Thursday, May 12, 2016

What happens AFTER the R&R?

I have a R&R from an editor at a small but well respected publisher. The R&R involved a formal edit letter and a significant rewrite (exclusive for a period of time after resubmitted).

I plan to query agents if offered a deal. (A)

I know when I query an agent I intend to say: (1) I want to work with you for this book and hopefully many books to come, and (2) I have a deal in hand, and I want you to tell me if it's a good one.

But is this what a query in this situation says to the agent? Or does it say "I have this offer and I'm taking it," i.e., if the agent doesn't think it's a good offer, they would pass on the book? What would an agent do if they loved the book but not the deal? Or if they immediately thought of another editor that was looking for something just like it?

It seems like the morally right thing to do is stick with the editor who believed in the book and took the time to write an edit letter, shaping the book into something new, improved, and more publishable. But that happens before I ever see a contract, which is what makes committing to an editor after the R&R really different from committing to an agent (I also wish I'd thought about how much this would put me on the hamster wheel before I said yes).

I want to be both a good person and a smart person about this, and right now I don't feel like I know how to be either. I care about a career as a writer, not just one book deal, and I definitely don't want to screw up my one shot as a debut author.

If there is any insight you can provide into how the agent on the receiving end approaches this, it would be very much appreciated.

You didn't mention how long the exclusivity with the publisher is. I hope it's not long. The other thing you want to remember is that the exclusivity is with publishers, not agents.

Once you finish that revision, get querying. You want an agent in hand if when you get that offer. Waiting until you have offer to start the query process,  and you're going to have a problem.

For starters: time. When the publisher makes an offer, you'll have a week or two at the most to say yes or no. If you're just STARTING to query then, you don't have time for an agent to read the manuscript and reply, let alone assess the viability of the agent (yesterday's post.)

You show up with a manuscript I need to read overnight (cause that's what this is on this kind of timeline) and the chances I will pass go up exponentially. Particularly if the offer is from a small press (less money etc.)

Start querying NOW. Tell the agents the manuscript is undergoing an R&R with ShinyTiny&Nice, and there's an exclusivity period.

Agents who are interested in your work can help you assess what to do next.

You want to give an agent as much flexibility as possible so you don't end up in some sort of pickle.

(yes, there was a different picture earlier. More on that in the WIR)


nightsmusic said...

I'm a bit confused here. OP subbed to a small publisher? No querying involved? The publisher's editor, one of them anyway, did all that work to make it more appealing for publishing but OP still has no idea if that publishing house would want it? So query an agent and...what? Would the agent just rep OP to the publishing house? Or does agent then have the right to rep OP to others to see if there are any bites? And what if OP can't find an agent?

Sorry, must be too early this morning but the mind boggles...

Carolynnwith2Ns said...


So, OP has an editor from a publisher doing all the dirty work and OP wants to (perhaps) jump ship, after getting an agent.
(I'm just filled with clichés today).
Do publishes really devote that kind of effort without the author being on their list?

It's sort of like dealing with a real estate agent who shows you the house, gets changes made and the price reasonable and then at the last minute your friend the real estate mogul steps in to close the deal and get half the commission. Well maybe not exactly like that but...

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Aack! Why do cats like such tiny places? Ohmyclaustrophobia.

Well this is an interesting take on "The Hopeful Road to Becoming Published." I automatically assumed agents would not work with small presses. Or does it make a difference that Opie wrote, s/he wants to make writing his/her career and this book is not just a one off.

nightsmusic said...

Thank you, 2nns and Lisa. I am not alone! I was really 'confussed' (as my 28yo daughter still manages to spell it after all these years of trying) because I think, 2nns, you hit the problem on the head for me. That's exactly what this post sounds like. At least to me. Maybe I am just such a sheltered woodland creature that I have no idea of the working gears in publishing, though I'm trying to learn, so these answers will be very interesting.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I gotta know how the cat got in the jar? I am a little confused about the OP situation. Did OP try to find an agent before or were they shopping publishers hoping to get an agent afterwards? Is that not backwards? I don't know. Sleep deprivation is killing me.

I never considered trying publishers first. But that's me. I am simply not business savvy enough to go without an agent. So nothing to add here.

I am really worried about that cat. Did she get out of the jar?

Kae Ridwyn said...

That's a really big jar, right? Or else, a tiny kitten?
I know that here in Aistralia, many MANY authors work directly with publishers, because agents - although they do exist down here - aren't the necessity to the publishing process as they seem to be over there. So this situation doesn't surprise me. Best of luck, OP!

Kae Ridwyn said...

