Very early on in querying a manuscript, I received an R&R (Revise & Resubmit) from an agent I admired. When she asked if I’d be interested in revising my work, I quickly agreed. Honestly, at the time I had no clue what an R&R even meant. All I knew was an agent liked my work and I was thrilled. I reached out to all my writing buddies and asked them to educate me on the process. Amidst some major hand holding, I tried to address all the issues the agent pointed out and revise based on her pages of notes. The entire experience felt like a whirlwind I was utterly unprepared for – and it turned out that gut feeling was correct because the agent eventually passed.
Looking back now I wonder if I knew more about the process I would have handled it better. With that in mind, I reached out to Kate Brauning, Senior Editor at Entangled Publishing, and asked if she would provide an inside look at what she considers before offering an R&R on a manuscript. Hopefully her words will provide a better understanding of the process and what it takes to make the experience a successful one.
Behind The Curtain: Revise and Resubmit (R&Rs)
By Kate Brauning
In my job as an acquiring senior editor at Entangled Publishing, I read a ton of manuscripts submitted by authors or pitched to me by agents. It’s a wonderfully fun and exciting job—I never know when I’m going to discover something fantastic.
For me to make an offer of publication, I have to be convinced a manuscript is A) in very strong shape—editing will polish and sharpen it, but it doesn’t require much if any rewriting. B) It has to be marketable. I have to believe we can deliver on the expectation that this book will sell. C) I have to love it—I read a MS I acquire 6-8 times, and going 3-5 rounds of revisions with an author is such an investment that I have to know it’s a project I’m passionate about. D) Finally, it has to be something I can get approved by the acquisition board.
Sometimes, one or more of those things is missing, and I decide to give the author a chance to revise and resubmit. Here’s how I work through that process:
When I decide to offer an R&R, it’s because I can’t accept it as-is, but I don’t want to pass. However, I don’t offer R&Rs just because there’s a story flaw that needs solved before the MS is solid. There are a lot of manuscripts that I enjoy that need a set of revisions, but I end up passing instead of offering an R&R. To offer an R&R, I have to be really passionate about the MS. I have to love something so much that I’m willing to do additional work beyond the standard for acquiring and editing a book. I’m investing time and energy into it for no guaranteed results, and I’ll still have the normal workload for the book once it comes back to me if it’s successful and we acquire it. Oftentimes what grabs me in this situation is the world, the voice, or a character. I connect with it, I love it, and I want to give the author some direction to get it to that next level where I could potentially acquire it. The R&R is also a great chance to see how I work with an author, and if our visions match up for the story.
I usually do not offer an R&R if the writing is weak (that’s very difficult to overhaul, and usually not successful), if the concept is flat or problematic, or if the MS lacks voice. Those things really require a complete rewrite.
After I discuss the R&R with the author and they let me know they are open to it and our visions for where the revisions should go match up, I write up and send an editorial letter. This looks a lot like the editorial letters I send to my clients. I discuss the issues I want to see changed, explain why they are issues to me, and then give some examples of solutions, but let the author ultimately decide how she or he wants to solve them.
Here’s the tough truth: The changes required are usually significant. When you’re offered an R&R, if it looks like small changes, dig deeper. If the agent/editor thought only small changes were needed, they probably wouldn’t be asking for an R&R. They’d just acquire the MS.
When an R&R is returned to me, I look to see if the author has fully executed the revision notes. Not just whether or not she or he has solved the problems—I want to see that the author has taken ownership of the issues, applied their own vision and passion to them, and brought everything full-circle. Can there still be minor issues? Of course. But A-D above still have to be a solid yes.
Here’s the great news about R&Rs: Even though receiving one means the revisions most likely aren’t light, it also means the agent/editor sees something significant in your MS. Something they’re passionate about. Something they love so much that they’re willing to not just work for it, but do extra work for no guaranteed results. And that’s a huge, wonderful compliment.
Kate Brauning is a senior editor at Entangled Publishing. She’s also a YA author (How We Fall, F&W Media 2015) and is represented by Carlie Webber. Kate loves unusual people, good whiskey, dark chocolate, everything about autumn, bright colors, red maple trees, superstitions, ghost stories, anything Harry Potter, night skies, pie, and talking about books. She’s working hard on her next few novels, and if you see her, say hello, because she’d love to take you out for coffee and ask you what you’re reading.
Author website: www.katebrauning.com