I know you’ve covered R&Rs a lot recently, but I thought I’d reach out because the discussions left me feeling more alone. R&Rs were often referred to as “rare,” but I keep getting them…and I can’t seem to get over the R&R hurdle.
Over the last two years, I’ve queried two novels. (About 40 queries each.) Both resulted in 15+ fulls/partials…with no offers of rep. I mainly received R&Rs, which also didn’t work out. Either the advice didn’t resonate with me or the revision didn’t resonate with the agent, though the agents often said the revisions were really good, which…*confused* (Once, I received a R&R on a R&R.) I’m super grateful for the R&Rs, but I’m now jumping into a third novel to try again. Though I’ve learned a lot from R&Rs, I can’t help but feel like I’m stuck on repeat.
I have beta readers (new and old), I attend conferences, and I have previous publications. I expect revisions at every stage, but many of my writing friends received offers before revisions (even heavy revisions).
Is there something else I can do?
There's something wrong with your manuscript and no one is willing to engage in the conversation that will tell you.
I certainly don't with passes on fulls, even those with requested revisions. I say exactly what you heard: this is good, but not quite there yet.
I think you need a bloodthirsty outside editor, preferably someone who worked at a major publishing house, and knows what it takes for a manuscript to get to that final level. You're going to need to shell out some cash for this, cause they need to read the whole thing.
You've got one question and one question only for this editor: what's not working. And beg them for brutal honesty. PROMISE you will not hurl invectives at them even if they tell you your manuscript stinks. (I'm sure it doesn't.)
If I had to guess without having heard anything about the manuscript or read a single line, I'd bet it's just not fresh and new enough. That's really hard to quantify, and I hate telling writers that because there's no way to help them fix it.
I also think I'm right because all the feedback you've gotten is writing based, not sales based. And "not fresh and new" is a measure of marketability, not your writing.
This is very frustrating place to be. Time for a stiff drink, a break from all this insanity during the holidays to gather your wits, then start looking for an editor in January. They'll all need money then cause they need to pay their taxes in April.
Update from the OP:
I'm in the midst of this, thanks to your advice dear Madame Shark. While it is not a blissful experience, it is exactly what I needed.
One thought to others who may want to try this: interview the editor! I talked to three, all equally qualified, and one stood out because of natural chemistry. She was not the cheapest. We are halfway through and I can already say the money was well spent.
My motto - listen to the shark!