The Revision Decision

Guest Blogger: Keli Gwyn

Many of us expect that one day we’ll receive edits on our manuscript from an editor at our publishing house, but the idea of getting edits from our agent can come as a shock. It brings up a lot of questions in a new writer’s mind. When I received my first-ever set of revision notes from my agent, these are the questions I asked myself.

Did my agent have the right to request revisions?

Technically, an agent is employed by an author. They agree to represent us, but they’re selling a product—our work. However, they put their reputation on the line along with ours each time they send out a submission. Therefore, I believe they have the right to request revisions and so I accepted this part of the process.

Did I want to work with an agent who offered editorial advice?

Since I was an assistant editor in the days before Richard Gere went gray, I’d seen firsthand how much help a knowledgeable editor could be. Therefore, I welcomed the input of an agent with editorial expertise.

Was my agent qualified to offer editorial advice?

Not all agents have the same strengths. Some are knowledgeable about marketing. Others who worked as editors have the experience necessary to offer editorial assistance. I did my research and knew my agent was a former editor who’d worked with some big name authors.

Did I trust the advice of my agent?

So, my agent has excellent credentials and an impressive track record. But did her suggestions make sense? Did I feel she got me as a writer? Or did I think she was out to lunch? It took me awhile to figure out my answer to this one. First I had to answer the next question:

Was I willing to act upon my agent’s advice?

When I received my revision notes, I was in for a shock. Three-quarters of my story stunk. Not that my considerate agent said it in those words. Hers were far more tactful – she loved my writing and she could see the story in there, but I’d have to work hard to bring it out. The ugly truth was that I’d released the story’s tension at the one-quarter mark, and the only real fix was to delete and rewrite 86,000 words. (Can you say too much of a bad thing?)

At this point, I faced a tough decision. Was I willing to rethink the majority of my story?

My Revision Decision

My agent, while compassionate, was also candid. She told me the story wouldn’t sell the way it was, because even though it was technically well written, structurally it didn’t work. At some level, I knew she was right.

Since I have an aversion to rejections—and since I have a strong desire not to let down the awesome agent who took a chance on me—I told her I’d pitch the pathetic prose and willingly work on my rewrite. OK, I didn’t say it as eloquently or with alliteration. In truth, I choked out the words. But I meant them.

I spent much of this past year in Revision Land and produced the best story possible as a direct result of my agent’s input. She was pleased with the revised version and sent the story out on submission. At the time I knew that whether or not it sold, we’d forged a successful partnership. I’ve learned I can trust my agent, and if she says, “Revise,” I’ll say, “I’m on it.”

I wanna know . . .

How would you answer the questions I posed above?
What would you do if an agent said you needed to perform a major rewrite?
Do you think I was all wet to spend months on my rewrite with no guarantee of a contract?

Keli Gwyn recently signed a publishing contract with Barbour for that very same novel she just finished revising. Keli writes what she loves to read: sweet inspirational historical romances with happy endings. Her award-winning stories are set in the heart of California’s Gold Country where she lives. She blogged about the experience of getting accepted by a publisher HERE.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  2. Jennifer @ Conversion Diary on February 6, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    >Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Keli! I am in the *exact* same position right now: just got suggestions back from my agent, and I was stunned by their scope. Ultimately I came to the same conclusion you did: I'm fortunate to have such a good agent, and should listen to his advice. Anyway, it's so nice to hear from someone who is/was in the same boat!

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  4. MaryC on January 29, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    >I'm so glad to see that this conversation is ongoing since I missed it on Thursday.

    *waves* to Keli
    It's interesting to me to read through your thought process. I tend to be a bit too impulsive and I would have jumped at the revisions because I would appreciate the chance to work with anyone to make my story stronger. I think anonymous validated your decision-making process though when she said her agent acknowledged that her suggestions made the story weaker.

    There's a huge difference between someone suggesting changes to create a story more to his/her taste and someone suggesting changes that will result in what Rachelle described – the most satisfying reading experience possible.

    Like Wendy said above, watching you navigate your way through these revisions has been inspiring.
    Can't wait to read the final product.


  5. Maureen McGowan on January 29, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    >What a fabulously well thought out and eloquent post, Keli! Thanks for this. 🙂

  6. arbraun on January 29, 2011 at 12:43 AM

    >Yes, I would make the revisions and be confident the agent knows what she's doing. I might not like it on the inside, but I'd cave to make it publishable.

