If you’ve been in the book business any length of time, you’ve seen a manuscript that isn’t ready. It’s not that it couldn’t be whipped into shape. But in its current form, any editor will say “no.”
Many new authors don’t know what readiness looks like. They want to submit their work because they’ve finished it, and they don’t know what else it might need. Anyway, won’t a publisher work with them on improving the manuscript?
The answer on that is no. New authors have too much competition from people who’ve studied the craft longer. Submitting a manuscript that’s not ready may be using up your only chance at that publishing house or agency to have someone look at that manuscript for its lifetime.
So make sure it’s ready! How?
1. Get feedback from other writers. Other writers who have been studying the craft can spot your issues quickly. Don’t bother with feedback from your mom or your best friend. They don’t know what to look for. Note: other writers may land on you hard for grammar and spelling issues, harder than you deserve. These can be fixed. It’s the writing craft issues you need to pay attention to, such as point-of-view handled well, strong dialogue, beginning the story without a long slow explanation, and a strong plot. How to find a writers’ critique group? You can join the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and become part of the large online Scribes critique, for starters. Smaller groups often form from there.
2. Enter some contests. The Seekerville blog contains a regular listing of current contests, and runs an update at the end of the month. These contests typically cost a small amount and yield feedback from professionals.
3. Ask a professional editor for an initial critique of your first several pages. Professional editors normally offer a free or very-low-cost intro to their services in the form of an evaluation of your first few pages. To find one, you can go through the Christian Editor Network (which I belong to).