In the course of querying (and, sometimes, submission!), you may encounter an "R&R," or, a Revise & Resubmit. This is a rejection with a silver lining: the agent is unable to offer representation for your book as-is, but they like something about it and if you are open to revising, they invite you to resubmit it for reconsideration.
If you receive an R&R, you are allowed to feel both disappointed AND happy! You're doing something right, but you're not quite there. A revision can feel daunting--it's way higher stakes than before!--but about fifty percent* of R&Rs turn into offers, so it can be worth the work.
*This is a statistic I've seen many agents throw out, though it is agent specific. For some, the percentage is much lower, closer to 25%.
An agent may offer an R&R for many reasons. They see commercial appeal in your idea, or amazing voice in your writing, an execution that is almost but not quite there. They want to see if you are able to revise the book to where they feel it needs to be, both for the obvious reasons: they want to see the new version of the book. But also, many agents use an R&R to test how an author works with editorial feedback and accomplishes revision. It can be a real risk to take an "almost but not quite" project on, sign the author, and then discover that the author doesn't take feedback well, or is unable to effectively revise. In these cases, the agent may need to then break up with that author, causing everyone a lot of heartache.
When an agent would like you to revise and resubmit, they will tell you, either via email or over the phone. Yes, sometimes an agent will call you and give an R&R! I always warn authors to go into a request for a phone call with optimism, but also caution, just in case it's not an offer call. If you receive a detailed rejection but the agent doesn't invite you to revise and resubmit this manuscript, it is not an R&R (though you may want to take into consideration their rejection notes for a revision).
Always consider whether or not you actually agree with what the agent has to say. Don't just revise to make that specific agent happy! You should always approach and tackle a revision because you want to, and the suggestions made align with your vision for the book. It's a sign that an agent is on the same wavelength as you for the manuscript if they bring up ideas that click with you. The right person can ask questions and make suggestions that can unlock the magic of how to make a book work. But sometimes feedback is just not the right fit for you. Never feel obligated to do an R&R.
Agents will tell you to take your time with a revision, and while that is true, I do advise not taking *too* long. You don't want the agent, or the market, to have moved on by the time you complete your revision.
I recommend you set yourself a time period between 3-6 months to complete your revision. Less if you are a fast reviser, but NOT too fast. If you turn around a revision in two weeks the agent may assume you have rushed and not invested the time required into the revision. If it takes more than 6 months, that's OK! A year is fine. I think once you nudge past a year you decrease your odds of the R&R successfully garnering an offer. (And of course I am sure there are some outliers who would contradict this idea!)
What should you do if other agents have your full and then you get an R&R? This is going to be a case by case situation, depending on how big the changes are and how long the agents have had your full. If you've just sent out the full and this new R&R just clicks with you, and you are 100% confident it's going to make the book much much better? It can't hurt to send a very apologetic and humble email to the agents with your full asking if they are interested in the new version, when it is finished. (They may say no, btw). Do NOT make this a habit, or do it more than once! Agents don't love when writers do this, to be frank, but sometimes timing is just weird and it happens.
It is also an option to do the revision and only then contact any agents who have not yet responded, again being humble and understanding if they are not able to read your new version. And if you receive requests from outstanding queries during this time, you can reply back to let them know you just got an R&R from another agent, which you are working on and you will send the new full as soon as possible.
Note that some agents will ask for an exclusive R&R. Unlike with exclusive queries and submissions, an exclusive R&R is NOT a bad thing. An exclusive R&R means that you won't share the new, revised version of your manuscript with other agents until after the requesting agent has had the opportunity to review. If they pass, you are welcome to then share the new manuscript. Often an exclusive R&R means the agent is primed to offer on the manuscript if you can pull off the R&R successfully.
Have questions about R&Rs? Ask them in the comments!
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#HowToAuthor: Agents & SubmissionNon-Fiction
Advice for writing book-shaped things and getting them traditionally published. This series will cover everything from querying to agent fit, to building a platform and marketing yourself.