Chinese shoes for Susan, who writes:
I am writing a memoir about my marriage to a man from central China and have received requests for partials from a number of agents. And rejections from most of those agents. So in early June, I started working with a couple of editors to get my sample chapters in better shape. I’ve gone through 2-3 rounds of changes with each editor, both of whom I’ve paid and have said that the chapters have vastly improved. One agent has patiently been waiting for my samples since July, so I sent off 50 pages to him yesterday. My question is this: if this agent rejects my samples, do I query another agent and send the same samples, or do I go back to the editors and revise again? In my experience, the agents who have rejected my partials have not given me specific reasons as to why they didn’t like my samples–just that they didn’t think they were the right agent for it. (After half a dozen such rejections, I decided to hire the editors.)
I’m a little concerned that you’re working with “a couple of editors” — the common practice is to work with one at a time, but perhaps your couple works as a team. The worry about working with multiples is that you might get conflicting information.
To get to your question, though, I’m assuming that you are happy with the state of your material now, or you wouldn’t have submitted it to the waiting agent. If he declines, I would keep querying, expanding your search for possible agents, and taking your now-stronger memoir out to a wider audience. I don’t believe you should revise after every rejection, especially if you’re not (as you say) getting specific reasons why the material didn’t work for each response.
Be wary, as well, or resubmitting to someone who’s already rejected you. You may feel your material is vastly different, but unless an agent specifically said they would look at a revised version, I think you’re just wasting your time to go back to them now. Look for a fresh new set of eyes, and good luck!
And random (sort of topical) request for the blogosphere: I’m looking for a traditional styled kimono for a Halloween costume, as much as possible something simple, cotton, and plain. Anyone have any ideas where I should look?