Services for Writers

Manuscript and Query Letter Critiques

Need some help polishing a manuscript? Not sure if that query letter will snag an editor’s or agent’s attention? Maybe a professional critique will help.

Since my specialty is picture books, my manuscript critique services are primarily for picture book writers, but I’ll also consider taking on manuscript critiquing projects for other kidlit genres and adult novels. I’ll also critique query letters for any genre.

I accept rhyming manuscripts, but take a look at Lane Fredrickson’s Rhyme Weaver website first. It’s a master class in writing with rhyme and rhythm, and it can help you work out the kinks before you request a critique. Josh Funk’s website also has some good info in his Lesson #8 and Lesson #9.

My Critiquing Experience
My critique of your work is based on my knowledge of the craft and industry and my 25+ years of writing experience. When I first became interested in writing for kids in the 1990s, I joined a monthly critique group and attended religiously, even though, because of other life demands, I had only occasional opportunities for kidlit writing until 2012. I learned so much about craft by listening to critique from Jane Yolen, who led the group for many years, and my critique partners, many of whom are now acclaimed authors (Jeannine Atkins, Peg (Marguerite) Davol, Jo KnowlesMichelle D. KwasneyBurleigh Muten…). I’m now a co-leader of that group. (Pardon the name dropping, but when there’s an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate my friends’ success, I take it.)

I also lead a twice-monthly critique group of writers of all genres, am a member of a fabulous monthly online picture book critique group, and serve as moderator of the Query Letter Critiques category of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge online forum.

My critiquing style
My critiques are tough, but fair. I’ll let you know what, in my opinion, works and doesn’t work. I provide positive feedback, of course, but I don’t hold back on constructive criticism, because I don’t want to waste your time or mine. I assume, if you’re serious about your work, neither do you.

I use the Track Changes feature of MSWord. I make comments along the right margin as I read through the manuscript, so you’ll get my immediate, initial reactions to your work – from the point of view of reader as well as writer. I also provide my overall thoughts about your manuscript. I may recommend resources for your guidance/information or books to read as mentor texts. If I know of a book with a story/plotline/idea similar to yours, I’ll let you know.

Picture book and query letter critiques include corrections of grammar and punctuation, but novels do not. Pricing and time frame to include line editing in your critique can be negotiated.

If you don’t understand a comment I’ve made, simply email me for clarification.

Before Sending Anything for Critique
Send me an email to:

  • check my workload and availability,
  • provide me with a brief description – whether you’re requesting a manuscript or query letter critique, the genre and word count, a brief story overview, and what about your manuscript, if anything, makes you snarly (if you’re requesting a novel critique, attach the first chapter as an MSWord doc or PDF file),
  • provide any details you think I may need to know so I can determine if the project is right for me and if my help would benefit you, and
  • ask me any questions you may have.

Send this request to carolmunro (dot) critiques (at) gmail (dot) com.

A Few Words about Word Count
Generally, a manuscript you submit to me for critiquing should fit industry standards for word count. If your count differs greatly, you may need to consider revising your manuscript or accept that finding a publishing home for it may be challenging. The ideal word count for each genre varies as the market changes, so pay attention to what publishers are saying.

  • Board books: under 100 words
  • Fiction picture books: under 1,000 words (ideal 200-500)
  • Nonfiction picture books: under 2,000 words
  • Early reader books: 100-2,500 words (check publisher guidelines)
  • Chapter books: 3,000-12,000
  • Middle grade novels: 20,000-35,000 words (upper MG: 40,000-55,000 words)
  • Young adult novels: 55,000-70,000 words
  • Adult novels: 80,000-90,000 words

Submission Guidelines
Please read these guidelines thoroughly before submitting.

After your request for critique has been approved, submit your manuscript in standard submission format. If you aren’t sure what that is, Harold Underdown explains it all here on his Purple Crayon website.

Submit your manuscript or query letter via email – carolmunro (dot) critiques (at) gmail (dot) com – as an MSWord document attachment.

For query letter critiques, please also attach your manuscript (for work under 2,500 words) or your synopsis (for work over 2,500 words) as an MSWord document or PDF file. I won’t know if your pitch is spot on unless I know your story.

Picture books: $100
Query letters: $60
MG, YA, NA, or Adult Novels: $2.75 per page
Other genres: price upon request
Payment is by check or PayPal (ask me for my account’s email) and payable in full with your submission.

Critique Delivery
Picture book and query letter critiques are usually completed within two weeks* after payment has been received. Novel critiques are usually completed within six to eight weeks*. Completion of critiques for anything else is determined on a case-by-case basis. (*Depending on my workload and/or other circumstances.)

“As a published author I can only say I wish I’d met Carol Munro earlier. For the past four years Carol has assisted me in fulfilling my desire to become a better writer. Her critiques are thorough. I am always astounded at her thoughtfulness. I couldn’t ask for a better critique buddy.”
Jacque Duffy

“Carol has a very keen eye for knowing exactly what feels ‘off’ with a picture book project, whether it’s rhythm, character development or overall plot structure.”
Kate Lynch

“I’m in a critique group with Carol so I’ve read her material. Her stories are amazing and well written, which is a testament to her picture book writing skills. Her skill and knowledge is evident in her critique as well. She is insightful and helpful in her comments and suggestions. Her feedback is thoughtful and thorough. Carol cares for my stories as if they were her own, and I love that about her.”
Romelle Broas

“Carol Munro has edited my work for a number of years, and I am always certain that when she applies her significant skills to a piece of writing, the result will be thoughtful and thorough. Taking a deep look into the pages, she is direct about what works and gives valid and encouraging suggestions for what needs improvement. Carol can always be trusted to give solid line edits and in-depth appraisals of the work as a whole.”
Melva Michaelian

“For more than a decade, I’ve benefited from Carol’s writing and editorial advice in a number of forums, from writing workshops to critique groups to one-on-one manuscript editing. She is not only a talented writer in a variety of genres, but is also a skilled teacher and critique partner. She has both an eye for detail and an ear for narrative voice, and her suggestions for revisions are usually spot-on. Carol was instrumental in editing my two young-adult historical novels, A Difficult Boy and Mending Horses (Holiday House, publisher). Her expertise improved plotting and pacing, sharpened the prose, and ensured continuity. She could pinpoint just what needed to be done to tighten a chapter, liven up dialogue, or heighten the emotional impact of a scene. Her input gave my books that extra polish they needed to shine!

“In addition to her editorial and critiquing talents, Carol has a broad knowledge of the publishing industry. She provides expert advice on researching and querying agents and editors and writing the dreaded query letter and synopsis.

“Finally, she is a joy to work with and an enthusiastic cheerleader who is passionate about supporting her fellow writers. She’s a gem!”
Michele Barker

“I have been working with Carol Munro for the past year and would recommend her critiquing service to anyone looking for thoughtful and constructive feedback. She has devoted the past two decades of her life to the craft of writing, not only of her own works but in helping those such as myself to improve. One of the most important skills she’s helped me develop is the ability to use short, concise language. My writing is clearer and much easier to follow, and is no longer bogged down with info dumps. I’ve been able to to reduce the content we’ve reviewed by approximately 20%. I now stop and consider the value of every sentence to the overall story and their impact on the reader, whereas prior to Carol’s help, I added in elements simply because I liked them.”
Stephanie Mellor