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Cobalt Blue: A Novel

A novel for courageous readers and seekers, COBALT BLUE is a turbulent, gorgeous ride into sacred sex..

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Manuscript Feedback & Career Consulting Services for Writers

I offer market-oriented feedback on fiction and nonfiction, in book-length or shorter forms. I also consult with writers about career issues such as approaching agents and editors.

My expertise is based on more than thirty years as a freelance writer, with novels published by Simon & Schuster and Penguin Putnam, two nonfiction books, and articles appearing in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, More, Travel & Leisure, and Huffington Post as well as in most of the major American newspapers.

Clients’ Results

Writers I’ve worked with have published at houses including Simon & Schuster, Viking, Wiley, Kensington, Workman, W.W. Norton, Dalkey Archive, Pilgrim, Touchstone, Berkley/Penguin as well as smaller presses, journals, magazines, newspapers, and online publications.

Critique Services & Career Strategies for Writers

I will read your manuscript and provide you a written report on my view of what’s working particularly well and any suggestions I have for improvement. My comments will cover characterization, plot, structure, pacing, and language. I also write a lot of notes on the manuscript to show examples of what I describe in the summary. Included in the price is an email exchange for any questions you have about the critique. Any additional time is billed at the consultation rate below.

Critique Fee Schedule

For Stories, Books, Excerpts

Pages Page Rate Minimum* (see explanation below)
1-8 $95
9-40 $6.00 $110
41-100 $4.75 $200
101+ $4.50 $400

*Minimum means that, for example, a 12 page manuscript critique would cost $110, not the page rate for the longer manuscripts in that category. The page rate kicks in when the length of the manuscript would add up to at least the threshold minimum amount. That means that, for example, a 40 page manuscript critique fee would come to $240.

For a book proposal or query letter, what I do is a line-edit, sometimes (often) with suggested wording, and thus charge a $150 minimum.

I also offer the option of paying based on time spent, and this works well, for example, for someone who simply wants to run a paragraph by me. For this, I charge $2 a minute with a $20 minimum.

All rates are based on standard doubled-spaced pages of 275 words. If you have questions about what rate will apply for your manuscript, send me a copy, and I’ll give you a quote.

My page rates for critiques are lower than many of the writer consultants who, like me, have written or worked for major publishers or national publications. In order to make this possible, I charge for the little bits of time, like phone calls. That way you have the option of getting a bare-bones service or as much time from me as you wish.

“The most wonderful thing about working with Peggy is that she GETS what I’m doing, whether in a book-long memoir or novel or a short memoir or short story, whether early in the process or late. She has the imaginative range to delve into others’ writing and find the gold.”

Elaine Orr, author of A Different Sun

“Peggy Payne’s critique of the manuscript for my first women’s fiction/romance novel, Linny’s Sweet Dream List, was so helpful! Her insights were accurate as were her suggestions for tightening up the plot. I improved the novel and a short time later, I signed on with an agent and got a three book deal from a major publishing house.”

Susan Schild, author of the Willow Hill novels (Lyrical Press/Kensington Books)

“At the beginning of my path in fiction writing, Peggy was my guide. She gave a long, unwieldy manuscript a careful and sympathetic read, and ended her comments with just the right mixture of criticism and encouragement. The manuscript eventually turned into my first published novel. Whatever stage of your path you’re on, Peggy can help you.”

David Halperin, author of Journal of a UFO Investigator: A Novel (Viking/Penguin)

“Peggy’s input on my first trade book proposal was invaluable. It was a scary new world to me, and Peggy helped me navigate it with sound advice and good humor.”

Cat Warren, author of New York Times bestseller, What the Dog Knows (Touchstone, Simon & Schuster)

  See more testimonials at the bottom of the page.

Consultation on writing & the business of writing

I will answer, as best I can, any questions about the business of writing, on matters including agents, rights, copyrights, payment, publishers, resources, or simply the next best step in your writing career. You and I will meet in my office, talk by phone, or exchange e-mails, as you choose. My rate for these is $2.00 a minute by phone or email, with a $20 minimum. For meetings in my office, the fee is $75 per half hour or $125 per hour.

If we set up an appointment to talk at a particular time, whether by phone or in person, I charge a half hour minimum. If you have just a question or two, it’s more economical to call and catch me in; I’ll answer as well and quickly as I can.

