Manuscript Development

Louise took the manuscript for my first novel (White Tiger) and provided me with exactly the right sort of feedback.  After reading her suggestions I worked through it and was able to produce a novel that was accepted by Harper-Collins for publication under their Voyager label.  Without Louise’s help I probably would never have made it through the door. Thanks Louise.

Kylie Chan (first published by Harper Collins Voyager in 2012, and in 2016 released her eighth book)


I’ve been working with Louise Cusack for the past two and a half years as my mentor. Louise helped guide me through the various stages of developing a novel from inception and plot outline through to it’s submission and eventual sale. Having her encouragement and advice, specifically during the writing process, enabled me to develop my skills and gain the confidence required to enter competitions and submit to agents and publishers. If you’re serious about developing your writing then I’d strongly encourage you to consider working with Louise. Her knowledge of writing and the publishing industry paired with her warm, friendly and professional manner have been invaluable to me and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her.

Kylie ScottNew York Times and USA Today best-selling author. Voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. Her recent release Dirty was voted Favourite Contemporary Romance 2016 by the Australian Romance Readers Association.

STOP PRESS: 7 clients accepted for publication – details here.



PLEASE NOTE: I am currently booked solid with work until January 2022. If you need an assessment before then and can’t find another assessor, email me at mail AT louisecusack DOT com and I’ll pass on a recommendation. Below is how I work when I am working!


If you have completed a full-length novel or a partial manuscript and need professional feedback, my manuscript assessment service could be of great value to you. In the last fifteen years I’ve assessed over 250 manuscripts in the genres of romance, women’s fiction, fantasy, young adult, crime, thriller, memoir, historical fiction, historical romance and action/adventure. Through this process I have honed editorial skills that have contributed to eleven clients being accepted for publication in novel format by major Australian & International publishing houses (Hachette, Pan Macmillan, Harlequin, Harper Collins, Momentum Books, Entangled) and several who have won prestigious competitions in the fantasy, horror and romance genres, including the QWC/Hachette + QWC/Allen & Unwin Manuscript Development programs and the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award.

MY QUALIFICATIONS: Manuscript assessment from a skilled and reliable source  is a secure investment in your writing career.  I have three fantasy novels published with Simon & Schuster Australia which have been re-released by Pan MacMillan as ebooks and a novella with Harper Collins which won the International PRISM award for fantasy/romance, so I’m well versed in what is required by publishers. My recent indie romance series is also successful, with three books of the series ending up in the top ten of the Australian Romance Readers Association 2016 award. So I know what it takes to create a saleable story – fiction or memoir – and I can share that with you.

When I accept a manuscript for assessment, I guarantee I will be honest and frank in my critical feedback, but I will also provide encouragement and support by affirming the things you are already doing well!  Any problems pointed out in your assessment will have clear direction on how to rectify them.

blackemailTHE PROCEDURE: Email me at to query in the first instance so we can work out the details, and at that point I’ll let you know how long the assessment will take.  I’m busy at the moment so it’s likely to be 60 days from the date of payment.  Once we’ve agreed to work together, you email your manuscript to me as an attachment, either as a word .doc or .docx with all items to be assessed (manuscript, synopsis, query letter etc) in the one document.

At that stage I will invoice you, and when I receive payment for the assessment, you are in the schedule and I will begin working on your novel.  When the assessment is complete I will return your manuscript via email with comments in the document, along with a detailed 8-10 page report giving feedback on: structure, tone, viewpoint, internalization, characterization, dialogue, setting/visuals and world-building if applicable, as well as general comments. Note: If I see line editing problems (grammar or punctuation problems that occur consistently) I will point them out in the first ten pages so you can see what to correct, but you need to find the rest. I don’t Line Edit the manuscript for you.  Professional editing (as opposed to assessment) is a whole other service, and one which isn’t appropriate until the structure, characterization, viewpoint etc are polished.

A CAUTIONARY TALE: I’ve had clients who’ve come to me ‘burned’ by previous assessments where there were no markups/comments on their manuscript and they only received a letter with vague comments (characterisation is thin, viewpoint needs work) and no clear direction on where the problems lie within the manuscript or how to rectify them. That isn’t helpful! It wouldn’t be helpful if someone did that to you for free, let alone if you paid for it. Please don’t be caught by shallow assessing. If you’re paying hundreds of dollars to have your work assessed, you want a thorough job done and clear direction on how to fix any writing craft problems. If you’re checking out several assessors to see who will suit you, don’t be afraid ask questions: Do you put comments on the manuscript? Do you give a detailed report citing where the problems are in my manuscript and how to fix them?

MANUSCRIPT ASSESSMENT COST (all prices are in Australian dollars and include 10% GST. Non-Australian clients are not required to pay GST):

Partial manuscript (up to 30,000 words) – flat rate of $231

30 to 40,000 words of manuscript – $308

40 to 50,000 words of manuscript – $385

50 – 60,000 words of manuscript – $462

(add $77 for each additional 10,000 words or less of manuscript)

The minimum charge for a manuscript assessment, regardless of pages sent, is $231.

