QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In Need of Some R&R?

By Suzanne van Rooyen @Suzanne_Writer

To most people, R&R means rest and relaxation. To authors, R&R often means precisely the opposite and usually induces a state of confusion if not out right panic.

What's R&R?

R&R in the publishing world stands for Revise and Resubmit. This sort of request can come from agents or editors and isn't only something that happens to new authors. Receiving an R&R request from an agent or editor can be a fantastic opportunity to improve your manuscript and thus improve your chances of being offered representation or a publishing deal. There are, however, pros and cons to an R&R and several things you need to consider before taking an axe to your novel.

Before committing to an overhaul, you need to ask yourself if the person requesting the R&R is someone you really want to work with, do you trust their opinion and will their suggestions improve your manuscript.

If not, move on.

If yes, then you need to analyse the suggested revisions, bearing in mind that the agent or editor is under no obligation to make an offer should you choose to revise and resubmit your novel for their consideration. To avoid an R&R becoming an exercise in futility, make sure that the suggested revisions are things that would improve the overall quality of your manuscript and not only tailor your manuscript to that specific agent's or editor's preferences, because if they don't make an offer, you need to be able to submit your story elsewhere. If you receive more than one R&R with similar suggestions, chances are there are real issues in the manuscript that need addressing. If your receive multiple R&Rs with contradictory suggestions, then some more soul-searching may be in order.

Always go with your gut. Sometimes even well-meaning revision suggestions from the best in the industry, might not be the best thing for your manuscript. Remember, it's your story and you have a right to tell it the way you want to. If a suggested revision doesn't sit well with you, send out the story for another round of beta reads or, if the requesting agent or editor is open to it, discuss the reasons behind a suggested revision or even alternative edits before changing and possibly compromising your manuscript. This is a business. The ultimate goal is selling your work. Both agents and editors don't only want a good manuscript, they want a salable one so some suggestions may come from a sales perspective. Perhaps having a sparkling vampire or boy wizard would make your novel more commercially viable, but if that's not what your story is about and if those things have no place in the story you want to tell, you have a right not to agree with every suggested revision.

No agent or editor worth their salt expects an author to apply every suggested revision. Some things might not be negotiable, such as the level of explicit sex in a young adult novel, but most things are. You do not have to include every suggested revision before resubmitting your novel to the requesting agent or editor. Some suggestions might only skim the surface of a problem. For example, I received an R&R once specifically asking for more emotion from and a better connection to the characters. While considering this I realised the problem wasn't a lack of emotion, but rather that the POV prevented the emotion from coming across and being tangible to the reader. Instead of upping the angst in my manuscript, I needed to change the POV. This is where an R&R can be a great opportunity for improvement. But beware!

Do not rush revisions. If you truly want to take the opportunity to improve your manuscript, then take the time required to consider each suggestions, what it means in context of your novel and how it might affect the overall story both as a work of literature and as a commercial product.

Taking your time with an R&R can raise other issues, however. Perhaps by the time you resubmit, the agent has already signed a client with too-similar a work, perhaps they've left their agency or the industry altogether. Perhaps the editor is no longer looking for your type of story, no longer works for that imprint or is no longer in a position to make an offer. This is the reality many authors have faced upon resubmitting after months of revisions.

As long as you are aware that an R&R is not a guarantee of an offer and approach it as an opportunity for the general improvement of your manuscript, then an R&R can be a tremendous experience and one that can result in the improvement of both your story and your skill as a writer, even if your revised manuscript ultimately gets rejected.

Suzanne is a tattooed story-teller from South Africa. She currently resides in the cold, dark capital of Finland with her husband, and their shiba inu fur-child Lego. Her works include YA science fiction novel Obscura Burning, and YA contemporary novel The Other Me coming soon from Harmony Ink Press. When not writing, Suzanne teaches dance and music to middle-schoolers. She is rep'd by the fabulous Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency. You can find her out and about on the Internet in all the usual places. Website


Mirka Breen said...

"...approach it as an opportunity for the general improvement of your manuscript"


I learned early that R &R can be casually given and not always spot-on. One such resulted in changes I never used again.I reverted to the original and sold it elsewhere.

Suzanne said...

Indeed Mirka. Authors need to trust and go with their gut.

Congrats on your sale!

Rosie said...

Good advice, Suzanne. This is one of the toughest areas for writers to navigate, particularly because of the time investment required for revision. Thanks for being with us today!