Thursday, June 08, 2017

Cold requerying

After finishing a 91k word crime novel I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to hit “send.” And of course the first five queries were quickly rejected, as were the second batch of five, and the third and fourth. After licking my rejection wounds, I evaluated my ms and query, read a couple of great books about the “first pages hook” thing, and "starting your book in the right place." I revised the ms accordingly, polished it, revised the query and hit “send’ on another batch of five. I was elated to get two requests for partials and one for the entire ms! Hey, maybe I was getting somewhere with my dream!

One of the partial requests was from a big name agent with years of churning out ‘Big” books. The response was a rejection with detailed feedback and praise, but no request to R&R. The full is still out there with another partial.

My question is: should I resubmit to the Big Name agent after revising? Or am I wasting his time, and mine? And why would someone as busy as this man give such a detailed revision request just to reject it?

Generally speaking, you don't requery for the same manuscript unless asked to do so by the agent.

On the other hand, what's the worst that could happen if you do?  Well, ok, you could get eaten by sharks, consigned to Carkoon, subtweeted by Agent SnootyPants.  Last I looked none of those were actually fatal. Not even metaphorically fatal.

And what you need to succeed in this business is to be bold. In fact, it's one of the Rules for Writers.

So, here's what you'll do. You make sure that revised manuscript is polished till it gleams. No typos. No missing words (that's a big one). No homonyms. The standard for revised mss is even higher than requested-only-once mss.

Then you query Agent Big Name and say "your advice on revising the manuscript was invaluable, and I followed it. May I send you the revised version for consideration?"

You might hear no. You might hear nothing. No harm, no foul.
But you might hear yes.

Trying and failing is better than not trying at all.

And remember, agents are on the hunt for good work. If you've got it, I want to see it.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

I can tell you, OP, exile to Carkoon is rarely fatal. There was that one writer who kept querying his "fiction novel" and kept sending rude snarky replies to form rejections. We don't talk about him anymore.

If you actually like kale, Carkoon can be lovely once you get used to the stench. Especially if you write Vegan Dino Porn. So, press forward. You've not committed any grand sins. Yet.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Do it !
So what if he says, thanks but no thanks. I mean really, what's the worst that can happen, an online billboard, gone viral, blacklisting you as a pest of an author? I don't think so.
Wait a minute, where is that damn website because my name must be on it.

kathy joyce said...

Would it be a good idea to email him now? "Thank you for your time and excellent comments. I'm new at this, and want to be responsive. Did you want me to send the revised MS?"

Rewriting based on one person's comments may not be the best use of time right now, especially since others are still reviewing. What if they love it as is? If this agent says, "Nope, not interested, even if you revise," do the revisions still make sense? It depends on a lot, but I wonder if an email now would help sort it out.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I don't want to speak out of turn here, but I think being eaten by sharks (ACTUALLY eaten, vs. just a little bump 'n' nibble) is fatal.

But....if the agent you're requerying has a shark tank s/he will fling you into for the simple act of requerying, than they're a supervillain and you were at risk of such things to begin with, so.

Go big or go home, OP!

Colin Smith said...

Kathy: If a good agent gives you feedback on a ms, it's worth paying attention to it. Opie knows whether that feedback will improve the story. Indeed, it's possible Agent Responsive has said thing Opie knew to be true all along, but didn't want to admit. We've all been there. :) So I would say yes, it's not a bad thing to revise based on one agent's feedback. Keep a copy of the original in case the revision doesn't work out. As far as being a waste of time, at least it keeps Opie from pounding the refresh key on his/her inbox... ;)

Trying and failing is better than not trying at all. This is life advice. In my years on this planet, I've become convinced there are few situations where this isn't true, whether we're talking about re-querying an agent, entering a contest, or asking that person to the prom. Sure, you open yourself up to rejection or failure, but you don't stand a chance of being accepted or succeeding if you don't try. It comes coupled with the equally sound advice: Don't be an a**hat.

All the best to you, Opie!! :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin's advice is sound and he has survived Carkoon many times. I always told my kid that there is no such thing as a loser who keeps trying. The only failure is to not try. Again, a lot of Janet's rules for writers are rules for life. Be Brave. Be Bold and on we go

Theresa said...

This is so, so right but also so difficult: Trying and failing is better than not trying at all.

Good luck, OP!

MA Hudson said...

Yeah, go for it. Query again and cross your fingers.

I'm still curious about this bit though:
'... why would someone as busy as this man give such a detailed revision request just to reject it?'

Colin Smith said...

