Writers often have little idea of what agents and publishers are looking for, while agents and publishers have little time to respond to work in a detailed and constructive manner. If you want professional feedback on your work and help with getting it seen by the right people, paying for the expertise of somebody who has worked in the field for years could be well worth your while.

Companies providing assessment tend to be open to everyone while more consultancy-based companies who would see themselves working with you on a more in-depth basis may ask to read a sample of work first (this may be free) to ensure that they will be able to work with you effectively. Consultancies may also offer writer mentoring services.

I would always advise that you do careful research. A good consultancy should have a strong track-record in the industry and well-established links with agents and publishers,a nd you can look for a consultant who has relationships with the types of agents and publishers that you would like to approach. Make sure that you are happy with their professional qualification to judge your work and their ability to give honest, constructive advice, and think about whether advice from an author or someone with an editorial background (or both) is more suited to your needs. Here are some companies providing these services:

Publish A Bestseller http://www.publishabestseller.com/about/
Run by literary agents Kirsty Mclachlan and Jacqueline Burns offering publishing advice as consultants. Offering one-to-one sessions, masterclasses and workshops, the also run the London Writers Club series of talks

Cornerstones http://www.cornerstones.co.uk/index.htm
Cornerstones are primarily book doctors. If you have talent but your manuscript is unshaped, Cornerstones and Kids’Corner can assess your writing objectively and give you feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. They provide reports on your work at varying levels of depth, run workshops on self-editing and submitting to the trade and help writers to obtain agents.

The Literary Consultancy http://www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk/
The Literary Consultancy is a manuscript assessment service, providing expert, market-aware editorial advice to writers at all levels. Their aim is to help writers think realistically about their writing without misleading or make false promises.

Claire Wingfield http://www.clairewingfield.co.uk/
Claire is a freelance writer, editor, literary consultant and scout for a literary agency. She offers a literary consultancy service tailored to your needs.

The McKernan Agency http://www.mckernanagency.co.uk
The McKernan Agency is a smal literary consultancy with a personal approach focusing on literary fiction and high-quality non fiction. They offer short or detailed reports on your manuscript, synopsis reports and full structural and line reports.

Oxford Literary Consultancy http://www.oxfordwriters.com
Oxford Literary Consultancy offer manuscript assessment, editing & proofreading, consultations and mentoring with established authors, focusing on how your work fits within publishing today.

Adventures in Fiction http://www.adventuresinfiction.co.uk/
Adventures in Fiction provides mentoring and manuscript assessment. A detailed and comprehensive manuscript appraisal is the starting point for all of their services, and their consultants are established novelists from a variety of genres.

Gold Dust http://www.gold-dust.org.uk/
Gold Dust is a mentoring scheme for fiction writers (including screenwriters but not poets), unique in offering new writers ten hours of face-to-face consultation time with an established writer, plus 10 further hours allocated to the mentor writer reading the work in progress, over a period of a year. All mentors are established authors.

UK Script Doctor http://www.ukscriptdoctor.com/
Detailed and extensive script analysis and intensive screenplay consultation services including a 4-hour meeting with a script consultant.

The Writers’ Workshop http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/
The Writers’ Workshop, run by writers for writers, will give tough, constructive feedback on fiction, non-fiction, children’s and film & tv manuscripts. They also offer one-day workshops on writing and editing, mentoring, copyediting and ghostwriting services.

Writing.co.uk http://www.writing.co.uk/
Writing.co.uk literary consultants provide writers’ services from proofreading, how to submit your manuscript to a literary agent, a study of your book characters, advice on which literary agent might be right for you, in-depth editing and manuscript assessment for both authors and poets; fiction and non-fiction.

Writers’ Best Friend http://www.writersbestfriend.com/
Diane Johnstone specialises in novels and children’s books and offers an inexpensive, personal and prompt service offering analysis, suggestions and constructive criticism of your manuscript.

Jacqui Lofthouse, The Writing Coach http://www.thewritingcoach.co.uk/literary_consultancy.php
Jacqui is a novelist, life coach and creative writing teacher offering a personal service. Her readers reports aim to give honest and constructive criticism that will empower the writer. She can also provide coaching and full editing services.

Daniel Goldsmith Associates http://www.danielgoldsmith.co.uk/
A small team of literary consultants offering manuscript assessment, editorial services, ghost-writing and translation.

Storytech Literary Consulting http://www.thewritersjourney.com/
Chrostopher Vogler’s US-based literary consultancy for screenplays.

NB: Most of the descriptions above come more or less from the companies. This is intended to provide information that writers on my retreat have asked about and shouldn’t be taken as personal recommendation. I’m bound to have missed some companies, so if you have any further suggestions (particularly if they are London-based) let me know by making a comment on the UWR Facebook page or emailing me.