Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Revise and Resubmit Shuffle

I get a lot of #AskAgent questions about the ol' "Revise and Resubmit" -- so I figure I'll tackle them all here, and if you have more you can put them in the comments.

Q: "I've heard "R+R" or "Revise and Resubmit" -  but what does it mean?" 
A: It means that an agent has read the author's full manuscript, and while they are not ready to commit to offering representation, they see potential in the author or the story and they are willing to provide notes and an opportunity to, well . . . Revise and Resubmit. ;-)

Q: "How can I tell if the agent is just giving general feedback as they might with any nice personalized rejection, or if they really want to see the book again?"
A: Every agent works differently, but to my mind there are three types of rejections:

*Impersonal - A form letter - might be long or short, but ultimately, there's no feedback, nothing personalized to you specifically, just a kind "not for me, thanks."
*Personalized - Notes you/the book by name - says a nice thing (or a few) about the manuscript, maybe notes a problem (or a few), but is a no all the same.
*R+R - clearly took some time to write, gives extensive notes on the strengths and problems with the manuscript, perhaps there is even a phone call to discuss, and there is an invitation to resubmit explicitly stated.

Q: "But what if I don't agree with their notes, or don't want to revise?!"
Then you say something nice like "thanks for taking the time to write this!"And then don't fret about it. That's fine. Nobody is forcing you to take the advice or to resubmit! (Though you might find that the advice gets better the more you let it settle in your brain... so don't burn the email or anything.)

Q: "How often do you give a "Revise and Resubmit"? 
A: They are pretty rare. Of the hundreds of queries I get, I reckon I request about 5% fulls. Then about 5% of the fulls I read will result in an R+R. Some of those people will choose to revise, some won't. Of the ones that do revise, I still might ultimately turn down for any number of reasons . . . but if they've taken the notes on board and done a great job, I'd say they are likely much closer to getting representation if not from me, then from somebody else.

Q: "I've heard writers call R+R's "The Slow No" -- they say this is just a nice way to reject somebody, and there is little chance the agent will change their mind once you revise."
A: This is quite wrong. I do not give extensive feedback unless I really do see great potential in the book, and I do NOT say that I want to read it again if I don't really want to read it again. I mean - no. Never. I just can't spend extra time thinking about or looking at things I don't like, and I wouldn't string anyone along in this way "to be nice" because I don't think it IS nice to string people along!

Q: "But come on, get real, have you ever actually SIGNED somebody after an R+R?"
A: I have signed several authors after an R+R, in fact. These are authors who took the feedback I gave and really ran with it -- not just giving a micro tweak here and there to their manuscripts, but really doing awesome full-on revisions that took their books from "promising" to "OMGAMAZING." I had no idea if these folks could really revise, or would want to revise -- but I am so glad they did, and so proud of them and their books!

Q: "OK but what if we decide to write a totally different book instead. Should we query you again, or avoid since we never did that R+R before?"
A: In my opinion, if I've ever had a full of yours in the past and given any personalized feedback (not just an R+R), and that feedback resonated with you, you should definitely try me again on your next book. I have offered authors rep on the second or even third book they've queried. Sometimes an author's earlier work was good but just not quite there -- but they get better and better, and I am always pleased to see these names again the next time! (That said, if you thought my advice was lousy or something on the first book - you might try another agent at my agency for the next one.)

Q: "You responded to my full two years ago and I still haven't finished the revision. Is there a time limit? How long should this take?"
A: There's no time limit. It takes as long as it takes, and I'd rather you take it slow and do a smashing job than rush and half-ass it. . . don't worry about me, I've got plenty to read. Of course I may check in from time to time to see how it's going -- no pressure, just sometimes it's hard for me to forget about a character! :-)  If you think it would help to give yourself a fake deadline, try 4 months. But don't break your neck over it.

Anything I forgot to ask myself on your behalf? Ask away!


  1. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Thanks for this helpful post! I'm working on an R&R for an agent right now. My question is this: what is the expectation and etiquette when you're ready to resubmit to the agent? Do agents who've taken the time to give you feedback and talk to you on the phone expect an exclusive on the revised full? (It seems like the right thing to do.) If so, for how long? When would it be okay to nudge and/or to start querying other agents again? I would like to work with this agent, but she took 6 months to request from my initial query and is notorious for really "relishing" her requested materials :) Thanks!

    1. It would be nice to have an exclusive on the revised full if you've used their feedback to do it. I'd say 4 weeks is appropriate. So when you submit it, just make that (nicely) clear. "Thanks so much for the detailed feedback, I took on this revision and I think the manuscript is much stronger now. I'm happy to give you an exclusive for four weeks."

      And when the time has elapsed, if you haven't heard, just drop a note like, "Hi -- I know how busy you are, so no pressure, but I'm going to be querying other agents shortly -- I'll keep you in the loop if I get any offers." :-)

  2. Anonymous2:41 PM

    Hi. How about when someone gives you pages of feedback but doesn't explicitly say "I'm passing" OR "Resubmit after you've made these changes"?

    I feel silly emailing back and asking if it was a pass, but it is really unclear.

    1. It's a pass. The question is, are they willing to look again? I'd say your response depends:

      * If you didn't like the advice and think it would be bad for the book, then just disregard. They aren't the agent for you anyway.

      * If you DID like the advice and think it will make the book stronger, and you want to revise, and YOU'D WANT TO REVISE EVEN IF YOU KNEW THEY MIGHT SAY NO AT THE END -- then go for it. Worst comes to worst, you'll have a better ms at the end of the day.

      IF you choose the latter path, you should ask them, even if it is awkward. "Hi, you might remember you read my full THE XYZ CHRONICLES late last year. I really liked the notes you gave, and I've used them to aid my major revision. I think this version of the ms is a lot stronger, let me know if you'd like to take a look!" -- don't be offended if they say no, but they might say yes, and it won't hurt you to ask.

  3. Just wanted to say for anyone reading that the first MS I subbed got an R&R from Jennifer but it was dystopian and at the time of the feedback the market was already getting kind of glutted. I didn't have a clear plan for fixing the issues Jenn raised, which I agreed with, so I opted to write something completely different. That something released last month as The Art of Lainey. Shelving the first MS and subbing a second MS to Jenn are two of the smartest career decisions I've made and I couldn't be happier.

    Just wanted to give a personal perspective. Sometimes it's the right agent but the wrong book. Best of luck to everyone submitting.

  4. This was awesome and helpful! Thank you! Agents at Pike's Peek Writers' Conf said the same thing--that they don't give a "slow no" and that they barely ever comment, so if they do, they'd really, truly like to see the revised version.

  5. Anonymous8:59 PM

    Thank you for this! I've been worried about taking too long with what is turning out to be a massive revision. I'm coming up to the 3 month mark and your post made me feel much better about the whole thing.


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