  7. Erika Robuck on January 28, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    >Thank you for sharing this. It's good to know what to expect when signing with an agent, and it speaks to your professionalism that you were willing to take as much time to revise as you did.

    Congratulations, and best of luck in all of your endeavors!

  8. Jen J. Danna on January 28, 2011 at 9:09 PM

    >As a newly agented author, I was certainly willing to do the revision that my agent requested. I'm new at this and she's got a level of experience that I think I'd be foolish to ignore. Also, it's in her best interest to help make the book the best it can be. I think of the author/agent relationship as one of real teamwork with both sides pulling together. When it works, it really works well and it sounds like that has been your experience. Yes, it can be a painful process, but it's all about the final product. And it's so satisfying when both sides are happy with that final product.

  9. Jill W on January 28, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    >Hi Keli!
    What a treat to see your smiling face. You posed some great questions. As a newbie to the writing world, if an agent told me I needed to do major rewrites, I would get at it! How could I question a professional? 🙂

  10. Beryl Singleton Bissell on January 28, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    >After 10 years of work on my memoir The Scent of God, I sent it off to an agent (Diane Gedymin) who wrote me a lovely letter telling me she'd read the manuscript from beginning to end because she'd been hooked by my writing but that I hadn't begun to tell the story yet. She said that other agents would probably want the story as is, but if I was interested in calling her she'd be willing to expound on her insights.

    I didn't have an agent yet, and wanted to hear what she had to say. She spoke with me for over an hour. "Would you be willing to read the revised version?" I asked. "Yes, but not for at least 6 months." I worked for 2 years on revisions, going deeper and deeper into the story. When I finished, I phoned Diane. She told me she was no longer and agent but was CEO of a press helping authors wanting to self-publish their books. "It's at times like this that I wish I'd remained an agent." With her encouragement I sent the manuscript to a top flight agent at ICM in New York who so loved the story that she sold the book within days for a really nice advance.

    Good advice is to go only with an agent who really LOVES your work. If she's got advice, listen.

  11. Marla Taviano on January 27, 2011 at 10:08 PM

    >Hi, Keli! I'm way late to the discussion, but I just wanted to say CONGRATS again! The more I hear about you and your story (not your book, but the story of YOU and your writing), the more I love you. I've done a couple complete overhauls of my latest manuscript and we'll see what happens.

    Rachelle's advice has been spot-on without exception in my experience. And I think your sweet contract is proof of that.

    Can't wait to read your book!!

  12. Pepper on January 27, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    >Wow, great questions, Keli.
    Thanks for posting them. Food for thought.

    I think your post just highlights the intimacy of an author/agent relationship and the importance of finding the right fit.

    I would rewrite, but keep my original too. I've lived long enough to value the wisdom of someone who knows more about a subject than I do. And I think you did the write…er…right thing.

    But oh. my. goodness….it HAD to have been painful!

  13. Tamika: on January 27, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    >Hi Ladies! Keli, you are a trooper:) When you dropped the 82,000 words bomb you commitment shone through. Writing can be a tedious journey.

    When the Lord blesses me with an agent, I look forward to her showering me with her expertise!

    Congratulations Keli and Rachelle:)

  14. Sarah Forgrave on January 27, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    >Hi Keli! Excellent advice here! (I didn't expect anything less :))

    I think it just makes sense to take those suggestions to heart. If you respect the agent enough to sign with them, I'm guessing you would value their input. I'll be honest…In your situation, I'd probably have a thought like, "Wow, she's recommending I ditch 3/4's of my story, and she still signed me?" But then I'd get to work and figure out how to make my m/s better. 🙂

  15. Casey on January 27, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    >I agree 100% with you Keli. IMHO, if an agent is willing to take the chance on me and thinks my writing is worth it NOW, then when he/she asks for a revision then I would trust that, since they have been doing this longer than me, that they KNOW what they are talking about. And obviously there was some spark there that they saw and were willing to take off with. Great post, glad I got the chance to stop by. 🙂

  16. Brian Miller on January 27, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    >nice. if the agent had editorial experience def a plus…but really they know what they can sell too…if they help me write better…and seel the work, yeah i'd listen….

  17. Cindy R. Wilson on January 27, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    >Keli, so great to see you here! I love the questions you brought up in the post and before a few years ago, I never would have thought about taking them into consideration before choosing an agent. I'm glad you posted on this topic and it makes me realize even more what I'd like in an agent who will represent me. Thanks!

