My husband is a teacher and I'm a part time social worker, so until I hit it big, I don't have the option of spending a lot of money on my writing. This made me very jealous and angry in June when the Writer's League of Texas Agents Conference was held ten minutes from my house. But $400, are you kidding me?
But enough ranting. In the past few months, I have spent small chunks of change on writing-related products and I would like to share my reviews.
GREAT - Querytracker.net Premium Membership - $25 per year
One of the great things about QT's Premium Membership is the value. $25 PER YEAR is impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the extra features. The coolest thing about the premium membership is you get to see reports of all of the agent's activity. Meaning, you get to see the result of every query (full request/partial request/form rejection/helpful rejection/no response) sent to that agent logged in QT, and the genre and word count of the MS in question. You can see what percentage of queries get a request for each agent and can sort by acceptance percentage to see who wants queries and what genre they really want. It's also a great way to find out how quickly to expect a response and if you should expect a response at all. The only down-side is that you may end up obsessively checking reports for hours on end!
See an example of a report here.
GOOD - Publishers Marketplace Membership - $20 per month
Publishers Marketplace is a wealth of great information for people in the business, but I'll be focusing on the parts that I used as an unpublished author seeking an agent. Publishers Marketplace is where you get the real info on agents. You can learn how many books they sold recently, in what genre, and for how much. The most useful section for me was "Dealmakers". You select the genre you write and it ranks all the agents by who has been selling it the most recently. You can also look up who sells the most debut novels and who makes the most six figure deals. And of course, you can look up which actual books an agent sells to see what types of titles they represent. I loved using Publishers Marketplace with Query Tracker to find agents that are dealmakers AND still actively seeking clients, and yes those agents do exist. The only reason I gave this a "good" instead of "great" is that at $20 a month, the cost adds up. However, you are billed monthly and can cancel anytime, so there is no reason why you can't get the info you want and then cancel. ;)
OKAY - Submissions Package Edit by Freelance Editor - $35
Since I'm only rating this as "okay", I will not name the specific editor I used, but if you really want to know, you can certainly ask me. And of course, I'm sure the quality depends a lot on the editor. I'm getting a free sample edit from another editor, so if I get a different result there, I'll let you know! The editors suggestions were great, and I'm sure it was exactly what it was supposed to be, but I had been expecting more. It was an edit that was just a few notches above a proofread. Her comments were few (which I suppose I could think of as a compliment) and were about certain sentences to change or delete. I was left with no real sense of whether or not my first ten pages were well-written or marketable. However, her comments on my query were much more helpful. If you want to try out a freelance editor, do a little more research than I did and make sure you know what you're getting.
PASS - Grammarly - $19.95 a month
I really don't want to hate on Grammarly. It is a really cool program. And considering it is a computer program editing your work and not a person, it is really quite impressive. I also want to say that I used it as a free trial and didn't pay a dime, so you don't have to take my word for it, you can check it out. The main problem is that although it has a "creative" setting, Grammarly really doesn't understand creative writing. In fact, most of the errors it found didn't make sense to me even with the explanation it provided. It may be because I have a character named Will and at least the MS Word grammar checker thinks I mean "will" as in "about or going to", which admittedly makes for weird sentences. It also pointed out all of the informal language "errors" (AKA voice). So, in my opinion, it's not for fiction writing. However, it could be a very useful tool for someone who does a lot of business or technical writing, or possibly a college student.
I hope my reviews were helpful! Feel free to add any comments about your experience with these or other low-cost writing products.