Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Resubmitting to agents and editors

So, the question came up as to whether or not a writer should re-submit to an editor or an agent.

This is an interesting question but one that is relatively easy to answer.

First of all, the rule is basically that a rejection means a rejection. In other words, they will not reconsider your manuscript just because you have some clarifying comments or that you believe they misread something. Essentially, you are telling that person that they didn't know what they were looking for.

But, here is the twist.

If an editor or agent gives you a ton of critique back, then generally it meant that there was something they liked about it. In that case, you should certainly consider the revisions and re-submit. Just to play it safe, contact them to see if that is acceptable. Reference the comments they made and see if they are open to the change. You may have just gotten them on a good day and the comments were just flowing.

What you should do though is to really consider their comments before sending in a new manuscript. Go over your next project and make sure it is not making any of the same mistakes the first one did. Then, when you go and submit manuscript number two, reference the comments from the first rejection and highlight in the cover letter what you did to incorporate their ideas into this new project.

Don't rush though. Sending out a new project the day you receive a rejection simply tells the editor or agent that you are throwing darts and hoping for the best.

Something to consider.



  1. Scott,
    Thanks for another great post. Here's my question: On a recent project an agent requested a partial. She sent me a letter a couple of weeks later saying only that 'this needs to be flawless. please resubmit.' I went back over the submission and resubmitted. A couple of weeks later another letter came saying only 'rewrite opening and please resubmit.' Here's my question: Should I keep working and resubmitting without any clear direction? Is this agent really interested or just being nice? Since this business is so subjective, I'm not sure what she wants to see without (much) clearer communication. I don't want to squander the opportunity, but I don't want to waste my time and hers if it is a simple matter of different communication styles, which could come back to bite both of us if she were to sign me in the future.

    It seems to me that if she were really interested, she would be more expansive in her comments, but I could be wrong.

    P.S.--the referenced project is pretty much dead in the water at this point, but I'm considering querying her for future projects.

  2. Lateia- Ouch. What a tough place you've been put in-I must agree, that kind of disinterested response would seem to indicate the agent just don't much care if she sees the next version or not. Pain and more pain. Who wants to work with that kind of luckluster person? Is she really in your camp at all, or will she always have one foot out the door? Let us know what you do there.Try to find out who else she reps-try QueryTracker, or some of the online agent lists.
    Cordei-will you share your blog address with us? I love your initiative. It would be ideal to have an agent, but they are overwhelmed, and when so many of their sites report they are taking "less than 1% of unsolicited submissions, I don't know what ehse you csn do but strike out on your own. How can it be worse? And last I checked, Brunonia Barry's originally self-published book (The Lace Reader) was in the top five on the B and N list.BUT ,in that case one can see all the planets aligned perfectly. It still gives a person hope. And that's enough for now.

    us know what you do there.

  3. Anon--
    This agent is very well-known and handles several top writers within my genre. She just got a three book deal for a first time author. That's the worst part of it---I don't want her to think I'm a flake who's not interested in following through and doing the hard stuff like editing/rewrites.

    At this point I think I might just send her an email telling her I've abandoned the referenced project for now and ask if I can send a partial on my next one....

    In this business, you have to just learn as you go...

  4. Oh man, that makes me feel even worse for you. Who can walk from any response from a top agent? Definitely pain on top of pain in this case.
    Perhaps she would be willing to be more specific about what she likes and does not like about the ms. Perhaps she would be willing to act like a human being!
    My heart goes out to you, and I hope Scott might be willing to give you some direction here. If the project is worthwhile enough for a response...but frankly, that one makes the hair stand up on my neck. I just plain expect better treatment from another adult, and especially from a woman. Sexist? You bet.Life is too short to treat other people so carelessly.How many of a lot of different ways are you supposed to rewrite the beginning? Is your time worth anything here?

  5. Hey Lateia,
    I would just ask what she means by beginning. If she's well-known and legit, she just might want to see how easy you are to work with. If it's just because you have too much backstory in the beginning or not enough conflict, it might be an easy fix and worth your time.
    I'm sorry you're abandoning the project. You could always save the original and then rewrite the beginning for her. To me, she doesn't sound disinterested at all. Harried and a little curt, but not disinterested or trying to waste your time. If you like the agent and think you would work well with her, then I definitely think you should do it.
    But that's just my opinion :-)
    Good luck, whatever you decide :-)

  6. Lateia,

    I agree on the confusion here. I would agree on the first part that the story needs to be "flawless." Too often we get projects that are clearly in a rough draft form.

