"Here's my revision, will you read it?": How to Submit A New Draft

Is this a good idea? Strictly, no: I've had writers submit three, four, FIVE revisions before I'd even had a chance to comment on the first--and then, I'm always stuck with extra emails floating around. Sometimes it's not even clear which revision goes with which query which goes with which author--and I have to go on a hunt. It leaves me terrified that I could reject something twice, that interns will spend time reading something twice, that I'll never know which version is which. It's a mess. 

Worse, I often can't see a significant change in the new drafts. A typo, for example, is not reason enough to resubmit: keep in mind that you're asking an agent to read your work again, and if we're going to do so, we want to feel like you've made changes large enough to change our decision.

That said, I think every writer gets one revision--IF they go about it correctly. 

Here's a real revision note, accompanied by the revised manuscript, that not only left me better-than-annoyed--but pleased and intrigued.

If you're going to do this, always reply to the most recent email we've sent, something that has the full trail of our correspondence, so we'll know immediately who you are. If you can't find such an email, consider including your query, cut-and-pasted into your email, with the synopsis and manuscript attached. 

*

Dear Ms. Gatekeeper,

In the few weeks since I’ve sent you this manuscript, another agent suggested some specific revisions to the manuscript ([1/2 line summary of those here]). 

Sweet! GK's ears perked up at this: another agent liked this enough to not only not form-reject, not only prove they read the whole thing, but also offer substantial suggestions? This means they must have liked it enough to think it has serious potential. 

In the past few days, another agent 

Two agents? Doubly good. 

Note that she doesn't say whether they rejected the work or asked for a revision. Very bright on her part. This not only avoids the "_____ rejected it, _______ rejected it, _______ rejected it, _______ and _____ and _____ rejected it--but I think YOU'LL love this!" vibe, but also makes me wonder about other agents on her radar. Now I'm intrigued: are there two other agents who want to see the new version, too? Probably more. Nifty! I better get on this. 

gave me the same feedback, which confirmed for me the need to make this change. I was wondering if you would be willing to consider the revision instead of the original. If not, I completely understand. 

It's always good to acknowledge that we're busy. I know, it may seem like sucking up, but to us, it's not--the moment you say "I know you're busy," that irritated "I'm too busy for this!" feeling evaporates. 

I know you have a queue and you’ve already downloaded what I sent before. 

Proves she knows who I am and has been following what's happened so far. This makes her more respectable: she's paying attention. 

I’m still thrilled that you’ll be taking a look.

Good. She knows enough to be able to tell me apart from the other agent(s) still considering this. This also (I mean, I suppose it's vague enough that she could have lied and said this to everyone) proves she's done some amount of research. We don't want to feel like we're just receiving the work because our business cards have the word "agent" on them. Of course you want us to like your work, but we want you to like us and want to work with us, too. 

I’ve attached the revision in case you were willing to consider it, but obviously, feel free to disregard. 

Again, nice.

Thanks for your time and consideration. (And I promise not to do this again).

The latter, parenthesized part is, perhaps, the best thing about this letter--excepting the mention of two other agents. That said, not every writer can say they have specific feedback from two agents. 

Also note that the tone is upbeat, not annoyed; that the writer obviously feels hopeful and excited about her work--rather than stressed, depressed, and/or angry at the system.

*
So, take note, writers. The basic (from this letter) formula for a "Here's my revision, will you read it?" note is:

Dear [Agent],
  • A good reason for the revision. An agents' comments are the best; however, you could also say something about a writing professor/published author/critique partner having given you an idea/some criticism. Always frame in the positive, ie, I came up with this brilliant new idea! versus My manuscript had problems, but now it's better. 
  • Acknowledgment of agent's busyness. 
  • Polite and confident request to disregard the old version and check out the new one instead.
  • Acknowledgment that the agent may have looked at the old version already.
  • Expression of excitement at the possibility of working with the agent.
  • A note that you've attached the revision.
  • A thank-you and a promise not to do this again.

20 comments:

Amanda J. said...

Good to know, thanks for sharing! :)

emilymurdoch said...

Excellent and informative post.

I have to agree -- agent feedback is often amazing. Even with crit partners, beta readers, etc., I've found those eagle eyes of agents (esp. those requesting revise/resubmits) to be golden.

Confession: I used to cringe when I read about writers resubing a new draft to agents -- thinking, no no no, what are you doing! -- until I had to do so, myself.

And again -- so true -- a resub once, perhaps, but never more than once, and only real changes -- not changes from the OCD mind-set many of us writers can fall into.

Lastly, on the subject of feedback, I wanted to add: don't forget the thank you note! If an agent offers feedback on your ms, (or on your sample pages or even your query), even if you disagree, THANK them. If they didn't see a glimmer of ability in your writing, they wouldn't have taken the time to be generous enough to offer some words of critique or encouragement.

Colin said...

