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Posted: May 27th, 2010, 12:39 am
by GeeGee55
Hi, Nathan:

First, thank you for all the work you've put into these Forums.

I'm wondering about attempting revisions to my manuscript based on editorial comments made by a reader for an agent. They expressed interest in the manuscript, said it was very moving, but some secondary themes were undeveloped. Some of the comments they provided were specific, but others were kind of vague. They said they'd be happy to look at it again should I be open to doing the revisions. Is it ever ok to ask for more specific comments from the agent? Would it be ok to say what themes exactly and how would you like to see them developed?

Some friends are suggesting that I ought to be asking for a contract at this point and saying they would refuse to do any more gratis work, that the agent should provide me with an editor to help. I just wonder what you, as an agent, think about that.

Also, if you suggest revisions, do you have a time limit on when you would expect to receive the revised manuscript?

Thanks, again, for all the support you provide for writers.


Posted: May 27th, 2010, 8:46 am
by Bryan Russell/Ink
I hope you don't mind me jumping in here (and if you want to address it specifically to Nathan you can put it in the Ask Nathan thread), but I had a few thoughts.

First, there's no need to do anything precipitous. Do not ask for a contract first. They don't think the story is right yet, but they see potential. If they had wanted to offer a contract they would have (particularly if it was the agent's reader offering advice... as the agent may not have even seen it yet - obviously they won't offer a contract if that's the case). Many agents will suggest revisions if they see potential. One, because it will hopefully move the story into being something more representable. Two, they want to see how well you might work together. Three, they want to see that you're actually capable of the revisions needed. That's a big part of being a working writer. People can help with an editorial suggestion, but you still have to do the work. That's your job as a writer (certainly an agent is not going to provide you with an editor - that's not their job, nor is it financially feasible).

The key here, concerning what you should do, is deciding what you think of the editorial suggestions. You shouldn't necessarily be accepting them because they come from an agent, or because it might get you closer to representation (though these do have some importance). You should decide whether you agree with them or not, whether they will make your book better. If you think they'll make your book better you should make the changes, not to get the agent but because you want the best book possible. That will always help you in the long run. But if you disagree with the suggestions strongly, and think they'll hurt your book, think long and hard about trying to accomodate these ideas. If you have totally different visions for the work, is that the agent that's right for you? There's no need to make a snap decision, though. Your immediate reaction to revision ideas may not be the best one. If a professional gives you suggestions these ideas deserve a lot of careful thought. If you disagree with them, make sure you do it for the right reasons - that is, story reasons rather than emotional ones. If, however, you're completely undecided about the suggestions, give it more thought. Sometimes you won't know for sure about an idea unless you attempt it. Save your old draft and open a new version attempting the changes. See where they take you.

As for asking the agent for more suggestions... I think that's okay if it's limited. If you want clarity or depth on the suggestions they did offer, I think it's okay to write back with a few questions on point. I wouldn't ask for too much beyond that, as they likely would have offered more if they had such ideas and were willing to do so. You don't want to treat them like a free editorial service. They're very busy, and you're not a client, at least not yet. I think asking for clarification is fine. They obviously have some interest, which is really important. They see something they like. They've opened a dialogue. It's your job to act professionally, to act like a client they want to work with. But always remember: it's your story. It's your vision driving this. You have to do what feels right for you. Consider suggestions and act where you see it's appropriate.

Best of luck,


Posted: May 27th, 2010, 11:44 am
by Erica75
GeeGee, I'm jumping in, too, just for a second to offer story similar to yours. A writer I know was asked for a partial and the agent expressed how excited she was about the ms, requested a full, and then asked for a rewrite of the last 2/3 or so of the book to better reflect the style of the partial, then resubmit. She (the writer) couldn't pinpoint on her own what the agent was asking for, got a new critique partner to go through it quickly, and found a problem with her use of first person. She then acknowledged that she was so close to her characters, she saw her story like a movie in her head, and hadn't used near as much description as it progressed. She was able to agree with the agent's suggestion and is rewriting now.

Of course I'm not saying this is what your agent meant!! I'm just suggesting that maybe someone new could help you out - go through it and identify where some story lines are underdeveloped. If any are found, determine if you're willing to make the changes - if so, do it and resubmit - if not, try another agent and see if you get the same response or not. Congratulations on getting someone interested - and getting such a personalized response! I think there's something on Nathan's blog (or maybe even these forums) about resubmission timelines. If I come across it, I'll post it.


Posted: May 27th, 2010, 12:17 pm
by Bryan Russell/Ink
Oh, and I forgot the timeline thing (thanks Erica!). You don't have to rush. The agent has other clients and lots of other submissions to deal with, so they're not waiting to get your revision tomorrow. I think they're more interested in seeing it done well than seeing it done fast. Take the time you need to do it right. And make sure to mention the process when you write back (and you can even paste in the prior emails you exchanged, so as to orient them).



Posted: May 27th, 2010, 1:51 pm
by Mira
I agree with Ink.

First, I agree that I'm not Nathan either, so you didn't address this to me. :)

But I'll chime in by agreeing that you shouldn't ask for a contract. A lot of agents want revisions before they offer representation. They aren't willing to commit yet - if they were, they'd make an offer.

And I also agree - don't change your book unless it feels right to you! For one thing, who is the reader? It's not the agent? What qualifications do they have to make suggestions about your book? It's likely they are an intern, with very little experience, so do not change your book unless you completely agree!

I wonder if you're asking if you can bypass the reader and go directly to the agent? Maybe - very carefully - Nathan would know more than I - but I'm guessing, probably not....? The reader is there for a reason - mainly because the agent feels they are too busy and delegated this task.

Frankly, I personally would lose interest at this point anyway. I know it's exciting to be in communication with a representative of the agent's, but I have zero interest in working with an agent who delegates this type of thing. Delegating revisions - that's a deal breaker for me. But that's me. I hope you do keep in mind, though, that if one person saw enough to ask for revisions, then others most likely will too, and you've got something in your book that's valuable. :)

Good luck!


Posted: May 27th, 2010, 6:08 pm
by Nathan Bransford
Definitely agree with what the others have said in the thread, and this post may be helpful on what an agent thinks/expects: ... sions.html


Posted: May 27th, 2010, 10:13 pm
by GeeGee55
Thank you to everyone who jumped in. You provided me with exactly the info I needed to consider.


Posted: May 29th, 2010, 12:54 pm
by lac582
Some friends are suggesting that I ought to be asking for a contract at this point and saying they would refuse to do any more gratis work, that the agent should provide me with an editor to help. I just wonder what you, as an agent, think about that.
I'm not an agent, nor have even begun querying agents, but I saw some friends go through this with screenplays and I wanted to touch on this. I think you understand this already, but friends are good at filling your mind with doubt and second-guessing, so I'm going to give you a nudge--don't listen to them. Your friends are well meaning, pinpointing something that *feels* unfair and are on guard that you are somehow getting taken advantage of, but they likely don't understand how the industry works. The agent (or rather assistant) is not asking you to work for free. You are already working for free. You will never get paid by the agent. Even if you were signed and their client they would not be paying you to work on rewrites. You and the agent both will only get paid if the book is good enough to sell-- so that is the only motivation.

Really, the alternative to them giving you these notes for improvement was outright rejection with no explanation. The alternative was not an offer for representation, not yet. They saw enough potential in the manuscript to encourage you make it better and resubmit--but still with no promise of future representation.

And this is a good thing because you've clearly shown that you have talent. Now you just need to put in that extra effort to massage the manuscript into its best possible shape.

Of course Nathan's post that he linked to is invaluable :)