SECOND READING FEE: As a valuable add-on service for clients who have had a full manuscript assessment and then edited their novels accordingly, I can undertake a Read Through and provide a report on the edited manuscript for half the cost of an assessment. This service doesn’t include marking up the manuscript as I would with an assessment, but it does report back on whether my editorial direction has been understood and correctly implemented by the client.

PHONE DISCUSSIONS: If you would like to schedule a one or two hour phone session to discuss the direction of your edits following on from your manuscript assessment, and/or bounce around ideas on how to strengthen the story, the cost is $88 per hour. (Clients outside Australia will bear the call costs).



January 1, 2019

I can’t say how delighted I am with your assessment! As my first ‘professional’ assessment I wasn’t entire sure what to expect and frankly, I was a little worried about forking over $800 for an ‘assessment’ only get feedback I could easily receive from a (good) beta reader. Once going through your report and in-line comments – I’m glad I invested!!

I’ve gone through your report and noticed you’ve pointed out plot holes I can’t fathom how I’ve missed [even after 1 critique partner and 2 beta readers (who had been unbelievably helpful!)] while editing this prior to you! It just goes to show how all-consuming tunnel vision can be!?

Thank you so much again – your detailed report has been a wonderful way to kick start my 2019! 😀

Warmest regards,

Hollee M (fantasy novel)


8th July, 2017: Dear Louise

Thank you for your wonderful assessment.  I am over the moon with the results. You spotted the problems I faced writing this idea as a pantser. I am so glad I chose you to do the assessment. Thanks is not a strong enough word to describe how I appreciate your assistance.  I am so happy I met you.

Cheryl S (sci-fi/crime novel)


September, 2012: Hi Louise

Just a note to let you know Harlequin Escape has offered to publish “In Safe Hands”.

I can’t really believe it yet, and don’t think I will until the Contract is received and signed. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for the brilliant editing job you did on the manuscript for me. After those revisions, I sent it off to the Clendon and received a Commended for it. The novel wouldn’t be in the form it’s in without your input and suggestions. You contributed to my success.

Take care Louise, and thanks again.

Lee Christine (now a multi-published Harlequin author)

29th August, 2012: sex-drugs-and-meditationI first met Louise at the Queensland Writers Centre many years ago. She critiqued a partial of a very early draft of my memoir which will be published by Pan Macmillan in April 2013. Even then she saw something special in my writing and I’ll always be grateful for her enthusiasm and warmth.

When it came time for a manuscript assessment of my novel, I turned to Louise. I thought I’d written the perfect book but she soon set me straight! Louise mentored me through the next three or four drafts during which time I learnt more about writing than I have from any class, course or book.

I’d highly recommend Louise as a tutor, manuscript assessor and mentor. We all need a little help and Louise gives that help with generosity of spirit, depth of knowledge, and a twinkle in her eye.

Mary-Lou Stephens Sex, Drugs & Meditation now published by Pan Macmillan

30th January, 2012: As a beginner writer, I found the process of evaluating the worth of my own work daunting. Writing the actual manuscript was a breeze by comparison. I spent countless hours trying to figure out what was wrong with it and all the while the doubts were creeping in; if I was a real writer, I must be able to work it out for myself.

The advice of enlisted readers proved to be too vague and subjective. I was going around in circles and just scratching the surface. Finally, having edited myself to a standstill, I enlisted the services of Louise Cusack and the effect was instantaneous.

Far from the gut-wrenching criticisms I had steeled myself against, Louise’s assessment read like a ‘how to’ guide specifically designed for my manuscript. Most importantly, she got it; understood what I was trying to achieve in the story without any input from me.

Her advice was clear, insightful and purpose-driven. She doesn’t waste words but she’s not stingy with them either.  Louise’s assessment works like high-end camera lens, able to zero in on the subtle detail and then pull back to the big picture. She breaks it down into such sensible topics that I’m able to focus on one thing at a time, which is exactly what I needed.

Louise enabled me to see my story with fresh eyes and actually made me fall in love with it again. If you are seeking expert guidance for your manuscript, you’ve found it.  

Alison Mather (Author of YA novel Refuge)


12 December, 2011:  I have worked with Louise on several of my manuscripts, including my first published book for Harlequin Special Edition. Louise’s insight into such things as character motivation, pacing and sustaining conflict throughout the story was invaluable to help my work reach publication standard. She understands the specialised market of romantic fiction and her assessments are clear, concise and detailed. I would absolutely recommend working with Louise to any author wanting professional advice from an experienced assessor.

Helen Lacey debuted with Made For Marriage, Harlequin Special Edition January 2012. She is now an author of ten Harlequin novels.


