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Recovering from Submitting a Manuscript too Early

It happens to nearly every writer. You were convinced your book was as perfect as you could make it so you queried. Then you submitted. Then a few months later you had an epiphany. It wasn’t ready, but revisions fixed it. Now, what do you do about those agents who already rejected?

A quick search of agent Tweets will tell you that every agent has a different answer. I err on the side of, “what’s the worst that can happen.” While other agents say once is enough.

If you are following this blog you will be well into your next book before you even have the epiphany and the real consideration isn’t whether you should query an agent with the same book, but how can you take what you’ve learned from those revisions and put it in your second book.

Once you query your book you should already be writing your next book. In fact, I wouldn’t even start querying until I’ve started writing the next book. Let that first book marinate a bit before sending it out. This allows you time for epiphanies. It also allows time to have the next thing, which is always better than the last thing.

If the revision epiphany still pulls at you it really doesn’t hurt to requery a few of the agents who said no. That being said, you also don’t want to be the guy who keeps querying the same book over and over. That’s not something to be remembered for.

The choice is yours, but if you do decide to query again you better make sure the book is significantly different and not just a few line changes here and there.

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8 comments

  1. Attended a writers’ conference over the weekend and came away wondering about this very idea. Good to know. I do have one book being published and working on the sequel, but there’s still the one looking for a home.

  2. After years of writing, revising, rewriting and polishing my genre fiction manuscript I was convinced that my copy editor’s delay in responding was due to her amazement (the movie ‘Limitless’ came to mind). I believed she’d been so impressed she’d been frantically calling all literary agents and publishers to share her good fortune: finding the next ‘Lee Child meets Clive Cussler’ novelist.
    Sheesh, was I wrong.
    When my copy editor finally returned the manuscript I was ‘literarily’ (play on words) crushed.
    I’d been working on a foreign assignment at that time, living in a dry camp with no alcohol to drown my sorrows—I’d anticipated fame and fortune, which I’d planned to use to get me out of the jungle—and now had to face reality: I wasn’t going to be a bestseller.
    I put the manuscript on hold and contemplated my future. After a few days I decided that the money I’d invested in copyediting ($1,800.00) would not be wasted; I would consider it an investment in learning and improving my manuscript. I began the process of revising (more than 400 comments and suggestions) with trepidation. To my surprise, I did find a few smiley-face symbols in the right-hand margin with positive feedback, which helped buffer constructive feedback. It took me six weeks to revise my manuscript; then, after two more revisions (more investment) I flew out of the jungle in a helicopter to Panama City, Panama with a polished manuscript on my laptop.

    The moral of this comment (the lesson): creative writing is a very enjoyable hobby for many; however, if you want to produce a quality product, and establish significant readership, invest your time and money in those who can help you learn and succeed. If you’re a self-published author, as I am, consider investing in cover design, formatting, off-set printing and marketing, marketing, marketing.

  3. Thank you for uncloaking much of the mystery.
    Having suffered a recent epiphany and done the required penance for jumping the gun, should I say up front that the agent rejected the MS earlier? Thanks to your informative blogs I now know that QM will spit this information out, but for agents who don’t use it, how important is transparency?

    1. I always say err on the side of transparency. Agents might not remember your query, but they will likely remember what they’ve previously read and it’s always better to know that’s the case upfront.

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