Here's a blurb from Goodreads:
Honorine's life as as maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia's study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night....
Suddenly, Honorine is whisked into the middle of a battle between the crew of a spectacular steamship and a band of mythical constellations. The stars in the sky have come to life to defend themselves against those who want to harness their powers. Much to her surprise, Honorine is the crux of it all, the center of an epic clash between magic and science, the old ways and the new. But can this spirited young girl bring both sides of a larger-than-life fight together before they unleash an evil power even older than the stars?
Now here's Lindsey and Natalie!
Finding an Agent: Revise, Resubmit, Rinse, Repeat
THE STAR THIEF was the third book I wrote and the first one I queried to agents. I worked on my manuscript for about a year before I sent out my first small batch of queries. Right from the start, I got requests to read the full manuscript, and also right from the start, those turned into revise and resubmit requests. From there, I developed an unintentional pattern of sending out a batch of 5 or 6 queries, getting at least one or two requests for the full, which would turn into requests to revise, and then, after a revision, an eventual rejection. Then I would send out a few more queries, and it would replay again. Request, revise, resubmit, rejection.
I didn’t keep an exact count of how many queries I sent out, but it was in the range of 75 or so in total. I didn’t revise every time it was suggested. I took to heart the things I thought would make my writing stronger, and I ignored suggestions that didn’t fit what I wanted to do with my story. Overall, I reworked my manuscript at least half a dozen times during the process. Twice I received feedback from absolute rockstar agents, and even though they ended up passing, what I got from them was pure gold. Once I made it all the way to a phone call with a wonderful agent who had a very different vision for my book than I did. After the phone call, I knew two things. Exactly what I wanted to do to keep polishing my book, and that the agent probably wasn’t going to like the revision when I turned it back in.
I was right. They did not. It was a pass, again.
But the very next agent I queried after the rejection from amazing phone call agent happened to be even more amazing agent Natalie Lakosil. She too asked for a revision, but this time, she really seemed to connect with what I had already done, and agree with what I wanted my book to be. And then, finally, after years of querying, dozens of rejections, and a handful of painful near misses with other fantastic agents, Natalie offered to represent my work.
It would have been easy to put this book aside, after so many rejections, and move on to something
Though my query process was long, I found it to be tremendously valuable. The work I did during that time not only improved the manuscript that eventually sold, but the other projects I’ve been working on as well. For me, and I’m sure I’m not alone, the hardest part of the query stage was when it felt unproductive. To counteract that, whenever I felt stuck I’d research new agents and send out one or two more queries. From the writer’s perspective, the query process can seem like it takes things out of your control. The agent gets to say yes or no to your manuscript before you begin officially working together, but you get to choose who to send your work to in the first place. Having a great agent is definitely worth the wait, and making the effort to work on craft and polishing those pages is always worth the time. So, keep submitting that work, and most importantly keep writing! You don’t have to wait for an agent to start crafting that next project.
So, now that I’ve shared my Revise and Resubmit adventure, here are some thoughts from my amazing agent Natalie Lakosil on successful R&Rs, and why they often fail.
I think the answer as to WHY lies first in breaking down two kinds of R&Rs:
1. Surface-level R&R
2. Love-the-premise-enough-to-not-let-this-go-but-needs-so-much-work R&R
The first can be a simple fix; a "I need you to take out the mention of the word birthday in this so I can take it to a meeting since my house is allergic to the word birthday" sort of fix. Those usually work out (and yes, an editor might ask for a surface-level R&R to take to a meeting - gone are the days of seeing potential and being able to buy. An agent is less likely to ask for this; perhaps only if the surface-level request changes birthday to anniversary and they want to make sure you're cool with that).
The second is asking for a very thoughtful overhaul.
