Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Revisions Without A Contract

Hi there. I don't want to take up too much of your time, so I'll get straight to the point. An executive editor at a major publishing company requested my manuscript. During the process of waiting, her editorial assistant was kind enough to tell me the executive editor loved the book and that she was just as adamant about working with me as I am with her. Her editorial assistant even asked me to critique a piece of her work, which I did.

The editor sent me a list of revisions she would like to see, which don't seem impossible to make, but my question is whether or not it's a good idea to make revisions to a manuscript that hasn't been accepted or rejected.

I've been in this situation a couple times with agents and been burned a couple times, so I'll give you my advice.

From your description, she seems pretty interested. Also if she recommends revisions and is very specific about them and they seem sensible to you, you should probably be making them anyway. That said, she hasn't made you an offer yet, so don't be surprised if you turn around and she says no after you did the revisions. On the other hand, you come out with a better manuscript for other editors based on what was probably good feedback, so it's not necessary win-win (i.e. this might not immediately result in a publishing deal) but I would make the revisions and resubmit.

11 comments:

Chumplet said...

I agree. Just make sure you keep a copy of the original manuscript on hand just in case another editor likes that one. After all, it might just be a matter of personal taste.

Some editors might hate the antagonist and some might like him or her. Some might feel that the hero is a wimp, and others might think he's too good to be true.

Or perhaps the editor will love the changes, and you're on board. If not, you have an improved MS to submit to the next agent or editor.

Anonymous said...

I did this and the editor didn't make me an offer. BUT I did like the suggestions, and felt they made the ms stronger.

Prepare yourself, though, that after all your work you might not get an offer, at least from that agent. I was very dissapointed when my offer didn't come through.

Good luck to you!

Chesya said...

What Chumplet said. Make sure you keep a copy of both versions. You never know which you'll need.

Charli Cole said...

I appreciate the advice of you all. I'm definitely keeping a copy of the previous version, but I do believe an executive editor would know what he or she is talking about.

So, I'm going to make the changes and resubmit. I know it's still not a sure thing, but you're right about me having a stronger and improved manuscript in the end. I'm going for it. Thanks for wishing me luck anonymous. Ms. Rejecter and chumplet...I found it very helpful.

Many hugs and much love to you all.

Charli Cole said...

First and foremost, I'd like to thank you all for the advice. I do still have a copy of the first version and intend to keep it.

However, I feel an executive editor with a major publishing company has to know what she's talking about. And after reading the two-page list of revisions, it doesn't seem as if she's asking too much. So, I'm going for it. Then I'll resbumit.

I'm smart enough to know that nothing in this industry is written in stone and she could possibly reject the novel. But all of you are right about me having an improved manuscript to circulate, if that's the case.

Many hugs and much love to you all.

Jens Altmann said...

I once met an agent at a convention. Said agent was kind enough to look at my manuscript and suggest improvements. I looked at the manuscript, applied the suggestions with which I agreed, and dismissed (after considering them) those with which I disagreed.

The agent didn't take me on as a client, but I'm still grateful that he took the time to advise me how to improve the manuscript. It found a publisher later.

'drew said...

This happened to me this year with my first to-be-published book. I'm grateful that my editor took the time to advise me about my manuscript even before it was in a shape that he was ready to accept. And the general suggestions he made were really good, and helped me see things about my writing. In our first conversation, he said, "I can see that you're a good writer, and I think that if you take a good look at this, you'll see what the problem is and how to fix it."

I think another part of it was sort of an audition for a two-way relationship. We writers often feel like we're auditioning for them, but they're also auditioning for us. He got a chance to see how I work with an editor, and I got a chance to see, before I signed the contract, how he works with writers. If it hadn't been a good fit, we wouldn't have gone forward with the deal after I'd revised.

I might disagree with the advice to keep old versions. If an editor asks you to change it into something that doesn't fit with what you want the book to be, you shouldn't go with that editor. If an editor gives you advice that helps you make a better book, then it will be a better book regardless. And by "better" I mean it better fulfills the reason you wanted to write a book. I know that the second draft I sent my editor is a better book, and if he'd passed on it, I would have kept the revisions.

Anonymous said...

The assistant asked for your advise on his/her manuscript???!!*#! That's a tiny bit weird. Hope that pays out for you in some way.

IA Writer said...

What ever happened to the paradigm "contract and revision letter"? I'm told by those more experienced than I, that you don't accept revision suggestions without the contract! This says they're serious, not just playing with your MS and jerking you around.

I sent a MS to a major NY publishing house. Six months later I got a letter and phone call: "I like this and our readers will too, but could you please tweak factors A, B, and C, and resubmit."

I was thrilled. I tweaked A, B, and C, and resubmitted. Six months later I got a rejection. Personalized, but still a "no."

If I'd had it to do over again, I'd have done the tweaks, saved them in a new file, and written the editor back saying politely, "Revisions done. Contract, please."

Sign me, sadder but wiser in Iowa

Kidlitjunkie said...

Sometimes, the MS is good, but not quite there yet. And if we do sign up the writer, the MS will definitely go through many more revisions before it’s ready to be published—make no mistake in thinking that these are all the revisions that are going to happen.

But if the MS isn’t quite there, but it’s close, sometimes we’ll ask for some revisions. This is for two reasons: (a)to see if you can get the MS to the point where it’s good enough for us to take a chance on it/bring it to an acquisitions meeting/put our reputations as editors on the line for it by signing it, and (b)to see if we can work with you. To see if you are receptive to critique and revisions, if you are willing to make changes and if you are professional.

Making the revisions, even before you have a contract, can only help you. And even if we don’t offer you a book deal on this book in the end, it can reflect well on you for future submissions.

Janny said...

I once completely revised a book--I mean, took out whole sections and changed the order of scenes, made characters different, the whole shot--on the request of an agent. Of course, I was young and stupid, :-) but I was at least smart enough to keep a copy of the original!

A couple of months later, after I made all these changes, I still hadn't heard from said agent, so I called her assistant...who couldn't find the revised manuscript in the office. (Couldn't find? Hello? It's a biiiiiig stack of paper...)So she asked me, very nicely, if I could send another complete copy. This was in the days before electronic submission was a reality, so we're talking reprinting 300+ pages or so, remailing, etc.

Like I said, I was young and stupid, so I did it. I did joke with the assistant that maybe the first copy was in the trunk of the agent's car. Little did I know!

Some time later, I got a rejection--and BOTH copies of the manuscript back in a large envelope. Apparently they found it when it was time to reject it. (So maybe it was in the trunk of the agent's car, after all?) Gave me a moment of pause as well. They never did say how the first one got lost, or how they found it, which also made me wonder.

Afterward, I wondered why I didn't ask for some of that postage back, not to mention the printing costs of sending two copies of a manuscript they were too scatterbrained to know they already had. I probably wouldn't have gotten anything, but it would have been fun to ask!

Before I could act much further on this, however, the agency was charged in the EditInk scandal, and soon they dropped out of sight...

Long story short, unless the agent and I really click and/or I'm getting vibes that if I make these revisions, we're a go...I think making revisions without a contract, either way, is a waste of time. But that's just being once burned speaking, as well. I have to say that, even with that fiasco behind me, I'd evaluate the request on an individual basis now. What I wouldn't do is immediately hop through the hoops and do all requested changes with nothing more in the offing than a possible second read!

My take,
Janny