Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Revision Requests

Tip of the Day: swimming can be nice and relaxing on a warm, summer day :)

We've talked about requests and rejection from agents, but what about that in-between area called revision requests? The agent doesn't reject it outright, but they don't accept the manuscript or you as a client either.

Do to the current publishing environment these seem to be popping up more and more (at least that's what it feels like in the blogosphere). How on earth are you supposed to handle these requests?

I've been asked for revision requests twice in my career already. I'm not sure I handled either correctly, but I did gain some insight in the process.

  • Read the request several times and let it sink in as long as possible. I imagine the request is similar to an editors revision note, so it's best to let all the information soak in. This situation is a bit more unique because you don't have any guarantee that if you make the suggestions revisions that anything will come of it with this agent. But what in this business is a 100 percent guarantee anyway?
  • Determine if the agent's comments fit with your vision for the book. If you disagree completely with what the agent says then maybe it won't be the best fit. But if you are on the fence or agree with them, it might be wise to try the revision. Yes it may take you several months to complete, and again there is no guarantee. But wouldn't you always wonder "what if" if you didn't do the revision?
  • Take your time with revisions. Make sure they are done right. If an agent takes the time to send you notes they are seriously considering your work. You don't want to blow it by not taking your time to do the proper revisions.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of revision requests. Maybe it's because I've had bad experiences with them. But I think if an agent sees potential in your work then it's in his/her best interest to take you on as a client (so they don't get burned in the future by putting all this work into your project and you going elsewhere with it) and work with you to get it ready for editors. But I see why revision requests happen before agents take you on as clients, and they aren't all bad for the author either.

Both of my revision requests ended differently. One of them came from an agent known to make such requests on a frequent basis and then not follow up with them. I was aware of this before hand and took this in to consideration when deciding to revise for them. The remarks were actually quite brief and I agreed with them, so I went ahead and revised the first 50 pages or so based on the request. As a result, the agent requested the full manuscript, but I never heard anything back from the agent even after several follow-up emails.

The second revision request was much more extensive. It involved a three-page revision letter that highlighted three main components the agent wanted to see changed. I decided to make the changes because I thought it would better the book by slightly changing the age of the main character and some of her personality, motivations, etc. It took me a little over a month of really hard work to make the changes. There was a bit more back and forth about specific changes, all of which I incorporated in one way or another. Some of it finding out what needed to "really" be changed and then solving that problem.

The agent loved the changes, but wanted to see one more big change. This time it involved changing the entire mystery plot of who and why he/she committed the crime. I wasn't sold on the change 100 percent. I could see the agents point of view, but I could also see my point of view. I was willing to try the changes, but part of me also wanted some guarentee that putting this much work into it with not being 100 percent sold on the changes that they would take me on as a client. This was awhile ago and I wasn't as knowledgable about the industry and I was so eager for that first contract. But I was also working on two other newer projects I felt strongly about and had limited time to work on stuff. I also knew this agent was a new assistant at a reputable agency and the person had told me they needed another agent's approval before taking on clients. I knew that if I invested all this work into something I wasn't completely sold on that the other agent could just reject it in the end for completely different reasons. So I asked if I could revise a partial, have the other agent look at it, and then discuss further changes or taking me on as a client.

In the end, the other agent wasn't completely sold on the concept of the project combined with the lighter tone of my writing (stuff which I could have never changed even after 100 revisions), and that was the end of it. Period.

So did I do the right things? I'd like to think so. Everytime I did revise the project got better, and it's still a project I would like to sell in the future (possibly with more changes incorporated after thinking about it for two years). I tried to keep an open mind, but at the same time I also knew my project, my vision for it, and my abilities as a writer. I think those are all important things to keep in mind if you do get a revision request.

Anyone else have good/bad revision requests stories? Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't.

--Emily, Miss Querlicious


DeenaML said...

When I was agent-hunting, I received a couple revision requests before signing. One was to completely rewrite the entire book from another character's POV. Um, no. Wasn't going to happen. The POINT of the story was for it to be from the MC's pov.

The second one was to rewrite the book with the MC being younger than originally written. I agreed with that one and gave it a shot, but ultimately the agent didn't love it enough to take it on.

I agree, Em. You have to think the revision suggestions will make the work better, NOT just secure you an agent. :)

Kate Fall said...

Em, this is great information; thanks for sharing it. I learned a lot, like it probably wouldn't have occurred to me to ask if I could submit a revised partial. It definitely sounds like you handled these situations professionally.

Weronika said...

The last time I queried anything was a few years ago, and my current WiP is about 17% finished. You've definitely given me some things to think about. I'll definitely have to take this into consideration as I walk my way through the publishing process.

From that first querying stage, I didn't receive any revision requests -- two partials, but nothing happened with either, and I soon outgrew the project.

Thanks for sharing this, and I wish you the best of luck with your work and querying. I hope your story falls in the right hand someday.