Monday, January 31, 2011

Revisions from an Agent

Not long ago, @agentgame posted this on Twitter: “I've gotten back revisions on an overly fast turnaround that damaged the book rather than making it better.”

I immediately knew exactly what she was talking about. Frequently, I send back revision suggestions to unpublished authors. There might have been a number of things I loved about the book, but it was still far from perfect and needed a lot of work. That being said, I also felt a certain passion for the book and definitely wanted to see it again.

All too often what happens is the author feels rushed to get the material back to me as quickly as possible because she doesn’t want to lose my interest, and I get that. But listen here, folks, getting it back to me quickly isn’t going to do you a damn bit of good if what you send back is in even worse shape than the first version. If you think it had to be perfect before, now it has to be even better than perfect. There aren’t many second chances in life. When you get one, use it wisely.

When an agent sends you revisions with a request to resubmit, I have a few tips:

  1. Respond with a thank-you and let the agent know you’re going to take a close look at the revisions and are looking forward to resubmitting when it’s done. DO NOT commit to a time limit. You’ll only put undo pressure on yourself.
  2. Remember that revisions to a submission are only just the tip of the iceberg. Revision letters to my clients can be pages and pages long. I’m not going to spend that time on a submission. Therefore, you have to carefully read between the lines. Look at what I’m saying and then beyond that, and fix it all.
  3. Do only what works for you. If you are fixing something because it’s what you “think” someone else wants it WILL NOT work. You need to fix only what you see needs to be fixed.

And by the way, all of this holds true even for those already represented by an agent, as well as for those under contract with a publisher.