    As for all of the other issues, I think it is entirely up to you.
    Again, if I were the one looking at a project, I wouldn't be so picky as to ask for a revision of the beginning only. I would look at the bigger picture.

    Now there is another approach. It could be that after the revisions, the agent is simply saying that you didn't get it to the flawless stage. Not sure what to do though. I would agree that if someone was really interested, they would give you something more to work with.


  7. I hope you will let us knos how this turns out for you, Writers are always told to turn themselves inside out in order to appeal to an agent on every level. That does cut two ways, I'd say, I'd hate to see you quit on this too, but based on the sample thus far, is this a person with whom you want a long financial relationship? Is she always this curt and vague? Will she try harder to work with you? Best of luck, and I hope this turns out wonderfully for you. !

  8. Thanks to everyone who posted!

    I appreciate all the encouragement. The project was only sellable to one publisher and they rejected it---after requesting a partial. So, at this point I'm nearly finished with the next one and I think I'll concentrate on trying to sell that one for a while instead. I am not giving up! It was so encouraging to get this far and I intend to go even farther into the process next time.

    Scott, thanks again for the time you take, one on one, with all of us out here in the hinterlands trying to make our dreams come true. Your comments are always insightful and right to the point. Thanks for your candor.

    As for whether I will re-query (is that a word?) the aforementioned agent, I'm not sure. She's in my top ten, but not necessarily in my top five. I think I'll try others first, starting with the two agents who requested a full, first. My loyalty is to them. Because, after all, they spent a lot of time on my project with no benefit to them. And if there's any money to be made on my writing, I want the commission to go to those who were willing to read my stuff initially.

    BTW, I sent the agent an email yesterday stating the project was DOA but I'd keep her in mind for future project. At this point I don't want to burn ANY bridges.

  9. All right! You sound like a person who has all the qualities needed to make it to your goal. It's none of my business, but all i could think when i read your posts was that i have never even gotten a personal rejectionn note that was THAT cold and vague. I hope there is more to this story.
    People usually lead with their best, and apparently this was someone who might even want your work.
    Is she this busy? This distracted? This self-centered, as in willing to waste your time due to a total lack of direction? Do you even LIKE this person, thus far? Sure hope there is more to this story. At best, it sounds as if she is too busy to take on another writer. Would things really get better if you signed with her? I dunno, kiddo. If the work was good enough to interest her, it would seem it might appeal to others as well. It's just a very tight market right now-nobody's fault.
    Let us know how it goes for you. Every writer deserves an agent who will treat them with courtesy and respect, and stand behind their writing. I hope you caught this one (two) bad days. Will there be more?

  10. P>S>
    Again, none of my business, but that never stopped me yet. It's your choice, but being asked for excerpts is a very good sign. Over and over again, successful writers say they sent out a blizzard of queries before finding an agent
    Sara Gruen-nearly one hundred straight rejections. John Grisham- many nore than that from agents, and then the agent couldn't sell the thing himself, for a long, long time.
    Think of it as dating-every relationship will be a cold, dead, failure, until the last one.

  11. Anon,

    Thanks for all the encouragement. I have two finished novels--one that I addressed in the post and one that I've hidden so deep into a drawer that I hope that even the family dogs are never forced to read it. I've learned a lot in the construction of those projects and I hope the one that is nearing completion is much better.

    I am only in my early 30s and so I have lots of time (and energy) to learn the business and the craft of writing. I participate in several writing/critique groups and I'm a committee member for a good-sized conference. I'm trying to make sure I have a good foundation so that I can, eventually, have a long career. I want to get it right---I don't want to be a one-hit wonder.

    I'm thrilled that I got requests for both partials and fulls for my first real, or shall I say, marketable novel. It got me back on track and on a disciplined writing schedule. Now I hope that it's only a matter of time.

    You're right---even the greats had to start somewhere. This business takes quite a bit of discipline and a lot of passion. I'm willing to take the no's because ultimately they mean I'm closer to a yes. I'm doing what most people dream of and never actually sit down to do. It's worth the effort.

    Thanks again and I'll keep you posted.

  12. You are so right about this business taking a discipline and passion. Unfortunatly, I think many writers i see lack the discipline and in the end, simply disappear. Too bad for some because their writing would have some potential.