Wednesday, June 20, 2012

R&R doesn't always mean a vacation

Originally I thought the only success querying was an offer of representation, but over the past couple of years I've realised there are various levels of success with querying.

The stages levels of success of querying include:

  1. No reply/form rejection (not successful).
  2. Personalised reply with feedback (there's something there).
  3. Request (you've intrigued them)
  4. R&R - Revise and resubmit (oh you're so close).
  5. Offer of representation (woo hoo, you rock).
I want to have a look at these four levels a bit closer.
No reply/form rejection

If you are consistently getting rejections through no reply or form letters then something isn't hitting the mark. There are a few reasons for this, but it's probably because your query letter isn't drawing the agents in. Try workshoping your query letter with friends or entering query critic competitions.

Another issue could be your sample writing. Your opening has to be captivating, drawing the agent in. If your MS starts with someone waking up, then agents will probably pass on seeing more. No snoozy starters.

Another reason you could be getting rejections is because you're querying agents who don't represent your genre/category. There's plenty of online resources out there that can help you find information on agents, including the Agentopia section of YAtopia.

Personalised reply with feedback

It's really rare nowadays for an agent to five feedback in a rejection. And I mean real, personalised feedback. If it says "it wasn't for me" or the like then it's still a form rejection. But if you get a response that includes a direct reason why you've been reject such as "great concept, but the opening is too quiet" then that is actually classed as a success.

Yes, it's still a rejection, but the agent liked something about it enough to give you some encouragement and constructive feedback. Take heart when you get those rare emails and take note of the little pieces of advice gold that you're getting as it's rare.


Yes! Your query letter has worked (along with your opening pages if you've submitted them). This is a fantastic sign. It doesn't always lead to representation but it means that you've mastered the query letter and possible how to writer a killer opening. Now the nail-biting begins.

R&R: Revise and Resubmit

This is such a good sign for a writer. The agent has read your work, but doesn't hit the mark for them. But instead of passing they want you to do some revision on your manuscript and send it back. They will include feedback on what they'd like to see changed, and if you think it's a workable idea then you might just find that you send them back exactly what they want.

However, this one is tough. You may decide that the direction the agent wants you to go in doesn't match what you want for the manuscript, in which case it's likely you won't go through with it. Even if you do everything they ask for, it doesn't mean that they'll sign you.

R&R is no holiday. It's tough work to massage a manuscript into what someone else wants.

Offer of Representation

That's the home run. You've written a query that's drawn in an agent and they've fallen in love with your writing. Now the next round of waiting starts as your agent does the "querying" to publishers.

A good way to get into the mind of an agent is to look for places online where agents discuss why they pass on projects. Nelson Literary Agent Sara Megibow regularly does    on twitter, which gives great insight into slush reading. WriteOnCon is only a few months away and they have regular live events with agents. Last year's included the opportunity of a live query feedback event. You can also see the slush from an intern's perspective with The Super Intern Contest on Brenda Drake's blog with Louise Fury's intern Erica Chapman.

I hope that this gives you hope if you've gotten more than just a form rejection, and a way forward if that's what you've received to date. Remember, the road to publication isn't always easy and you're guaranteed to fail if you quit.

If you've been querying - please share your advice and insights.


  1. The one thing that I really feel is important in querying: WAIT TO QUERY! Mistakes are bound to happen, and that's how you (and I) learn about this business. My mistakes were CRUCIAL for me to getting my MS in shape, but the one bit of advice is that don't rush off queries right after you finish your first draft! I did that, and ended up with 65/65 rejections. Use a few months to heal your MS and query, and then dive in. I plan to do so in a few weeks :) Great post! Hope I get that request soon :))

    1. Waiting is crucial for sure. The first draft isn't what you should send off and not always the second draft. My MS went through several revisions and a rewrite before it was in great shape. Unfortunately I got lots of requests on earlier drafts that ultimately got rejected. But my query letter was obviously good (thanks to workshopping it with friends).

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. LOL! This is awesome. I love the kitty pics to go along with the querying stages. The best advice I can give is to always take rejection gracefully. Not doing so can ruin any chance a writer will ever have of getting repped. Agents talk among each other and they love to share stories of the bad ones.

    1. Great advice. Agents definitely talk and a rude response could haunt you. It's a small industry in reality so play nice. Also, just because THAT MS wasn't for a certain agent doesn't mean they won't love what you write next. Don't burn bridges.

  3. My CP's and I have all been in each stage of these expect the offer of rep. And you are right about the R&R being no picnic. But hopefully in the end it can be worth it.

    1. Hopefully the offer stage is just around the corner. I've been through all the stages. Even though so far the R&R hasn't turned into an offer I'm hoping it will soon.

      Good luck!

  4. Great summary & breakdown!

    The two missing elements I see in the exposition of #1 No reply/form rejection are:

    - The market could be oversaturated with the genre
    [Search the #askagent hashtag on Twitter or simply check out the current wants/don't want's in online agent interviews. Most agents aren't shy about what genres they are 'over'.]

    - The basic premise of the book could be unmarketable
    [No matter how good the query and/or the mss, if the agent won't be able to place it with a publisher, they won't pick it up.]

    So whattya do if either of these cases is true?
    Move on. Write that next book!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Great points. Once the market is flooded with a genre, like dystopian at the moment, it becomes so much harder to sell. You need a super high concept hook with amazing writing to stand out in the slush. There definitely comes a point where you have to move on, no matter ow much you love a manuscript.

  5. I'll add one of the most common notes I've seen on twitter on queries feedback is that the writing is weak and/or the concept isn't strong enough. High concepts are what agents want - new, fresh, original.

  6. I went through ALL those stages of querying before getting an agent.

    I remember when I got the point where getting a request for a full was a win, because no matter what, I was going to get free agent feedback on my book.

    1. It does feel like such a win. To be honest I think I still got some form letters with passes on full requests.