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Question for writers: Is it still recommended to have friends read a first manuscript before submitting it to a publisher for acceptance/rejection?

I have a manuscript I’ve been working on (off and on) for decades. I would very much like to submit it for publishing. There is a publisher/self-publisher on my island who only accepts 10% of submissions, so I want to decrease my chances of being rejected, by heading off any obvious blunders, by having a fresh pair of eyes and honest feedback.

So, I asked a friend to read the first 45 pages and she agreed. I think she was hoping it would be light reading, but it’s kind of a meaty manuscript. She said she started reading it, but it was just too dense for her to finish. She did say it was well written and researched, but it was just not the kind of reading she would normally choose.

I don’t want to make anyone’s head hurt. I just don’t know anyone personally on my little island into talking about the problems of religion and our move toward a more secular society, as is the topic of my book.

Are there other writers out there finding it hard to find someone to read a first manuscript? Just curious if you rely solely on yourself or is it best to have a fresh pair of eyes look it over before taking the plunge and sending it to a publisher? Where do you find people willing to read it?

Since mine is atheistic content, I'm hard pressed for friends open to reading it. I attended a writers conference here a few years ago, but the writers all seemed to be pretty religious, so I didn't feel comfortable sharing my writing with them for feedback.

Julie808 7 July 26
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Find a professional editor to read your work and to offers suggestions. It's their job and they will offer objective criticism and it will serve you well.

Wrytyr Level 7 July 26, 2018
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Never have a friend read your work. That is, not if you want to continue your friendship. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the sort of honest interchange that must take place for such an endeavor to be productive.

You are in the right place with this site and any other site that caters to or supports folks who aren't god-ridden or religion bound. That is but the first step. I suggest that you read this article by Jane Friedman before you do anything further. Chew on what it is she has to say first. I don't say her word is the definitive one or that it is the only one, but it is a good one. After reading this article, you might have a different outlook on this issue of 'test audience.'

[janefriedman.com]

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It can be helpful to have it looked at by friends, or preferably, more than one friends, but it needs to be a suitable friend. I got friends to read and criticise my book about assisted dying, but I made sure they were not upset by the idea first. I didn't ask my closest friend who has fairly recently come close to death! Don't have it professionally edited unless you want it to be written in someone else's style!

CeliaVL Level 7 July 26, 2018

Oh my, this is so utterly wrong.

@evidentialist Why do you say this? It is not helpful as it stands.

First, it is the editor's job specifically not to change a writer's style/voice but to correct and adjust the mechanics of writing. It is the rare author indeed whose ms is not in need of adjustment, including my own. Second, asking 'friends' to do beta reading is not a good idea under any circumstance unless it is the only choice one has. What an author wants and needs is strong critique not affected by personal relation.

@evidentialist Your experience is clearly different from mine.

@CeliaVL -- Perhaps even more extensive. I have been in the industry on a professional level since 1956. Many authors, maybe most, have had bad experiences with editors not because of the editors, but because of themselves. That does not mean there are no 'bad' editors who carry their egos into their work, but they are few indeed. I entered the editing arena about 35 years ago and have experienced, sometimes suffered, many authors so I now know the other side of the industry as well.

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Absolutely get someone -- or more than one person -- to read your manuscript. I've read and reread the work of two writers before publication. I can guarantee a second or third pair of eyes will improve the product. give me a telephone to chat, I can tell you horror stories. I was a newspaper reporter and copy editor for decades

TheDoubter Level 8 July 26, 2018
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It's always better to have feedback on writing before sending it off, especially if it's a self-publisher which tend not to have large editing staffs. Also, you already know it's a challenging read. Feedback may include suggestions for lightening it. Find out if there is a writing community near you and see if you can join a critique circle that accepts nonfiction. Failing that, see if you can find an online group.

It will probably take some time to get the whole thing workshopped. In the meantime, find out if the publisher you are looking at will evaluate book proposals in addition to over-the-transom manuscripts. That might be a way of learning whether your manuscript is a good fit with that publisher before you go through a lot of workshopping and revising. Good luck!

ScottRP Level 5 July 26, 2018
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