Fat fingers, tiny phone keyboard, weary (aging!) eyes. Sorry.
But you'd think that autocorrect would have gotten THAT one right!

Colin Smith said...

I was a little confused at first, but I think I get it. Opie has an editor who wants an R&R, and exclusivity for a certain time. Should Opie mention this when querying? Should Opie wait until the editor makes an offer before querying agents? What if the agent doesn't like the editor, is that a deal-breaker, since Opie feels a certain moral obligation (even if there isn't a legal obligation) to stick with the editor who has already invested this much time into his/her work.

Is that about the size of it?

Janet's sage advice is:

a) Don't wait until you have an offer to query. This doesn't give the agent enough time to read your ms and make a decision, which means you'll get a bunch of form rejections.

b) Query when you've done the R&R, and tell agents you have just completed an R&R for ShinyTiny&Nice, and they have exclusivity for x days.

c) Don't sign any contracts before you have an agent. That is, if you want to be sure of securing representation.

The key is to give agents as much room to negotiate as possible. The more flexibility the agent has to work the best deal for you, the more attractive the proposition is. After all, if you've already secured a publisher, a chunk of the agent's work is already done (no need to go on submission).

How'd I do summing up?

I know I'm over the 100 words, but I have to share something for the Whovians out there. Back in late 1973, the Doctor Who team were auditioning for the part of new companion, Sarah Jane Smith. Elisabeth Sladen auditioned and blew everyone away with her performance. The producer took her to one side afterwards and told her, unofficially, that she's got the part if she wants it. When Sladen called her agent and told him, there was a tense silence on the phone. "You didn't say 'yes' did you?" he said at last. "Well, uh, yes, I did," Sladen replied. Her agent sighed. "What did you go and do that for? I could have negotiated more money!"

The moral: Don't sign anything or commit to anything that will tie your agent's hands. They work FOR you. Don't work AGAINST them! :)

AJ Blythe said...

As Kae said, here in Oz it's common to deal directly with the publisher like that, and we aren't talking just small press, but the big ones as well. The thing is the big ones here operate as their own entities, so by comparison to their US siblings might be considered small.

If my memory serves (and it probably doesn't) I think I remember someone saying Canada's publishing industry is like that as well.

Donnaeve said...

"I want to be both a good person and a smart person about this, and right now I don't feel like I know how to be either. I care about a career as a writer, not just one book deal, and I definitely don't want to screw up my one shot as a debut author."

Why OP approached ShinyTiny&Nice first before querying agents is the biggest question in my mind.

OP, I'm curious. If you knew you were going to query agents, why approach a small press where no agent is required? Was it to see if you got a nibble, therefore up the chances with agents? I.e. "I have this R&R and exclusives with...?"

Donnaeve said...

...and I am worried about that cat in the jar.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Small publisher, significant rewrite... resubmission: I'm with Nightmusic, that account doesn't quite coalesce into a convincing reality for me but it wouldn't be the first time I've been caught out.

Unknown said...

That cat must have been Photoshopped into that jar. I'm going to accept that as the truth rather than spend all day worrying about how the cat will get out of the jar.

BJ Muntain said...

Sometimes, a smaller publisher is more accessible than an agent. They'll go to writer's conferences or they'll approach writers through a Twitter pitch event, or something. I have three small publishers who have said they'd like to see my work. But I'm a stubborn so-and-so, and I'd really like to try for a large publisher first. Which usually means getting an agent first - but not always.

Smaller publishers will often invest more time in an author's work. The querier's situation makes perfect sense.

There are many roads to publishing. Get agent --> get published is only one road. It's the best road, if you want to get an agent, but not the only one.

As for the cat - it's a floofy cat, so it's probably smaller than it looks, and that jar opening is fairly wide. Having seen the cat videos where cats can squeeze themselves into very small containers, I'm not at all worried that this fluffball can't leave the jar any time it wants.

AJ: Yes, Canada's publishing industry is very similar.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Whoosh! Thanks, BJ. I feel better. Not about the publishing industry. That still has me quivering with uncertainty. But I feel better about the kitty in the jar.

Lucie Witt said...

To everyone who is worried, I had a fluffy cat who used to get into weird places, including a jar. Twice! The first time the kitty climbed right out. The second time the kitty just stuck his head in, then jumped off the counter, breaking the jar and leaving a jagged rim stuck around his head. We were able to get it off with three people and lots of olive oil.

Adib Khorram said...

BJ mentions online pitch events, which do indeed attract a lot of small publishers—as do writers conferences, where editors will often take pitches and request manuscripts.

