Thursday, June 09, 2016

More on Revise and Resubmit

A little over a year ago I received a request for an R&R from a literary agent — she sent a long and very helpful critique — and of course I was thrilled. I spent three months revising the novel and sent it back. About a month later I got an email from the agent saying “it’s not quite there,” with additional yet much more limited changes suggested. I revised again, this time it took about a month, then I sent the manuscript back to her. That was six months ago. After three months I sent a nudge—but she didn’t reply to me. And I still haven’t heard back. Here’s my question.
(1)Should I nudge again? 
(2) Or should I consider this a “no”?
(3) Or is there still hope for me with this agent?

I’ve continued to query the novel during this time, with some hope, because this is the second agent who has been very interested in this manuscript, but
(4)I can’t query forever (or can I?) 
(5)Once I reach a certain number of agents, should I stop querying and put the novel in the drawer?
(6)And what is that magic number?
From R&R Purgatory 

(1) yes
(2) no
(3) yes
(4) yes
(5) yes
(6) Q+1

(1) Should you nudge again?
Yes. Nudge every 3-4 months for another 12 months. You don't know what's going on her side of the inbox. I've gotten so far behind it's been mortifying. I'm currently shopping a proposal I had here for a year BEFORE we started revising.

(2) Don't assume no until you've given her a lot more time. And then you'll write to withdraw it, if only cause not replying to a full is rather rude, and she needs to be smacked across the nose like an errant puppy.

(3) There's hope of course. There's always hope. But at some point, her lack of response isn't just busy or life or any of the other things that can keep an agent from replying. After a year I'd say it's just bad manners (and bad business.)

(4 & 5) You can query forever but at some point, I HOPE, you'll have another project ready to go. If you query everyone for this, you eventually run out of options. The last thing you want to do is be this guy.

(6) It's the number of times you've queried as of today, plus one. In other words, keep going till you've got something new, or you run out of places to query. And by places to query, I don't mean you scrape the bottom of the barrel. Being badly repped here is NOT your goal. 


Gabby said...

That Lovejoy guy. I could read through his trainwreck of a website and backstory for hours. I'm fascinated by his refusal to accept his novel just isn't any good.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Opie: love the humor of your signature! R&R Purgatory.

But seriously, congratulations on having an agent giving you not 1 R&R but 2. There so much hope there. And thank you for asking the question. It is so helpful to see the various scenarios of successful queries. And it is a successful query because you have an agent (and more than 1) interested and putting in time on your full manuscript.

But, as the Shark says, keep writing on that next story.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

You know those times when you're moving house and as you're packing up and cleaning under the fridge you find that one useful item that was lost for years and you thought was gone forever?

Sometimes promising responses to querying feel like that.

Timothy Lowe said...

Thanks for the link, Janet. A must read for anyone who has ever felt stung by rejection. Or anyone who has queried. Oh, wait. They're the same thing.

I guess Q+7000 isn't the way to go.

Colin Smith said...

That last point. One of the mantras of this blog (aside from "Om gimme lima beans") is "A bad agent is worse than no agent." Don't be that desperate. In fact, don't be desperate. You're not a beggar at the publishing banquet (another blog mantra). Congrats on the R&Rs, Opie, and all the best to you! :)

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

That Lovejoy guy... um. Is he for real?

If not, I am not the audience for his kind of humour.

If so...




P.S.: Clearly he has never heard of Anna Magdalena.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I recently completed a 2 year circle of the R&R wheel. It ended up as a no as the agent jumped over to non-fiction. Also I took way longer in my revisions than the OP. And that process put me on the rewrite insanity I find myself in at the moment.

The agent in my case was very professional and always got back to me in a timely manner. Still, an R&R is a good thing. Someone gave you time and that is not something agents have endless supplies of. Be encouraged, OP. You are doing something right.

This may not apply to OP, but I discovered that putting my WIP in a drawer for some time, working on something else, reading a lot, and then putting fresh eyes on it is most illuminating. It may be you find it's not your best work or you may see exactly what it needs to be great. I am praying I have found the latter.

Anonymous said...

