get. Another reason is that however helpful a crit group is, and even though my crit partners are professional writers, they do not give me the same level of critique I get from a paid critique. Giving editorial feedback is a specialized skill, something editors do better than authors, and something people who do paid critiques develop as a skill. And of course, somebody who's getting paid is more invested. They'll take more time to really read and respond than somebody trading in kind. And on top of all that, I want to support my fellow professional authors who are patching together an existence by honing critique skills... and work from the premise that that kind of work has value.

I will counter this, many of the "paid critiquers" are far from professional. Many are unpublished writers looking for a way to make a little extra cash. The crit you'll get would be no better or worse than what you'd get in a crit group.

My crit group has a handful of published writers in it and I have found their advice invaluable.
#30 - October 20, 2011, 01:09 AM

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