“Friendly Reading” versus Manuscript Evaluation

Editors are often asked to read and respond to manuscripts by new and established authors. However, what does the writer really want—a thorough, professional manuscript evaluation or what I call a “friendly reading”? And what time does each take?

Friendly reading—The writer hopes for (and really, really wants) someone to read and like the manuscript, praise them, praise the manuscript, and (maybe) point out some minor mechanical errors that are easy to fix (such as a spelling mistake or repeated word). A friendly reading is overwhelmingly positive and buoys the writer’s spirits. It asks no hard questions. The friendly reader would typically read the manuscript in the same time as the author would, but add some extra time (5, 10, or 30 minutes) to prepare some positive comments.

Manuscript evaluation—By my definition, a manuscript evaluation done by an experienced editor is a critical reading of a manuscript and assessment of it. The evaluation addresses
– the subject, genre or form, purpose, and targeted reader
– the manuscript’s current state, including strengths and weaknesses
– the editor’s initial concerns and questions
– the manuscript’s potential
– its possible market
– what next steps the editor would recommend for the manuscript and writer
The editor will often refer to examples and possibly refer to online references. The editor asks questions about the author’s intentions and responds to the manuscript as the reader’s advocate. A manuscript evaluation can be very time-consuming. For this reason, the author and editor might establish in advance a time/cost limit that allows for a partial reading of the manuscript and briefer comments.

Whether based on a full or partial reading, a manuscript evaluation will help the writer think critically about his or her work and consider the options for the next steps. A manuscript evaluation is also a key test of how well a writer and editor will work together.


© Laura Edlund 2010