"A bad agent is better than no agent." This is the kind of garbage that put me through three lousy marriage. Growing up, my mother preached that a bad husband was better than no husband at all. Took me three to figure out that she was a liar.

I would rather die single (unpublished) than go through another bad marriage (bad agent). Hang in there Opie! Nudge, and keep working on that next book.

Colin Smith said...

Audrey eeek! You just made my heart stop for a moment. Did I say "a bad agent is better than no agent"?? *scrolls back* No, I didn't. *phew* OK... you were using the reverse of what I said to underscore the point. *breathes* We're good. Carry on... :)

Theresa said...

This isn't directly about R&R, but it's an interesting story about utlimately successful querying:

OP, how great to get that kind of response from an agent. Fingers are still crossed for the second R&R.

S.P. Bowers said...

So how long should you wait before the first nudge on a returned R&R? The agent read my MS and got back to me within weeks the first time, now, I turned the R&R in 4 months ago.

Brigid said...

Lovejoy: Aiiiiieeeeeeeee!

How can someone describe his own actions as a "determined, direct assault by mass email query" that "alienated" agents for nine years, complete with quotes telling him the agents called the police and that his book is junk, and then self-publish? Doesn't one self-publish to succeed? Awareness and platform are not the same thing!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I don't have anything to add other than to congratulate OP for getting the interest of multiple agents with your manuscript. That's wonderful!

Julie Weathers said...

Been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt. My oldest son has a tee-shirt with a bronc rider getting dumped off on his head that says "Scars are just tattoos with better stories."

That's sort of how it feels at times.

A word of caution with R&R. Make sure they are actually improving the story. I had one R&R request that sucked the soul out of the story and had to go back and do a major rewrite to try and put the voice back in. Luckily, most of my R&R's were very helpful.

You can get R&R's from different people and they want diametrically opposed things, so you'll have to go with your heart and figure out what's good for the story.

What happens if you stand your ground? The agent will probably decide they don't want to work with you. Is it worth holding out?

On the other hand, just because you make all the changes in the world doesn't guarantee representation. I have a friend who went back and forth for years with a very good agent and then on the last one he sent back a note and said he was sorry, but he no longer represented historical. It was all very odd. She felt he was the dream agent, so she refused to query anyone else during all this. Don't do this.

There are no dream agents, they only become dream agents.

On the plus side, no agent is going to waste their time on an R&R if they aren't very interested, so congratulations.

I remember when that guy was querying. It was surreal. Agents were tweeting about him. He would keep querying and flat tell them he would keep querying until he wore them down and someone accepted him.

He was sort of like Ernest T.

I've got a major rewrite of Far Rider staring at me, but I just don't have the heart to start it. I have no idea when I will. I've got other projects on the fire.

Bad agents can break your soul. Trust me on this one.

Julie Weathers said...

Off Topic: My website is down while we switch hosting companies. Techie son also works full time, goes to school, is a full time single daddy, and the switching over isn't quite as pain free as the new company had indicated it might be. So, I'll be back up soon, and thanks to those who noticed.

Colin Smith said...

Here's Theresa's link:

On the Lovejoy debacle, I wonder if he had more confidence in his novel than he had in himself as a writer. Why else would you beat your head to a bloody pulp against a brick wall over one manuscript instead of trusting your ability to write something better? You would only persist this hard if you knew for sure you'd never write another novel again. And I don't think that's the case with most of us.

Julie Weathers said...


I think he was just determined to prove the world wrong. To prove that you can "beat them at their own game." After a while he was getting so much attention for it, he was a star in his own mind and became famous for being an ass. Sort of like so many celebrities I won't even bother to name.

BJ Muntain said...

I remember Lovejoy, too. He would post, on his simple webpage, all his rejections, and many of his rejection letters. When an agent rejected him, he would post all their contact information, despite their requests to remove it. If my feeble memory serves, he encouraged other authors to follow in his footsteps. I learned a lot from him - about what not to do. I also learned a bit about what some agents have to put up with, and how they deal with it. Very interesting. From the outside.

Timothy Lowe said...

BTW, and I'm curious here, anyone ever get an R and R on a query plus pages? I'm curious because I think I got one last week and am unsure about how to treat it...

BJ Muntain said...