MA: Maybe he's just a nice guy! Some agents love giving out advice and help to writers they know they will never represent. So I've heard, anyway... ;)

Seriously, it's possible the agent doesn't think the book is right for him, but can see areas for improvement that might help Opie snag an agent who is right for this book. I agree, no-one would fault the agent for form-rejecting without saying anything, and that's what we would expect. But not all agents can pass by woodland creatures in distress... ;)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Opie: I'm with the other commenters. Take the feedback into consideration, save a copy of your current story, and create an R&R to resubmit.

Although, I'm assuming you're working on a second story? If so, perhaps you want to wait and see if the other full and partial out receive nibbles or offers of representation before spending time doing an R&R.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

kathy joyce said...

Honestly, if someone gave me feedback like that, I would assume it meant revise and resend, unless he specifically said, "I reject it."

OP, I'm curious about the agent's words in rejecting the MS.

Julie Weathers said...

If you think the ideas have merit, then do it. What's the worst that can happen? You'll keep a copy of your original manuscript if it turns out this isn't the way you wanted to go. I've had to reverse a manuscript after some suggested revisions. When my crit partners say, "Julie, I know this is what that agent wanted, but you're completely losing your voice and your voice is the magic that keeps getting you requests." then I know I'm going down the wrong road.

"And why would someone as busy as this man give such a detailed revision request just to reject it?"

He didn't actually give you a revision request unless he did say send this back when you get done. He gave you a helpful critique. Sometimes even when you think you do exactly what an agent asks, they still reject. Either you didn't do what they wanted or the story is still lacking enough to make them not commit. A genuine R&R doesn't guarantee acceptance. Been there done that as have several of my friends.

However! Just the fact that the agent took the time to give you these suggestions should give you great encouragement. They don't do this often. Good luck.

Lennon Faris said...

Congrats, OP! sounds like a lot of good advice already. Good job on learning from the first couple batches.

Mister Furkles said...

...what's the worst that could happen...

Just be aware that some big name agents get there by having friends in low places.

Like Luigi in Providence. He has a mansion on a bluff overlooking the marina, a heated Olympic pool, and buys a new Mercedes every year. His only apparent business is a hole-in-the-wall florist shop. But after every business trip he lavishes gifts on his family and somewhere somebody’s relatives need an undertaker.

Okay, that doesn’t happen. At least, not to polite but pushy writers.

Colin Smith said...

Last I looked none of those were actually fatal. Not even metaphorically fatal.

Considering Mr. B. L. Z. Bubb and Death both vacation on Carkoon (they share a condo), not only would it be a metaphorical improbability, but a metaphysical impossibility for consignment to Carkoon to be fatal. At least in the corporeal sense. It is rumored that the growing zombie population is the result of a marked increase in the number of Carkoon exiles. But there are worse things in life than being soulless. In fact, it's a job requirement in most Carkoonian legal and literary agencies...


Elissa M said...

OP, I want to be encouraging, but I also want you to be absolutely sure you're sending in your best work. True, the worst that can happen is rejection, but every rejection beats us down and the cumulative effect can be overwhelming.

Many, many, many years ago, I entered my first horse show, a Western Pleasure class. All that was required was to walk, trot, and canter along the rail in a class full of nearly 30 other horses. I could do that! My horse was bathed, the tack polished--we were ready for this. We completed the class, hopes high, but since there were only five places of ribbons, I wasn't too depressed that we didn't place.

Same thing happened in our second class and we were done for the day.
Afterwards, complete strangers came up to me and offered hints of advice. I thought, "We must have been really close!"

Well, no.

After a few years of learning about showing and the horse show world in general, I realized I had done everything "wrong" at that first show. It had been a cringe-worthy performance, but I was too clueless to know. Normally, no one bothers to give pointers to strangers. Those people were so embarrassed for me, they felt they had to at least try to set me in the right direction.

My point, OP, is make sure your revised novel goes to some beta readers who know their stuff and will tell you if you're actually cantering on the wrong lead, have a bouncy, high stepping trot, or your turnout is too casual. Big Name agent obviously saw potential. It's up to you to be certain that potential has been converted to a blue-ribbon read.

Karen McCoy said...

The importance of the word try has had a particular resonance lately. Especially when I saw this.

Plus, let's always remember the wisdom of 2Ns:
"If only" are the cruelest words.
"I tried" are the ones to be most proud of.

BJ Muntain said...

Chances are, it wasn't BNA who gave the critique. It was probably an intern.

I can think of a few situations where trying and failing is NOT as good as not trying at all:

- Jumping that canyon on your motorcycle.
- Passing a car on the highway with another car coming down the other lane.
- Tightrope walking without a net.

If you're going to try those things, make sure you're not going to fail. Failure in some things *can* be fatal.

Hold my beer. (It's bad for celiacs, anyway.)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Karen, the wisdom of 2NNs titled as:

The Wizz-Dumb of 2NNs, 70,000 words and ready for copy exits.

