Three Questions to Ask Before Committing to a “Revise and Resubmit”

by Bess Cozby
published in Community

It’s happened. It’s actually happened. An agent wants to talk to you on the phone. She’s interested in your work. You run down a list of all the questions you need to ask, start trolling your friends about having BIG NEWS SOON, pump yourself up with power poses, the phone rings and . . . the agent wants to do an R&R, industry terminology for “Revise and Resubmit.”

Wait. What?

“Revise and Resubmit” means just that–an agent loves a book but think it still needs work, and would like a writer to revise the book and resubmit it. The types of revision can vary widely. Perhaps the agent loves the concept but not the execution, or thinks the plot is fantastic but the characters are too thin. They’re definitely interested in representing the book–and, of course, its writer–but want to do a round of revision before officially committing.

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself (and the agent or editor) before officially saying, “Let’s do this.”

1) What Are the Scope of the Revisions?

This is the biggest question, in my opinion. There’s no point in embarking on an R&R if you’re not on the same page editorially. While an agent may be reluctant to send you all his or her notes before officially committing to an R&R, they should be willing to let you know the big picture.Since they are asking for an R&R, you can probably assume the revisions are pretty extensive, and you’re going to want to be on board with them.

Be sure to give yourself time. Remember: you don’t have to say ‘yes,’ and you certainly don’t have to say ‘yes’ right away. Take time to think on the revisions, and talk to critique partners. Ask yourself: is this going to make my book better, and closer to the version I want it to be? If so, lean more toward ‘yes,’ but if not, consider whether querying other agents might not be a better option. Remember: there are tons of agents out there, and you want to find one that works for you.

2) Is this R&R Exclusive?

I’ve heard different stories from different writers about how agents go about an R&R, so this is just speaking from my own experience (I’ve both received an R&R as a writer, and given them as an editor) but with the caveat that this is not one-size-fits all.

If you’re in the middle of querying your book, you may have queries, partials and fulls out with other agents, which could cause complications. For example, while you’re revising, another agent might offer representation. Conversely, you could pull your book from submission, and then the requesting agent might not end up gelling with your revision. But you might also not want to pull your manuscript from querying when you haven’t yet gotten a commitment from the requesting agent. It can get tricky, and you don’t want to potentially damage relationships with anyone.

This is definitely something you’d want to discuss with the agent upfront, and come to a mutual decision about. Perhaps you pull the book from submission, but send it out to all agents who already had it when you are done with your revisions, or give the requesting an agent a window in which the manuscript is exclusively theirs to read. If the latter, make sure that timeline isn’t too long. After all, you’re the one with the awesome book!

As far as the other agents, just shoot them a quick email saying you’ve received an R&R and will send the manuscript when it’s available again. This is a standard practice and, in all likelihood, will make them pay more attention! They’ll be asking who asked for revisions, and most likely interested in seeing them. Win-win.

3) What’s Your Plan for My Book?

There are tons of great articles out there about questions to ask an agent that offers representation. With an R&R, an agent hasn’t quite gotten that far yet but you are, in a sense, beginning a relationship. Just as with the revisions themselves, you’ll want to make sure you’re on the same page. So go ahead and do a little grilling! Presumably, you’ll already have researched the agent before querying him or her, but don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper. Find out what their expectations are for your book, how editorial they typically are, what their agenting style is like, the setup of their agency and any other questions you have.

This probably doesn’t need to be as intense of a conversation as if you’d received an offer, but it should be pretty close. After all, you’re considering entering into a business relationship with this agent. It’s in your interest–as with the edits–to make sure you’re on the same page. Why do a R&R if you ultimately aren’t going to be a match?

Remember: It’s Up to You

Here’s the thing — you don’t have to commit to an R&R. It could be the biggest thing to ever happen in your querying process and it could still be the wrong move. Conversely, it could be an incredibly good move for your career. It pays to be open to saying ‘yes’ but unafraid of saying ‘no.’ Not every open door is one you should walk through and you–the writer–always have the power to walk away.

Always keep in mind that your book is your work, and any industry professional who wants to sell it or publish it is on your team, not the other way around. An R&R request can be an incredible opportunity, but if it doesn’t feel right, saying so is the wisest course of action. This is your book, your career and you are firmly in control!


IMG_4628Bess Cozby writes epic stories in expansive worlds from her tiny apartment in New York City. By day, she’s an Editor at Tor Books, and Web Editor for DIY MFA. Her work is represented by Brooks Sherman of the Bent Agency. Tweet her at @besscozby, contact her at bess@diymfa.com, or visit her website at www.besscozby.com.

  • Great advice that I can use when I start querying again this year. I didn’t realize it’s an acceptable practice to let your pending response agents know that you’ve received a revision request and are essentially putting them on hold. Thanks!

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