Ready . . . or not?

I’ve been reading on agent blogs lately that they’re getting a lot of submissions that aren’t “ready.”  I take this to mean there are easily identified problems in the manuscript that could have been corrected before it was sent out — from inconsistencies in the plot to typos.   My experience on the other side of the desk — mentoring writers — is that they often don’t submit when they are ready, and find fourteen reasons why today is not the day. 

You learn a lot from putting your work out into the world, so I’m more likely to encourage you to send a manuscript out than to keep working on it endlessly.  But with competition as tough as it is, you owe it to yourself and your work to make sure it is ready, or as ready as you can make it, when you send it out.  How can you tell?

  • For big projects, like a proposal or a novel, you’ve put it away for a while — a week or a month — and when you look at it with fresh eyes, nothing glaringly bad pops out at you.
  • You’ve shown it to a colleague (not mom or dad or your best friend from elementary school) and gotten a thumb’s-up.
  • Or, you’ve had a critique group or beta readers take a look and give their blessing.
  • You’ve entered a contest (something well-respected and well-run, with experienced judges) and finaled or won.
  • For smaller projects, like a pitch letter, you’ve let it sit at least overnight and in the morning it still looks good.
  • And if you’re still not sure . . . send it out and see what the market says.

What do you do to tell if your work is ready?