Ask Daphne! Resubmit or Revise?

September 17th, 2008 • Kate

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?

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5 Responses to “Ask Daphne! Resubmit or Revise?”

  1. b_sheridan Says:

    What you're describing sounds more like you need a yukata than a more formal kimono.
    Check e-Bay.
    My daughter insists that I also tell you in addition to the yukata the proper accessories needed are:
    hadajuban–pretty much a mini kimono like "under garment"
    hanhaba obi–a half-width obi cotton not to be confused with the full width silk ones for formal kimono
    geta–wooden sandals
    koshihimo–thin string like ties to hold the yukata in place
    There's actually an inexpensive ||||complete set on eBay

  2. Jolie Hale Says:

    Whoa. This author sounds overanxious to revise her work, probably due to impatience. She hired the editors (two of them!) after only "half a dozen" agent rejections? Without the agents having offered suggestions for revision?
    Most authors get way more than half a dozen rejections before they land an agent. If I were her, I'd keep querying widely (and patiently, damn it!) before assuming that the writing needs more and more and more revision. Twenty rejections would induce me to revise if I were in her shoes; any less than that only means that she hasn't hit up the right agent yet. It takes time. Sometimes a LOT of time.

  3. Kate Says:

    Really good point, Jolie, but the fact is she already hired and paid those editors, so let's move on. The absolutely right next thing to do is keep querying.

  4. Curious Says:

    Does it change your perception of (or willingness to take on) a potential client to know that he needed to hire an independent editor to get his work up to a publishable standard?
    Just curious…

  5. Susan Says:

    Thanks for the advice and the comments about my revisions. I've had many rejections from my query letters (~50), so revised the letter, then received quite a few requests for partials. And most of those resulted in rejections. I have to admit that the original partials were not very good. I wanted to see what several editors thought about my samples, and most had the same comment. I now feel like I have gotten good advice. I also workshopped my intro at a conference this summer.
    Anyway, eBay is a wonderful place to get kimono, yukata, etc. for under $30. Simple type "kimono" in the subject field and you'll get many choices!! Thanks for your advice!!