Monday, March 9, 2015

Request for Revision

The fact that authors are sometimes wary of or discouraged by agent requests for revisions, aka R&Rs, blows my mind.  I sometime stalk authors if they have blogs or are active on Twitter, and I've stumbled across a few freaking out over my requests for revisions.  They are pretty sure it is me enacting a long con to brush them off.  At first, I was just silently surprised by this, but then I realized that it was something I should probably blog about to set the story straight.


I can't speak for everyone, but here's why this is great when I do it:

1. There is enough about your work that really intrigues me and shows me that you have potential.
2. I am giving you really valuable insight about potential ways to strengthen your manuscript and bring it to the next level, even if I don't end up signing you.
3. If you want to, you can probably wrangle a phone call out of this (I always offer to chat via phone with everyone I ask for revisions) to get a sense of me as a person and whether you think we would work well together.
4. I am giving you another shot (or really more like multiple shots), to submit to me!

When I email an author with my notes on how to improve the manuscript, it means I am excited by important elements of the story, but everything isn't quite coming together perfectly for me.  I want to see if we can at least start it moving in the right direction; if you agree with my suggestions for the story; if you're capable of pushing your writing further; and how well you can revise.  This doesn't mean that I expect the next version to be perfectly submission-ready, but I do want to get a sense of how you take direction and enact changes.

I'd love for my authors to weigh in on what it's like to revise with me in the comments section.  I know that I adore  working with all of them, because they all are great at visualizing change, working through edits, and knowing when to slash their manuscript and when to ask me if I'm really serious about killing off a character.

So if you get an R&R from an agent, don't despair!  You're getting a great opportunity.


  1. I did an R&R with you before signing, and I thought it was great. I think most of my revisions were centered around strengthening a couple of supporting characters (I was lucky not to kill one off!) and I really liked your insights on them, and I know the manuscript was better at the end. I liked the opportunity to work together first as well. Just as you like to see how a writer takes suggestions and pushes their writing further, I was also happy to see that you 'got' my book and found legitimate weak points that would make it stronger overall once they were revised. Now that we're about to work on our third manuscript together, I still get really excited to see your feedback and have a phone chat about it.

    Now I'm wondering if I should do a blog post about this as well!

    1. I was just thinking the same I really want to do an R&R blog soon!

  2. so here's my "revision story with Carrie" lol...I got the email literally hours after sending off my 100 had great ideas and I knew I wanted to implement them. When I saw the offer for a phone chat I about died. I'd only been querying that MS for a few weeks at that point, and my request rate was good, but I'd never had anyone interested enough to see changes. Personally, I'm all about the R&R. I think it's an awesome opportunity to see how author/agent get along. This isn't a one shot deal; hopefully you'll be working together for the course of your career, so you'd better like each other! Now I should mention, I had NO IDEA how to do a revision. I didn't know it meant major change (which I was in no way opposed to, just didn't know the drill) I'm very lucky you were patient with me and offered me another shot. I think I realllyyy learned what it meant after our first round of sub ended. That's when I scrapped the love interest and a lot of the plot and rewrote things. you're also great to do R&Rs with b/c you make an otherwise tedious task fun ...honestly R&Rs make you a better writer. So it's something to be very excited about!

  3. I'm with Beth—I freaked out when I got my R&R email from you and saw the "let me know if you want to chat!". I think it was maybe just a little over a week after I sent you the MS from #TheWVoice competition request. Since I interned at a lit agency, I knew that R&Rs were not a slow no but a big deal. I remember reading over the suggested list of changes and nodding along, thinking the whole time 'If my MS was in the Best Possible Shape it would have achieved all of this already.' Most of the R&R points were about the MC in the MS, and diving deeper into her character and fleshing her out more—which was something that I was really excited to do. We set up a time to chat the next day, and I remember how much I enjoyed the short chat. I am not a phone person (I think I'm pretty awkward on phones actually), so the fact that you were so nice and easy to talk to was a great sign. Like you said, a R&R really allows the writer to get to know the agent better and make sure the two of you click together. Which is so important.

    It took me a while to really wrap my head around how to restructure it to address the points, and I remember a little over a month after the R&R request, you emailed asking how it was going. I had just had a eureka moment with the MS and was starting to chart out how to revise it when that happened. I worked it out and sent it back not too long afterwards. I think it was two/three weeks later I heard back from you about a few more things you wanted changed—things that mostly happened in the first few chapters. I remember being dubious about one of the suggestions and we emailed a bit to talk more about it, then I went through another small round of revisions, sent it off, and around a week letter I got the Offer Of Representation email.

