Monday, September 04, 2017

How to roadmap an R&R

I'm finishing up an R&R for an agent at the moment and she's instructed me to include a letter with all changes upon resubmitting. In theory, that seems easy enough. Sitting down to write it, however, brought up a few questions (and my apologies if you've covered this before).

First, should I list them off as bullet points? Second, how much information should I include about the changes?

Some of the changes are easily covered with bullet points (name changes, character she wanted dead dies on page 174, etc.). Some changes are not (softening of a character's worst personality trait over time, change in the antagonist, again, over time).

Any advice on how best to approach these emails? Any preferences you've noticed over the years?

I want to be as open as possible without providing an avalanche of information (particularly when they'll be reading the book and will see most of it for themselves).

This is a toughie for me because I ask for just the opposite: revise,  then remove all evidence. Send me the cleanest ms you can. I want to read with fresh eyes, and have as close to a reader's experience as possible.

My guess here is she wants to be more efficient, and make sure you made the changes you needed.

To that end, I would ask her: are bullet points for changes like characters names/characters deaths ok, with narrative for those more abstract revisions (softening the character's worst personality trait.)?

If you don't want to ask her (and I know you woodland creatures are always hesitant about that) I would do the bullet points/narrative mix.

And I would include something in the email that says "if this format doesn't work for what you need, I'm happy to take another whack at it."


Lisa Bodenheim said...

Janet: You're working! Happy Labor Day. And to the Reiders in the U.S. And is it a bank holiday in Europe?

OP: Great questions. As I've not even queried yet, I find this R&R info fascinating as I hope to go through it someday. I can't think of anything to add to Janet's last comment.

And what an interesting answer Janet gave in such contrast to the agent OP is working with. Lots of food for thought. No wonder we wee woodland critters have all kinds of questions all the time!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"...I would ask her."

OP, If there is one thing I have learned over time, in regards to our personal and professional lives, it is that when something is not clear, ask.
You asked Janet. So honey, if asking the shark doesn't get your sweat glands pumping than asking your agent shouldn't either.

Sherry Howard said...

About asking: I get it why people are so hesitant to ask. There are nightmare stories I've heard directly from friends about their experiences with asking an agent. For instance, one friend sent a short text to her brand new agent, who'd been texting her, and was told that SHE shouldn't have initiated a text, texting was reserved for . . .It's arbitrary little "rules" like this that make mere mortals afraid at the beginning stages of the relationship. Fortunately, those are the exceptions, and word gets around about those agents, but they are the stuff of the legends that make the woodland creatures quiver about ASKING.

Janet Reid said...

Sherry Howard "Initiating texts is reserved to the agent" sounds like the agent has confused her role with with that of royalty.

There's a hilarious scene in The Queen in which Tony and Cheri Blair are instructed on how to interact with Her Mag: when to approach, how to back out of the room, who talks first (who texts first.)

Expecting that kind of protocol at the agent level is even funnier.

Sherry Howard said...

Janet, my thought exactly! That is now her former agent.

John Davis Frain said...

Whatever you decide, OP, you simply MUST include one change in your liner notes that actually NEVER occurs. And make it at her suggestion. ("Your idea for Zeus to come down from the heavens and kill my protagonist (in the form of a lightning bolt, of course, I didn't think you were a deus ex machine fan) was brilliant. It enhanced the final chapter tenfold.")

It'll be great fun at the bar a couple years from now when you're regaling your new agent about the trick you played on her.

Thank me with a signed copy of your new book. Alternatively, you can pour a drink on me if it doesn't work. I feel pretty good about this, but I've had several drinks poured on me in the past so no guarantees.

Colin Smith said...

One thing I've picked up over the years of following Janet's wisdom here is you HAVE to be able to talk to your agent. Communication is number one in any relationship, and no less in the author-agent relationship. If agent asks for x, and you don't know what she means, ask her. It's taken me years to realize that it's often better to look an idiot and ask the stupid question than looking even stupider later because I didn't ask. :)

Happy Labor Day, US friends! Lisa--I have it on good authority (my Mum) that last Monday was a Bank Holiday in the UK. If anyone else in the world wants to take today off, however, you have my permission. :D

Janet Reid said...

John Davis (ms) Frain you are a menace.

Karen McCoy said...

I always thought it was ironic that it was called "Labor Day" and no one works.

This is really good advice--if I were on the receiving end, bullet points mixed with narrative would be a stellar format. Unless it was received by John Davis (ms) Frain. A menace indeed.

