Author Tess Gerritsen has a terrific post on her blog about aspiring writers who want her to read their manuscripts… and get pissed off when she doesn’t.
If I were to say yes to every unpublished author’s request, I
wouldn’t have time to write my own books. And truly, I’m astounded that
people whom I don’t know, or hardly know, would come up to me and
essentially ask, "Say, will you spend eight hours reading my incredible
literary work?" Because that’s what it works out to. Eight hours of
And if you don’t see my point, think about this. What if someone you
barely know says to you: "Hey, wouldn’t you love to come over and spend
eight hours cleaning my house?"
You’d tell them thanks, but no thanks.
Which will then earn you the resentful comment: "But you OWE it to me
because your house is so clean! Your clean house makes you OBLIGATED to
If the person asking me to clean their house is my mother or an elderly
friend, you betcha I’ll go over and help clean the house.
Same with reading manuscripts. Mothers and close friends get special dispensation.
But when I hear unpublished authors whine that published authors are
OBLIGATED to help them get published, that’s when my blood goes from
simmer to boil.
I’m not in Tess Gerritsen’s league, but I get asked by strangers all the time (mostly by email) to read their books, scripts and series ideas… and to pass them on to my agent…or pass them on editors and producers…and they are furious when I politely decline (apparently, there is no polite way to say no to these people). I’m willing to bet just about every published author or produced screenwriter can relate to this.
8 thoughts on “Read my Manuscript”
Hey Lee, wanna read my script for WALKER, TEXAS RANGER? In this action packed episode, Walker gets blasted into space to single-handedly pulverize an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It’s a tender, touching story of one man’s quest to save the world and his ego at the same time. (Bruce Willis has a cameo as God.)
Let me know, okay, because I’m sure this idea is a winner. 😉 Just say the word, and those 10 pages will land in your inbox faster than Walker can karate-chop a Texas-sized block of Kryptonite….
I thought it was a great post. I carried it on my blog as well. I admit to being frustrated with not being published yet, but the thought of approacing an author never occured to me and it is definately the wrong way to go.
I asked in the course of being interviewed by another author if he’d consider recommending my book from which he was inquiring, but he said no. I understood that blanket policy, but he wound up coming back with more questions, and cited my material in his book, so that will be good exposure. This situation is different from what you are describing here though.
I don’t think you have to be in Tess’ league to get asked. Being a hermit I don’t meet up with would-be writers that much but on the occasions I do (in fact I think most of them call me), I just politely say I’ll read two chapters and see if I think your style is professional and if the story starts out all right. I’ve done this maybe four times in five years.
The most difficult time for me was when a Nam vet I know who lost both legs in the war asked me to read his war novel. I read it promptly. But it was badly organized and I had to tell him that in as gentle a way as I could. I really wanted to like it so much that I’d call my agent and send it to him overnight. I wanted book clubs and an A movie and maybe even a TV series in his future–he and his wife are Good Folks +. I felt as if I’d betrayed them by not being able to praise the book as a book though I pointed out many many pages that were damned good and wrote a rough outline of how he could build it to a dramatic payoff.
There is one type of person I can’t even be polite to and that’s the one who starts out by saying “You know, I read a lot of novels and I’m a lot better than the hacks that’re out there now.”
Lee has struck a nerve with writers everywhere. How about this for chutzpah? An acquaintance, a businessman I hadn’t seen or talked to in years sent me a 400-page manuscript he’d written. No advance call. No polite request to read it. Instead there was a cover letter signed by his secretary. “XXXXX asked me to send you his book for your comments and suggestions.” I suppose I should have picked up the phone and called him, saying I was crushed for time. Or had my secretary do it, but WHOOPS, I don’t have a secretary. Instead, I just dumped the m/s in the trash.
“You know, I read a lot of novels and I’m a lot better than the hacks that’re out there now.”
Ed, I’ve heard that line before, but only by published authors recounting how they got started.
Even book reviewers aren’t immune from the pleading. When I was working for a small-town newspaper, a resident called and asked if I would help him get his book — a variation on “Godel, Escher and Bach” — published. He even offered me half the royalties for my help.
I was helped when I started by a best-selling novelist who critiqued an early manuscript. I try to pay that back by helping others. I’ve helped several people start their careers. Usually I can read a couple of chapters and that suffices. Still, there are some who think I exist to devote a week of my life reading their enormous manuscript. Once or twice I’ve gotten rid of them by saying my professional services as a critic and editor will cost them a thousand dollars.
You don’t even have to be a writer to encounter such types. I once had an e-mail from a fanficcer who wanted, no expected, me to edit her badly written piece of drivel into a readable story.
Granted, I was one of the few posters on that particular bulletin board who wrote in complete sentences, but that hardly obligated me to provide free editorial services to a total stranger.