Writers are all too familiar with rejection. But there’s a more unusual type of rejection I don’t see much about online – the revise and resubmit rejection, which I’ve had twice so far in my writing life.
The Revise and Resubmit Rejection
What it is.
A rejection – but, it’s not a “and the horse you rode in on” type of rejection. Sometimes instead of just being told “No” by a publisher, the author gets a “no, but…” A revise and resubmit rejection says the publisher doesn’t want it as it is, but if the author is prepared to make some specified changes, they will be prepared to consider it again.
What it’s not.
It is not a guarantee that they will take it if you make those changes, only that they will consider it again. It’s not a contract. It places no obligations on either party.
Why to take it seriously.
The publisher is not just being nice when they send one of these. If they wanted to be nice they’d send you a firm no, but with some useful feedback. If they say they want to see this story again with some changes, that’s what they mean. People in publishing already get a ludicrous amount of email. They won’t encourage more email unless they really want it. And asking to see it again if they didn’t really mean it wouldn’t be kind to you. It would just be a waste of the time you could have used trying other publishers and agents. So if you get one of these, take it seriously. It means what it says.
What to do if you get one.
Okay, so here’s the meat of it. You’ve got one, you understand what it is. Now what?
Take the time to think about it.
The temptation is to instantly resist the idea. You’re stung by the rejection. The changes they ask for might well be a lot of work and there’s still no guarantee of acceptance at the end of it. On first reading the changes suggested might sound totally wrong for your book. It’s very easy right after you get their mail to think ‘NOPE!’ and send the book out to someone else right away.
Don’t give in to this immediate reaction. Consider it carefully. Sleep on it. Write about it in your journal. Run it past your friends. Yes, doing it might mean a couple, or a few, more months of work. But that might be better than a year of rejections. Maybe when you think it through the suggestions make more sense. Editors generally know what they are talking about. I know when I got one of mine, one of the changes suggested initially made me think “No way! That changes everything.” But the next day I started thinking “Actually, that could work.”
NO – If it’s a no-go, if the suggestions don’t click with you, then query elsewhere. Maybe another publisher will love it just as it is. There’s nothing wrong with deciding not to do it, as long as the reason isn’t pure laziness. Maybe their suggestions change what you’re trying to achieve with the book and you don’t want to sacrifice that. Maybe they just aren’t the right publisher for that book.
YES – If yes, do you tell them you’re doing it? You don’t have to. You’re not even obliged to resubmit to them after you make changes (barring any other contractual obligations you might have of course!) But if you’ve already got a relationship with the editor then you may find it useful to run your plans and ideas by them for feedback, so would want to tell them in that case. But really, it’s up to you.
Then get on with it. Knuckle down and do the work. Keep an open mind on the changes. Don’t feel like you’re compromising your vision. Make those changes feel like the way your book was always meant to be. Exceed the editor’s expectations.
When you’re ready to resubmit, revise your synopsis and query letter as needed and send it to the publisher in whatever way they requested – whether that’s to a specific editor, or general submissions, or whatever. If in doubt, follow their usual submission guidelines. But, give them a reminder that it’s a resubmission, especially if it’s been a few months (these people read a lot of stuff!) You can give a brief rundown of the changes you’ve made in your query letter. But keep it brief!
Wait patiently as you did before. (And get on with something else.)
So what became of my two R and R rejections?
Was it hard? Well it was a bit of a blow to the confidence at first. But I picked myself up and knew I could make the changes. Higher Ground wasn’t too hard. I added about 15,000 words to the start of the story, giving the boys a bit more time to develop their relationship. I added a new chapter later on in the story and made a few other smaller changes and that was done.
Ganymede Tilt on the other hand was a much bigger job, even though it’s a shorter book. I took it apart and reassembled it. Characters disappeared. Other characters changed their jobs. The central relationship started off quite differently and Alex changed quite a bit. Oh and I got a sex scene into chapter 1. Result!
I hope that’s some useful advice for you should you ever receive an R&R. They mean more work, yes, but they are a good sign that the book is almost there.