Janet explains the exclusivity is limited to the publisher, not agents. I take that to mean that agents can look at it as much as they want, but they can't submit it to other publishers during the exclusivity window.

I don't think the real estate analogy holds up, exactly, because equating the editor with the real estate agent implies that the EDITOR, not the WRITER, is the one with something for sale. I'd say it's more like getting bids on a renovation—someone submits a beautiful bid for your new dream kitchen, but then you take their ideas and pay some other contractor to do it (or do it yourself and then attach your hot and cold water backwards, plus your counters aren't quite flush with the wall and so you keep spilling rice down the back of the wall where no one can ever clean it out, and then you get ants. ANTS!).

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

It's an Aussie thing; publishers don't intimidate us 'cause they aint the biggest or scariest thing that lives here.

I've heard of authors going to agents with offers in hand before. (thought out was Janet who mentioned it, but it might have been Kristin.)

An agent's job isn't just to find you a publisher.they also negotiate good deals, and help you maximise all opportunities.

Have I mentioned how much I want a good agent?

LynnRodz said...

I agree with BJ, there are plenty of small publishers wanting to see a writer's ms during pitch contests on twitter and elsewhere, so I can understand how OP got into this situation. As long as OP's exclusivity with ST&N isn't for a very long time, I think s/he may very well have an advantage in finding an agent. This isn't just a slush pile query. As Janet said, you tell agents in the subject line you have an R&R with ST&N publishing house.

Love the kitty pic.

Julie Weathers said...

RE the cat. No, I've watched it on youtube getting into the jar. I think it's a Russian cat if I remember correctly and it does it all on its own. The owners just dump it out.

If it fits I sits.

Craig F said...

I wonder if this came from one of twitter pitch things. I know a lot of small publishers trawl through those things. Like everything else some of those are reputable and some aren't. You need to be careful with all things that involve fame or fortune so just do that.

If I was caught in this kind of position I would have to feel obliged to the publisher for the work they have done for me. If you are able to secure an agent do so but keep them in the wings until you see how the dust of your R&R settles. You have just a good of a chance of this being a good thing as it being a bad thing so follow through on it.

Of course you should be working on a new manuscript. On that one let your agent do the deal. You;ll sleep better for it.

Julie Weathers said...

BJ hit it. When I was doing the twitter pitch thing, I had several offers from small publishing companies to submit Far Rider. I pitched to a Tor and Del Rey editor at a conference and both asked me to submit it. (We now know pitching to editors at conferences isn't really a good idea thanks to QOTKU.)

So, that's two ways you could get an R&R from an editor before having an agent.

Some publishers open up to over the transom submissions periodically.

I have an acquaintance who had three novels she'd written. She decided to go for broke and twitter pitch them all. Lo and behold an editor with a small publisher liked the premise of them and wanted them. She did exactly what's happening here and asked for some rewrites. She scrambled like mad and got them done. Yay. Everything looks great.

Oh, I should find an agent!

By that time the deal was pretty much done. A lot of agents weren't interested in coming in that late in the game with this publisher. Oops, change in personnel. This is a really small publisher, so it's a big deal. They decided they weren't interested.

Personally, I was glad it fell through as there are mixed reviews on the publisher, but I guess when you're desperate any port in the storm.

So, my advice, if you do find yourself dealing with an editor, hie thee to an agent quickly. Which, considering my publishing career, is like an old maid giving someone marriage advice.

Brigid said...

It's okay guys, the cat is all fluff and no stuff.

Julie—some of the best marriage advice I've gotten has been from nuns!

DLM said...

Y'all are killin' me with the cat in the jar. One, all a cat needs is room for its skull to pass, to get into or out of ANYTHING. Two, that cat is all fur. The actual real estate involved in skeletal system, proportionate the the apparent volume of the fur, is probably 40% tops.

The size of the opening on that jar? The cat's fine, y'all.

I'm reminded of what I think was the VERY first pic Janet ever used of Gossamer the Editor Cat, in which he was peeping under a doorsill and reaching through with his paw. Reiders were mystified at the cat under the presumed fridge. :)

We have some cat lovers here, yep-yep.

As for today's conundrum ... this is a planning issue. You have to decide *how* you want to be published, and then proceed along the best course for that particular goal from the beginning.

A river may have eddies and currents, but it's going from the mountains to the sea; you can't really ask it to carry you anywhere else. And you have to choose your craft (har). If you're in a kayak, it's going to be a trick trying to switch to a canoe when you've already pushed off.

Colin's Who story is great.

John Frain said...

Write your query now, OP. Fix it this weekend. Start sending it out Monday. Look beyond all the craziness -- you're in a great spot. Good luck to you.

