So you’ve written The Book. You’ve polished The Book. You’ve emailed The Book to an assortment of wonderful, helpful critique partners and betas. You’ve polished more.
You’ve entered the query trenches.
Then you spend a long few weeks probably watching too many episodes of Downtown Abbey or getting lost in a Law & Order marathon. You do everything possible to distract yourself from the obvious. The agent has not responded. They have neither approved nor rejected your query. It’s like watching grass grow, is it not? Or is it more like waiting for a pot of water to boil? Whatever the case, it is a frustrating situation in which to find yourself.
How long must you wait? Will it be a few days? A few weeks or even a few months? Will it be…forever? Are you waiting on a response that will simply never come? When do you stop waiting? When do you stop hoping? You can drive yourself mad just thinking and waiting.
AT LAST! A reply! You see the little email from The Agent on your phone, and you rush to the computer because you’d rather read it on the big screen. You’ve read every interview this agent ever posted, stalked her Twitter for three straight months, and now the moment has finally arrived: An offer or a rejection.
Except it’s neither. You get a very long email with a number of “I loved” and “needs work.” The list of suggested edits goes on forever, and so far, the edits don’t seem too difficult.
Your initial thought:
Then you keep reading. You get to the paragraph with a MAJOR revision, one that would completely alter your main character and really the entire book.
So what do you do? Well, you email those critique partners and betas again. You forward the agent’s comments and your own thoughts in giant red font (HOMG WHAT AM I GOING TO DO THIS IS INSANE).
Take a deep breath. Now answer these questions:
- Do you see the reason behind the agent’s suggestion and how it would improve the story? If yes, continue.
- Do you like the agent and all of their comments? If yes, continue.
- Do the critique partners and beta readers agree (at least mostly)? If yes, continue.
- Is the edit doable? If yes, continue.
- Are you willing to do it? If yes, then you should.
If you answered no to any of these questions:
Question #1: Maybe you see where the agent is coming from, but you don’t think it’s necessary. The whole suggestion came out of left field. The critique partners and betas never mentioned it. Maybe you have an idea how to fix it without this exact suggestion. Emailing the agent with your thoughts isn’t such a bad idea. Show him/her a number of options to correct the problem and ask their professional opinion. If an agent took the time to read your full and write such a long email AND ask to probably read it again, he/she is interested in your manuscript.
Question #2: If you don’t agree with the majority of the agent’s edits and they don’t match what anyone has ever told you, then maybe this isn’t the agent for you. It’s your work, and if you have your own vision for it and the agent does not share it, then you should look for an agent that fits better with you.
Question #3: So your readers disagree. A good idea would be to edit your first chapter based on the agent’s edits and send it to them to see what they think is stronger, your original or the revised. If the majority of them still prefer the original (and you do as well), then maybe this isn’t the agent for you.
Question #4: So the edit doesn’t seem fixable. It would completely alter your story into something unrecognizable to the original, and even then, you’re not positive you can manage to fix that underlying problem. Again, I would consider emailing the agent your ideas for any fixes, and perhaps they will clarify or change their suggestion. It’s worth a shot, especially if you see why the agent suggested the edit.
Question #5: You’ve written and revised this book for months, maybe years. The idea of returning to it without an agent contract literally makes you exhausted and sick to your stomach. The agent wouldn’t make you go through such a tiring process of editing if she wasn’t interested in your project, so if you’re not ready to jump right into revisions, give it some time. It’s okay if you never look at The Book again, but sometimes all it takes is a few good books, a Pinterest inspiration board, and a good few days/weeks of rest to get you excited about a project again.
And of course, no matter what stage in the revision process you are, clap yourself on the back. An agent likes your project enough to read it all again, and The Book will be better for the edits in the end.
Amanda Foody is a former intern with Holloway Literary.