In my experience, the R&Rs that I've seen come back and fail had one of four issues:
1. The author took my notes, executed, and called it a day.
2. The author took the plot in a new direction that didn't resonate with me
3. Timing - in the amount of time that's passed, the market changed
4. The R&R ends up highlighting more issues, or that the hook you were looking for really just isn't there in the execution
#1 is a problem if the R&R is not a surface-level revision request. Often, an R&R will have quite extensive revisions needed - and not just adding in a sentence here or there. For example, if your issue has to do with character development, or pacing, it could mean striking whole scenes, starting in a whole new way, finishing in a whole new way, ALONG with peppering in changes throughout. And those kinds of changes require a lot of thinking. If my note was, "I don't really find her likeable here," well, the answer may not necessarily be to just work on making her likeable right there. It might be that the situation needs more depth, that the reader doesn't understand enough where she's coming from - changes to OTHER parts of the book leading UP to that scene.
So if you want your R&R to have the best chance of succeeding, THOUGHTFULLY revise. I think it's perfectly ok to come up with a game plan, too, before you dive in, and run that game plan by the requesting agent or editor.
#2 is an unfortunate situation that might be because of a thoughtful revision. As I mentioned above, I think it's ok to ask if the direction you're taking the novel in sounds good to the agent or editor before you slash and burn to try and avoid it failing for this issue. But, at the end of the day, it might be that the new direction you're writing really IS the best direction for the book - and it's just that the agent isn't the best agent for it.
#3 is a tricky one. Because a thoughtful revision takes time. I know that. But taking TOO much time also leads to market shifts, and/or perhaps that agent or editor will sign a new project in the mean time that's too close to yours to be able to take yours on after revisions.
I think the time you should take on a revision really depends on the amount of work needed; if it's really more of a surface revision, I wouldn't drag that on for months. If it's something you're having to really spend time overhauling, a few months may be just what you need. I will say that the longer you take, the more I expect to see; I WILL be disappointed if you take four months and shift around some sentences. I have signed R&Rs even if they aren't totally there yet if the author has totally impressed me with the revisions undertaken. And I have never been impressed with surface tweaks when more depth was needed.
#4 might happen when an agent is on the fence; it's possible for an agent or editor to just love the writing, and/or the hook...but...there's something...just something not there. We see that spark, and might do an R&R, hoping, ok, we fix this, and that'll be it. I'll be fully pushed over the fence. But when it comes back...nope. Still on that fence.
If that's the case, that's the point an agent will have to decide they're just not the best editorial fit. Seeing potential and not being able to take it where it needs to go, or realizing, you really DON'T love it as much as you thought, can happen - and be highlighted by the enthusiasm you feel for the project when the R&R comes back. This is a tough one, too; it's hard to know when this will happen. An agent isn't going to request a revision and all that work just to be mean; they genuinely want to see it get to the level of OMG I LOVE THIS!!!! And sometimes that doesn't happen.
That is a risk you take with revisions...and you must, in the end, decide to revise, or start fresh? Only you can answer that.
I think what helps with #4, and ALL issues, is that regardless of whether or not you succeed with an
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Lindsey and Natalie! You can find Lindsey at:
You can find Natalie at:
Bradford Literary Agency http://www.bradfordlit.com
Lindsey has generously offered an ARC of THE STAR THIEF for a giveaway and Natalie is offering a query critique giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through April 22nd. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. Both the ARC and the critique giveaways are international.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.
Here's what's coming up:
Friday, April 14th I'll be participating in the Happy Easter Giveaway Hop
Monday, April 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tracy Marchini and a query critique giveaway
Monday, April 24th I have a guest post by debut author Sarah Jean Horwitz and a giveaway of her MG fantasy ARMER AND GRIT BOOK ONE: THE WINGSNATCHERS
Wednesday, April 26th I have an agent spotlight interview with Lauren Spieller and a query critique giveaway
Wednesday, May 3rd I have my IWSG post and a guest post by debut author Allison Hymas and her agent Laura Abramo and a giveaway of Allison's MG mystery UNDER LOCK AND KEY
Hope to see you on Friday!