Reprinted with permission
An excerpt from Ask a Literary Agent (Year One)
by Noah Lukeman
Should I revise my work for a prospective agent?
“I’m a little confused…my manuscript has been back and forth to my agent now for almost a year and a half with only positive and encouraging verbal feedback, but no written reports. I have now sent the second book after the agent says he wanted to see it, but feedback is still having to be prompted. The agent only reads exclusively, so I just don’t know what to do. Is it normal to take this long? Should I expect more feedback? Would it be okay for me to maybe send it to a few other agencies?” –Louise
You are really asking three questions here: 1) How long should you wait to hear back from an agent about your manuscript? 2) Should you grant an agent exclusive reading time? and 3) If a prospective agent asks you to revise your manuscript (with no guarantee that he will represent you), should you do so?
I already answered the first two questions on this blog. Please see the September 22, 2009 posting titled, “How long should I wait to hear back about my manuscript?” The only point I might add to that is that if you do indeed grant an agent exclusive reading time, then you should not give him more than 3 months exclusive reading time for a finished manuscript, or more than 2 months for a proposal. In your case, given that it has been over a year, you should certainly not grant this agent any more exclusive reading time. You should start querying other agents simultaneously.
In general, if you are debating revising your manuscript for a prospective agent, keep in mind the following: if an agent asks to see a revision of your work, and his comments are specific for what he’d like to see revised, and you agree with those comments, then go for it. However, don’t assume a nice or long rejection letter detailing problems is an invitation to revise and resubmit—only assume so if the agent specifically requests to see another version. In most cases, if an agent rejects a work and does not specifically ask to see a revision, then the agent does not truly want to see it again, even if it is revised. You don’t want to fall into the trap of following false leads and revising a manuscript endlessly.
Additionally, if your gut tells you that the agent’s comments are wrong, or that he doesn’t get your work or share your vision, then don’t revise. At the end of the day, you are the one that needs to live with your work.
About the author
New York literary agent Noah Lukeman, President of Lukeman Literary Management Ltd, has represented multiple New York Times bestsellers, winners of the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award, National Book Award Finalists, and has written three critically-acclaimed books on the craft of writing (The First Five Pages, The Plot Thickens, and A Dash of Style). During his last 14 years as a literary agent he has represented hundreds of book deals, and in his blog, ASK A LITERARY AGENT, he gives aspiring authors insight into all facets of the book publishing industry.