    It was so clear to me that after that my manuscript was a 100% stronger thanks to Carrie's suggestions. I even end up with another offer thanks to it, but in the end I knew I worked well with Carrie (thanks to the R&R process), liked her revisions visions (again, thanks to the R&R process), and couldn't have been happier to sign with her.

    R&R are somewhat scary because it's work that might end up in a "Thanks, but no" but if the suggestions resonate with you, then you really are only making your MS stronger, even if you don't end up with an offer by the end of the R&R.

  4. For me, the "R&R" wasn't an "R&R" in the same sense, as I had already signed. However, I will say the process has been great so far. The project in question has been one that I think a few people didn't quite "get" (I recall one beta reader who made a couple of suggestions that would have fundamentally changed what the book was about). Carrie "got" it, and her suggestions have helped make this a better story all around.

    Now, thinking about it from the "I'm trying to get an agent, do I really want to do an R&R?" perspective. I never got an R&R from anyone. However, I would look at it a lot like getting comments from any reader. What is it they're saying, and is there merit in it?

  5. I love this post and will share it far and wide! I often hear other writes lament about R & R and I tell them that it's a great thing! From someone who queried agents for four years, I should know! Carrie, by the time I queried you, I had rewritten my MSa dozen times and had revised it ten times that. So when an agent asks for revisions, be completely thrilled by it! Carrie knows what she's doing! When I signed with Carrie, she told me we would need about half a year to revise before she could submit it. I had so much fun doing that and was so thankful and honored to have an agent who took the time to read my MS in great detail and offer changes that only an insider would know. We revised after a couple of rounds of submission. We got a book deal only after I opened up more in my backstory. Carrie thought that would be a great addition to the story--and it worked. So if I can reveal the most intimate parts of my young adulthood, anyone can revise to make his/her story better!

  6. Without your insight, my book would not be what it is today! And yes, my initial query came back as a request for revision with several wonderful suggestions. I have to admit that I was nervous...I wanted to get the revision right. When I resubmitted months later I had taken a 379 page novel and had cut well over a hundred pages! It was tighter, moved faster, and was simply so much better.
    All because of Carrie and her "spot on" suggestions. And now you are my agent! (Match made in revision heaven! LOL). :)

  7. Looks like I am more of an exception. I am not sure how many rounds of Revisions I did with you before you signed me! haha. I did several rounds for other agents, actually, many of whom requested revisions on what must have been a really messy manuscript. Then after I sent them the revisions, I would email you and you'd say, "Sure send it over again (you crazy nut who won't give up!)" I am so glad that you requested revisions and that I never gave up because now you're my agent and you're wonderful! :-) I think any author should WANT an agent ready to spend the time it takes to get your manuscript into great shape before sending it out to publishers. You'd be LUCKY to have Carrie.

  8. I count myself as exceedingly fortunate to be represented by Carrie because she is the revision queen! She sees the holes in my character development that need to be filled in, and she guides me in the right direction every time. She is kind with her suggestions and infinitely patient.

    If you're offended by an R&R request, you have no clue what this business is like. Your agent is getting your book ready for submission, and once it's on submission, acquisitions editors will probably ask you to revise as well. You need to just get used to it and appreciate the fact that an agent (who is getting thousands of submissions, BTW), actually took the time to give you input and guidance and is considering you as a client. An R&R is a supreme compliment.

    BTW, complaining about an R&R request on your blog is just plain foolish. It's akin to calling your boss names or posting naked pictures of yourself on a public forum. You should always assume the agent will find you out and write you off if you publicly complain because you obviously don't "get" what an honor it is to get an R&R (the agent isn't getting paid for her time and advice, you know), and you will come across as difficult to work with.

  9. I agree, I would've loved to have got an R&R request. It means the door isn't shut, it's merely cracked open wide enough to see what I'm able to do with a suggestion. I queried an agent about a year ago and she sent a rejection with such a suggestion. I quickly emailed back (although I knew better not to) asking if I could change that specific thing and re-submit. She responded within the hour and blatantly said she didn't have time for me to correct it. I was, to say the least, disappointed. It was such a simple fix. Perhaps, that wasn't the only thing wrong:)

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  11. I remember receiving your R & R and being overjoyed. It was the first time an agent had taken the time to give specific suggestions on what was wrong. For those reading, you shouldn't think "if, should I?" Just do, you should take the R & R and iron out those points. Its a step closer to publication. Even though Carried passed, I can't wait to submit to her again. :)