Editing Rant: Revise & Resubmit

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In May’s Editing Rant on No Squiggles, I mentioned requesting a Revise and Resubmit (R&R) and said I would come back to it.

So here we are.

A R&R is when a writer has sent in a manuscript, either solicited or unsolicited, and the publisher came back with – “not good enough, try again” and here as some suggestions on how to do that based on what they thought was wrong.

Now what should the writer do? Make the change or leave it the same?

Remember the publisher has REJECTED the original submission. The writer is NOT under contract. There is no pay, no guarantee of acceptance, and no obligation to make the change on the writer’s end or accept it on the publisher’s end.

Some writers say never change a manuscript unless you are under contact. That is good advice. Why do changes when the publisher might reject those, and the next publisher might ask to put those changes back in? If the writer has a solid product, changing stuff to please instead of just sending it off to the next publisher is a waste of good writing time. Better to write new words while waiting on a sale than forever updating one book.

The question that must be asked is – is the manuscript a solid product?

Well, what changes are the editor/publisher asking for?

When they say things like “make the main character (a different gender) because it will sell better” – that one is a “no” unless the writer wants more than anything in the world to be published by that particular publisher. And really, the writer should rethink that – because it is a big world out there.

When they say things like “the ending is too abrupt, it’s missing the falling action and resolution after the climax. Did you mean it to be a cliffhanger?” And the writer answers the question, “No.” Then heck yeah, the writer needs to sit down and do an R&R and make the story what it was intended to be.

The problem is most R&R requests lie somewhere in between. 

So a writer should review the R&R request and see if the problems mentioned are the personal taste of the publisher or an actual weakness in the manuscript. And also see if the suggestions provided are good suggestions, or if the writer has an even better solution. The request to bump up the tension of the sagging middle by adding a fight between the love interest might be better resolved by adding a limited sidequest plotline with a time crunch – which would be truer to the story of soulmates in danger.

So what should you do if you get an R&R request on a submission. First celebrate – the publisher/submission editor cared enough about your submission to give it a second chance. They want to see if it can be made better.

Second, decide if what they want is something you want to do. If not, send them a thank you, but at this time, you will be considering other options in lieu of a resubmit. If yes, send them a thank you and the approximate date to get back the changes to them. Two to three months is an expected window. If it runs longer, get in touch again – this is important as editors can change and you need to keep current with where to send your R&R.

Good luck.