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BookEditingThanks to editor Marlene Adelstein for this guest post!

How many times have I heard those words or some variation? (Plug in husband, aunt or high school English teacher). As a freelance book editor, many of the writers who contact me have a few things in common.

  • Someone they know has read and ‘loved’ their manuscript.
  • They’ve quickly gone on to query agents or submit it to them.
  • They get rejected (or don’t even hear back).
  • They don’t understand why they’ve been rejected since their ____ (fill in the blank with appropriate relative or friend) loved it, leaving them frustrated and unhappy.

I don’t doubt that these friends or relatives loved their work but that doesn’t mean their manuscripts were ready to be sent out.  Although well meaning, your mother may not know about the craft of writing.  Your brother might not know about plot, structure, or point of view. They may not be able to articulate what exactly isn’t working and why.

I get asked all the time what the biggest mistake is that writers make.  Answer: Writers send their books out too soon.

So how does one know when it’s time, when your book is truly ready to send out into the world?

It’s hard to know. I wish there was a thermometer for books, some digital gizmo you could pass over your pages to test for doneness. Here’s my best advice:

1. If you think your manuscript is done, it probably isn’t. You might be so sick of it you can’t read it one more time. You can recite your dialogue from memory. But more than likely IT’S NOT READY. RESIST TEMPTATION. DO NOT SEND IT OUT. Don’t send your book out too soon!

2.  Get good outside reads. By ‘good’ I don’t mean mom or dad, sis or bro. Sure, let them read, enjoy, and give their comments.  But find another set of sophisticated readers who know how to evaluate your kind of material. They may be:

  • A) Your writers group.  Pay attention to their notes that resonate. (You’re not in a writers group? Join one. Can’t find one? That’s a post for another day.)
  • B) Other writers who write your same kind of material. Try to find a writer who is at least familiar with your genre.
  • C) Other writers who have published are particularly valuable.  You may need to get creative. Ask around. Go to a college writing program and talk to the professors (who might be writers themselves.) Sign up for writing conferences. These are great for networking. Do your homework and find ‘good’ readers!
  • D) Freelance book editors who do it for a living.  You will get another level of critique from a professional.

3. Revise, revise, revise.

4. Then read it again. Give it to those good readers. Again.

5. Eventually you will know when your book is ready. Or maybe you won’t be sure but you’ll be ready to test the waters.

Writing and selling a marketable book in today’s publishing climate isn’t easy, but not impossible. Take the time to make your book as strong and professional as it can be. It will only strengthen your chances to get an agent and ultimately to get published. And if you’re planning on self publishing, the same is true. And your mother will still love it, maybe even more.

Editor Marlene AdelsteinMarlene Adelstein is a professional freelance book and screenplay editorwith over twenty years experience. She specialize in novels (commercial fiction, women’s, thrillers, mystery) memoir and screenplays. Visit or email Just a few of the book projects she’s worked on are: “Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right” by Dal LaMagna, in collaboration with Wally Carbone and Carla S. Reuben (Wiley Books), “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” by Beth Hoffman (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking), and “The Art of Social War: A Novel” by Jodi Wing (Harper Paperbacks).

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9 thoughts on “Five Tips To Determine If Your Manuscript Is Ready To Send Out or “But My Mother Loves My Book…”

  • January 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I’m approaching the end of year six on my novel revisions. Granted, I’m just doing a little here and there as I have time but still…. I think I need to finish my third rewrite, take a deep breath, and send it out into the world. Enough fooling around already. I’ve had several friends look at it, including a published author in the same genre who told me it wasn’t as bad as I think it is and gave me some good suggestions to improve it.

    Sometimes, it’s not rushing but finding the courage to get our work out there that’s the problem. I really can’t imagine sending a whole book out into the professional writing world without lots of feedback and rewriting. That would be like showing up at a wedding in your pj’s.

    • January 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Knowing when your book is done and ready to be sent out into the world is never easy. You might test the waters by sending it to just a few agents at first. But I do know plenty of writers who haven’t spent the time getting the feedback. good luck!

  • December 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    As someone who teaches in a college writing program, I’d like to say that you are not likely to find a creative writing professor willing to read and critique your work, even if you offer to pay them. I get requests like this frequently and must say no. I give what time I have to mentor present and former students. Then I must write myself. And I can’t sign people into my classes if there are majors who need those seats. What I do suggest , however, is that you look into 1. Writing conferences in your region, and 2. Low-residency MFA programs. Getting someone with experience and credentials to read your work costs money. It can be difficult. But good writing instruction is invaluable.

  • December 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for this excellent post! I’ll see if I can get help from my group when I’m ready. Working on a short story for middle-graders to be incorporated into a Y/A Adult Novel (my first). Again, many thanks.

    • December 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Good luck with your words!

  • December 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks, I agree with making connections and getting your work read by several people besides family, but family is a good place to start. My family is very objective and they point out parts that need some work.

    • December 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, our families are less discerning and more supportive than what we may need to really grow our work – Give me the harshest critic up front because from that we learn the most!

  • December 13, 2012 at 9:35 am

    That’s the issue, yes? Never being sure if it’s ready… even after all the “professional” advice and critique. One says “yes” the next one says”no”. I think, in the end, we all settle for ” It’s ready…for somebody!” Because in the end, it only takes one.

    • December 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      I think writers should pay attention to the comments that really resonate.
      But unfortunately, it takes more than one person to really like your book.
      An agent might like it but then he/she must get a team of people at a publishing
      house to like it in order to buy it. It’s a challenge!

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