I was so curious about report readers in romance, I emailed an editor who was kind enough to answer my questions but asked that I leave names out of it. So! Mysterious Anonymous Editor tells me everything I want to know about report readers, and I figured I’d share it with y’all.
Can you tell me more about report readers? What do they do, and what are you looking for in a romance report reader? And how did Cassie Edwards get past the report reader?
M.A.E.: Basically, readers review manuscripts for an editor. Different
publishers probably do things very differently, I am sure, but in my
experience, they are primarily used to review full manuscripts that an
editor would like feedback on. I personally would never just take a
reader report as a reason to sign or reject a book — I would review
at least part of it myself first. I primarily find it helpful as it
weeds out the heinous and mediocre, and allows me to devote the little
time I have to review the better submissions.
As for what the reports actually are — that varies greatly from
editor to editor. Some of the reports can be quite formal and
analytical, others can be more casual. I personally like a casual,
chatty style — I guess because what I am editing is popular fiction,
I want a typical reader reaction to it. I don’t mind snark in my
reports, and if something is so bad it is an offense to mankind, I
want to be informed of it. In my experience, reports can be as long as
3 to 5 pages, or as short as a paragraph. Mostly, what I want to see
in a report is what the reader thinks of the story, WHY they think
that, and specific examples of any problems they see in the
manuscript. If they like the manuscript, it is also helpful to know
what it is that they like about it as well.
As to how Cassie Edwards sold to begin with…that is a mystery for
the ages. Once an
author is signed, readers are no longer used. Maybe her editor had a Native American fetish, maybe she
likes really bad prose. Maybe she had just said to herself “Self, you
know what I really need to publish? Really tacky Indian romances. Why,
what is this submission on my desk? Passion’s Savage Wind? This is
Are there people for whom reader reporting is their full time job?
M.A.E: I have no clue
what other publishers pay, but I do know it is a lot of work for
little money. As far as I know most people do reader reports on a part time
basis — it would be awful hard to make a living at it, that’s for
I’m completely fascinated like the noob I am with the report readers who look over manuscripts and write up brief reports on whether they should see the shelves. It’s like a secret society that mans the first gate of publication before the Greek tycoon’s virgin mistress can moon the gatekeeper long enough to distract him and run through where the rest of the romances waiting to be published pound on the door kept by the editorial assistant, and shove each other aside so that Lord Dinnae Ken’s kilt flies up and shows off his boy howdy to Viscount Hawkenscresterfield, who frowns thoughtfully and adds a line to his secret blog because he traveled through time to 2007 where Jessica Inez Sarah Michelle Jenkins (aka JISMJ.blogspot.com) showed him the internet and he really didn’t need a Viscountess after that.