My lovely friend Sophie Blackall, ace illustrator and keen observer of the arts scene, sent me a link to a most interesting article recently published in NYC.  It’s called, “I will not read your @£%&*!?**@$ script,” only it does not use coy symbols to express, in unequivocal terms, how the author feels about being sent unsolicited manuscripts, or being asked to read someone’s screenplay treatment.

The author explains that no matter what you say in response (even if a “brutally honest” evaluation has been specifically requested) you will be hated and damned forever.  That is, unless your reader’s report cites better dialogue than Shakespeare and better stories than the Bible. It also helps if you mention that you’ve forwarded this undiscovered masterpiece to your good friend, Steven Spielberg for his urgent consideration.

Personally, I don’t much like being hated and damned forever, so I try to offer encouragement — which is easy. If I hate something, there’s a better than decent chance it’s destined to be a best-seller.

What astonishes me, however, are the number of people who send letters swearing I am their favourite writer of all time (a quick glance at their website reveals that it is, in fact, Someone Who Is Not Me, followed by 47 people who are Also Not Me), or who send notes saying they don’t really like my work, but would I use my hard-won connections to help them get an agent/publisher?

Perhaps a few pointers are required.

1.  As with a job interview, it is mere politeness to familiarize yourself with the work of the person of whom you are asking a favour.

2.  I do not, by any means, expect everyone to like or admire my books.  But if you don’t like them, ask someone whose books you do admire for help getting published.  Or lie.

3.  Flattery, contrary to popular belief, will get you far. I’ve turned down school or festival events due to lack of time, only to receive an e-mail telling me how truly, genuinely disappointed the writer is.  And I nearly always think, “Gosh, really?  Truly disappointed?  OK, then.”

4.  Thank the person who reads your work, no matter what the response is. If there’s one thing that drives me mad, it’s a warm and friendly correspondence before I look at someone’s work, and then total silence when I’ve gone to the trouble to read it, think hard about how it might be better, and communicate the advice at length.

Having said all this, I am not averse to reading unpublished work. Someone read mine once, and I’ll never forget it.

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12 thoughts on “So you want me to read your manuscript.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention So you want me to read your manuscript. | Meg Rosoff -- Topsy.com

  2. Angela Cerrito 6 years ago

    Two of my friends have unpublished novels that I love very much and I really hope they get published someday!!!

    If I live long enough to write well enough to show you any of my words, I’m going to dig up this post!!!

  3. Minnie 6 years ago

    Relax, Ms R: absolutely no danger of your being bombarded by effing effusions from this effer …
    … I’ve already got a reader ;-).

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Ah, but Minnie Beaniste, I would gladly…..

  4. kokorako 6 years ago

    Thanks Meg for this post – as a result I’ve just managed to read most (all?) of “All My Friends Are Dead”. It’s genius… I used to like “The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of his Business” very much too (mole sleuth looks for who did the poo on his head). Should you adapt both and provide a guide for, say, the Arvon Foundation participants (or anyone who sends an mss to you) on good literary manners?

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Little Mole is one of my favourites, but even better is Duck Death and the Tulip by Wolf Ehrlbruch (who illustrated little mole), which, coincidentally, I did read to a room full of adult Arvon types. Not a dry eye in the place.

  5. Minnie 6 years ago

    Careful, my dear Meg, careful … ;-)! But thank you for the implied accolade, which I value greatly.
    O/T (sorry but think it worth mentioning): saw Bertrand Tavernier’s latest, ‘La Princesse de Montpensier’, & – among much else (complex love story with strong but not over-worked moral thread; development of some characters but not others; thrilling background of Wars of Religion; fabulous acting; superb script; beautiful countryside etc., etc.) – lots of glorious horses. Riding/battle scenes shot from motorbikes (scramblers?), so viewer … right in there.
    Allons-y – ventre à terre!

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      OOOoh. Must see.

  6. Elle 6 years ago

    Have you ever come across a novel that you thought was good enough to get published and actually suggested it to someone or a publisher?
    It always sounds like people get rejected. Makes me glad I’m not an aspiring writer 😉

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      I have sent a few writers I thought were good to my agent, though I’m not sure she’s taken any of them on. The best I’ve done is to have a ms or proof sent to me and fallen in love with it so I’ve been able to blurb it (for what little that does!) or blog about it, talk about it on radio, and just generally add to the word of mouth. It all helps.
      Generally anyone good enough for me to fall in love with, would already have an agent and/or a publisher.

  7. Kirsten Baron 6 years ago

    Dear Meg. Reading the replies to your (delightful) blog, I’m beginning to believe that all your readers are writers. Or perhaps not just YOUR readers, or not just readers… Is there anyone out there at all who isn’t trying to find an agent and/or publisher?

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      I think it’s mainly the writers who comment. But not always….I’ve met some rather astonishingly lateral people through this…..

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