Saturday, February 13, 2010
Should I revise my work for a prospective agent?
"I'm a little confused...my manuscript has been back and forth to my agent now for almost a year and a half with only positive and encouraging verbal feedback, but no written reports. I have now sent the second book after the agent says he wanted to see it, but feedback is still having to be prompted. The agent only reads exclusively, so I just don't know what to do. Is it normal to take this long? Should I expect more feedback? Would it be okay for me to maybe send it to a few other agencies?"
You are really asking three questions here: 1) How long should you wait to hear back from an agent about your manuscript? 2) Should you grant an agent exclusive reading time? and 3) If a prospective agent asks you to revise your manuscript (with no guarantee that he will represent you), should you do so?
I already answered the first two questions on this blog. Please see the September 22, 2009 posting titled, “How long should I wait to hear back about my manuscript?” The only point I might add to that is that if you do indeed grant an agent exclusive reading time, then you should not give him more than 3 months exclusive reading time for a finished manuscript, or more than 2 months for a proposal. In your case, given that it has been over a year, you should certainly not grant this agent any more exclusive reading time. You should start querying other agents simultaneously.
In general, if you are debating revising your manuscript for a prospective agent, keep in mind the following: if an agent asks to see a revision of your work, and his comments are specific for what he’d like to see revised, and you agree with those comments, then go for it. However, don’t assume a nice or long rejection letter detailing problems is an invitation to revise and resubmit—only assume so if the agent specifically requests to see another version. In most cases, if an agent rejects a work and does not specifically ask to see a revision, then the agent does not truly want to see it again, even if it is revised. You don’t want to fall into the trap of following false leads and revising a manuscript endlessly.
Additionally, if your gut tells you that the agent’s comments are wrong, or that he doesn’t get your work or share your vision, then don’t revise. At the end of the day, you are the one that needs to live with your work.
Posted by Noah Lukeman at 9:53 AM
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I always ask myself if I died tomorrow would I be proud of the work I left behind.ReplyDelete
Good questions. Thanks for the answers Noah. Its so hard to know when an agent has truly lost interest because they are so polite in their feedback.ReplyDelete
I was glad to read the last paragraph you wrote, Noah. It really does matter if the person who is going to represent you, 'get's you. I'm trying to sort that out beforehand a bit, by looking around for agent interviews (and blogs)and other information, but still, you don't know until you know firsthand.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much for your reply. I suppose that I've been feeling guilty about going elsewhere when he has already been speaking to me for quite some time now, but it is what my gut has been telling me to do. I think I just needed some reassurance that it would be the right thing to do, and given what you said about granting exclusive reading time, I feel that I will be able to justify to him why I've sent my work to other people after so much time. I just thought that these guys must be insanely busy, and if they really weren't interested in something then they wouldn't keep stringing people along. I suppose they must have their reasons. Anyway, I will start sending my work out to other agents and see what kind of feedback I get, but I will still keep sending my agent the revisions he asks for in the meantime, just in case. Hopefully, eventually, I can find someone who will be a little more communicative in their responses! Thanks again for your advice.ReplyDelete
very informative Noah!ReplyDelete
My daughter will be graduating from high school in June and will be pursuing a degree in journalism in the fall. Her goal is to become a literary agent. Although I trust she will receive good advice at the university she plans to attend, she has many questions now about coursework and internships that I can't answer. Can you help me to advise her?ReplyDelete
This is a lot of great advice! I have an agent that has been "considering" my book since Nov. 2009. She requested a 3-5 page synopsis as well as the entire MS. I contacted her recently to find out the status of my MS and she replied that she is still "considering" it. I'm stumped. But I have decided to start submitting to other agencies. I am stating that the novel is being considered by another agent. If someone else offers me representation, I will give the first agent first "dibs" I hope I am correct in the way I am handling the situation.ReplyDelete
I have finished two novels that are not related to each other in any way.ReplyDelete
The publishing house I am aiming to submit to require a book proposal with 2 sample chapters initially.
Can I send proposals for both the books together? Is that acceptable?
I hope I'm posting this in the correct place. I was referred here by someone on Nathan Bransford's forums.ReplyDelete
I have a question about the opening chapter of a manuscript. I've heard it's a no-no to open the novel with someone waking up. My character wakes up in an alley with amnesia. Could this be the reason I'm receiving rejections after sending agents the first few pages of my manuscript? Is this opening scene (where my protagonist is waking up) some form of manuscript death?
I'm getting some requests for partials, so I think the premise of my story is decent. But it's always after I send the first few pages that I receive the rejections.
Wow I love finding other blogs and this one is definitely one I want to be following. Excellent advice! I look forward to reading previous posts!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the answers Noah. Its so hard to know when an agent has truly lost interest because they are so polite in their feedback.ReplyDelete
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I referenced this blog entry here:ReplyDelete
I read your book but am still in a quandry: My agent sent my thriller to 26 editors last year. All were passes, with some very encouraging reject letters. Things went downhill at that point: I had to ask my agent 3 times to send me the reject letters. The last time he sent them with a curt comment, "Now I've sent you all the letters." I proposed a major rewrite based on some of the comments, he responded enthusastically, and I turned in the revised manuscript to him in November. He didn't respond, and didn't respond to the next 2 emails. On the fourth try, he gave a curt response..."I'm discussing with editors will let you know when there's feedback". I let him know I was attending the SF writer's conference 2 weeks ago, and he did respond to say I could pass out a "pitch" sheet with his info. 6 major editors expressed interest in the book!! I gave him the incredible news 2 weeks ago with the names of the editors...no response or acknowledgement of my email, which contained a couple of relevant questions. Do you think I'm too worried? I would think he'd send out to interested editors right away, but is it normal to take a month or longer? I really have no idea what he's doing. When I asked him for a submission list after he sent out to the 26 editors he was annoyed..."It's a long list but I'll send it to you." If he's ultimately unresponsive after a couple of months and continues to not respond to my emails, would it be difficult to get another agent to submit to these editors? I honestly don't know if he will give me a submission list of where it's already been. Do you think everything's possibly fine, and I need to practice more patience, or is this glaringly problematic? Thank you so much. Wendy