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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have Mary Kole here with a guest post on resubmitting to an agent or publisher. Mary is a former literary agent, and she now provides consulting and developmental editorial services to writers of all genres and from picture book to young adult. She also provides helpful information at her blog KIDLIT. She is also the author of Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, which is available from Writer's Digest Books.

Now here's Mary!

Can I Resubmit to an Agent or Publisher Who’s Rejected Me?

A very popular question I get is whether it’s okay to resubmit to an agent or publisher who has
already rejected your manuscript. Unfortunately, a lot of writers don’t end up successful with their initial efforts. Or maybe those submissions yield feedback that they now want to address. Manuscript hindsight is 20/20, after all, and you can’t know what you don’t know about your project until someone else points it out to you. (More on this in a moment!) It seems almost ... unfair that you’ve already submitted it.

Ideally, you will do several rounds of revision on your own, consult your beta readers and critique partners about your project, do several more rounds of revision with outside feedback in mind, put the manuscript away for a month (if only more people would follow this advice instead of considering themselves exempt), then come back for one more revision. Does that sound like a lot of work? It is. Because agents and publishers only pluck the best of the best out of the slush. Some writers even hire a freelance editor for some fresh perspective before they finally press “send” on a submission.

(If you are thinking that this advice doesn’t apply to you, or wondering what the heck a “beta reader” is, or you don’t have a critique group in place ... stop writing and submitting immediately and build up your tribe. You cannot function effectively as a working writer without at least one source of outside feedback. Writers are notoriously awful at seeing the opportunities for growth in their own projects.)

If you didn’t do any of this the first time, there’s good news. You can resubmit to agents and publishers who have rejected the project. Now the bad news. You can do so only once and only if you are willing to do the work described above this time. Agents and publishers understand that writers get too excited, and they are open-minded to considering a project a second time, but only if it has seen considerable revision.

Do not resubmit just because you believe you didn’t get a fair shake last time. You will likely get
more of the same rejection. Do not abuse their goodwill. Agents and publishers don’t want to see endless rounds of submission from you for the same project. They are not your critique partners, and they are not able to provide feedback on multiple rounds of submission. (Nor are they, honestly, interested in doing so.) With tens of thousands of queries a year, many of them resubmissions, it’s simply impossible for gatekeepers to give constructive advice to everyone who writes in. Agents make money by selling projects they think are promising. That’s it. Publishers make money by publishing the same. That’s it. Rent in NYC is expensive. While personal responses used to be a lot more common, many agents and publishers have gone to a “no response means no” policy. They don’t even send rejections anymore.

These are the logistics of resubmission. If you’re approaching the same agent or publisher, insert a sentence along these lines: “You reviewed an earlier draft, but this project has undergone significant revision.” (This has to be true, mind!) Many agencies have a “no from one is a no from all” policy, but in reality, it’s pretty flimsy since agents tend to keep their own slush piles. If you choose a different agent for your resubmission, you don’t have to explain the backstory, unless you feel morally obligated. You don’t want to lie, of course, but an omission here isn’t a huge sin. (With a publisher, this strategy sometimes doesn’t work, since it’s often hard to tell who actually reviewed your submission. Especially if you heard absolutely nothing back from the house the first time.)

If this article reaches you before you’ve submitted your manuscript, great. Slow your roll and do some revision instead. Submitting too soon, getting rejected, revising, and resubmitting isn’t a strong strategy. When I was agenting, I would see “frequent fliers” hawking the same project in my slush for years. And yes, I would start to recognize them. And no, they did not eventually wear me down. They looked more and more unprofessional with each round. Agents and publishers want to work with creators who know how to revise and who can generate new ideas, too.

And if you don’t yet have tools like a revision strategy or critique group in place, that’s the place to start, before you even think about submitting a first ... or second time.

Mary's Bio:

Former literary agent Mary Kole provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance and memoir. She has developed an intensive course on manuscript submission with Writing Blueprints. 

Mary holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has worked at Chronicle Books, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Movable Type Management. She has been blogging at Kidlit.com since 2009. Her book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, is available from Writer's Digest Books.

She recently launched a comprehensive online class, the Manuscript Submission Blueprint, all about the literary agent and publisher submission process.

You can find Mary at these Social Media Sites:

Editorial Services: https://marykole.com
Twitter: @Kid_Lit

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, March 6th I have an interview with debut author Gail Shepherd and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE TRUE HISTORY OF LINDIE HAWKINS and my IWSG post

Monday, March 11th I have a  guest post by debut author Victoria Lee and her agents Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty with an ARC giveaway of Victoria's YA fantasy THE FEVER KING and a query critique giveaway by Holly and Taylor

Monday, March 18th I have an interview with debut author Sabina Khan and a giveaway of her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of rukhsana ali 

Hope to see you Wednesday, March 6th!


nashvillecats2 said...

This made great reading Natalie, Thanks for sharing all this with us.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds advice. I can't imagine not using critique partners before submitting.

Jennifer Lane said...

Excellent advice! I love my critique partner but I should think about getting other beta readers as well.

Susan R. Mills said...

Thanks, Natalie (and Mary)! Awesome advice. Crit partners are a must have.

Brenda said...

Thanks for sharing and hope you have a lovely week Natalie.

Angie Quantrell said...

Excellent explanation and information! Thanks to both of you!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

A good round of revision before re-submitting is so important. Great advice here.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Very good advice. Thank you, Mary and Natalie. Have a great week.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Excellent advice. I didn't have a critique group or beta readers when I first submitted to agents. I didn't know anything! LOL

Elizabeth Seckman said...

The very first story I ever sent in was unbeta read and I got one of those nice rejections informing me that I had a lot to learn. I'm still learning.

gehrleinb said...

If only I had a time machine to two years ago! This was great. Something I've been putting into practice. Really taking the time to revise and get it into as many hands as I can before I attempt a query. Thank you for this post!

Michelle Mason said...

When I was first starting out, I didn't totally get the critique partner thing. Now I can't imaging letting my agent read something without my CPs vetting it first! But I also find it interesting that Mary says you get a second chance. There were several projects I rewrote, but I wasn't brave enough to resend to the same agents again. I wonder if it would have made a difference? Although I don't really care now since I found my right match :).

Christine Rains said...

Great advice for submissions. I had no idea you could resubmit after a rejection unless it was something new. Good to know.

Wendy Wahman said...

Excellent advice, pinning and sending to a friend who feels he's exempt...

Mirka Breen said...

Solid advice from Mary Cole. Timely for me, as I *just* did an R&R, which means it was specifically requested. Personally I would never re-send to any publishing professional who already passed regardless of how changed the revision. I'd only query with a brand new manuscript. And yes, always revise a-plenty before querying anything to anyone.

Rosi said...

Another great interview. Thanks!

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah, just resubmitting the same thing won't go far. Sure need to put in the work.

Tonja Drecker said...

Sounds like good advice to me. Thanks for the insight!

Greg Pattridge said...

I can highly recommend Mary's book. It's filled with information for both beginning and advanced writers.

June McCrary Jacobs said...

Thanks for sharing this excellent post, Natalie. I learned a lot.

Sherry Ellis said...

Interesting post. It's rare that an agent will let you re-submit a project. Best to have it polished the first time.

Carol Kilgore said...

Very good advice here. Thanks for hosting her, Natalie.