Author Critiques and Tuckerizations

It’s no big secret we’re book nerds around here. We love stories, we love reading (and writing), and we love a wide variety of authors, many of whom have joined us over the years to help out with the fundraiser! We won’t lie, it’s a little bit of geek heaven. And for all the cool, rare stuff we get to add to the lottery and auction off, one of the more unique things we’re able to include every year is the good ol’ manuscript critique. It’s exciting to be able to offer the trained eye of an author or editor to help our supporters with their own writing.

Not everyone’s an author, though, but we know most of you love books just as much as we do. So instead of critiques, we can offer a chance to get your name and/or likeness written into your favorite series! It’s called “tuckerization” after science fiction author Wilson Tucker, who was notorious for including his friends’ names in his work. It’s invisible to the public at large, but to those who know, it’s a cool thing to bring up at dinner: “So Pat, I saw you in Phil Foglio’s Girl Genius. What’s up with that?” Depending on what the author has in mind, you could be a background character, you could have a line or two, or you might end up going head to head with the main character or dying horribly.

We have a bunch of Critiques (14 of them!) and Tuckerizations (9 of them!) on auction, but if you want a chance to win a critique, you can unlock that option by donating through our Critiques Team Page. For the auctions, consider this blog your one stop shopping list. Here are all the critiques and tuckerizations we have currently on auction. If one sounds pretty cool, click on through and have a look!

Please note: each author has different rules for their critiques and tuckerizations, including word count limits, turnaround times, and what their specialties are (characters, dialogue, worldbuilding). If you’re writing hard science fiction, choose Prof. Eric Dahl (a physicist) over Jeffe Kennedy, who specializes in romantic fantasy. If your book has a complex romance woven throughout, definitely choose Jeffe over Eric. Some tuckerizations involve worlds with specific naming conventions that might necessitate altering your name a bit to make you a seamless participant, and some take place here and now, so make sure you know what you’re getting your fictional self into!


From top to bottom, Bradley Beaulieu, Holly Black, Jeffe Kennedy, Jennifer Azantian, Joe Ducie, Joshua Palmatier, Patrick Rothfuss, Prof. Eric Dahl, Richard Shealy, Seth Fishman, Sherwood Smith, David Pomerico, Laura Anne Gilman, and Jaime Lee Moyer’s avatar.

Bid on an auction to have an author, editor, agent, or physics professor go over your manuscript and give advice, encouragement, and other feedback. Click their name to be taken right to the auction, where you’ll have more detail about what they specialize in and how they plan to help.

Bradley P. Beaulieu

Bradley P. Beaulieu is pleased to offer one story or chapter critique of up to 12,500 words. Brad will draft a formal review that will cover such things as how well the story opens, complicates, and closes, how well the characterization works, dialogue, tone, pacing, tension, and a host of other issues. Essentially, he’ll provide a formal review on the positives and negatives found in the story.

If you need to have Brad on your side, check out his auction!

Holly Black

Holly joined us this year saying, “I’m happy to offer one over-the-phone (or Skype, if that’s easier) plotting/brainstorming session of one hour in length. You send me up to 10K of story material — outline, chapters, whatever— and then we get on the phone and talk story. I will help you try to figure out the stuff you’re stuck on.”

Holly’s known for her deft interweaving of fantasy and horror, often giving us lovably flawed characters who find themselves in way over their heads. From fairies to vampires, she’s got you covered. Take a look at the auction to bid on a brainstorming session with her!

Jeffe Kennedy

Jeffe Kennedy is offering a first chapter & synopsis critique, along with genre analysis – particularly apropos for anyone writing in romance/romantic elements crossover novels in SFF. She is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award.

So if you have literary relationship questions, take a look at the auction!

Jennifer Azantian

Jennifer is an editor at Azantian Literary, and she’s offering a detailed critique and commentary of your submission packet (query, synopsis, and first three chapters up to 15,000 words). She’ll include her thoughts on pacing, impact, characterization, worldbuilding, and more with in-line notes and an editorial letter within three months of receiving your submission.

If you need Jennifer’s trained eye roving over your manuscript, check out her auction!

Joe Ducie

If you haven’t read The Rig yet, please do. It’s a slam-bang jailbreak story oozing with cleverness…and superpowers. Joe’s on board for a critique this year, and will critique up to 100,000 words of any manuscript, with an eye toward YA, Urban Fantasy, or Spy/Thriller.

Ready to bid?

Joshua Palmatier (short story critique)

Joshua Palmatier is another extremely busy writer who carved some time into his schedule to offer a critique for us! He writes across a number of genres, but he loves a good short story. He’s agreed to read and critique a 7500 word short story for the lucky winner of this auction! His experience is mostly with all forms of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. His intent will be to offer editorial advice on how to improve your short story and to use his experience as both author and editor to make it the best it can be.

If you can have your short story to Josh no later than July 1, 2018, this is the auction for you!

