7 Steps for Tackling a Revise & Resubmit (R&R)

Image: Typewriter typing the words "rewrite… edit… rewrite… edit… rewrite"
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Today’s post is by editor and book coach Kimberly Fernando (@StorytellersSK).

Receiving a R&R from an agent or editor can be both confusing and exciting at the same time. It might feel a bit disappointing because you were hoping for an offer, but let there be no mistake, an R&R is good news. The agent sees something in your work, and they are inviting you to submit again. They have taken time out to read your pages and provide notes to help you improve your manuscript. R&Rs don’t happen to everyone, and an agent doesn’t send them unless they’re genuinely interested.

An R&R is a fabulous opportunity to show agents or editors your revising skills and how you interpret their feedback. First and foremost, it provides agents and editors with insight as to how you handle revisions.

  • They want to see how you take the feedback and apply it to your manuscript.
  • They want thoughtful revisions that strengthen your manuscript.
  • They don’t want to see surface-level revisions (unless that really is the feedback you’ve received—but if that’s the case, I would expect they would have gone straight to an offer).
  • They want you to take your time. They don’t want a writer to turn around the manuscript in a few days or even a week or two.

By taking your time and applying thoughtful revisions, you give yourself the best possible chance at success. Besides, agents and editors need distance from a project too, that way they can look at it with fresh eyes the same way writers need distance between rounds of revising.

Not every writer will decide to take on a R&R, and that’s okay. You may not agree with the feedback or share the same vision. But if you’re open to it, what have you got to lose by spending a little more time revising your manuscript?

If you’re up to the challenge, here’s how to tackle a Revise & Resubmit.

1. Digest the feedback.

Review the feedback carefully, then let it sit for a day or two while you mull it over and decide whether you will proceed with none, some, or all of the revision requests.

2. Reply to the agent/editor.

After reading the notes from the agent or editor, reply and thank them for their feedback.

  • Let them know whether the feedback resonated and if you’ll be amenable to revising and resending the manuscript.
  • Use this opportunity to ask questions if there is anything you’re not clear about regarding their feedback. Don’t go overboard with the questions though. Only ask about items you’re truly not clear about.
  • Optional: Provide an estimated timeline to complete the revisions. For example: “I expect these revisions will take me approximately 3 months to complete.”

3. Analyze the feedback.

This is where you dive in and really analyze what the agent or editor has provided in their notes. Sometimes, feedback is not cut and dry, and you’ll need to read between the lines. In this case, I recommend asking a trusted friend, critique partner, or editor to look over the feedback and provide their thoughts. At this stage, you’ll want to break up the feedback elements into manageable chunks based on what the agent or editor has provided in their notes. You can start a revision document and add their notes under the headings that apply. For example:

  • Characterization
  • World-building
  • Romance thread
  • Climax
  • Pacing in first half
  • Romantic tension
  • And so on (based on the agent’s specific feedback)

4. Brainstorm ideas and solutions.

Now it’s time to think about the feedback you agree with and want to incorporate into your manuscript. Use the revision document you created in Step 3 to brainstorm ideas for how you will tackle each element. For example, you might use characterization and world-building worksheets to help strengthen those aspects of your story.

5. Revise one element at a time.

It’s sometimes easier to revise one element at a time, especially since elements are typically threaded throughout the entire story. For example, if the agent has given you notes on characterization, work on that element alone until you are satisfied with the revisions. Then tackle the next element, and so on.

6. Obtain critique feedback.

Don’t forget this step! Ask your critique or beta partners if they are willing to read your revised manuscript. Most will be happy to oblige since they are excited about your R&R! A freelance editor or book coach can also help at this stage, or even at the beginning stage to help interpret the agent or editor’s feedback and ensure you’re on track with your revisions. Be sure to let your readers know if you want them to keep an eye out for specific elements or sections in your story.

7. Submit the revision.

Now that you’ve spent time digesting, analyzing, brainstorming, revising, and getting feedback, and the revisions are complete, it’s time to resubmit your manuscript.

  • Reply to the agent using the same email thread; thank them again for their notes.
  • You may want to offer a high-level overview of the revisions you made, though this isn’t a requirement (unless the agent specifically asks for it).
  • Be patient. Remember that agents and editors have other clients and deadlines—they may not get back to you right away, except for a quick check-in to let you know they’ve received your revised manuscript.
  • Start working on your next project! If the R&R is successful, the agent will want to know what you’re working on next. This way, you’ll have something to share with them.

An R&R is hard work, and it doesn’t guarantee an offer in the end. Regardless of the outcome with the R&R agent or editor, you’ll have a much stronger, tighter, fleshed out, and well-paced story that might be successful with a different agent or publisher if you begin querying again.

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