The Submission Experience Part 3: Revise and Resubmit
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
Hello, friends! And Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful break. I spent most of my break playing hard with my children, eating way too much chocolate, and revising KID MADE. Which is the perfect fit for today's blog post!
If you are new around here, you might not have caught Part 1 and Part 2 of my Submission Experience Series. Basically, I am on a mission to make the submission experience more transparent. Because really, no one knows what it all involves, and even when you are "on sub," it feels like a black hole of nothingness in some ways. So I'm hopeful that this series will shine a light on the entire process and help you learn just what it means to go on submission.
If you missed Part 1: Going on Sub or Part 2: Second Reads, make sure to check them out first and then come back to this post, because I will assume that you know the things I covered in those first posts within this post. And this one might be confusing if you haven't read those.
So, here we go with Part 3: Revise and Resubmit
So you've gone on sub. You've gotten some rejections, some ghosts, and then... a chance in SECOND READS! Woo hoo! That means you must be moments away from an offer, right?? RIGHT? Well... no.
There are still a few more steps. Today, we are talking about the chance of a revise and resubmit (often called an R&R in the publishing world).
Not everyone will see this step. Some books go straight from second reads on to acquisitions (We will talk in depth about acquisitions in next week's Part-4 post).
Others will get rejected after second reads (we talked about that in part 2).
But some will receive the R&R.
What exactly is an R&R? Well, it's pretty much exactly what it sounds like. An editor will ask you to revise your book and resubmit once the revisions are done. These revisions might be really in depth, or they might be more minor. Some ask for a complete overhaul of the book, and others ask for some clarification on one specific part. It really just depends on what an editor sees in the manuscript.
Now here's the thing about R&Rs... you might think that an R&R means that the team is really enthusiastic about you book and it's practically a sure thing that you will get the book deal once you make these changes. But... it's not. Let's take a look at the numbers from my poll of authors who have been on submission...
Of 102 total respondents, 56 have received an R&R. Of those, only 12 (just over 21%) received an offer after resubmitting...
Ooof. That, quite frankly, is a little rough. Because let me tell you, an R&R can really be a TON of work.
Let me share my experience... because I was one of those lucky 12 who did receive an offer after an R&R.
Back in January 2021, my rock-star agent got an email from Holly West, a senior editor at F&F Macmillan. She loved my idea for KID MADE but wanted to know if Emily could hop on a call to talk about her vision for the book. Emily took the call and then immediately called me. Holly wanted me to take my 40-page Picture Book about 15 kid inventors and make it into a 300 page Middle Grade book about 30-40 kid inventors. She had this really cool vision and she told me that her team was also fully on board and that if I could send them some sample pages plus a full outline of the same idea but for middle grade, that they would love to consider it for acquisitions.
Well, I actually LOVED the idea (keep reading below for my thoughts on how SUPER important it is for you to only do the R&R IF it resonates with you). I got really excited about the chance to write a middle grade book because it would let me really dive in deep to each of the stories of the inventors in my book.
I wrote the sample pages and prepared a full outline detailing what I would do for a middle grade version of my book. My agent helped me revise and polish and we sent it back off to Holly.
And she loved it! Her team still loved it too and we headed off to acquisitions (remember, details on that coming in Part 4), and ultimately received an offer.
So... I clearly had a great experience with my R&R. And I lucked out, because since it was Nonfiction, it could be bought on proposal and then I finished the book after receiving the offer. But as we saw above, only about 20% of writers receive an actual offer after completing the R&R... so how should you decide if you want to do it or not? Because it's clearly not a guarantee...
First, and I believe most importantly, only do the R&R if it resonates with you. Don't make major changes to your book just in the hopes that you will get an offer if you don't agree with them and know that they will make your book stronger. At the end of the day, this is your book, and you have to love it and believe in it. Go with your gut. Write the book that you want to write. Editors are amazing and make books WAY better. Promise. But they all have different life experiences that will contribute to their vision, and if it doesn't match up with yours, that is okay. Not every editor has to be the perfect match.
Second, make sure that they have someone else who is also interested in the changes. Has the book been to second reads? Does the rest of the team agree that if you make these changes they would be interested? Because as we read in Part 2, one editor loving the book alone unfortunately is not enough to get you the book deal.
Third, don't hesitate to ask for a phone call with the editor. They are super happy to clarify their vision and make sure you understand the revisions they are looking for. This can also help you know just how passionate they are about the project and get a feel for if they are truly interested in taking it on to acquisitions.
Fourth, talk openly with your agent. Do they feel like the editor is passionate about this project? Do they think the suggested revisions will make the book stronger? Would they read through your changes and let you know if they think it's ready to resubmit?
Mainly, just make sure that the revision is something you agree with, something that will make your book stronger, and that the editor AND a team are passionate about the project. I can't guarantee that doing these things will result in even making it to acquisitions or ultimately in an offer... unfortunately there are STILL more pieces that go in to this. But I can tell you that these things will help you know if you want to try the R&R.
(WHOO-- are you still with me? I know this is a lot).
If you don't want to do the R&R for whatever reason, your agent will let the editor know and you will move on to the next round of submission. But let's say you decide to take the R&R. What next? Well, you spend weeks and more likely months making the changes. You might hear back from other editors while you are making the changes. Your agent might let them know that you are working on a revision if it's appropriate. Some agents will pull other outstanding submissions while you work on the revision depending on if you for sure want this new version to be THE version on sub. Others will continue with the submission rounds that we talked about in Part 1 because the revisions you are making might just be a good option/new direction while the original submission is still also viable. It really comes down to what you and your agent decide is best for you and your book.
Finally, you'll finish the revision. You'll send it back to the editor and it's kind of like you went back to step one all over again. They will read the new version of the book. If they love it, they will share it with their team, if not, you'll get a rejection. If they do share with the team (second reads), then you have a chance of going on to acquisitions from there.
I mentioned it in a previous post, but it's important to remember that some editors communicate with agents about where your book is at ("I'm going to share this with my team." or "My team also loved this and we're prepping for acquisitions"), but some editors don't and you suddenly find out that you've been to second reads or acquisitions when you get the rejection or the offer. It all just depends. Weird, I know.
So after you finish that R&R, it's back into the waiting game. Which makes this post (and the other two) feel like a bummer of an ending... but that's publishing for you. You cross a milestone and wait some more. haha.
Next week I'll be talking all about acquisitions, so make sure you tune in then to read about next steps!
If you've had an R&R from an editor (or even from an Agent, because it happens in that stage too), let me know in the comments below how it went for you and any additional advice you might have.
So there you have it... all the nitty gritty on the Revise and Resubmit. Before I sign off, I wanted to share some of the anonymous comments from my survey respondents about their experiences with R&Rs:
"I had several R&Rs for picture books that did not sell, in addition to the one that did sell. It’s such a brutal process sometimes."
"My first book sold b/c an art director took interested in it at a conference, and then gave it to the editor. They had some revisions for me before offering."
Thank you all for reading! I wish you all the best on the submission journey and look forward to Part 4 about acquisitions and Part 5 about offers. Make sure you're subscribed to my blog so you don't miss those last two pieces of this process!
About Kailei Pew
Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. Kailei's debut Middle Grade Book, KID MADE will be coming to you from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Summer 2023