Regarding the cat, I have only one question: did it eat the ship or is it sitting on the ship?

Celia Reaves said...

Like many folks here, my first thought was, "Why did OP submit to a publisher without going through an agent?" But then I had a second thought that perhaps the book is nonfiction; in that area, at least for textbooks (my one experience with publishing), authors pitch projects to publishers instead of shopping completed manuscripts to agents. And then others here have commented that in other parts of the world it's common to go to publishers first, so it's my American bias raising its ugly head yet again. *sigh*

Of course, my last and biggest thought as about that crazy cat in the jar. Some cats REALLY love tiny spaces, and they generally have no trouble getting out of things they can get into. I had a cat once that spent most of her time in places you'd have sworn she couldn't get into. She climbed inside the machinery in a fold out sofa bed, discovered when someone sat on the sofa and leaned back, eliciting a yowl. She crawled up the swell pedal on a small electronic organ into the guts inside; fortunately she was spotted coming out before someone switched it on (and we had to put a wire cage around the inside of that pedal to keep her out). She once got taped into a box we were packing for shipping, and we figured it out before we shipped it when we heard her scratching around in there. So while others here are all worried about the cat in the jar, I'm thinking, "Serves you right."

Colin Smith said...

Celia: As others have pointed out, it's not uncommon (in fact, if you look at the list of contributors to #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List), it seems quite common) for editors at small publishers to solicit queries from writers. It's not a bad practice since many of these publishers are legit and good. But it's advisable to get an agent before you sign anything.

John Frain said...

Wow, it never gets dill around here, but I don't know if it's kosher to swap pictures in the middle of the show. Get a little sour on the earlier one?

Peter Piper might be worried right now. On the other spear, I hear he was never a cat person, so I suppose this is karma of some sort.

At this point, I should figure out a way to weave Vlasic into the comment but alas, I'm (hopefully!) nearing 100 words. Please...

Colin Smith said...

John: I think you need to stop before you inspire a flash contest! :)

Donnaeve said...

I'm worried about those pickles.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Poor pickles. I want to rescue them, slice them up, and fry them. Is that wrong?

Miles O'Neal said...

Are those fluffy pickles?

Once upon a time most US publishers expected you to submit to them, but between industry practices and the exponential growth in available manuscripts thanks to computers and the internet, that changed. I'm sure that the rise of agents factors in as well. Anyway, I remember when submitting to publishers was a standard practice. Not sure it was a smart one unless you had a lawyer in your pocket, but it was common.

Unknown said...

Those pickles with the googly eyes are just plain creepy. Bring the photoshopped floofy Russian cat back, please.

Kate Larkindale said...

This OP is in almost exactly the same situation I found myself in a couple of years back. A publisher opened for submissions for a brief period, and I submitted a book. A LOOOONG time later (I'm talking really long here; I think I'd written two more books in the time) they came back with an offer. I was querying a different book at the time and had several fulls and partials out. So I quickly emailed all the agents who had those, telling them I had an offer from this publisher, not for the book they'd requested, but for an earlier story.

I spent a week having some very intense conversations with three or four of these agents, but ultimately, none of them were interested n representing the book for this particular deal. Not necessarily because it was a smaller press (although I'm sure that was a part of it), but because they hadn't chosen the publisher, and weren't sure it was the best fit for me or my work.

I ended up taking it anyway because the book was an older one I wasn't so in love with anymore and wanted to go through the publication process so I knew how it all worked, but that's an entirely different story… But that offer wasn't how I got my agent. That happened about six months later and is another entirely different story, although once again, there was a publisher offer tangled into the mix.

Colin Smith said...

You know what, now you mention it, the googly-eyed pickles in a jar are pretty creepy. Especially for those familiar with VeggieTales...! ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Those pickles will look much less creepy once I chop them up, bread them, and fry them up and serve them up with a side of ranch and a lovely cold Goose Island Sofie (wonderful farmhouse ale).

nightsmusic said...

we are the pirates who don't do anything
we just stay at home, and lie around
and if you ask us, to do anything
we'll just tell you, we don't do anything

And I'll stop there...

That's for Colin, btw.

Janice Grinyer said...

What a health hazard, innocent little children could choke on those pickle eyes. ;P

OP, thank you for sharing your question/fret/worry and JR thank you for reminding us that it's good to have a plan in place before all the good things happen when considering traditional publishing.

There is a writing conference I would like to attend, and for some reason now, I just imagined myself being innocently introduced to a publisher...this imagined Walter Mitty scene, of course, ended with me running away through the crowd screaming "I CANT TALK IM AGENTLESS IM AGENTLESS!!!!"