BJ Muntain said...

Interesting. My take would be that she'd like to know which of her suggestions OP took, and which OP didn't. Which would show just fine in the bullet point and narrative mix that Janet suggests.

Just gotta say, I love this: "character she wanted dead dies on page 174".

Oh, if all characters were so easy to deal with...

RosannaM said...

Hopefully either option OP takes will be met with a pleasant response. This is a business relationship between human beings who can and should treat each other with mutual respect. Personally, I think the bullet point/narrative mix sounds perfect. It gets the info across without taking too much of the agent's time.

If I were anywhere near John Davis Train around April Fool's Day, I would quake in my flip-flops!

Megan V said...

Another option for OP—if they're using Microsoft Word—could be to use the Track Changes and Comment feature.

JDmsFrain Now that is a wickedly delicious bit of mayhem.

Lennon Faris said...

LOL. This comment train is cracking me up.

I'm always a fan of providing a ready answer with the caveat that it can be changed if need be (rather than just asking what they mean, with nothing to show). Even if it's more work for you... I think it looks better.

Happy Labor Day, or whatever holiday, to all! Colin, I'll let my boss know I can take the day off! Thanks!!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Thanks Colin. I always assume Europe does the same holidays as the UK. Perhaps not.

And for some reason, I want to call him JD McFrain. Although I like Rosanna's JD Train as there's a train wreck a comin' with menace and mayhem!

RosannaM said...

Oh, whoops! Sorry about the T, Mr. FRAIN. Obviously my left pointer finger wandered off of home row.

I was still a little bleary from spending the day yesterday at our state fair in 95 degree heat, and then for some mysterious, spontaneous reason, my husband and I threw a tarp and a couple of sleeping bags out back and slept out under a full moon.* So that's the reason for all errors I may make today!

*It is important to note that we have never done that before.

Julie Weathers said...

Popping in because Joseph is too modest to toot his own horn. I shall blow it for him. Wrong thread, but congratulations on all the contest entries. I had to read through them. Holy cow. Good stuff.

Anyway, apparently one of the American Ninja Warriors is a lady lawyer or at least female. They were doing a bio on her and a book that Joseph co-authored "Property" was on her table. How's that for product placement?

Big Taste, Small Bank Account said...

Hi everyone!

First time commenting but, as I'm the OP for this post, thought it was time to butt in. Janet's suggestions, as well as all of your comments, make the most sense.

The agent in question has been very helpful with answering questions regarding changes she wanted that I needed her to clarify so I may end up reaching out to her, as well.

That said, the narrative/bullet point mix seems like it will make the most sense for the changes made. Since Janet (and therefore, every agent, if they know what's good for them) seems to think that will be fine, that is probably what I will do.

By the way, BJ Mountain, that character really does leave the novel on one page (although it's actually page 116).

Joseph S. said...

Thanks, Julie Weathers.

It was such a weird happening. My sharp-eyed brother sent me an email saying
“I'm watching American Ninja Warrior and one of the contestants is a lawyer. In her profile segment there's a quick shot of your property textbook. Pretty cool.”

Attached was a picture he took off this television of the top half of my co-authored book Property: Examples & Explanation. It took up the whole screen - just the top half of the book on a desk, with NBC logo in the lower left hand corner. The book title and my name are in sharp focus. I wish I could show you the picture.

So - my book was a TV star (in a supporting role) in Prime Time on a major television network. Now it won’t talk to me.

Unknown said...

Echoing everyone here when I say that Janet's approach works best. Would have jumped into the fray sooner, but I spent a good part of Labor Day with family. At least the weather where I am is finally nice again--it rained most of the weekend.

Joseph, when I read your comment about your book being a TV star--very cool, by the way--the Buggles tune "Video Killed the Radio Star" popped into my head!

Can anyone tell I was a teenager in the '80s? :)

AJ Blythe said...

Laura Graefe, welcome to the Reef. I think a mix of dot points and narrative seems logical - how could an agent be unhappy about that?

Joe, next time I hope it's your novel getting that sort of exposure ;-)

John Davis Frain, you cracked me up. Reminded me of a "test" my year 5 teachers made us do on the first day of the school year. The instruction was to read all the questions carefully. If you read all the questions before starting, you found the last question said: only answer question 1 (write your name on the top of the page). If you read each question as you went you had to do all sorts of tough maths problems, mixed with crazy things (like poking a hole in the paper, and reciting a tongue twister for your teacher). I'm not telling you what I did...