Last week, I met with my literary agent, in part to discuss my most recent manuscript revision. In my mind, this pass had the most dramatic changes and as a whole, came closest to achieving my thematic goals for the book. I thought it might be ready to go out on submission to publishers, and I anxiously awaited feedback from my agent.
Wise editor that she is, she made some really valid points about changes that still need to be made, as a result of what I did in the last round.
At first, part of me was crushed. Despite having been the person to tell an author there was yet more to be done, I second-guessed my agent’s message. If I needed to revise again, was it worth it at all? Would the manuscript ever be ready to submit? I’d told myself that if this manuscript weren’t picked up by a traditional publisher, I wouldn’t self-publish (more on that in another post). But now, maybe I would. If someone else didn’t like it, that didn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. I worked hard on this. A lot of my readers sincerely enjoyed it. And on and on . . .
When I took a breath and considered the situation objectively, I was able to remind myself that a request for revision is not the same as rejection. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Why would an agent spend her time reading and commenting on a manuscript she doesn’t believe is going anywhere?
What I took as a blow to my pride is something I should be very grateful for. Constructive criticism (and everything she suggests is constructive) is, for a writer with her head on straight, the greatest gift to receive. Of course my manuscript isn’t perfect yet. If we can edit out some of the easy reasons for an editor to pass later on, let’s do it and give this thing its best chance. Here is another example of how important humility is for writers.
No one in publishing knows it all, but I believe that experienced publishing professionals trained by other successful publishing professionals have a good idea of what works, what doesn’t, and how to get a writer’s work from one side to the other—if she’s willing to listen.
I have at least one more revision to do before we move to the next step. Would I like to be there already? Maybe, but not if my manuscript isn’t in the most promising state it can be.