Tuesday, January 14, 2014

When (not) to Resubmit

Have you ever wondered if you could or should resubmit to an agent who’s previously rejected your manuscript?

I regularly find resubmissions in my inbox, and while I’m generally open to resubmissions, there are times when I just want to rest my head on the desk and cry a little. Why? Because not every resubmission is a good idea. To make things easier for you – and ultimately for me and my fellow agents – I thought I’d provide you with a guide that’ll explain when it is, and when it isn’t, acceptable to resubmit your manuscript.

Ready? Okay, here we go:

It’s a new manuscript the agent hasn’t seen yet: YES, a new submission is fine (as long as it’s a genre the agent handles, of course). Many agents have passed on a writer’s first manuscript but signed them on their second or even third manuscript. But beware: if I’ve already passed on four or five of your manuscripts, you might want to move on. Simply because I’m interested in signing writers, not just one manuscript, and me rejecting every single one of your works (for whatever reason) might be an indicator that we’re not quite the right fit.

It’s the same manuscript the agent has rejected and you haven’t made any changes: NO, do not resubmit. There’s a reason why I rejected it the first time round, and I will not magically change my opinion. Sorry.

It’s the same manuscript the agent has rejected and your revisions are only minor: NO, do not resubmit. If all you did was change a few names, places, or lines of dialogue here and there, it’s probably not enough to sway my decision. If I had loved your premise or manuscript enough, these minor details wouldn’t have stopped me from offering representation or giving you an R&R (see below) in the first place.

It’s the same manuscript the agent has rejected because it wasn’t their cup of tea/ what they were looking for: NO, do not resubmit. It doesn’t matter whether you have made revisions or not. If the general premise isn’t for me, revisions alone won’t change my opinion. I might have said in my rejection that the overall premise sounds interesting, but that it’s not quite right for me. This means I can see the story’s general appeal or potential. And while there are lots of ideas and concepts I might find interesting, it still doesn’t mean that I will want to sign it. If something isn’t my personal cup of tea, it just isn’t. Move on to another agent who loves it as much as your story deserves.

It’s the same manuscript the agent has rejected MULTIPLE times (for whatever reason): NO, do not resubmit. Seriously. It’s obviously not meant to be. Move on. (Unless I’ve specifically invited you to resubmit AGAIN. Seems unlikely, but that would be the only exception to this rule.)

It’s the same manuscript the agent has rejected but you’ve made SIGNIFICANT changes: YES, a resubmission is fine. But please mention your changes in the query. Otherwise I might think it’s the exact same manuscript as before (I’m not psychic). And should I have seen your full manuscript before, please don’t send me your new full straight away. A query according to my sub guidelines (incl. sample chapters and a (new) synopsis) with a pitch and mention of the changes is enough for the moment. If I like what I read, I will  request the full (again).

(What? You’re wondering what “significant” changes are? Well, that could be about anything really. Writing, character development, storylines, conflict, the ending…)

It’s the same manuscript and you’re in the midst of your revisions: NO, do not resubmit – yet. It sounds plausible… you’ve started your revisions and are done with the first 5 or 6 chapters. So why not send out your query (and sample chapters) and finish your revisions while waiting to hear back? Because it’s the same as querying an unfinished/ unpolished manuscript. You might come back to the earlier chapters during your revisions, make little tweaks here and there, or don’t even know how the story is going to end now you’re overhauling the entire manuscript… or you might get a full request straight away and can’t send it out because you’re not done yet. Patience, my little butterflies. It’ll pay off. Trust me.

It’s the same manuscript and the agent gave you an R&R letter: YES, PLEASE resubmit. R&R stands for Revise and Resubmit, and it means that we liked your manuscript enough to give you feedback and detailed suggestions to make it even better. There are times when I’m compelled by a manuscript but feel that it still needs some more work before I can offer representation, I send out an R&R. I will specify where I see need for improvement and what’s currently stopping me from taking it on. Obviously, it’s totally up to you to decide if you want to revise and resubmit your manuscript according to my suggestions. Always remember that it’s YOUR manuscript. If you feel uncomfortable with the suggested changes, then that’s okay, too. Move on. But an R&R letter from me means that I genuinely loved your manuscript enough to think about ways to make it better and stronger, and that I’d really, really, REALLY like to see it again. Whether or not you act on it is your decision.

It’s the same manuscript and you received feedback or an R&R a week ago: NO, do not resubmit – yet. Don’t waste this opportunity. Make sure to make your revisions the best they can be. I will most likely not ask for another R&R, so a rushed job is counterproductive. You know where to find me… I’m not going to disappear while you rework your manuscript. I’d rather you spend more time trying to get it right instead of racing through those revisions and resubmitting a meh manuscript.

And with that, my little friends… over and out. See you in two weeks.



  1. Gee, where was this post when I was querying my manuscript? I know you're not psychic, Julia, but couldn't you at least have traveled back in time...? Seriously, this is a super-helpful post!

    1. Thanks!!! Well, I hope it does help some writers out there.

  2. Great post and advice! Also love the Zac Efron pic. Nice touch. :)

  3. This is great. I always thought that 'no' meant no forever. I wasn't sure if it was bad form to submit a new manuscript to an agent who has said no in the past. Thank you! *Bookmarking for later reference*

    1. Thank you. I'm glad if my post helps clarify things.

  4. What if its the same manuscript, but the agent hasn't seen it? They have rejected the query, but not the manuscript.

    1. I always ask for the first three chapters, so I've always seen (at least some of) the writing. If they rejected the query, I guess it's because they weren't drawn in by it or thought it wasn't the right project for them. I wouldn't resubmit.

  5. Thanks Julia for the helpful tips. If a tepid synopsis was the basis for being turned down, and the manuscript was not even looked at, would you recommend re-submission but this time with a revised and persuasive synopsis?

    Thanks in advance.