by Raelene Gorlinsky
"I have a question regarding professional feedback. I submitted a manuscript and it was rejected with the "sorry not what we are looking for...etc." thing. Currently I have only a family friend looking at my work and wanted a professional eye and critique. How is this possible w/o an agent or editor of your own?"
That's what critique partners or critique groups are for! Authors and aspiring authors read each others' work in progress and offer advice and suggestions. They may not always be correct or helpful, but it's a lot more useful and dependable than advice from someone who has no familiarity with the publishing world or current trends. And advice from "friends" is not a good idea - because they are friends, they are not likely to give you the hard truths you need to hear.
Critique groups function in a number of ways. Some are organized by writer groups; your local chapter of RWA or MWA or such may help put people together for this. Some critique groups meet in person, some trade their work via email or online groups. And the purposes of the group can differ. Is the critique group really for "critique" - giving frank (although hopefully tactful) feedback on your work? Or is it focused on providing encouragement and support? Is it mainly for networking, professional or social?
Be aware that you have to give, not just take, to be part of a successful critique group. In return for reading and commenting on your draft story, the other group members expect you to expend time reading and analyzing their work. So it can be a considerable time commitment, but is well worth it. Reading others' work in progress can help you spot strengths and weaknesses in your own writing.
If you have the money, you can invest in a professional freelance editor or book doctor. Be sure to choose someone who has experience with the genre in which you write. Ask fellow writers for recommendations; ask the editor for references, ask them what now-published books they'd worked on. There are a lot of scams and incompetent editors out there preying on anxious aspiring authors.
Of course, you should also be doing research on your own into what different publishers are looking for, what they are currently releasing. That will increase your chance of submitting someplace that is actually looking for the type of writing you do.