  18. Anonymous on January 27, 2011 at 4:00 PM


    Watch this. I hope this isn't you.

  19. Rachelle on January 27, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    >Thanks, everyone, for the conversation here. A lot of people are talking about how the agent knows what the book needs in order to "sell."

    Just wanted to remind everyone that the agent is trying to help the writer create the most satisfying reading experience possible – not just so that it sells, but so that your readers will love it and your book will be successful.

    As an agent, I try hard to avoid making edits that address my personal taste. I keep my editorial advice in the realm of figuring out how to engage the reader more deeply, make them care, make them want to keep turning pages.

  20. iheartya on January 27, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    >This reminds me of getting my students to attend the writing lab. Most of them thing that they are above the writing lab–it's embarrassing to go or whatever–but I have always told them to think of it as having a personal editor.

    Even though my feelings may be a bit hurt, I really do love having an editor for my writing. 🙂

    Sarah Joy

  21. Michelle DeRusha on January 27, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    >Keli, Thanks so much for your astute advice here today. In answer to your question: I absolutely don't think you were all wet to go ahead and make the suggested revisions before you had a book contract. I would have done the exact same.

    Congratulations on a job well done!

  22. Caroline Starr Rose on January 27, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    >My agent is wonderful and just a tiny bit sneaky about re-writes.

    Often she'll tell me "you don't have much to work on" or "it's almost there!". It's enough of a carrot to get me working on a manuscript again. And when I'm through, I'll realize I did do a lot of work and that it's benefited the story.

  23. Keli Gwyn on January 27, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    >Taryn, I understand and respect your desire to remain true to your story. I loved my story the way it was when my agent first saw it.

    I learned that in some cases, though, love can be blind. When my agent pointed out the weaknesses in my story, I had a major Ah-ha! moment. I'd been so close to the story that I couldn't see its flaws. Once I did, I was eager to make the changes.

    My agent listed some areas I needed to address, but she left it up to me to choose how I would implement her suggestions. The result of my effort was a story that is far better than what I had. A nice bonus is that I not only ended up with a story I love more than ever, but I also had one that was marketable. Since I was writing with a goal of publication, I consider that a win-win.

  24. JDuncan on January 27, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    >I know editing is not my strong suit. I have a very difficult time pulling back from my story far enough to see bigger problems with story or character. Therefore, I'd totally want an agent who likes the editorial process. They know the business (or should) and know what editors are buying or would like to buy. It's part of an agent's job to look at your writing and say, "this works and this doesn't, so make these changes and we should have a much better shot at selling."

    The agent is your business partner. You're in business together to sell a product, and as a writer, you agreed to work with the agent in order to combine their publishing expertise with your creativity. If you don't like or want editorial feedback or is the type who can't handle being told to change certain aspects of your story, then look into self-publishing. Part of being in a partnership to work together is ceding a certain amount of control over the process.

  25. Jill Kemerer on January 27, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    >Oh, yes. A reputable agent is not selling hot dogs on the street. They have a reputation and rely on us to provide good books. If they know a book has issues making it difficult to sell–we'd be unwise to ignore their suggestions.

    I want my books to be excellent–and I rely on critique partners and my agent to help me get them right.

    Congratulations, again, Keli!!

  26. Taryn Tyler on January 27, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    >I don't think it would be wise to work with an agent I didn't trust or who I didn't feel got my story but on the other hand I will always trust my story more. Not necisarily my writing but my story. If an agent asked me to make major revisions like that I would seriously consider it –very very seriously –but I would also have to take a good deal of time to think about it first to make sure I was being true to the story I was telling and not just revising in order to sell it.

  27. Jane Steen on January 27, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    >When I have my paid-writer hat on, I love to work with other creative people: designers, artists, photographers and, of course, editors. Yes, editors are creatives too.

    My take is that if I employ/collaborate with another creative person, not allowing them to exercise their talents is a waste of time and money for everyone. If I am project managing, say, a printed piece, then the final call is mine (well, in reality it's the client's, but that's another matter) but I don't try to micromanage the process.

    All that to say that if I had an agent with editorial talent, I'd follow his or her advice. Especially if he or she had a track record of selling the revised novels. As a writer I expect to be too close to my novel to see the flaws: also, I know that I'm not good at analyzing plot and character from the reader's viewpoint. So I'd bite my tongue and give careful consideration to every single piece of advice, getting back to the agent on anything I thought wasn't clear or was doubtful about from an artistic viewpoint. Then I'd get out the red pen.

