Ask the Agent: Submitting an Improved Version
Lately I’ve received quite a few questions like this:
So, let’s say I submitted a proposal that was requested by an agent. While waiting for the agent to respond, the novel was significantly improved (not just a few spelling errors, but bigger things like tightening, deepening the POV, author affiliations/platform, etc). Would you suggest a re-submit (upfront- telling you it’s a resubmit) or just hold out and let the original proposal be reviewed?
I guess my first thought would be, why you didn’t make all those improvements before you submitted to an agent in the first place? In other words, why did you rush to get your proposal out before it was ready?
Now I know you’re thinking about how you’re never quite sure when your manuscript is “finished.” You’re constantly tweaking, and as you continue learning, you continue improving it. I get that.
However, as soon as you send it to someone else, you’re saying “it’s finished.” So the trick is to avoid sending your proposal out before you feel comfortable saying that.
How can you be sure it’s finished? Here are a couple of ideas.
l If you’ve gone through revisions and done everything you can think of to make it the best it can be, then instead of sending it off to an agent, put it away. Don’t look at your manuscript for at least a couple of months. Then pull it out for a fresh read. You’ll see more clearly if it’s ready, and if it’s not, you’ll have some ideas of what it needs.
l Go beyond your critique group. Find some other writers with whom you can trade manuscripts for honest critique. Print out your manuscript and insert a page at the end of each chapter with a checklist for your reader to give feedback. Also include a page at the end of the manuscript that asks specific questions about the story, the characters, the general interest level, etc. Solicit honest feedback from 3 to 5 people, and take their notes into consideration for your revisions.
l Consider hiring an editor to help you with the process.
Now I know I did an end-around on the original question. You want to know if, in the case that you didn’t do all the things I suggested above, you should resubmit the new version. Sure, go ahead. I don’t think there’s any harm in asking the agent if they would consider this new version. Most will be gracious and replace the old with the new. I’ve certainly never said no to such a request, and I doubt if I ever would.
Just be aware of the bigger issue here… and this is something I’m continually talking with my clients about: There is no rush to get your manuscript submitted. It’s so much more important to get it right than to get it in fast. Agents want to know that you took the appropriate amount of time to polish your manuscript before submission. If you’re asking to submit an improved version, they’ll wonder why you didn’t make it the best it could be to start with.
So, don’t rush your submissions. But if you need to make improvements and resubmit, it’s not the end of the world… just do it.