Write It Sideways

Extreme Manuscript Makeover: Phone A Friend

Hey, look at you, all fancy-like!

Anyone would think you were getting ready for a hot date, or something.

You’ve been primping and polishing for long enough. Has anyone mentioned you’ve spent far too much time looking in the mirror lately? You should really stop that. Your perceptions are probably clouded.

What you need now is a second opinion. An honest second opinion. Someone who can tell you the absolute truth about whether or not you’re ready to meet the date of your dreams.

You need to phone a friend.

Hold in there; we’re nearing the end of our makeover!

Extreme Manuscript Makeover: Phone A Friend

Your manuscript is close to being ready for submission.  We’ve already made it through:

Now you’re ready for some serious feedback.

Sources of Constructive Criticism

Where do you plan to get your constructive criticism? There are many sources, but not all of them are equally reliable or helpful.

If you happen to be good friends with a publishing industry insider — an agent, an editor, a published author — then by all means, their feedback is highly desirable.

Of course, for the vast majority, criticism is generally available from three different sources. In order from the least to most reliable, they are:

  1. Friends and Family
  2. Writing Groups
  3. Manuscript Assessment Agency

Whichever you decide to use, be aware of the pros and cons involved.

Friends and Family

While it’s okay to let friends and family members read and comment on your work, in most cases, I wouldn’t recommend them as being your sole source of criticism. Here are a few reasons why:

First, your friends and family love you. They want to make you happy. They won’t have the guts to tell you they don’t like your life’s work.

Second, they’ll probably like anything you write because they like you (well, you are quite likeable).

Third, and most importantly, they probably don’t have the right skills or knowledge to offer you any significant advice.

If you do choose someone close to you as a source of criticism, be sure they’re brutally honest, are widely read, and have some insight into the publishing process. But please, proceed with caution.

Writing Groups

The right type of writing group can provide good feedback on your manuscript (read Writing Groups: Helping or Hindering Your Progress? to find out what to look for in a writer’s group).

Joining a group is a great way to get many different perspectives on your work. However, you’ll still need to use common sense when accepting their feedback. Can you understand their point of view? Do multiple members share the same criticisms? Are you getting a general consensus on the overall strength of your manuscript, or are you bombarded by wildly different opinions?

Remember, if their feedback makes sense, then other potential readers would probably think the same of your manuscript. Best of all, their criticism is free.

Manuscript Assessment Agency

This may be the the most reliable source of constructive criticism available to you. A manuscript assessment agency uses professional editors and writers to appraise your work. You will send them your manuscript via email or post, and they will read through it, make notes, and ultimately detail what should be done to prepare it for publication.

In the event they believe your manuscript is exceptional, many agencies provide you with a letter of recommendation. Some agents and publishers accept such letters with submissions, so they can be highly useful.

Be forewarned: for a service like this, you’re going to have to pay — generally several hundred dollars. However, if you are serious about getting published, and confident that your manuscript really does have what it takes, it can be a worthwhile venture.

The best part of using a manuscript assessment agency is that they are completely impartial. They don’t know you, and they don’t ever have to meet you.

What To Expect

You’ve decided on who you’re going to trust with your hard work. Now you need to be aware of what they should be assessing. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a writing group or a manuscript assessment agency, ensure your critic gives you feedback on the following areas of your manuscript:

Obviously, friends, family and writing groups won’t be able to give you much feedback in relation to market appeal. That’s one unique benefit of getting a professional manuscript assessment.

What Not To Expect

You’re the author of your book, which means you have to do most of the legwork. Here are a few things you shouldn’t expect to get from your sources of feedback:

Your Turn

You’ve got your honest second opinion. You’ve implemented any necessary changes based on their criticism. What you have now should be a genuinely solid manuscript ready for submission.

Feel that fluttering in your stomach? Nerves. I understand — you’re excited about this date.

After all, you need to make a good impression. But don’t worry, you’ll do just fine.

See you soon for the big day when you’ll meet Your Dream Date!