Manuscript Development Support

Before I describe my services, here’s what I look like in real life:

Margy Thomas at work.png

I share this pic because, unlike the glossy, posed, profesh portrait on my homepage, this one that I took myself in my living room shows my under-eye circles, flyaway hair, and lack of lip gloss in their full workday glory. I took this picture on a Thursday afternoon while sitting on my floor with papers and books strewn all around me. The picture on my homepage, on the other hand, was taken by a French photographer wearing a man scarf in the lobby of a fancy hotel in downtown Durham, NC. If Pascal’s photo of me is like the polished, proofread version of your manuscript that you’ll send to the publisher, then my living room selfie is like the draft you’ll be sending to me: a real, raw, #nofilter work in progress, open to analysis, prodding, and iteration. Don’t be afraid. I am here on the floor with you, and those scraps of paper scattered all around us have my handwriting on them too. And your hair looks awesome, and no, you never have to tell anyone we worked together. (I always wanted to be a secret agent anyway.)  


About one-on-one services for scholars

The goal of one-on-one services is to help you locate and realize the optimal Story-Argument for your research. I coined the term Story-Argument to capture my conception of what powerful academic writing looks like: an artfully engineered sequence of claims and evidence, organized around a single central claim, that carries the reader forward, whether across 30 pages or 300, with a sense of urgency, suspense, and unfurling illumination. A Story-Argument builds elegantly from one sentence to the next, culminating in the final paragraph with a sense of how significant this story really is, and what new insights and questions are yielded by it. A Story-Argument is both an engineered machine and a beautifully composed work of art. It is the optimal container for communicating academic research findings.

By analyzing and providing feedback on your work-in-progress, my aim is to help you arrive at your project’s Story-Argument as efficiently and powerfully as possible. (Once my forthcoming book is out, you can get all this for like $15, but in the meantime one-on-one services are the way to go.)

In concrete terms, my one-on-one services look like editing and consultation. Clients may use just one of these services or both.

  • I define editing as providing written feedback on a manuscript that is in any stage of development. Bringing in an outside perspective can help you locate your Story-Argument (and a plan for realizing it) more efficiently. In the words of John Trimble, author of Writing with Style, "Even editors need an editor."
  • I define consulting as engaging in rigorous, collaborative conversations about a writer's practices and/or about a specific writing project with the goal of expediting the creation of a strong(er) draft. In the words of renowned scientific writing consultant George Gopen, a consultant can help writers "transform their understanding and their control of the English language--quickly and permanently."

One-on-one editing/consulting services are for scholars who have...

  • A draft that is being prepared for submission to a journal/publisher or funding body (this may be a new article, book proposal, chapter, grant, or policy paper in progress; an old dissertation that has yet to be revised for publication; or a revise-and-resubmit that you’re unsure whether or how to rework before resubmission)
  • A lack of clarity on how to craft the material into a Story-Argument that does justice to the research and engages your target readers

Manuscript development services can provide greater clarity on...

  • The most effective revision strategy to get your draft where you want and need it to be – from the global level down to specific sentences
  • How (or whether) to implement feedback from gatekeepers and friendly reviewers alike
  • The precise constraints and affordances of the micro-genre you are writing within
  • The most compelling Story-Argument for communicating what matters about your specific findings to your intended audience

What you receive from me:

  • Close attention to your specific project and micro-genre at the macro, meso, and micro levels
  • Careful analysis of your draft in light of your goals for the finished manuscript
  • Concrete feedback in the form of a reader report, including suggestions for how to structure and frame your revised manuscript
  • Upon request, suggestions on whether or how to implement reviewers’ feedback and/or my assessment of how thoroughly you have implemented their feedback
  • Recommendations for how to prioritize and sequence revisions
  • The assurance that you are not alone in this writing process, and the enthusiasm of a supporter who cares deeply about your work as a scholar!

Benefits I hope you take beyond this project:

  • Insight on how to improve your work processes – making them more efficient, more enjoyable, or both
  • Insight into how to craft a Story-Argument from your research
  • Insight into how to tailor your writing to specific academic sub-genres

Typical budgets:

  • For assistance with a full book manuscript, a typical budget is 60 – 80 hours ($5,400 and up)
  • For a book proposal + two sample chapters, a typical budget is 20 – 40 hours ($1,800 and up)
  • For a single book chapter (must include project overview), a typical budget is 15 – 20 hours ($1,500 and up)
  • For assistance with a grant proposal, a typical budget is 15 – 20 hours ($1,500 and up)
  • For article development or revise-and-resubmit assistance, a typical budget is 10 – 15 hours ($1,000 and up)
  • For a single 2-hour strategy session, the fee is $220, which does not include having me review a draft beforehand, but it does include review of your agenda-setting form.

Hourly rates are U.S. $125 (rush services), U.S. $100 (regularly scheduled services), and U.S. $90 (Retainer hours; see details below).

Where to begin? If you’re interested in embarking on a large project or long-term support, but unsure how to proceed, I recommend starting with a 2-hour work session. We can use the time to talk in-depth about your project, goals, and where you are in your process, and from there, map out a global strategy for the coming months. The strategy may include additional ScholarShape services or may be a DIY plan for you to execute on your own.

Ready for a quote? If you would like a precise quote for a specific project, please complete the Intake form and, if your manuscript is close enough to the version you want to submit to me, email it to margy [at]


A note about payments and scheduling

To secure your place on the calendar, services are paid in full. In some cases, I am able to accept institutional funds after the fact if an appropriate contract is in place beforehand. The preferred payment methods are the ScholarShape payment page, check, money order, and bank transfer. When you make payment, you will be asked to accept the Terms of Service, which delineates your and my rights and responsibilities with respect to one another. For large projects, please plan 6-12 weeks ahead for the best chance of securing your preferred dates on the calendar. Smaller blocks of time can often be scheduled on shorter notice. For projects of any size that are scheduled on very short notice, rush rates may apply. 


The Retainer option for long-term services

If you decide to work with me on a large project and/or long-term, you may set up a Retainer for 40 hours, or U.S. $3,600, with the option of purchasing additional hours beyond that. If you choose to set up a Retainer after having already worked with me for 15+ hours, you may set up a Retainer for just 20 hours, or U.S. $1,800.

With the Retainer option, you receive a discounted hourly rate and may reserve Priority Dates on the calendar to use your purchased hours. Rush fees may apply on select dates should you choose to schedule hours on short notice. Beyond your initial purchase of Retainer hours, you can continue to purchase additional hours at the discounted Retainer rate.


Ready for a quote?

 If you would like a precise quote for a specific project, please complete the Intake form and, if your manuscript is close enough to the version you want to submit to me, email it to margy [at]



[Fill out the Intake form here]


"We are all apprentices in a craft

where no one ever becomes a master."

-Ernest Hemingway