We offer a level of critique that is essentially a Reader Report, and we often are asked: What is a reader report? Or, if you’ve stalked some agent blogs, you probably have heard the term as well and thought—what is that? So here’s your answer.
A Reader Report is…
I’ve interned at three agencies to date—P.S. Literary, D4EO Literary, and Red Sofa Literary. At every one of them, I was asked to write up reader reports for manuscripts that I read. Sometimes it would be before the agent read the manuscript. Sometimes it would be after the agent had read the manuscript, when they just wanted a second opinion.
Reader reports exist for a couple reasons. For example, agents will ask assistants or interns to read current clients’ manuscripts and giving feedback. I’ve actually been on the receiving end of this before. My agent, Carrie Pestritto, had an intern read my YA Contemporary Thriller and then passed on the report to me. It was so interesting being on the receiving end of a reader report when I am so used to giving them out. (It was also very helpful!)
But why would an agent have a reader report made for one of their current clients’ manuscripts? Agents have read their clients’ work a lot, and sometimes it can be hard to determine whether someone with a fresh pair of eyes (read: someone who doesn’t know all the changes and great improvement that has been made) will like the way the manuscript has turned out. It can be hard to stop thinking oh this is so much better than X version. That’s when they ask someone to read over the manuscript and give a reader report.
Another time agents ask for reader reports is when they request material. Sometimes agents do this for manuscripts they are on the fence about, sometimes agents do this before they even read the manuscript. They want to know whether they should.
An important part of being an intern or assistant to an agent is learning what they like and being able to determine what is good for them. Agents train their interns and assistants to write reader reports and what to look for in manuscripts.
A reader report can be the difference between your manuscript getting read by an agent and you getting a polite rejection.
A reader report breaks down the good and the bad in a manuscript as well as the marketability. It compares it to other novels in its genre and helps to determine if it can stand by itself in that market. A reader report also includes a quick synopsis about the book, so that the agent will know (if they haven’t read it) what the book is about.
For an example this is a break down of a reader report:
READER REPORT TITLE
[The book is COMP TITLE 1 meets COMP TITLE 2. It has the tension and strong female lead of COMP TITLE 1 and the supernatural thrill of COMP TITLE 2. (maybe go into more details about this…)]
[Two – four paragraphs breaking down what happens in the story.]
[Closing one or two paragraphs with more comments on the market, will it work? Is there already something too much like it? Or is it unique enough to stand out? Is there a readership for it?]
- [Bullet points of the good]
- [Bullet points of the bad]
That’s, at least, how I usually did a reader reports for any agency that I worked for—it allows the agent to know quickly whether it’s something they are interested in.
For us it’s a bit different. Since it’s a critique, I like to go into deeper analysis and also give comments and suggestions about plot points or character development that will help to make the book either more marketable or simply more engaging.
For us, reader reports can vary from 5 to 15 pages depending on the length and quality of the novel. But each of us–Megan, Maria, Amy, and I–have slightly different styles for all our critiques.
Any other questions about what a reader report is?