Jaime Lee Moyer

Jaime Lee Moyer is defying her busy schedule by offering a read and critique of the first 75 pages of your finished novel. While she won’t line edit for grammar, she will comment on plot, pacing, character arc, voice, how well the “hook” or opening works, how well the story sustains her interest, and give overall, general impressions of the story. Critique will be done in Microsoft Word via track changes, but please use a readable font and double-space your work. The critique will be returned to you within three months, edit letters and deadlines allowing.

If you can have your manuscript to Jaime by March 2018, by all means bid here!

Laura Anne Gilman

Laura says, “I’m afraid that life is a little too crazed right now for me to promise a full critique, but I’d like to offer a ‘bluesky’ session for a writer who wants to throw plot-ideas or career worries against a wall and get critical-but-nonjudgmental feedback from a 20+ year survivor of the publishing industry. I could offer half an hour to 45 minutes, via Skype.” Oh, and we should add that 20+ years in the industry includes her being both a professional author and a professional editor.

If that sounds like just what you need to finally conquer the mysterious issues you’ve been having with your manuscript or writing career, then this is the auction for you!

Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss (international bestselling author, lover of women, and hirsute iconoclast) will read the first 20,000 words of your manuscript and give you critical feedback. We’ll schedule this based on when your manuscript will be ready and the endless madness of my own schedular constraints.

I’ll read through your manuscript, scrawling notes and dirty words in the margins, then I’ll call you on the phone and we can discuss it. Or we could do a Google+ hangout. Or, if you live close, we can get together and chat over coffee.

I won’t write you up a detailed critique because that’s not how I roll. But we’ll chat for a couple of hours discussing the various strengths and weaknesses of the book, your writing craft, and I’ll offer any suggestions I might have. Then I’ll mail you back the manuscript with my notes on it.

Take a look at the auction here!

Prof. Eric Dahl

Prof. Eric Dahl, a physicist at Northwestern University, offers a physics world-building critique for the lucky winner of this auction, based on a 7,000 word summary of the world and how it works.

Whether you just want to do away with the pesky speed-of-light limit or are inventing an entirely new reality, there are some ways to do physics that just feel more real than others. This auction gets you one physics professor’s critique of your world building–what laws are broken, what is or is not consistent, and what crazy inventions your ever-attentive readers might create for your universe…

To have Eric help you complete the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, bid here!

Richard Shealy

Richard does copyediting for a living–he makes sure your grammar and punctuation are consistent and effective, he keeps track of your information and continuity, and basically, tightens all the nuts and bolts you use to build your story. This year, he will copyedit around a novel’s worth of your writing, be it a novel-length Science-Fiction/Fantasy manuscript OR a SF/F short story and pitch. This includes typo correction, continuity observation, voice/character consistency, context-appropriate grammar adjustment, and fact-checking where needed. Please understand that Richard would prefer only science-fiction or fantasy genres, as he sort of specializes in those.

If you need technical help, bid on Richard’s auction!

Seth Fishman

Seth Fishman is a very busy, very smart dude. He’s actually joined us a few times during our Worldbuilders fundraiser to help folks with questions they might have about breaking into publishing, and this year he agreed to do a critique for us!

Seth will read and critique the first 25,000 words of your science-fiction or fantasy novel and give you pointers, suggestions, and advice for making the whole thing way better. As a combination author and literary agent, Seth has an amazing scope of understanding, and we’re always amazed at how down-to-earth his advice is.

If you need that advice, by all means bid on his auction!

Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith has been a Worldbuilders supporter for years, often sending us her amazing original art (like a fox tapestry that was out of this world). This year, Sherwood is donating a critique–she will read up to 150,000 words of a fantasy manuscript and offer her analysis of what works and what doesn’t. She’s been teaching writers workshops for years at Viable Paradise, and specializes in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of visual writers.

For Sherwood’s expert advice, bid here!

Matt Bialer

Matt is actually Pat’s literary agent! So if you need a real agent to take a look at the first 20,000 words of your manuscript and give you a run-down of what he feels works and what doesn’t, Matt would be perfect. He leans toward epic fantasy, and he will give you honest, straightforward feedback. If you already have a few form rejections from other agents, Matt can help triangulate what they thought needs improvement.

If this sounds like your cup o’ tea, bid on Matt’s auction!


From top to bottom, April White, Bradley Beaulieu, Brian McClellan, Elizabeth Bear, Jeffe Kennedy, Joe Ducie, Tim Pratt, and William Alexander (& friend).

Join the action in your favorite series by becoming a character! Click the author’s name to be taken to their auction, where you can read more detail on what the series is about and how you’ll make an appearance.

April White

Fan-favorite thief Ringer from April’s Immortal Descendants time travel series is getting his own series! The winning bidder of this tuckerization auction will have the honor of naming a character (and providing an identifying characteristic or two) in book two of Ringo’s series. In the event the winning bid is higher than $250, that character will have a significant interaction with Ringo. If it goes higher than $400, that character will become a major contributor to the story.

