Sifting through the manuscripts in my slushpile as of late, I'm witnessing a growing trend. Books that aren't ready to be edited, much less published, are showing up with disturbing regularity. The explosion of the self-publishing market and instant access to an immense number of books has resulted in a lot of new writers testing the waters. They write their book, do a quick spell check, and zip that manuscript off to agents or editors and wait for the book contracts to come rolling in.
Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. A first draft's purpose is to get the story down on paper. A final draft's purpose is submission for publication, whatever route you decide to take for that, and that draft comes after a lot of work on the initial story.
These unedited, unrevised, unchecked manuscripts are clogging up the book submission system, and it's a bloody shame. Many of them have intriguing storylines, but are so technically poor that I don't have an option but to reject them. Sometimes, I'll send a revise and resubmit request for a story that really interests me, and I have had success getting those authors to pay attention to their work. But for the most part, my slushpile is a dreary, repetitive auto-rejection production line.
The main thing writers need to realize is that their book is not perfect. No one's is, and especially not in the first draft. My mantra to the authors I work with is always the same: Write, rewrite, edit, rewrite, proofread, read aloud, polish and repeat. This is especially important for new writers, who are just starting to get their feet underneath them. Once you've edited, revised, rewritten, proofed and polished your manuscript within an inch of its life, then it's time to get critiques.
Many writers join critique groups in their towns or online writers' communities where they can get the feedback they need to make sure their story works. I have a tight group of critique partners; we work closely together on beta reading each others' works. Our crit group is starting to gain momentum as well; several of us are now published — like Marguerite Butler and her book The First Ghost, which I critiqued in its infancy and is now an amazing book.