Writers-in-residence are your friends
… and mine.
Every so often I get someone, maybe a student, maybe a friend of a friend, maybe just someone who found me on the internet, write to me asking: Please, please, can you read my manuscript?The answer is, usually, no. Obviously, if I’m your supervisor, I’ll read it. But reading and commenting on manuscripts takes a lot of time and effort, if you want to do anything like a good job. There was a time when I did a bit of work reading manuscripts as a freelancer. If you’re working for a publisher you make peanuts reading manuscripts (the “gatekeepers” are the lowest of the low–interns, assistants), but I did research back then on what professional, private manuscript reading services for writers were charging.
The answer: usually a hefty minimum charge (like $200 to $300) plus something in the area of $2 per page, for which you’d get a multiple-page report. So a 200-page manuscript? $600 please. Of course you’ll find people doing it for less, but a service specializing in this does not come cheap.
This brings me to the point of this post–that you should make friends with your local writers-in-residence. These are writers, with good writerly credentials, hired by institutions like libraries, universities, colleges, and sometimes bookstores–I’ve even heard of a hotel doing it–to read manuscripts. Usually, anybody’s manuscript.
Right now at the Winnipeg Public Library, Maurice Mierau (who has published both poetry and non-fiction books, and is a fiction editor for a local publisher) will read your manuscript and tell you what he thinks. He’s a great guy. He’s your friend. So, if you need another opinion on that IPP project, or the novel sitting in your drawer, what are you waiting for?