For those of you trying to polish a manuscript who might want advice from a professional, I've got some names I happily recommend. I always pay for a critique when I go to a conference, but I couldn't attend the spring SCBWI conference this year. It finally occurred to me that I could just pay for a critique myself! Cynthia Leitich Smith has a great list of good editorial and critique services listed on her awesome website. That's where I found two of the three below. Here are people I have used to critique my work and definitely recommend.
Misa Ramirez, a published author of a number of books, offers critique services of varying levels. Her responses have been thorough and constructive. She did a development critique of a YA's synpopsis and first ten pages and then a full critique for my entire MG manuscript, with line-editing. She goes above and beyond.
Amy Lin, at Editomato, who is an editor who formerly worked in the children's publishing market. I chose her because of this fact, specifically. I wanted someone's feedback who was very familiar with children's market. She gave a very detailed developmental critique that provided detailed information that really strengthened my manuscript. She helped me understand certain facts about book series versus stand-alone novels for young readers that I have never learned anywhere else-- and I read a lot and follow a lot of blogs about children's publishing. So I'm very thankful for my experience with Amy. She has a wealth of knowledge especially relevent to others writing for children.
Texas Sweethearts: A group of Texas writers who work together in a number of ways. They are writers for children and teens who offer a variety of critique services as well. P.J. Hoover critiqued my query letter and she doubled or tripled its impact with her suggestions. She was so kind and very easy to work with.
All of these people were fabulous to work with. It can be terrifying to offer up your work to possibly be sliced and diced, but they earned my trust. That's not always the case. I did once talk with one editor (who seemed quite legit) about a YA novel of mine in which he wrote back a fairly crushing statement about my story and my writing ability and told me for a mere $2000 for a one-time phone conversation, he'd give me better ideas about my plot, characters and writing style. Uh-huh.
So working with constructive, kind people is not something to take for granted. These wonderful folks didn't just cheerlead, either-- you can be kind and helpful at the same time, and all three of these lovely people know how. Writing partners are awesome and I love, love, love mine (shout-out to you, Awesome Writing Partner!), but sometimes you need another objective opinion from someone who has special insight into your genre or market. Thumbs up for these people, fellow writers!