1 Dec 2011:  Hi Louise,

Wow this is great. I can see you’ve worked hard on my manuscript, highlighting the various issues in a constructive and most important of all usable and effective manner. This is just what I needed.

I’ve always known my story needed an impartial and professional set of eyes.  Thanks again for the obvious deep commitment you made to reviewing my manuscript and timely service.

Your feedback is priceless as now I can transform my story into something far more likely to catch the eye of an agent or publisher.


Jason Gale (fantasy manuscript assessment client)


21 Nov 2011:  Dear Louise

Your manuscript assessment service enables me to realize the full potential of my work. It has given me the confidence to enter competitions and to approach publishers. Each manuscript assessment marks an exciting and steep new  learning curve. Many of your observations tie in well with some of my own doubts and you’ve given me a fair few more to think about. All in all a great investment. To be honest, it’s hard to express how invaluable your professional input has been over the years. If I ever make it to publication it’ll be largely thanks to you!


Jenny Gilligan (romance and literary fiction assessment client)


Thursday 8th October, 2009

The Assessment Report Louise provided on my first major piece of fiction transformed my story as well as the momentum of my writing.  She provided a balance of feedback on areas that worked well and areas where more work was required.  The report dismantled my story into all the key areas of the craft of fiction writing: world building, characterisation, dialogue, voice, viewpoint, etc; which enabled me to do a comprehensive edit.  It is the best investment I have made in my writing – the learning is ongoing and my confidence has been given a major boost.


Helen Taylor (fantasy assessment client)


6 October, 2009: Dear Louise

Just wanted to let you know I’ve been selected as one of eight successful applicants in the 2009 QWC/Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program for Fiction Writers.  I think there were nearly 200 submissions received and 40 longlisted.  Having been longlisted and shortlisted for similar programs before, I’m very excited to have made it this time into the final group.  Woohoo!

And yes, the manuscript I submitted was Fall of Bitter Rain, my oriental-inspired fantasy.  I had a lot of things going through my head when I found out I’d been selected.  Among them, images of us sitting in the cafe came to me, talking through the problems I was having with structure, how to build up confidence in where the story was going and how it really wasn’t a bad thing to start from the beginning again when it meant the story would be a whole lot stronger.  I really enjoyed each time we met and worked together, the boost I’d get after each session, and I know my manuscript was hugely improved as a result.  More importantly I learned to trust my instincts more and spend less time listening to my Inner Critic.

Thank you again for your advice and encouragement, for picking out the problems in my work while showing me the gems, and for being fabulous.


Meaghan Douglas (young adult fantasy assessment and mentoring client)


28 March, 2008: Hi Louise

Guess who was one of three Queensland writers chosen for the Hachette Livre Orbit Manuscript Development Program!

Tombspace One is truly in the building!

Just thought I’d share my exciting news with you since you really did help me so much.

Thank you again for everything.

Fiona Sawyer (Year of the Novel workshop participant and assessment client who secured one of the ten places awarded in the Orbit Ms Development Program which had 167 entries from across Australia)


8 December, 2007: Dear Louise

Enormous, heartfelt thanks for your assessment on my manuscript.  I received it yesterday and have been working on your suggestions last night and most of today.  Your assessment is so easy to follow and put into practise; I’m so grateful to you for your time and for being able to send me the feedback so quickly!

I can’t tell you what a thrill it’s been to read your comments and know I’m on the right track. I’ve spent the past few weeks plagued by self-doubt, thinking my writing was dull, that my story lacked atmosphere and interest.  It’s very nice to be wrong.  I was crying by the time I read the last sentence; you’ll certainly be on my list of people to thank and invite should the dream come true. 🙂

My motivation tank is filled to overflowing.  I’ve no excuse not to write, write, write!

Again, thank you so much.  All the best for a busy, productive, fantastic 2008!

Very kind regards

Meaghan Douglas


18 June, 2007: I’ve been a professional writer for over 40 years, for most of which I worked as a journalist for National papers in London.  I also had a well-reviewed novel published there and have since published a family cook book and a children’s story.  Thus I didn’t really think I needed an assessor.  I thought that writing just came naturally.  However my latest novel features a multiple personality character and while my friends thought it worked well, I wanted another viewpoint before sending it off to the publishers.  I chose Louise Cusack to look at it and must say that she gave me some extremely worthwhile tips. The most important one was “Show not Tell”.  Then there was “Point of View”.  I’ll leave it to her to tell you how they work.  Knowing about them certainly made my manuscript better.  As well, I found it useful to have an experienced pair of eyes running through everything and making suggestions of how things could possibly be better.  It was definitely worthwhile asking Louise to look at my work.  And I am grateful to her for her suggestions.

Catherine Mancham

(Catherine’s novel is now published by Quartet as Sweet Seduction and the Third Mermaid)






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