Take a look at the auction for more details!

Bradley P. Beaulieu

Bradley P. Beaulieu is pleased to offer one Tuckerization for inclusion in his brand new epic fantasy series, The Song of the Shattered Sands. The character will appear in in Book 4 of the Shattered Sands series, and may live beyond those pages. This series has a very specific culture, so your name will need to be altered. Brad says, “I can’t have an “Evan” or a “Sally” running around with Çeda and Emre and Ramahd. It simply won’t do. But the fun part is that I’ll convert your name into one of the cultures noted above. So, “Evan” might become “Evahn”, and “Sally” might become “Saleyma”. I’m very picky about names, but I promise (as much as I reasonably can) to keep the heart of the name intact. I’ll try to make the name sound heroic or dastardly or elegant or romantic, as appropriate to the character I create in the novel.”

Check out the auction for more detail, and to see what Brad plans to do if the auction price climbs to a couple of goals…

Brian McClellan

Brian says, “I’ll work your name and a brief description into a powder mage novel as a minor character that will have at least a few lines. I may tweak the name to make it fit better with the world, but it’ll be you (or the person of your choice). Violent death is optional.”

Brian’s an American epic fantasy author from Cleveland, Ohio. He is known for his acclaimed Powder Mage Universe and essays on the life and business of being a writer. More importantly, he’s joined us for a couple of our Worldbuilders Parties, and he’s always a lot of fun to hang out with.

For some dialogue in one of Brian’s Powder Mage novels, bid here!

Elizabeth Bear

For this auction, Elizabeth Bear has graciously offered to include the auction winner as a character in MACHINE, a space opera about medical rescue and a galactic hospital! The winner will also receive a signed first edition of the book to show off to all their friends. Elizabeth’s work has won a bunch of awards, including two Hugos!

If you need these bragging rights, check out her auction!

Jeffe Kennedy

Jeffe Kennedy will base one of the characters on YOU in book one of her new Forgotten Empires trilogy, The Orchid Throne! Get in on the ground floor with a cameo in the very first book of her new fantasy romance series, coming in 2019 from St. Martin’s Press.

If you need more romance in your life, by all means take a look!

Joe Ducie (Spy Thriller)

Joe Ducie knows thrillers inside and out, and this is a great way to be part of his next one! This auction is for an appearance in his upcoming spy-thriller titled THE DARK WINTER. Joe says, “There’s sort of a team of spies/soldiers off to save the world, that old story, so someone on that team would be the tuckerization. It’s due to be published around this time next year, barring anything major.” You will have the chance to chat with Joe about which member of the team best fits you (or a loved one) and he’ll make sure that character does you proud.

If you want to literally be part of the action, bid now!

Joe Ducie (Time Travel Fantasy)

If spy thrillers aren’t your cup of tea, how about time travel? That’s right, Joe donated TWO tuckerizations! This auction is for an appearance in Joe’s upcoming urban fantasy novel, THE ONLY REAL PLACE. Joe says, “It’s a YA story, sort of…sci-fi? General premise is a man caught in a time loop back to when he was a teenager, doing his best to stop a series of unsolved murders in his town, failing and trying again. Sort of like that movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. That one is in its infancy, still early drafts, so no confirmed publication date.”

If you want a touch of time travel, head over to the auction and see what’s up!

Tim Pratt

If you’d like to be added to the next science fiction novel by Hugo Award-winning Tim Pratt, this is your chance! Tim said, “I’d be happy to offer a Tuckerization in my upcoming space opera The Dreaming Stars, a sequel to The Wrong Stars, coming out around this time next year!” Since the characters are the very heart of Tim’s work, this is a great opportunity to really feel part of a grounded SF novel from one of the best in the business.

To blast off to adventure, take a look at the auction!

William Alexander

William Alexander’s current work in progress is a road trip novel featuring the Wild Hunt, the trolls of Vermont, and your name. Maybe. Bid now for the chance.

Will is super-cool, and when he’s not hanging out with Muppets, we know he’d love the chance to work with you to include you (or someone you’d like to surprise) in his book.

Bidding on this auction shall gentle your condition!

Whew! That’s a LOT of authors donating their time as well as access to their creations. The best part about all of it (apart from you guys getting some one-on-one with some fantastic creative minds) is that everything we raise in these auctions goes to Heifer International! So you’re meeting cool people, improving your writing, joining your favorite fictional worlds, and helping families and communities all over the real world feed their families, get clean water, send their kids to school, and empower women via small businesses.

Thanks to all the creators who donated their time and expertise, and thanks to all of you guys for bidding on auctions, donating directly, and spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter! We’ll take a break from blogging this weekend, but we’ll be back on Monday with a new chapter in a very special story…