  28. Rosslyn Elliott on January 27, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    >Great topic, Keli.

    I agree with Barney and with the point you make about trusting in a particular agent's editorial background. Rachelle has proven her ability as an editor again and again. That's why her clients can take her opinion as gold.

    I think it's also important for a writer to know her craft thoroughly if she wishes to discuss revisions in a credible way. When I talk about revisions with my editors, I can present my ideas from a technical angle, not an emotional one. That allows us all to work together as a team, and to have a very positive working relationship.

  29. Jill on January 27, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    >I love to edit and work and accomplish big tasks. Editors are awesome because they help with focus. Although I've never worked with professionals like agents or editors, this kind of relationship reminds me of the adviser I had for my thesis. She was my friend and still is to this day. If it hadn't been for her, my thesis may never have been finished, or accepted by the board. But the thoughts and ideas and writing were all mine. She just helped me focus and cut out extraneous words.

  30. Erica Vetsch on January 27, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    >Congratulations, Keli! I'm still celebrating with you!

    The revisions you went through with this mss will certainly prepare you for the editorial process.

  31. Barbara Kloss on January 27, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Thanks for passing that information on as well! It absolutely helps me as I edit, edit, and edit some more! I look forward to hopefully someday getting that 'professional help' on my manuscript, and journey's such as yours stick with me as I move forward! Thanks again!

  32. Laura - Cedar Fort on January 27, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    >I agree Barney Saltzberg. I usually prefer to mull over the suggestions given before I implement them. That way I can get a feel for how they fit with me and my story. But the outside help is essential to creating a story that is enjoyable. It's always interesting, and sometimes surprising what people comment on.

  33. Terri Tiffany on January 27, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    >I am still in awe of you that you did this. And it paid off! I think if I had someone backing me and could see a possibility in my work, I would tackle it as well.

  34. Sharon A. Lavy on January 27, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    >A note to annon and others. Never never never delete your manuscript. When you are doing major revisions save it as a new file. Then if the suggestions do not work, you can go back.

  35. Keli Gwyn on January 27, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    >Carrie, you brought up an important point. We have to decide if a manuscript is worth the time that would be required to rewrite or revise it. My agency mate Jody Hedlund does an excellent job addressing the importance of moving beyond our early efforts in her post Why Every Writer Should Complete More Than One Book.

    Choosing to revise an early work was a decision I came to after serious consideration. I'd seen firsthand the rigors of revision back in my editor days. When I embarked on the task, I did so because I believed this particular story had merit. While writing a new one would have been easier, I don't regret my decision. I learned a great deal through the process of revising and rewriting. Those lessons will serve me throughout my writing career.

    That said, though, I have three stories that will remain tucked away in a remote spot on my computer's hard drive. I can't bring myself to delete them. If nothing else, they can serve as good bad examples. =)

  36. Barney Saltzberg Author, Illustrator, Songwriter on January 27, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    >An editor once referred to this process as the 'male dog peepee phenomenon'. Everyone wants to pee on it and make it theirs.

    That's an extreme viewpoint of an editor, but it goes to the concept that you have to really trust the vision of the person who is offering you editorial advice. I have learned, with over thirty picture books published, that I have to respond with, 'let me sleep on that idea and we can talk tomorrow'. Sometimes, that's what it takes to adjust to another perspective that initially can seem so unsettling.

    Thanks for the post!

  37. Crystal Jigsaw on January 27, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    >Wow, that was an eye-opener for me. I have sent out submissions for my latest work and am now in the process of moving on with the next project whilst I sit and wait for replies, if and when they roll in.

    I should imagine every new author, including myself, would hope their agent doesn't request a rewrite of this magnitude, but I would also honour their judgement and trust their expertise. I think though, in some ways, it could be easy for a new author to just accept the advice given when they haven't had much experience with the publishing industry. Your advice and post today, have made me think very hard about when I (I'm opimistic I know) receive replies.

    Thank you for your very informative post.

    CJ xx

  38. Anonymous on January 27, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    >I liked your post. I had the same thing happen, although my agent (who has since dropped me, after saying "I must not be the right person to give you advice. I think what I told you made the novel weaker") did NOT have the editorial b/g you mention. I still respected her advice, appreciated her ideas and incorporated all of her suggested revisions in order to get the ms out the door. She never tried to sell it, after I changed the novel to fit what she wanted to pitch. She told me how "great" and "award-winning" and "beautiful" it was. And then she gave up. So…bottom line? I don't know what it is. As writers, we basically have no choice but to produce the revisions our agents request. We are beholden to them, unless we fire them. I chose to trust my agent. Now I have to rewrite my novel the way it was before she changed it and try to find another agent…sigh.