Back on actual topic, I feel like I've been querying forever, but I tend to query in spurts, so I haven't yet reached that magic number of Q+1.

I had a similar experience with an agent. He suggested I revise and he'd look at it again. I revised and resubmitted.* I nudged a couple times, and heard nothing. I'm wondering if I've been going straight to their spam filter now, because I've queried other agents at that agency, and had no response (and it's not a NORMAN agency.) So I've given up on that agency. There are many other agents out there who have been responding to queries and nudges, so I'll just keep plodding on.

*This wasn't for a full. Although I did revise the whole novel - then, and a few times since, as my skills have developed - it was still only a partial.

BJ Muntain said...

Timothy - our comments crossed in the stream... ;) Yes, you can get R&Rs on queries plus pages. Respond the way you would to any R&R. Revise. Resubmit. I don't know what the agent read, and I haven't read your work, so I can't tell you how much or what to revise, but I'd start at the beginning. It's possible, too, that you've begun at the wrong place, which is something else to consider as you revise. If you're wondering what to resend - resend the same number of revised pages as you'd sent original pages.

BJ Muntain said...

(Unless the agent said otherwise.)

The Sleepy One said...

Timothy, I basically received an R&R from a query + 3 chapters + synopsis. The agent liked the voice and setting but wanted the story to go a darker direction. She told me if I made specific changes to contact her again. I decided to focus on a different R&R from an agent who liked the novel but wanted me to rework a different area (and I wholeheartedly agreed with his feedback once I read it).

If I end up reworking the novel in the direction the agent suggested, I'll take her at her word and contact her with a "you said X, here's Y" (while still following her query guidelines).

Donnaeve said...

Congratulations OP on your R&R, and follow-up R&R. No small stuff there. I've got to believe, as QOTKU has astutely pointed out, (b/c, ya know, she's a smart shark) there's hope yet. Good luck as you continue to nudge, and travel the path of Q+1.

I also hopped over to QOTKU's sidebar on the left and clicked on "Author Asshats" just to see if a link to the Lovejoy debacle popped up. Is that his real name? Did ya'll scroll through that Assembly stuff? Hm. He's in NC and not that far. What if he lurks about here? What if...*insert creaking hamster wheel*

At least that got me worrying about something else for a change.

julieweathers said...

That guy was horrible. I felt so sorry for the agents he was harassing and he went through them all like a dose of salts. It didn't matter what they repped, if they were an agent, they were fair game.

Anyway, he's had enough notoriety.

Timothy, I'm not sure what the agent said, and apparently you aren't either. I've had agents say they'd like to see other work based on a partial. I've had an R&R based on pages from a full, but it was with an agent I was already working with on previous revisions. I think I'd ask for some clarification before I started revising. Don't revise based on a guess.

And now, I need to run my Confederate spy up a tree and throw rocks at her or toss her into the arms of a handsome Union captain. You never know how these things will turn out.

Timothy Lowe said...


You're right - and thanks for the words of wisdom - I am not sure how to reconcile her comments with the MS. When I first received it, I thought "you've got to try to take this opportunity." But without a clear vision of how to do that, I think I'd just be muddling around.

Beth H. said...

Lovejoy. Yikes.

On a related (those less extreme) note, we recently received a job application. The applicant included the URL for their website, so we looked. And we were horrified.

For some reason, he had decided it would be wise to include a "CV of Failures." Schools he'd been rejected from. Funding he hadn't received. Final interviews that didn't lead to a job. Suffice it to say, our institution will not be added to this list.

Craig F said...

OP, I hope you kept your original story so you can continue to query it. An R&R is an agent's opinion of how to make your manuscript better. It is entirely subjective.

Keep up the good work and don't get discouraged.

On that guy:

I can not even give him credence by using his name. Maybe he writes well but he is a bigot just by the fact that he dares write what he does. He is probably one of those who believes alternate genders can be cured by religious torture.

The best thing to do with those kinds of people is sweep them under a rug and drop Heidi's magic refrigerator on the rug.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like it's appropriate to talk about your failures AFTER you've succeeded. I don't mean it's not okay to commiserate about the query trenches while you're still in them, but saying "I earned 7,000 rejections" should really only be followed by "until one agent took a chance on me, and now I'm a NYTBSA!" Otherwise, you just come off as someone who can't accept criticism. True or not, that's the perception.