I'm going to go and work on my query letter again...


Unknown said...

It must be the terror in their google little eyes that's giving me the creeps. Like they know someone is coming for them, ready to fry them up and serve with a side of ranch. I'm already a vegetarian. Now I will have to give up pickles, too.

Julie Weathers said...

Criminy, guys. First everyone was going nuts worrying about the cat. Now we're off on the pickle path.

Focus just a tiny bit.

Colin Smith said...

NM: And I've never been to Boston in the Fall... ;)

Cindy C said...

Drove to Chicago this morning so late to the blog-- apparently I picked a bad day to tune it late! Cats in jars, googly-eyed pickles in jars . . . oh my.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I've read that romance writers often work directly with writers. Maybe this is OP's case.

I loved the kitten in the jar. The pickles do worry me.

For this è who connect with QOTKU on Facebook, take a look at Bill Cameron's interview with Fiona Mcvie.

Panda in Chief said...

I kept looking for the cat hiding amongst the pickles.. 😬🙀

I kind of presumed that maybe it was a writing conference request, since if the OP is a regular Reider, that they would know not to shop to publishers first before querying agents.
I have often wondered about this question myself, and wished I had had this advice several years ago when I had a very similar situation. I showed my long worked on wordless picture book dummy to an art director at very shiny big publisher, and he loved it and took it with him. Not knowing any better, I quit querying and waited patiently for the offer to roll in. It didn't, and I lost all that time I could have been querying and maybe have gotten both an agent and a book deal.

I hope I have a long, productive (and of course by that I mean lucrative) and happy relationship with my agent, but if circumstances change, I hope I won't feel quite so lost at sea.

I hope it works out well for you, OP, now that you are armed with some good advice.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Dis donc, merde! For those who, is what I was trying to write.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Thank God lima beans don't have eyes.
And kale? It doesn't have eyes but it sure is creepy.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about contests as a way into this sort of situation, which is not as unusual in the US as some of you seem to think. Especially with romance, contests usually have a few agents and/or editors as final round judges. You hope to catch the attention of an agent, but you just never know.

Back when I first joined RWA (long ago), it was generally accepted that you not only didn't *need* an agent to get published with certain publishers (primarily Harlequin), it was a waste of time since some of those contracts were non-negotiable. I know, everything is supposedly negotiable. But at the time, word was that either you signed or you didn't-- those were the only choices.

My cat is worried about those pickles.

CynthiaMc said...

We had a floofy tortie point Persian cat. She looked huge until we bathed her. She was really tiny. She never crawled into a jar but she did like to climb up into the ottoman and purr. I think she used to laugh at people trying to find her.

I had fried pickles for the first time last weekend. Daughter and her roommate took me out to lunch. They weren't looking at me, though, thank goodness.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Colin and NM - now I want to go watch "Jonah" again! Or slap you with a fish... :P

nightsmusic said...

Oh, but Kae! If you did that, you might knock my lips off and
"If my lips ever left my mouth, packed a bag and headed south,
that'd be too bad, I'd be so sad."


BJ Muntain said...

Pickles. Why does it always have to be pickles?

Joseph S. said...

Sometimes it's cucumbers

BJ Muntain said...

Only if you're a cat, Joe Snoe. :P

Colin Smith said...

NM & Kae: Everybody's got a water buffalo. Yours is fast but mine is slow... :)

By way of explanation for the rest of the Reef:

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
I Love My Lips
The Water Buffalo Song

And for your further edification:
His Cheeseburger
Larry's High Silk Hat

nightsmusic said...


Provided you don't take my hairbrush, we're good ;)

Oh, Where is my Hairbrush!

And it's a cucumber singing!

Colin Smith said...

NM: I gave it to the peach, 'cos he's got HAIR! :)

Megan V said...

But Julie....they murdered Larry!

Poor cucumber didn't stand a chance.

And you could make a great analogy of it too

You wrote a cucumber. You got an R&R. Your revise your manuscript into a pickle.

And some people LOVE pickles .

You need an agent to make sure the pickle sells for more than two cents.

BJ Muntain said...

Is this where we cue the Arrogant Worms (Canadian humorous band) and start singing Carrot Juice is Murder?

Timothy Lowe said...

Janet, if you get this - noticed that rule 8a in this week's contest rules has a typo - "a your contest entry" - I think it was there last time too.

BTW "Duchess of Yowl" is quite the character - I enjoy her attitude immensely!

Megan V said...


Yes it is.

BJ Muntain said...


Arrogant Worms - Carrot Juice is Murder