Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Query Question: Revising novel when on submission to agents

I received an encouraging revise and resend with some great feedback from one of my top agents. I realized reading it that she was completely bang on in identifying some of the flaws in my novel, and began revising right away.

A little later, I received a full request from agent #2, whom I had queried some time ago. It's been about a week now and I haven't sent said full to agent #2, and I don't really want to until I've finished addressing agent #1's critique. But I'm worried that if too much time passes, agent #2 will wonder what's up. My manuscript was fully edited and ready to go (or so I thought) when I queried her. Should I let her know that I'm revising my manuscript based on feedback from another agent, or just send the full when it's ready (probably in another week or two) without an explanation? Is knowing that another agent has asked for revisions to a manuscript a positive or a negative in most agents' eyes? 

Here's the absolute ironclad rule: always send your best work. If you're doing revisions to fix some flaws in your novel, it's in BOTH our interests to have you send the better version.

Here's how you do this: You email Agent #2  RIGHT NOW and say "yo, snooks, got your request. Little late to the party, but ok for now.  I'm revising right now (I thought the novel was done!) and I plan to have it finished on X date. I will send it then unless you tell me otherwise.  Thanks again for your interest. I look forward to sending you my novel." Of course you put this in your own deathless prose. Remember to keep it SHORT. No more than 30 words total.

The thing to avoid here is a long period of silence. If I request a full, I pretty much expect to hear back promptly. That's because mostly I DO hear back promptly, not because it's critical to the submission process.

If I don't hear back within a week or so, my assumption is  my email went astray, and I email again.  In fact, this past year, I ended up emailing the writer who had REFERRED the querier because I hadn't heard back after several pings.

My colleagues are generally NOT going to do this. They're going to request and if they don't hear from you they're going to move on.  They'll remember you but they generally aren't going to track you down. I wrote a blog post that showed that a while back.


Unknown said...

I have to agree with Janet about this wholeheartedly. I had the great fortune of being offered a revise & resub by a very talented agent (and also, of having that be on a non-exclusive basis). I ended up getting 2 more full requests during the time I was working on the revision; I also had three fulls of the old ms already out. I contacted each of these agents (when I got the reqs for the new ones, and when I was about a month into revising for the others) and let them know a new version would be available by (estimated date). All accept one said they were either happy to wait for the new one or to put aside the current ms and wait for a new one. In the end, the R&R agent passed on my work, but one of these others signed me. It is absolutely worth telling these other agents what's up and what can be available/roughly when.

Good luck with your revisions!

Unknown said...

Errgh. "All EXCEPT one," she meant. Jeez.

Charley said...

Good advice, Janet. Think you've told us this before, but there are always new followers, I'm sure.

Tracy - congrats. I also had an R&R request (from an apprentice agent). She ended up loving it but no offer, as thought market too small (or at least, she didn't know who might be interested). Unlike you, I'm still hoping for a home for it!

Rosalyn said...

This is very timely advice for me, as I'm currently in a very similar boat. I've had mixed response from agents, though: some wanted to see my current full, others were happy to wait for the revision.

Anonymous said...

Soooooo incredibly hard to leave a ms alone - even when the darn thing is on submission. I was so nervous I made changes to mine anyway - trying to preempt the rejections by proving to myself I'd seen them coming b/c of all those adverbs, and then that tacky, terrible paragraph, and let's just toss this entire chapter.

Yeah. I did that. Me. I felt better too, not that it ever did any good. No R&R for me, but I sure did pass the time adequately - without yanking my hair out.

DLM said..., I feel the same pain! Fortunately, I've got a WIP fascinating me to bits and more querying to do! It's difficult, but having options helps so much.

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

Ohmigosh, mee too! I've been pondering this week how to handle this exact situation. (Are you sure I didn't email you this question in my sleep?)

So yes, thank you for this very timely, very spot-on advice. I shall send a polite email to my second requesting agent letting her know I'm doing a revise and can get the ms to her soon.

I must confess it is reassuring to have more than one agent interested in a ms--confirmation I've done something right.