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What to Expect When You Hire a Sensitivity Reader

You are about to take an important step in your publishing journey: hiring a sensitivity reader. You know which marginalized group you need a sensitivity reader for and may have already picked out a few names from the Writing Diversely directory. However, you may not know what to expect after that. What will the feedback look like? How helpful will sensitivity reading be to my project as a whole? We will explore all of our most frequently asked questions when it comes to this field!

What is sensitivity reading?

Sensitivity reading is a form of editing that involves the representation of marginalized people. A reader from the group that appears in the piece (Ex. A trans reader examining a trans character) will evaluate the authenticity of the representation in the book. “Authenticity” can relate to the reader’s own lived experience and/or the shared experiences of that particular group.

How much does it cost to hire a sensitivity reader?

The work of sensitivity reading requires a large time commitment and significant emotional labor for readers who risk being exposed to harmful tropes, casual bigotry, and in some instances, may be re-exposed to the worst traumas of our lives. Pricing for sensitivity reads depends on the length of the manuscript and the needs of the client like how quickly do you need the feedback returned. Readers can be paid a flat fee, by the word, page, or hour. The Editorial Freelancers Association recommends $31-$35 per hour or $0.01-$0.019 per word.

Is sensitivity reading the same as censorship?

No, but this is a common misconception. Sensitivity readers do not have the power to censor anything because we do not have any relationship to making publishing decisions.

We are simply offering our opinion based on lived experience. Just as everyone is allowed to write whatever they want, people are allowed to critique it. Sometimes, that criticism involves how marginalized characters are represented in the work.

What does sensitivity reading feedback look like?

Sensitivity reading feedback includes comments in the margins of a document and/or an overall summary of at least one page. The comments may contain any notes on stereotypes or inaccuracies found, but they may also contain suggestions for revision.

Below is an example of what feedback looks like:

Here is also an example of basic sensitivity read feedback. These examples are not meant to include all possible notes nor be all encompassing.

The image is of a portion of a digital document with a section highlighted. There are two comments: The first says" Ramen is actually not Rastafarian. He jus has long dreads. Rastafarianism is not an aesthetic; it's a religion. The second comment says: Run this joke by one of your nonbinary/queer friends.

What if a sensitivity reader finds inaccurate or offensive elements in my story?

First, take a deep breath. You haven’t published your book yet. There is still ample time to make revisions before you send it out! You can rest easy knowing that you took the appropriate steps to make sure that your portrayal is as accurate as possible. As the saying goes: No harm, no foul. Read more on tips what do do after receiving your feedback.

If you have any additional questions, please refer to the Writing Diversely FAQ page and if you have more questions that we haven’t covered yet please submit one to the question submission form.

Bio: Nathaniel Glanzman has sensitivity read for both private clients and “Big Five” publishers since 2018. When unsure of what to do in a social situation, he asks the other person what their favorite part about space is. You can request Nathaniel as a sensitivity reader for your project on the Writing Diversely Directory.

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