Joseph S. said...

Out of curiosity , what percentage of persons holding themselves out as literary agents are ineffective agents?

DLM said...

Joseph Snoe, that would have to depend on who defines effectiveness in an agent. What satisfies me might not satisfy you; what success is to one agent or author may look insufficient to others. "Pretty is as pretty does" my mom used to say - and I have found, in my life, that pretty really is in the eye of each beholder. I suspect all relationships are like that. And the author-agent contract tends to be a relationship too.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

OT - I was notified that a lyric essay I wrote is going to be published in a textbook in the U.S. and Canada. I know it's not really 'published' (an old English prof of mine is publishing it as part of a textbook - with my permission) but it's the first time I'll see my name in any kind of print, so I'm excited. :)

Sorry for the interruption! Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Colin Smith said...

YAY! Congrats, Bethany! It may not be on the scale of getting an agent, or getting a book deal, but it's publishing cred. Well done! :D

ACFranklin said...


Well, that was fun.

Back when we had the post about whether we writing garbage, I was under serious stress, and became convinced that what I write is garbage.

However . . .

This guy's opening chapter renews my confidence, in that he proves I could write worse. Getting the novel published still looks like it'll be impossible. Even writing the next one still feels impossible. But at least I don't write complete dreck.

ACFranklin said...

Also, congrats Bethany. Guess I missed that first time around. Oops.

CarenL said...

Bethany, that's great!

Part of the problem is that we, as writers, lose perspective on our stories the more we revise them. There have been novels I've "queried forever" on because I had confidence in them, and there have been novels I put aside after a few rejections because deep inside, I knew there were flaws and knew I needed to take serious time away from them to get the right perspective. Sometimes the contents of those query letters give us hints as to how close we are to having something people will love to read, after we lose perspective on our own stuff. I think two R&R's/positive responses are a good sign.

Joseph S. said...

i know that, I almost wrote that someone needs to tell me also what the standard is for an effective or ineffective agent.

That led to more questions so I didn't go there.

I guess is what percentage of agents have a poor record of getting clients as good a publishing deal as the book merits.

Brigid said...

Bethany, that's wonderful! It is so a pub cred and I'm thrilled.

DeadSpiderEye said...

(3) There's hope of course...

BJ Muntain said...

Joe Snoe: I don't know the percentage, but there are bad agents (not just ineffective agents) out there. Good places to check them out are Editors & Preditors, Writer Beware and Absolute Write.

abnormalalien said...

Oh my; I was really hoping that was a joke I didn't understand. Reminds me of the (paraphrased) saying: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

I thought to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's grown up and moved on, but the website still lurks so...draw your own conclusions.

As a sidebar, the bio notes his religious upbringing. I've attended a Pentecostal church for years. Wherever his behavior hails from, I doubt it has anything to do with the Pentecostal church.

abnormalalien said...

Oh my; I was really hoping that was a joke I didn't understand. Reminds me of the (paraphrased) saying: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

I thought to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's grown up and moved on, but the website still lurks so...draw your own conclusions.

As a sidebar, the bio notes his religious upbringing. I've attended a Pentecostal church for years. Wherever his behavior hails from, I doubt it has anything to do with the Pentecostal church.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

And then sometimes querying is like trying to travel to the nearest galaxy when your space ship's velocity is 69.0 ± 2.5 (km/sec)/Mpc.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Her Grace... you'll be fine then, Andromeda is in blue shift relative to The Milky Way.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Thanks, guys. :) It's been an eventful day, for sure! I know I'm certainly inspired to maybe do more non-novel writing.

AJ Blythe said...

OP, Well done! R&R purgatory is a far better place to be than query purgatory =)

Bethany: Congrats!

Timothy: I've had an R&R from a query (query + synopsis + first 3 chaps). I did the R&R on the first 3 chaps and resub'd (sadly this time to a lovely, albeit form, rejection). However, my R&R was quite clear on what they wanted, so perhaps easier to address than yours sounds.