The Mistake of Making Edits to Please an Agent

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 07 2016

Anytime I reject requested material I make an effort to say something about why I’m rejecting the book. Sometimes it’s as benign as, “I didn’t connect with this.” Sometimes it’s harsher, “I don’t feel this is ready to be seen by publishers just yet.” Sometimes it’s really specific, “the voice didn’t feel right for YA.”

I wonder though if I’m doing the author a disservice by giving only a one-line reason for why I stopped reading, because if I’m rejecting, there’s likely so much more wrong with the book.

Occasionally, when I reject something the author will ask if I would take another look should she revise to make the book darker, edgier, a historical, a YA, or whatever magic talking point I gave in my rejection. While I’m usually happy to see a rewrite, I’m skeptical of the author who is willing to change the entire style and genre of the book to please a one line rejection. Honestly, I just don’t think it’s a good idea, because by making any of those changes you are essentially using old material to write a new book.

If an agent or editor says something that truly lights that lightbulb, you should definitely go ahead and revisit the book, but if you’re changing something simply because that’s your dream agent or the only agent who requested a full, I think you might need to reconsider whether it’s the best idea, or even something you can execute.

5 responses to “The Mistake of Making Edits to Please an Agent”

  1. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    I take a one-line rejection as a better rejection than a form rejection, but not as an invitation to ask for a resubmission. Surely it’s only if the agent asks for a ‘revise and resub’ that it is okay to actually resubmit?

  2. Avatar Elissa says:

    I would look hard at any personalized comment from an agent and see if it makes sense to me. If the comment gives me an “A-ha!” moment, then I most certainly would revise. If it doesn’t click with me, I’d just file it under “at least I got a personalized rejection” and move on.

    Even if I revised, I wouldn’t resubmit to that particular agent unless she had asked for a revise/resend. If her comment resulted in a revision that eventually ended up with an agent and book deal, I would very likely send a thank you about how a personalized rejection became a good thing for me. At least, I think an agent would want to know that her (no doubt long-forgotten) comment was helpful in the end.

    • Jessica Faust Jessica Faust says:

      BookEnds agents might be anomalies when it comes to this, but if an agent went out of her way to make suggestions and you feel they’ve made a difference in the book or did a massive rewrite, I’d rather you query me again, then think you can’t. A thank you is wonderful, but the chance to see it a second time might be a better thank you.

  3. Avatar Hollie says:

    I followed a link somewhere to one of the agent listing sites. A lot of the fantasy/paranormal agents want YA. It’s very fashionable at the moment. I did concider changing things to fit what appears to be the agents want list.
    But who are you then writing for, and for what reason?
    Yes I would love Bookends to represent me, but, (sorry ladies) I’m not writing a book to please you, although I hope it does.
    I’ll take advice from anyone, but I’m not sure, I’d change my whole ms because of one line.

    • Avatar racherin says:

      It depends on who you read – I just saw a tumblr from a popular YA agent who said that YA fantasy “may be dying.” She felt like she wasn’t seeing anything new…