Just Listen: Getting a Professional Critique

A lot of conferences offer special opportunities to have your work read by an agent or editor. This exciting opportunity can be invaluable, but it can also be nerve wracking and in some cases down-right confusing. How much weight do you give one person’s opinion? What if you get conflicting feedback? What if they don’t like it?

To settle the nerves of fearful authors about to be critiqued at the2010 SCBWI Writer’s Intensive in New York, three gracious editors dispelled some fears on how to take advice from a professional. So if you have a critique coming up soon (from a professional or a friend) put these ideas into the back of your mind before you decide to throw in the towel:

What are editor’s Courtney Bongiolatti (Simon and Schuester), Nancy Conescu (Little Brown), and Michelle Nagler (Bloomsbury) looking for in the opening of a critique submission?

  • That first attention grabbing sentence.
  • Are they interested in the character.
  • Not only does the book seem good, but does it have market potential and would it sell.

How Should An Author Respond During A Critique?

  • Just Listen – The editors and agents are expert readers (this is what they do for a living) so take in what they say and listen, there will be something worth wild there.
  • Editors are looking at your submission (and the submissions they receive from you in their office) as the first draft. Therefore they think of this as a work in progress. So don’t be surprised to get feedback of a constructive nature.
  • Think about feedback as the good friend who’s willing to tell you that you have spinach in your teeth. You may have a beautiful smile, but no one will notice the smile if there’s spinach in your teeth. The point here is to improve the work so that everyone sees what is best in the work and what will make it shine.

What Should You Do After Your Critique?

  • After you get your feedback you should check out a great SCBWI article by Linda Sue Park called “The Give and Take Critique” which is located in the resource library of SCBWI.org (Under publication guide). Or read this article here: Linda Sue Park’s Website
  • Sleep on it and think about it later. Don’t go revising everything the next day. Wait and see what resonates with you.

About the Editors:

Courtney Bongiolatti is the Associate Editor at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. She has edited Private and Privilege by Kate Brian, the Seven Habits books, and the Wee Little series with Lauren Thompson. She is looking to acquire mostly boy middle-grade and literary and commercial teen fiction right now.

Nancy Conescu, an Editor at Little Brown, is looking for literary and commercial middle grade fiction, edgy YA fiction, inventive and non-traditional picture books, and projects testing creative boundaries. She is intrigued by dark humor, satire, and character-driven narratives. She has worked with Stephenie Meyer, Holly Hobbie, Julie Anne Peters, Todd Parr, Mary Ann Hoberman, and Trenton Lee Stewart. Her recent acquisitions are School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari and The Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy by Michelle Zink. Upcoming titles include Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley and Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut! by Paul Feig. Her recently published titles are the Vampirates books by Justin Somper, This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis, Chloe Doe by Suzanne Phillips, and New Socks by Bob Shea.

Michelle H. Nagler is the editorial director at Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books. She oversees a diverse list ranging from picture books through teen. As an acquisitions editor, she has a special fondness for commercial YA and middle grade fiction, and is a passionate advocate for books that truly make children want to read. Recent projects include:  Need, Captivate, Boys are Dogs, Our Children Can Soar, Girls Acting Catty, and Too Purpley! Previously, Michelle helped establish the teen list at Simon Pulse.

One thought on “Just Listen: Getting a Professional Critique

  1. These are excellent tips. Too bad so many editors never take the time to give feedback. That means that they have not considered the manuscript carefully enough. Please visit my blog! Thanks

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