Line Edit Text

On a copy of your manuscript, I mark every word or line that could be strengthened, noting as well, words, lines, scenes that are particularly effective. If I feel some cutting or changes in sequence would strengthen a manuscript, I will be as specific as I can about where I think that should be done. This is an edit concerned with the substance of the story, not with the fine points of punctuation or with proofreading. For a book, the most cost-effective use of this service is to get a line-edit of 25 to 50 pages and then apply any suggestions you find helpful to the rest of your book. If you’re considering this for a longer manuscript, I’ll be glad to have a look at a few pages and tell you at no charge whether I think the book is far enough along to warrant this.

My charge for this is based on a look at the manuscript to get an idea how much time will be involved. I charge no fee to take such a look.

Other services to writers

If there is some other possibility you would like to consider, please get in touch first by email and let’s discuss it. These custom services might include:

  • Suggestions for restructuring of a manuscript without any line-editing.
  • A list of agents or publishers who handle your style of work
  • A consultation with your writer’s group either by speakerphone or in person.
  • A brainstorming session on how to present an idea, or on your next career move.

How I Work

Turn-around time for a critique is usually about three weeks from the time I have the complete package. If I need substantially longer, we’ll talk about that. If you need something done in a rush and I have time open, we can negotiate a rush charge.

I prefer that you email me a digital copy of your manuscript, all in one file, for reading and making comments. It’s easier for you than reading my handwriting. I’m willing to work on a hard copy and, unless you say otherwise, I assume it’s okay to mark on pages.

When I do line-editing, I am primarily concerned with the writing, rather than, for example, making sure that you always spell “gray” with an “a” and never spell it with an “e.” I do mark spelling and punctuation problems to a reasonable level of accuracy, as good as an agent or editor generally expects. If what you want is absolutely consistent copy-editing, I’m not your best bet.

In my suggestions, I take care not to tamper with a writer’s distinct voice; I feel pretty strongly about the value of a wide diversity of voices in print.

I can’t guarantee that anyone I work with will get an agent or get published. I offer you my best advice: what I’d do if the work were mine.

Sending the Manuscript:

Feel free to email me your manuscript and I’ll make my suggestions and comments on the digital copy. Or, if you prefer to send hard copy, enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope or box for return. I don’t take responsibility for manuscripts.

My mailing address is:

Peggy Payne
507 Burgess Road,
Apex, NC 27523

How to Pay: For payments under $250, feel free to use Paypal, by clicking the Pay Now button at the bottom of the page. Otherwise, please enclose the check with the manuscript if you’re shipping hard copy or, if you’re emailing your pages, please send it by snail mail at the same time.

I tailor my services to what your particular project requires. Get in touch with me and we’ll figure out if I’m the right person for you and what I can do to help you get your work finished and out into the world. Send me an email (peggypayne (at); or call: 919 368-1092 (I don’t charge for that initial brief conversation).

In any event, as the colleague of mine that you are in this solitary–and difficult– business, I wish you well.

“As a first -time author I was terrified. Without Peggy I don’t know what I would have done – probably wandered in circles endlessly. Peggy’s smarts, patience, encouragement and organizational ability helped me create a wonderful book that did well on the market, and is still selling 10 years later. She held my hand every step of the way, as an editor she made sense of my ramblings and in the end, we had a coherent, terrific book!”

Gail Perry, author of Fired-Up Fundraising (Wiley)

“My debut memoir was published in 2017, and it was incredibly helpful to work with Peggy throughout the process. She provided careful, thoughtful edits to the manuscript, and then offered insightful, strategic advice as I sought a publisher. In addition, Peggy’s warmth, support and encouragement meant so much to me – especially during moments of confusion and uncertainty. Peggy is a wonderful resource, and I highly recommend her consulting services!”

Kate Rademacher, author of Following the Red Bird: First Steps into a Life of Faith (Light Messages Publishing)

“Over the years, Peggy has helped me grow as a writer, and has provided honest feedback and encouragement, along the way. Her critiques are honest, kind, and clear.”

Paul Austin, author of Beautiful Eyes (W.W. Norton)

“Peggy provided insightful feedback during the early stages as I crafted my book proposal. I look forward to working with her again.”

Damon Tweedy, M.D., author of New York Times bestseller Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine (Picador/Macmillan)

About one-third of the way through the writing of my book Hospitable Planet: Faith, Action, and Climate Change, I had the good fortune to join Peggy Payne’s writers group. The opportunity to read material each week and receive Peggy’s feedback, such as enlivening the language or inserting an anecdote to clarify a point, steadily improved the chapters already written and enabled completion of the book much faster than anticipated. Peggy’s and the group’s suggestions strengthened the book and increased its accessibility for a general audience. I am very grateful to Peggy for her perceptive observations and recommendations over my two years of participation in the group.

Stephen Jurovics, author of Hospitable Planet