This post was originally written for Be Your Own Mentor, a revision-focused blog that aims to help writers revise and get query-ready on their own. You can learn more here!
You’ve done your research, polished your query, sent it out to agents, and gotten some requests. You wait patiently and work on other things—wait, that isn't right. You refresh your inbox all day every day until finally, finally, a little “one” appears. You’ve got mail! Hooray!
You scan the email. It’s not a request for a phone call. But it’s also not a rejection. It’s a revise and resubmit, the response that lives somewhere in the space between an offer and a pass. A revise and resubmit is exactly what it sounds like: an invitation to revise your manuscript and resubmit it to the agent once you’ve completed a revision. Essentially, it’s an open door.
When I was querying my manuscript, I had already done several revisions and a total rewrite. I’ll admit I was not in the headspace to do another revision when I received my first R&R. I had already drafted my next project and was eager to start revisions.
But then I received a second R&R.
Then a third.
And it became clear to me that there was something there in the book I was querying and I wasn’t ready to put it aside just yet. I had poured so much of myself into that book, and I absolutely loved it. I believed in it. I felt like I owed it to myself and my book to revise it again. So I did.
If you’ve received an R&R and you’re unsure of how to proceed, this is what worked for me:
1. Ask yourself if the feedback you’ve received aligns with your vision for your manuscript.
It’s your book, after all. If the feedback you got makes it clear the agent didn’t really get your book or what you were going for, then maybe it’s an easy “no thanks.” But if you’ve let the feedback sit for a while (which is a crucial step—so often our first reaction when we get feedback is a defensive THEY ARE SO WRONG MY BOOK IS AMAZING, and it isn’t until after you sit with it a while that you realize, while your book may be amazing, it could also use a little work) and it’s sparking ideas, helping you see areas the book could improve, and getting you excited, then there’s a good chance the feedback aligns with your vision for the story, and in fact, aims to help your vision for it come through even more.
2. Ask yourself if you do the R&R and it doesn’t result in an offer, if you’d still be glad you did it.
I think this one is important—an R&R isn’t a guarantee of an offer, which is why you need to believe in the changes you’re making to your manuscript. I knew that even if the R&Rs didn’t result in an offer, I’d still be glad I did it. My manuscript would be closer to the vision I had for it, it would be stronger, and I could query this stronger version if the R&R didn’t work out. For me, it was an obvious answer. I’m a big believer that writing time is never wasted time—you’re always learning. But if you’re forcing yourself to do a revision your heart isn’t in in hopes of getting an offer, it may not be the best step forward.
3. Compile your feedback.
If you receive one R&R or several, it’s important to go through the feedback and figure out what you’re going to revise for. Just because you’ve decided to revise doesn’t mean you have to take every single piece of feedback you received. Take what works for you, what aligns with your vision for the story, and leave the rest.
If you’ve received more than one R&R, compare them. If multiple people are pointing out something that isn’t working for them, it probably needs a closer look. But if there’s a piece of feedback and it’s the first/only time you’ve heard it, consider if it resonates with you. I got a lot of contradictory feedback in the R&Rs I received, so it was really important to revise for the things that resonated with me.
Once you’ve compiled all your feedback and figured out what you’re revising for, you can write yourself an edit letter.
4. Don’t rush it.
It can be natural to get an R&R and feel like you have to revise right away and send the revision back in two weeks so the agent doesn’t forget about you. Don’t do this. They won’t forget about you, I promise. Everything I’ve read from agents regarding R&Rs is that they want you to sit with the feedback, really think about it, and do a thoughtful, thorough revision. Don’t do a few line edits or scene shifts and think that’s enough; you want the agent to see that you really thought about their feedback and took the time to implement it well. (If you’re unsure of how to tackle a big revision, I have a post here that details my revision process.)
I’ve read that the sweet spot for sending an R&R back is somewhere between three to six months. Now I’m sure there’s an even wider range than this, and agents aren’t sitting there counting the exact days it took you to revise, but the point is to take your time and do a good job. (For anyone curious, I sent my revision back just over three months after receiving the R&Rs).
5. Use your critique partners.
After I completed my revision, I didn’t want to send it out without another set of eyes on it first. I had a few CPs who had read earlier versions of the manuscript read the new version as well (good CPs are worth their weight in gold). I sent them the R&Rs I’d received so they could see the exact feedback I was revising for, and asked them to read specifically to see if they felt I’d addressed everything I set out to. Once I got their feedback, I did one more (very small) round of revisions based on their feedback.
6. Send it out and celebrate!
Once you send out your revision, celebrate! An agent saw enough potential in you and your writing to offer feedback and ask to read your manuscript again. That’s amazing!
I hope this helps! It took me a while to fully commit to revising my book, but I’m so glad I did. That revision I completed is the revision I’m most proud of in all of my writing journey to date—it made my book so much stronger, and I came out of it loving my book even more than I did before.
The other great thing about an R&R is that if it does result in an offer (or even if it doesn’t, and you go on to query that agent with another book down the road), you already have an idea of what it’s like to work with them. You’ve already built up a rapport and know what they’re like editorially, which is a huge help when deciding if they might be a good fit for you.
So, to everyone out there who opens that email and sees an R&R, I’m cheering for you so loudly! And while it doesn’t always result in an offer, it absolutely can: I ended up with multiple offers of rep shortly after sending my revision, and I signed with the agent I received my second R&R from.