Yeah right.

Joseph Snoe said...

Good question and good Janet Reid advice.

Elissa M.'s statement, "Being too clueless to know" what I'm doing wrong or failing to do right is the scariest part of writing my first novel. (That and the query letter of course)

julieweathers said...


There's no way of knowing who gave the comments.

When I decided to contact the last BNA agent who had rejected, but with comments and ask him if he would expound, he went into some great detail about various things about the story and this was nearly a year later. He said he remembered the story well. Apparently he did, because he said "without re-reading it I can't give you specific points, but...". If an intern had sent the comments, he wouldn't have recalled the story or the comments.

I completely agree with Elissa, make sure you have some very good readers go over your revised version before sending it out again if you decide to revise. Rejections are not only disheartening, but they are another burned bridge with that manuscript. Try not to burn more bridges than you have to.

MA Hudson said...

Colin - that is a seriously nice thing to do, considering how busy agents are.
When I first read OP's letter I thought that receiving such detailed feedback was really positive sign, but now that I've read Elissa M's comment, I'm not so sure!

Claire AB. said...

OP, I just wanted to add something to Kathy Joyce's comment. When I was querying on my current YA novel, I had an experience similar to yours with an established agent who offered really awesome and helpful feedback -- without an R&R. I actually answered her email by saying something like "Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback -- I will definitely incorporate your comments as I rework the manuscript. Would you be open to taking another look after I've had a chance to revise?" She said absolutely, yes, and I ultimately sent it back to her. She didn't end up taking me on after the revisions, but she remains a very positive influence in my writing journey. So I guess what I'm saying is my experience tells me Kathy and Janet are probably right and the agent will most likely be interested. And if the person was really nice in his response and you'd like to know in advance, it might even be possible to ask him about an R&R before you begin to rewrite.

Steve Stubbs said...

OP wrote: "Why would someone as busy as this man give such a detailed revision request just to reject it?"

He didn't. You got that from an intern.

Maybe this is just me, but I would not put J.K. Rowling's agent at the top of my list, just because she has her hands full with megadollar properties. She is obviously very competent, but your competition for her attention is really ferocious.

OP: "I was elated to get two requests for partials and one for the entire ms! Hey, maybe I was getting somewhere."

There is no maybe to it. You ARE getting somewhere.

I wish people would stop referring to fifty pages as "partials." It sounds as if you are sending out dentures. If they ask for your partial and a container of Polygrip, that will tell you something.

Unless they are asking you to send it out inline (i.e., not as an attachment) I don't understand why anyone would ask for a - omigod I don't know what word to use here - "partial" anyway. Why not ask for a full-of-something so they can see what it is full of? I have this mental image of an agent, reading with bated breath, sweating and gasping, wondering what's going to happen next (HOW IS LANCE LANCELOT GOING TO GET OUT OF THE PIT?), and then suddenly, "Sorry Jack, but you should have asked for a full. Send me an e-mail and see what it gets you."

If I were an agent I would just ask for a full and see what it's full of.

OP: "The response was a rejection ... but no request to R&R."

"This is rejected and don't bug me again" is not an invitation to re-send. His loss, someone else's gain.

OP: "After licking my rejection wounds ..."

The important point here is, BNA did not reject YOU. His intern may have rejected an MS that somehow got sent out with your name and return address, but more likely he thought the market would reject IT. Nobody is saying the market will reject YOU.

It does happen, of course. If you do stand-up comedy and you are not funny you either do something else or you end up with your very own late night TV show and a multimillion dollar contract. Anyone who has ever watched late night TV knows what I mean - and who I mean, too. Whenever I see that, I know there must be something funny going on, and it is going on somewhere else.

AJ Blythe said...

I know I've said this here before, but I have two sayings pinned to my computer. One is: The most painful thing to experience is not defeat, but regret. Follow Janet's advice and ask the question. The worst thing that can happen is silence or a no. But if you don't you'll always be wondering why, or worse, regretting that you never did follow up. Good luck, OP!

Julie Weathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Weathers said...

Everyone hold up their hands who knows absolutely that every BNA has interns who read all their queries and respond to them. Some don't use interns, so please stop saying this was written by whomever. We don't know. So, unless you know for certain, stop telling the OP stop being excited that a big name agent responded to them with praise and comments. Criminy, is it really necessary to be such a wet blanket and does it matter?

Are you all going to jump in the next time someone says they got requests and say, well, yeah but it was just from an intern.

Morgan Hazelwood said...

Getting a rejection with feedback is like the holy grail.

I went to a panel a couple weeks ago on handling rejection and they completely agree with this advice. Feedback is NOT the same as asking for an R&R.

It's good to know emailing to ask shouldn't hurt.