This actually hits on a subject I've been wondering about. (please forgive me if you've covered this, I may have missed it in the archives)

If other agents are showing interest in your work, should you mention them or their agencies as anything more specific than "other agents/editors?"

Would it be inappropriate or unnecessary to drop names? It seems that without specifics, anyone could say "others have shown interest," whether they have or not. But mentioning exactly who has the ms seems a bit, I don't know, awkward.

Any thoughts?

Deb Salisbury said...

Wonderful advice! Thank you for being so clear on a tricky subject.

:) said...

Dear GK,

Will you please pretty please look at my revisions and not the awful draft I sent you before, kk?

I HAD to revise it cuz my English teacher said it needed mucho trabajo (my English teacher speaks Spanish for emphisis).

Thank you, you won't be sorry!

:)

:) said...

Dear GK,

Oops! I forgot to attach the attachment. That (almost) never happens.

And nevermind that I spelled "emphisis" wrong. I really do know how to spell it.

Thanks again and sorry!!!
:)

:) said...

Dear GK,

You're not going to believe this (I sure don't!)

I forgot to attach the file again. Here it is, really!

Sorry sorry sorry,
:)

:) said...

OK GK,

So here it is for reals this time. By now I've probably pestered you so much you'll send a form rejection like ______ did and _____ did and _____ will next month.

It's allright, I'm used to it.

But if you do happen to enjoy it, sign me up, kk?

:)

:) said...

Allright, so I misspelled alright.

Don't shoot me (a form rejection, please! I get enough of those already). At least I'm attaching the file this time.

LOL!

:)

P.S.: So so sorry sorry sorry for the extra e-mail or two.

Agency Gatekeeper said...

You're absolutely right, Emily. Though I don't usually notice if someone sends me a thank you note after I've rejected a query, I do often notice if they don't thank me after I've spent time combing the manuscript for good (I think) suggestions.

Agency Gatekeeper said...

Colin,
You're right--people can and do lie. That said, we usually catch it. How? That's a whole other post. But it's still considered rude to mention the other agent by name. The only time it might be worth it is if some giant, superstar, sells-bestsellers-every-other-day, name-brand agent wants you. Then you can plead ignorance.

emilymurdoch said...

GK:

I may be the please and thank you kind of gal, but it does surprise me when writers get angry with agents for honest feedback and withhold the thank you.

I'm sure there are some agents out there who may be "mean", but most really are quite generous to take the time to help a writer improve, something which is the "job" of a crit group or beta reader, not an agent, and therefore, an extra kindness.

On that note, it's amazing to think how multiple agents behind-the-scenes can have a hand in a ms eventually getting an offer -- because those kind agents along the way gave their thoughts on the work.

I think that's so cool, how a ms also takes a village. : )

Agent feedback is also courageous, due to the risk the agent takes in offering it. It makes me sad to think of the disgruntled writers (because they didn't get what they wanted -- the offer) causing any agent to regret that very generosity, or to cease the feedback altogether.

Agency Gatekeeper said...

Emily,
I completely agree. It always takes a village to make a manuscript work. :)

Anonymous said...

Do agents really prefer if writers say thank you to feedback on a query or partial? I've been under the impression that a thank you note would simply add more mail to an already overloaded inbox. Of course, a detailed "almost but not quite" page of feedback on a full submission would warrant thanks. But does an agent really want to see yet another email after telling a writer something like, for example, "From the short sample you submitted, I could tell you write well and your work has promise. However, I felt that a story such as this one should have started with more action. Also, I found the character's voice a bit young for 17. I'm sorry I don't have better news. It's very possible another agent will feel differently."

If I'm the author in question, I'll certainly appreciate the feedback. But the agent has already dealt with my not-quite-there query. Won't I be annoying her if I send yet another email thanking her for the response?

Susie www.susieshawsoulcare.com said...

Thanks Janet! I had an agent suggest a resubmission after some tweaking. I am presently working on those and this will be a GREAT help! Thanks for the insight and agent perspective. (And of course for your personal response letter to my proposal).

Susie www.susieshawsoulcare.com said...

sorry. Janet at Books & Such Tweeted straight to the link and I thought this was her blog. Nevertheless, great suggestions!

Anonymous said...

This is incredibly helpful. I know it has greater chances of working with agents who gave you a personalized rejection but what about those who requested your full but ended up giving form rejections?

Duff said...

This advice is so kind yet so crafty that it feels like a secret. =) Thanks again for sharing nibs like these.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

luckily i've never had to use this, but i HAVE linked to this post quite a few times for writing buddies that were in this mess.
I love the GK archives - THEY ARE AWESOME!

Victoria Collins said...

This is SO refreshing and incredibly valuable. Just when I was feeling like a fool for wanting to resubmit - and then realising my MS needs a whole new rewrite (this is a GOOD thing - an epiphany, in fact). Thank you so much!

I recently blogged on similar topic: "Is it ok to change my first chapter after I’ve sent it to agents? And then send it again?" http://wp.me/p1AW0D-2R