Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About R&Rs

Or at least some things...

Second only to an offer, a revise-and-resubmit--or an R&R, as they're often called--can be a fantastic opportunity to fine-tune or even completely reshape your manuscript. I've collected eight over the years (seven when I was querying, one since I've been on submission), so I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

What's the difference between a rejection and an R&R?

On the surface, an R&R might sound like a rejection. The agent or editor definitely isn't offering, and he even took the time to point out everything that's WRONG. But as soon as he says, "If you end up making changes, I'd love to see this again" or "If these ideas resonate with you, I'd be happy to take another look," it turns into an R&R. Agents and editors generally don't invite you to resubmit:)

How do you decide whether or not to do an R&R?

It all comes down to whether or not your vision aligns with theirs. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that you won't have to throw out half the manuscript and draft dozens of new scenes, but the suggested changes should help you tell the story you meant to tell all along. No matter where it comes from, an actionable critique should make you feel excited to dive back into your story, so if you don't feel inspired by the agent's or editor's feedback, it might not be worth pursuing.

What if you decide to do the R&R but you don't agree with all of the agent's or editor's suggestions?

No agent or editor is going to expect you to agree with her on every point she raised, so I think she'll still be interested in taking another look even if you don't address every little thing. That said, she WILL expect you to at least consider every point she raised, so if you decide not to incorporate a specific piece of feedback, you should probably be able to explain--and defend--your decision.

Do you need to tell the agent or editor that you plan to do the revision?

Short answer: Yes. Slightly longer answer: Working on an R&R is a chance for both of you to get a feel for each other's working style, so you want to show him that you're a smart, savvy author who knows how to communicate.

How long should you take on the revision?

Less experienced writers might assume that the faster you turn your revision in, the better, but that's not necessarily the case. If you turn it in too quickly, the agent or editor might assume that you didn't invest as much time and effort as you probably should have. (Keep in mind that if she only expected you to tweak a scene or two, she probably would have offered from the get-go.) But if you take too long, the market might slip out from under you. In general (and these are VERY general guidelines--every revision will be different), I'd say that you should take at least a month on an R&R and no more than three or four.

How likely is it that an R&R will turn into an offer?

It's hard to say. As I mentioned above, I've received eight R&Rs, but I only pursued six of them. Of those six, only one turned into an offer (but luckily, that one came from Putnam!). Based solely on my experience, you might estimate that you have roughly a one-in-six chance of receiving an offer on any given R&R, but there are way too many factors that go into the result to be able to extrapolate from such a tiny data set. Take your time, do the very best job you can, and you'll have no regrets.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!


Sidney Blake said...

Informative and helpful. Thanks for sharing.

Jessie Oliveros said...

Thanks, Krista. You are a well of information, as usual. Maybe a few words about exclusive R&R's vs non-exclusive R&R's? That is, it's okay to continue querying after a non-exclusive R&R, but when you have an exclusive R&R, do you go about notifying other agents as you would with an offer? (And, in your experience, how many exclusives are offered vs nonexclusives?)

Nora Lester Murad, Palestine said...

I revised and resubmitted on the basis of an agent's request, and I somehow expected the response to be quicker. How long should I expect to wait until the agent responds?

Alison Heller said...

Thank you for this post! I do probably more than my fair share of R&R and always worry that authors jump in to the idea too quickly. I'd much rather they step back, assess if my thoughts align with theirs, then take what works from my suggestions (if any at all) and revise. And, yes!, fast turnarounds do make me wary.

Leiann Bynum said...

I've always wondered, what makes an agent decide to do an R&R instead of just rejecting? I've never had an R&R, an agent just says they are rejecting my novel, and sometimes they tell me why. Why can't they just ask me to fix those things that are wrong with it and resubmit?

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Glad you thought so, Sidney!

Good questions, Jessie. There is this unwritten rule that the agent or editor who asked for the R&R gets first dibs on the revision, but I would say that unless you've specifically granted exclusivity, you're under no obligation to only show the revision to the agent or editor who requested it. Now, some people--especially agents and editors--will probably disagree with me, but if they wanted to work with you exclusively, they should have made an offer (or at least discussed exclusivity with you). That's the risk they take when they ask for an R&R instead of making an offer.

In the event that you have more than one outstanding submission at the time that you decide to work on an R&R, I think it's wise to follow up with the other agents or editors who have either all or part of your manuscript and let them know what's going on. Give them the option of reading the manuscript as-is or waiting to read the latest version. (In my experience, they usually agree to wait.)

Last but not least, I do think it's wise to hold off on sending more queries while you're working on an R&R. You want to be able to share your best work with interested agents, and hopefully, that will be the revision. (If an agent you queried a while back ends up requesting the manuscript while you're in the middle of the revision, e-mail them back and let them know what's going on, then give them the same options you gave the agents or editors with outstanding submissions.)

Just my two cents! Feel free to take it or leave it.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Great question, Nora! I made the same assumption when I was waiting to hear back on resubmitted revisions, but at least in my experience, agents tended to respond within their usual time frames. (In other words, don't assume it will be a rejection just because it's taking longer!)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Great point, Alison. It's so important to let everything sink in for a while; your subconscious needs time to chew on all the new ideas. When agents and editors say there's no rush, they mean it!

That's a good question, Leiann. I'm not an agent or editor (obviously), but I think they hand out R&Rs when they genuinely love the concept/writing/characters but have significant concerns about the execution. So if you've never gotten an R&R, it could just be that you haven't found the agent(s) who connect with your stories and writing style. I know plenty of writers who've never received an R&R but have agents and book deals, so I wouldn't read too much into it. It just goes to show how unique everyone's journey is.

Karen Clayton said...

In college, some fellow students and I co-authored an article with our Religion Professor. We went through several R & R s until he was satisfied. It was fun actually, but then again I did have others researching and working with me.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Karen, it would be a lot easier if you had someone else to share the work and stress with. Shared burdens are half burdens, as they say.

Kate Larkindale said...

Great post, Krista. I just got my first R & R this week, so the timing couldn't be better! And I'm excited about it because I know now what I need to do to make the book better...

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Congratulations, Kate! That's so exciting! And it sounds like you agree with the agent's or editor's feedback, so that's doubly exciting. Best of luck with it!