Here’s What They’re Saying

My picture book manuscript assessment with James Layton was one of the most comprehensive assessments I've had. The Larrikin House W.I.N.K.S assessment rubric helped me to see how to improve my story from a craft perceptive as well as its market placement and saleability. W.I.N.K.S has given me a rare insight into exactly what a publisher looks for when they read a manuscript. I'll be using W.I.N.K.S when I'm writing new stories to ensure I have ticked off all the elements needed to make my story shine – or wink!

Catherine Meatheringham Children's Author and SCBWI ACT Committee Member

I recently had a manuscript critique with James and found it both insightful and practical. James used a specially designed rubric to assess my manuscript against his W.I.N.K.S criteria. He gave me honest and positive feedback and an understanding of the publishing industry, particularly focussing on one of the most important aspects for publishers - marketability. James was personable and friendly, the session gave me the knowledge of where I could improve and the confidence to keep submitting.

JACINTA FROUD Children's Author

I've been submitting manuscripts to publishers for the past nine years. It's a tough gig. It's a tough gig because you never really have any idea whether you're an inch, a mile or an entire solar system away from snagging a book deal. The feedback you receive (if you're lucky enough to receive any at all) from most publishers is vague at best. The W.I.N.K.S system James Layton uses is not vague. It is specific and professionally honest; a breath of fresh air to any aspiring author who is serious about honing their craft. You won't wait months for a response either. I submitted a manuscript and within a week received the most detailed analysis of my work I've ever read. As an extra happy bonus, James was so impressed with my submission that he offered me a publishing contract for the story I sent in. I couldn't recommend this service more highly.

SEAN E AVERY Author/Illustrator

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and incredibly helpful assessment of Keeping Up With the Pups! I've had a few assessments done previously but none that have so clearly set out the strengths and weaknesses of the work. I really like your suggestions and the rubric will certainly inform my future work! In fact, I feel like sending you all my work for assessment (Don't worry, I won't do that to you!:)


James’ W.I.N.K.S rubric is clear and comprehensive, and he clearly knows the publishing industry inside and out. His assessment feedback was detailed, practical and encouraging, and was delivered with a healthy dose of good humour, living up to the Larrikin name. As a newbie author, I was thrilled to have the opportunity for him to critique my manuscript… and to my surprise and delight, he offered me my very first publishing contract a week later!


Hi James,

Thank you for your amazing feedback. I love the W.I.N.K.S Manuscript Assessment Rubric that you have used as it covers everything so clearly and is easy to follow and apply to my work for improvement. You have definitely given me a lot to work with in order to improve my story. I will definitely take all of your suggestions on board.


James, I’m very impressed with your assessment! You outlined some really big points that I need to consider. I can see how well researched and knowledgable you are and coming from a book selling/marketing background you have the credentials! You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks again for your time.


Straight From The Larrikin’s Mouth!

James Layton


James Layton has nearly 30 years experience as a children’s bookseller in the Australian education market. He’s also the Publisher at Larrikin House, so his perspective comes from a broad range of angles.

James has developed an assessment rubric based on five key criteria. Your manuscript will be assessed using his W.I.N.K.S rubric, which covers 15 individual elements.

The five key W.I.N.K.S criteria are:
WHO: How well you know your audience.
IMPACT: The visceral reaction for the reader.
NEW: Originality, innovation and cleverness.
*KRAFT (Craft): How well-crafted the story is.
SALES: ‘Why’ or ‘why not’ this book will sell.

The W.I.N.K.S rubric generates an overall score out of 100 and a W.I.N.K.S rating out of 5. (Think Chef’s Hats)

Like most publishers, we just don’t have the time or resources to send feedback on manuscripts. However, by going through the assessment process, you’ll be given very specific, comprehensive feedback on your story. You’ll also be given the rubric to help you with future story creation and subsequent submissions to publishers.

Rate 4.5 W.I.N.K.S or more (90+) and we’ll more than likely publish your story.

We road-tested our rubric at the June SCBWI ACT conference, with 17 assessments in one day. The feedback was outstanding!. (You can read some of the testimonials at the top of this page.) In comparison to the general submission pool where 1 story per 100 submissions may get signed, we’ve signed 4 stories from our first 50 assessments.

*A Larrikinism that allows rule breaking when it comes to changing the spelling of a word so it shoehorns into your acronym.