I’ve noticed a few authors on Twitter wondering if agents actually have any interest in a submission if they send an R&R. The short answer to that? YES. Now lets get into the long answer and all the information about R&Rs. I’ve been known to give a few out, but they are usually rare. I’m going to explain why I personally give an R&R, what it means for the author, and what it means for the agent, including why some agents don’t bother with them.
Why do I give an R&R? Usually because I love a concept, can see what the book could potentially be, but feel in it’s current form it still needs too much work. If the writing is good on a technical level and the story itself needs some work, I’ll consider an R&R, but only if I’m in love with the concept. The R&R lets me test the author’s ability to revise. If they just haven’t gotten the right feedback yet, getting some guidance might be all they need. But if they can’t quite make the revisions work, I know the project isn’t for me. Taking on a project that needs a lot of work can be a bit too much of a risk, especially if its a debut author and I have no idea about their ability to edit and revise. The R&R gets rid of that risk.
If you get an R&R it means the agent is interested in seeing the project again with the revisions made. Writing up editing notes takes precious time. By giving you those notes we run the risk of never seeing the project again or worse, having the changes made and then having another agent also like the changes. This is exactly why some agents don’t bother with R&Rs. It can be frustrating to give out notes only to have another agent also like the changes and for the author to sign with them instead. Without our changes that agent may never have been interested in the first place and it blows for us to have used our time to lay the groundwork for another agent to profit off our work instead. Agents with full client lists don’t need to take that risk or simply may not have the time to give detailed feedback to a non-client. Remember, getting an R&R is also a peek into how the agent gives feedback and revision notes, something to keep in mind if you want to sign with them.
Are authors obligated to follow through with R&Rs? No. If an agent sends you notes you don’t agree with and you know you don’t share a similar vision, then don’t do the revisions. You need to be able to see eye-to-eye on your project. Imagine what it would be like to work with someone who has a different vision for your books and career than you. Plus if you don’t have the same vision, how good will your edits really be if you aren’t motivated and can’t fully see where the agent is coming from?
If you want to complete the revisions then go for it. One mistake authors make is rushing to get the revisions turned in so much so that they aren’t showing their best work. Don’t do that. You are only hurting yourself. Publishing is slow. Agents are used to the slowness of the industry. We’d rather you take your time and turn in a stellar revision than rush a subpar revision. Honestly I like having at least a month between the original and the R&R being turned in to give myself time to come back with fresh eyes when I get the revision. If I just sent notes, I may want to focus on client projects or other fulls rather than dive right into a second read through.
My suggestion if you get an R&R is to take a day or two to sit and think on it before making a decision to write the agent off or complete the revision. Some questions to ask yourself include: Are you willing to do more revisions in general? Do you like the revisions being suggested or do you feel they would hurt the vision you want for your book? Will the revisions improve your book? What do your beta readers think about the suggestions?