  39. Jillian Kent on January 27, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    >Hi there, Keli! Congrats on the contract. Revisons, ahhhhh yes. I completed some major revisions for my editor. It was scary at the time, remember?:) Worth every minute. Like Stephen King says, "You have to cut your darlings." Something like that. It was so hard for me to cut and rebuild but it's a learning process. So glad I did it. Way to go Keli.

  40. Jaime on January 27, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    >First of all – YEAH KELI for signing with Barbour and your PERSISTENCE to take criticism and plug away at it. Inspirational.

    My gut tells me my answers to those questions would be the same as yours :)In fact, I look forward to the day someone who knows what they're doing disects my work LOL

  41. Karen Witemeyer on January 27, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    >All the pain and hard work of revising a manuscript is worth it, and you've just proved it. Great work ethic and humility and teachable spirit, Keli. All three of which are needed to be a successful author in my opinion.


  42. Kristin on January 27, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    >Very helpful post! I am in the process of a major rewrite, per agent request. It can be tedious to rewrite and work out so many things. But honestly, it's making both my book and my writing much, much stronger.

  43. Carrie L. Lewis on January 27, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    >A great post and a good question.

    I faced a similar decision early last year, when the first manuscript I'd ever submitted to an editor was returned with a kindly "thank you, but no, however…."

    The "however" included seriously cutting prose and focusing the manuscript more tightly. I was left facing a decision on what to do. Rewrite the manuscript again or drop it.

    Since I'd been working on that story for over a decade, I decided there were other ideas that deserved my efforts more. I was comfortable with that decision at that time.

    That manuscript still tweaks the edges of my awareness now and again, but I think that was the appropriate decision for the time.

    Maybe, someday, when I have the appropriate skills and writing experience, I'll know how to fix it and I can tackle a major rewrite.

    Lord willing, that is!

    Thanks for a great post.

    Carrie L. Lewis

  44. Whirlochre on January 27, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    >If the idea is for the agent to badger editors with the best possible version of a potentially sellable MS, unless the author is Mr or Mrs Perfecto, some work will need to have been done by agent and author in tandem prior to the selling process — and it takes as long as it takes.

  45. Anne Barton on January 27, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    >Keli, I liked this: "At the time I knew that whether or not it sold, we’d forged a successful partnership."

    What a great attitude. Congrats on selling your story!

  46. Phil on January 27, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    >Man, I'm hiring my agent because they're a super qualified professional whose advice I respect. If they have something to say about my manuscript? I am going to sit there and listen with a little pencil poised over my computer screen, you betcha.

  47. Rachelle on January 27, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    >DCS: I addressed your question at length in my post of September 8th, More on Revision Letters.

    You can also click on the "Editing" tag at the end of this post to pull up all my other posts that deal with this question.

  48. DCS on January 27, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    >How is it that an agent agrees to represent a work that needs such a major revision? Just asking?

  49. Guinevere on January 27, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    >Great post!

    Yes, I'd be open to revisions suggested by an agent. I think I have a good story and I'm polishing it to the very best of my ability before I query it – but I know I'm not a perfect writer (and none of us ever will be). I can't say I'd be excited about having all that work to do, but I WOULD be excited about making my story the best it could be.

  50. Walt Mussell on January 27, 2011 at 9:16 AM


    I'm still ecstatic for you about your contract. I can't wait to see your book in print.

    Yes, I would be open to revisions. Given an agent's motivations behind such revisions, it would be foolish not to listen.

  51. Jess Tudor on January 27, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    >IT might be rude of me, but I can't help thinking anyone who would answer "does your agent have the right to request revisions/should you do them?" with "no" is not ready to have an agent. Why would you thumb your nose at the person who is supposed to know the business the way you don't and can guide you through it – including how to make your book more marketable? Why seek out an agent in the first place, then?

    One of the ways I picked my agent was looking at the revisions people wanted. One of the agents said my book needed work but she made it sound like no big deal while Suzie (my agent) said up-front it was a lot of work and she would normally request such an extensive revision BEFORE even offering rep, but since I had other offers she was willing to go out of order. It could be the other agent was trying not to scare me but I'm a big writer, I need to be able to handle that sort of work!

