No, I won’t read your book.
Does that sound harsh? I don’t intend to come across that way but sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. Occasionally someone asks me to read her or his manuscript and give feedback, and I have to decline. Most of my life I fantasized about writing for a living and part of that fantasy included all the awesome books I’d get to read in the form of authors who wanted my feedback or endorsement. Now that I’m fortunate enough to make writing my career, I can’t do it. Here’s why:
1. I already have a lot of reading to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it
Like everyone else, I have favorite authors whose new books I want to read and that list is always growing. I also read non-fiction both for research and for pleasure. Finally, I periodically read manuscripts for some of my peers with whom I already have a working relationship and they do the same for me. My plate is full and my virtual “to be read” pile never seems to shrink. (Also, I mostly consume books in audio format, so there’s that.)
2. Things can get awkward
Those who read widely in the action-adventure genre have probably noticed a great deal of overlap between their favorite authors in terms of subject matter and settings. New authors don’t always understand this. I have a massive list of story ideas, settings, and ancient mysteries I hope to use in future novels. If you’re writing action-adventure, odds are there’s something in your book that’s on my list. I don’t need someone accusing me of stealing ideas from a manuscript I was kind enough to read.
3. Manuscript critique is a professional service and it takes time
If you ask me to read an average-length book, that’s going to take me about fifteen hours. (I read faster when reading purely for pleasure but reading and analyzing what does and doesn’t work slows me down.) Then it’s going to take time for me to reflect on and write up my critique. You’re essentially asking me to give you two work days of professional services for nothing. If you don’t think that’s an issue, call an accountant and ask her to do your taxes in her spare time or call a teacher and ask him to give your child fifteen hours of free tutoring. I’m betting they’ll decline.
So what can I do?
If you’re a writer seeking feedback on your work, I encourage you to seek out online critique groups. I was a member of sff.onlinewritingworkshop. com and got a great deal out of it, but I know there are other excellent ones out there. You can also look for opportunities to cultivate relationships with other writers, either in local writers’ groups or online groups and forums. You can also hire professionals who are experts at manuscript critique (just make sure to vet them thoroughly before you hire them).
I hope some of this post has been helpful. Now get back to writing!