You're waiting for news from an agent or editor, and that anticipated name finally appears in your inbox. But what if it isn't a yes or a no? Besides the obvious answers, there's a different option: A revise and resubmit request.
Whether there's an element of your story that needs to be tweaked or a structural component that doesn't meet the requirements for a particular line, this typically means they see promise in your project but would like to see how you change certain things before they commit. Sometimes this happens in a pitch meeting or query response. Other times, they will send full editorial notes like they would for one of their own clients.
Since I'm working on one as we speak, here are my top tips for dealing with a revise and resubmit request:
Number one and most important, this is -- more often than not -- a good thing. Nothing to be upset about at all. Yes, it's more work to put into a project you've probably already spent a considerable amount of time shaping up to send off in the first place. But it will be worth it. Remember that this means your story made this agent/editor think and that he or she is invested in the idea enough to respond thoughtfully to you out of the hundreds of submissions in any given week.
But you don't have to take the advice. Revise and resubmit requests are great opportunities to show how teachable and creative you are with constructive criticism (an editor's dream author). If you've made every attempt to be open-minded and discussed it with trusted people who know your work and you still feel these suggestions don't seem like a good fit with your vision, then it might be best to move on. If their suggestions are so extensive that the structural integrity of your story is lost (and it's no longer your own story), then maybe you'd be a better match with a different agent/editor. But more than likely, a reputable industry professional will give you suggestions to bring out the best in your story and make it a mutual fit, especially if you know this individual has worked with authors whose work resonates with you. Don't be afraid to ask if it's all right to run your revision ideas by the agent/editor before you begin, but make sure you have a good handle on them first to present them cohesively. (And if you have an agent, make sure to get his or her approval to contact an editor first!) Experiment with the changes. See if they resonate with you and give your story life. Then proceed accordingly.
When undertaking this kind of edit, you can never go wrong with a good checklist. If a request seems daunting (Mine was two pages long!), make a list with each change along with action items that can accomplish it. What backstory and plot points need to be changed? Does any of this change your characters' essence or how they would react to things? What questions need to be answered as these changes unfold? What plot points will each change affect later in the story? Having a roadmap or sorts is a tremendous reference as you implement these changes in each chapter and a great way to keep things organized! Plus, the accomplishment of checking things off never gets old.
Here's what mine looks like:
Have you ever gotten a revise + resubmit request? What are some ways you know an editor/agent/critique partner's advice will benefit your story? How do you tackle a big rewrite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
---Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications.
She's a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a two-time Genesis Award winner, and the runner-up in the 2015 Lone Star Contest's Inspirational category. Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.
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