You know you can’t rely on your mom and bff to be objective beta readers. You know that your neighbor and your co-worker will not give you reliable feedback (or any most of the time). So should you even bother with giving your manuscript to the friends who request it? What purpose does it serve to do so?
When I was young and naive, I sent my manuscript for “The Singing Cat” to everyone. Many friends requested it. I assumed that meant they would actually read it.
Perhaps they tried.
I know now that “The Singing Cat” was not even close to finished when I thought it was done. It was very hard to get through. It needs more work than I can give it.
Three friends got through it. My very best friends, and they did have nice things to say because the story had merit. But the real feedback came in the silences from the people who wanted the book but never said a thing about it again, or who dished out a few excuses about how they had a hard time reading off a computer screen.
When I finished the last edits on “The Silent Apocalypse” I did not start offering it to friends. When they asked, I held back. Sure I thought it was pretty good. I knew it was way better than “The Singing Cat” (writing wise, not necessarily story wise), but agents and editors weren’t quite biting yet and to be honest, it hurt to give out my baby and have it ignored. So I held onto it for a long time.
Until one night a copious amount of red wine and coaxing from the friend I drank it with had me attaching my file to an email and sending it her way. I forgot all about it.
A few weeks later we met again and she was excited. Excited about a book. My book. The book i had written and she had read excited her. Not just because I, her friend had written it, but because … she enjoyed it.
Which brings me, at last to my point. Should you give your manuscript to your friends to read? Does it serve a purpose?
You need to be able to read between the lines. You need that thick skin. You need to accept that silence is the easiest, most kind way for them to tell you it’s not working for them. You need to recognize that they love you and will heap praise upon you even if they didn’t love it. You need to realize they may love it just because you wrote it.
And, if you are really truly sure you can handle all of the above, that your book is really ready, is really polished, your friends can and will keep you going during the submission process. When you get a text at 11:30 at night that says “I just finished! I am in tears!” three days after you emailed it to them, it will restore that drive within you to keep submitting.