  52. Sharon A. Lavy on January 27, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    >Some writers say "What I have written I have written."

    Others say writing is re-writing.

    The key is do you trust your Agent? So do your homework. And also realize an agent like Rachelle will be hard to fine.

  53. Catherine West on January 27, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    >Keli, you did it!! Ha. Just had to say that again. I actually never questioned doing revisions that were requested. I know a lot of agents DON'T do this, so I counted myself among the very fortunate that I have an agent willing to put in so much of her own time and effort into my story. Plus, like you, I knew Rachelle's editorial background, so for me it was a no brainer. If she says the thing needs work, it does. Of course I'm waiting for the day I turn in a manuscript and she says it DOESN'T need work – but then I'll probably think she's gone crazy or something! Bottom line, if you can't trust your agent's advice and work with it, time to get a new agent.

  54. Erin MacPherson on January 27, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    >As a new author, I'm going to take any advice I'm going to get–and if that mean pitching most of my book on the advice of my agent, I'm going to do it. I figure she sees a lot more writing than I do so she has a better eye for what's going to sell–and that's the ultimate goal. Great post, Keli!

  55. B.E.T. on January 27, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    >IF I had an agent, then I would probably go about it like you did. These people take chances on us and their pay depends on if we sell or not, and they know the market better than we do, so heck yes I'm trusting their knowhow over mine unless even I can see it's outrageous bullcrap.

  56. Julie Jarnagin on January 27, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    >Keli is awesome!

    I don't have an agent, but I worked through substantial changes with my editor. While it was difficult at the time, I so appreciate the honesty and hard work the editors put into helping me make the story the best it could be. I learned things about my writing (and myself) that I couldn't have learned without that process.

  57. Wendy Paine Miller on January 27, 2011 at 7:39 AM


    That said, yep. I'm up for a challenge and am willing to get dirty with revisions. It all comes down to trust for me. Trusting the agent. Knowing they know their stuff. And once again…letting go.

    Keli, I watched how you tackled revisions and I learned a great deal from it. Thank you.

    And Rachelle, thank you for hosting Keli today. She's truly one of the MOST encouraging people I've ever met.

    ~ Wendy

  58. Beth K. Vogt on January 27, 2011 at 7:37 AM

    >Last year, I heard Colleen Coble talk about revision letters. Her point? You have to learn to love revision letters.
    So, when I got my first revision letter, I did a little "I got a revision letter" dance and then sat down and read through it several times. One of the things I liked most about the letter was that Rachelle said: If you want to talk about any of this, let's talk.
    But after reading the letter, I knew she a)got my writing voice and b) got my story and c) she knows her stuff as an agent. It's not like I argued with her about anything! Her feedback was invaluable to improving my story.

  59. Yvonne Osborne on January 27, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    >I would bend over backwards to give an agent who was knowledgable and wise what they wanted. You were wise to do so. Thanks for the testimony.

  60. Sue Harrison on January 27, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    >Thank you for this post, Keli. I always love to read about writers' journeys. What a joy and privilege for you to have an agent like Rachelle who has the expertise and knowledge to be a top-notch editor. You were so wise to do the major rewrite. I would have done the same. Can't wait to read your novel!

  61. Lisa Jordan on January 27, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    >When I decided it was time in my writing journey to find an agent, I prayed, and Rachelle's name came to mind. I knew she was new to agenting, but she wasn't new to the writing industry. She had a terrific track record, and everyone I spoke with about her had wonderful things to say. Her reputation is why I chose to request appointments with her two years in a row at ACFW.

    When I signed with her, we discussed my WIPs and their future. She was honest about one of them. I knew it had a limited range of publication houses, but I respected her insight into the industry enough to go with her advice.

    If she had asked me to revise, yeah, you betcha! She knows what's hot. She keeps her pulse on the trends. So, I think you were very wise in having a humble, teachable spirit to listen to her. Look where you are now!! Great post, Keli!!

  62. Katie Ganshert on January 27, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    >How fun to see Keli here this morning! Good topic and great advice girl. Just think – you got lots of practice and should be all ready to go when you get your revision letter from Barbour. After rewriting 86k, you're a pro!

  63. Heather Sunseri on January 27, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    >Hey, Keli! Love you, girl! I think the sentence that sticks out to me the most in your post above is this:

    "At some level, I knew she was right."

