How to Survive a Revise and Resubmit

Querying agents is usually a long process. You send out ten, fifteen queries at a time, each one crafted for a specific agent, each one checked countless times for errors. Then, you wait. And wait. Finally, you get a response.

“Thanks for thinking of me! I’m afraid this project isn’t a fit for what I am currently looking for, but I wish you the best of luck in finding a perfect home for it.”

So, you wait. And wait some more. Another response.

“Thanks so much for your query. I’d love to keep reading! Can you please send me the full manuscript?”

Whoot! You send off your manuscript. About two months later you get another e-mail from the same agent. This is where it gets interesting. The e-mail isn’t a rejection, but it’s not asking you to sign with the agent either. What it is, is an R&R, a revise and resubmit.

Yes! This means the agent likes your work enough to invest time in writing detailed notes on it. Now, don’t skim through the R&R letter and jump into making changes. This is your last chance to get this agent to sign with you.

So, what should you do if you get an R&R?

  • Send an acknowledgement e-mail. Let the agent know that you received his/her R&R. Thank them for the feedback and say you’re working on the revisions, or ask for time to think about the revisions if you’re unsure you agree with the way the agent wants to take the novel. If you say you’re going to think about the revisions, then let the agent know in a few days whether or not you’re going to tackle them.
  • Read the R&R notes multiple times. Read them when you get the e-mail, then walk away. Wait a day and read them again. On your second reading, highlight the major changes, the ones that you feel you should have thought of.
  • Re-Read the entire manuscript. Read your novel without editing. Take notes, but don’t edit. This will give you a fresh perspective, especially if you haven’t read your novel in awhile.
  • Organize. After reading your novel, take the notes you made and the R&R and compare them. Highlight the most important changes (the major ones).
  • Revise. Go through and revise. Don’t rush. Agents aren’t expecting the manuscript back in a few days. After revising, read through it again. Edit a second time.
  • Sit on it. Give your revised manuscript to a few trusted readers, while you don’t look at it for a few days.
  • Check on your revisions. Re-read your notes and the R&R. Then read your novel again. Listen to what your beta readers or critique group says. You’ve made a lot of changes so don’t go looking for obvious mistakes. Take your time. You may have missed something. You may have introduced some problems that weren’t there before. Edit. Edit again. Once you’ve done that, read the novel one last time.
  • Send. Now, send it off to the agent. No matter what happens, pat yourself on the back. An agent thought your novel was worth the time to give an R&R. Be proud, and regardless of the outcome you’ve got a stronger manuscript.

Have you been successful with a revise and resubmit?

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