Back when I first started sending my work out, after the initial telephone-book-sized pile of rejection letters, I stumbled across a web company called Nooza who offered to review segments of novels and give reports on their appeal, market and saleability – for a small fee of course.
The idea being that you would then be able to attach the report to your covering letter (or begging letter as I used to think of them) to literary agents and publishers in the hope this would get you off the slush pile (and persevered with beyond the first page).
The site made no promise it would review favourably, and indeed with critical reports there is always a chance that the feedback will not be good, but this was part of the risk. However if your review was good then you had the privilege of receiving a ‘medal of merit’ as proof that someone thought you had what it took to be published.
Although they were supposedly people from the literary industry, I never knew who reviewed my work or exactly what their qualifications were, but receiving my report greatly boosted my confidence when it came to the daunting task of sending off my manuscript.
Sadly I believe Nooza has disappeared off the radar, but there is a plethora of websites that offer to assess new writing – the biggest obstacle next to paying being the process of subjecting yourself to a critique from someone you don’t know and whose opinion you mightn’t necessarily trust.
The website youwriteon.com negotiates this particular problem by having a potentially limitless number of writers report on one another’s work and creating a top ten out of the most favourably reviewed – though you still don’t get a say in who reviews it. This top ten is then perused by agents/publishers.
But even if you don’t make the top ten I guess there’s nothing to stop you from mentioning in a covering letter to an agent that you’ve had, say, 40 out of 41 glowing reviews and are languishing at number 15 on the site’s chart...