    Anytime I'm privileged enough to have someone read my manuscript, I almost always know right away "at some level, I knew she was right." And if I don't feel that, then I question the change a little (which doesn't happen very often).

    I think if you already know the agent, their credentials and their excellent track record, and he/she asks for a major rewrite, well, then you do it. You smile through the tears, open up Word and do it.

  64. Rosemary Gemmell on January 27, 2011 at 3:52 AM

    >Thanks for such an interesting, and humbling post, Keli. Personally, I'd like to think I would welcome the chance for agent suggestions when that day comes. I really believe in my mainstream novel (with historical sections), but I'm also very unsure about its structure.

    I guess any author would be fortunate to have a professional agent work with them, before the script gets to a publisher. But I suspect it does test our humility and willingness to accept direction sometimes!

  65. Nicolette on January 27, 2011 at 3:30 AM

    >Yep, I'd do the edits, because I figure that these guys know what they're talking about and they know the market better than I do. Don't have an agent yet, but when I do, I hope I'll be able to forge a great relationship with them, knowing I can trust them and vice versa.

  66. Ted Cross on January 27, 2011 at 2:40 AM

    >This is easy for me. I know I have a lot of talent as a writer and that there are many great things in my books, but I also know that I am relatively inexperienced in this and can improve dramatically. I need and want the advice I can get from a really great agent.

  67. T. Anne on January 27, 2011 at 2:06 AM

    >Hi Keli! *waves* You're one of my favorite people. Not only are you a gifted teacher, but you are a gift as a friend. Your journey has been fulfilling even to those of us on the sidelines watching! I can't wait to hold your book in my hands!

    As far as having an editorial agent, I believe it's a huge benefit to authors. If Rachelle asked me to jump through hoops before submitting my work, I'd ask how high and in what direction. I'm committed to crafting the best novel I can. I appreciate all the help I can get.
    Excellent post!

  68. Wendy Delfosse on January 27, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    >It's really hard to answer without having an agent yet, Keli But I have to say, even though I can't say I know yet what background or preferences she/he may have I do expect editing will be a part of the process.

  69. Keli Gwyn on January 27, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    >Barbara, something I've found encouraging is the realization that agents don't take on clients with "perfect" manuscripts and editors don't buy them either. Revision is required of all of us who are seeking representation or a contract.

    I heard Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, NYT bestselling author of 165+ books, speak at the Romance Writers of America® conference last year. She said she receives Revision Notes on every book she turns in and makes almost all the changes her editor suggests because they make her books better. If someone with her level of success is willing to revise, that says something to me about what it takes to succeed.

  70. Kimberly on January 27, 2011 at 1:10 AM

    >Thanks for sharing your story, Keli. Obviously, you did the right thing:) I think this illustrates why it is so important to try and find the best match between author and agent. Good luck to you!

  71. stephen matlock on January 27, 2011 at 1:06 AM

    >It would be easy to simply say "well, of course you do the edits because you want to sell the book, and who would know better than your agent (and your editor) what can be done to sell it?

    And I'm thankful this happened to someone else and not me.

    But oh lordy I do not know what I will do if this happens to me. I can only hope I will be 1/10th as gracious and understanding and patient.

  72. Florence on January 27, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    >Keli, I love that this happened to you. You always support what aspiring writers are doing to get the word out.

    This couldn't happen to a nicer person.

    About the advice and the rewrites and revisions … I'd say yes … there should be a bond between the writer and agent and if you can't trust them the relationship can't work.

    Great news 🙂
    I'm still wondering how I missed it on your blog.

  73. Melissa K Norris on January 27, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    >I would definitely do the edits. If you're not willing to make your novel the best it can be, then you shouldn't seek publication.
    Hard work pays off in the end. Thanks for sharing! From one happy inspirational historic reader to another. Grin!

  74. Barbara Kloss on January 27, 2011 at 12:31 AM

    >Thank you for sharing that story! It's encouraging for me to see that an Agent can see the 'potential' in a manuscript, and then all the work done to make it marketable–even though it was another year of edits! If there's one thing I've learned from writing, it's that you have to love the journey. So thank you for sharing another writer's journey.

  75. Bri Clark on January 27, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    >I agree that agents are definitely taking a chance on any author…but especially someone unknown. As far as agreeing to what they suggested that would depend. I think with prayer and time decisions can made confidently and communication is essential.

    Agents are people too just doing their jobs.