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How To Resubmit, Part One: Resending Novels or Nonfiction Books To Literary Agents

As writers, our work is never done. Some of us will spend years working on a book, and then, finally—once we think it’s finished—we’ll submit it to a literary agent. But just because a book has been turned in doesn’t mean it stops evolving.

Often—once a project has been rejected—we will revise and revise until we think our book is a more attractive project. The revision process can take weeks, months, or years. But it always leads to important questions:

How does a writer resubmit the same nonfiction book or novel manuscript to a literary agent?

What is the best way to resubmit a book to an agent?

How long should a writer wait before resubmitting?

These questions are common to writers of all levels of experience. Below you’ll find some answers in this—PART ONE of a two part series. Here you’ll learn How To Resubmit To A Literary Agent.

To read PART TWO of our series (How To Resubmit To A Literary Journal), stay tuned for a forthcoming issue of our e-publication, Submit Write Now!

Keep in mind that we at Writer’s Relief offer our tips based on all the experiences we’ve gained helping writers manage their submissions to literary agents since 1994.

But—as with so many things related to the publishing business—there are no “one size fits all” answers to difficult questions. Always do your research, follow guidelines, be courteous, and trust your professional intuition. (When in doubt, our clients turn to our expert submission strategists to develop a strong plan.)

How To Resubmit To A Literary Agent

If you’ve written a novel, memoir, or proposal for a nonfiction book, and you’ve already sent your project to a literary agent for representation, it’s not “wrong” to submit your project again; however, it’s important to resubmit thoughtfully and with respect.

And that means learning to think like a literary agent.

Submit to Review Board

When is it okay to resubmit a book project to a literary agent?

There are a number of good reasons you might consider resubmitting a manuscript:

  • You have significantly revised.
  • The market has become more favorable to your book genre.
  • You have built your professional writing bio since the last submission was made.
  • Your project has been nominated for an award or received some other significant accolade that indicates that your project appeals to readers.
  • You have reworked your query letter to be a more accurate representation of your work. (NOTE: We are NOT suggesting that resubmitting a series of revised queries to find one that works is a good idea. However, if you felt your first attempt at a query letter was perhaps a bit amateurish, and you later revised, then you may be in a good position to resubmit.)

The bottom line: If there is a reason that your book is more attractive now than it was ten years ago (or even ten months ago), then it may be worth your while to do a round of resubmissions.

How long should you wait before resubmitting the same project to an agent?

The answer to this question is a bit subjective. You’ll need to trust your instincts. Obviously, it would not make sense to submit a project to a literary agent only a few weeks after that same project was rejected. A few months might be too short a time frame as well—but it depends on your particular circumstances and your correspondence with the agent in question.

If a literary agent requested revisions in your rejection letter, then you probably should not wait overly long to resubmit. Once the revisions are done, resubmit the project to the agent who offered you the critique. Be sure to clearly mark the envelope or subject line with “requested material.”

Should you mention that a book is being resubmitted in your query letter to an agent?

If you had a personal conversation (in print or on the phone) with an agent about your project, then you may want to point out that your project is a resubmission. Otherwise, we recommend starting your resubmissions as if you’re “going out with” the book for the first time—a fresh, clean slate. We see no compelling reason a writer should indicate “this book has already been around the block and had no takers.”

To learn more about the best way to resubmit your writing, stay tuned to Submit Write Now! for our upcoming article about how to resubmit stories, poems, and essays to editors of literary journals. But in the meantime, good luck with those book (re)submissions!

10 Responses to How To Resubmit, Part One: Resending Novels or Nonfiction Books To Literary Agents

  1. Amit, We cannot offer any legal advice since that is not our area of expertise, but if a reputable publishing house agrees to publish a book, there should be a contract between the publisher and the author. So the terms of the contract would determine what this writer can or cannot do next. This is an example of why it is beneficial for writers to get literary agent representation.

  2. My book was accepted to be published more than two years ago by a leading publishing house. But even after two years, they’ve yet not reached a time where they could tell me how long exactly they’re going to take to publish the book. Should I consider re-submitting the book to the publishing houses who rejected my work before, but after a thorough evaluation now?

  3. Thanks for some other wonderful post. Where else could anyone get that type of info in such
    a perfect approach of writing? I have a presentation next
    week, and I’m on the look for such info.

  4. Ronald: Unfortunately, this is one of those answers that can only be “maybe.” You’ll need to be forthright with publishers that you approach with this collection, whether you revise or not. And it will depend on the publisher’s policy. Most literary journals would not consider your individual poems from the collection for publication since the collection as a whole was self-published.

    Please feel free to check out our tips about how to get a collection of poems published: http://www.writersrelief.com/blog/2009/05/how-to-publish-a-poetry-book-chapbook-or-collection-of-poems/

  5. I love to write poetry and lyrics and I have more than 40 compiled. I self-published these poems online, years ago, in a chap book titled “Woe;The dawn of a new nation” but since no one bought a book I posted it for free.I thought if I could break into the industry with the hardest genere to sell then I would make a profound statement;I was sorely mistakened in my assumptions. But I still want to take this to the next level. So my question is: If I revise my poetry collection could I submit it to a publisher without it being concidered a ‘Published-work’?

  6. I have one more question. I sent queries to a handful of publishers years ago before resolving to undergo an extensive rewrite of my book. Two publishers also expressed interest in my premise and requested part of my manuscript. As I resubmit to the agent who formerly requested my manuscript, should I name the two publishing companies, or forego that information? One is a big name…think Harry Potter. I am uncertain whether it would work for or against me.

  7. Ashley, Good question. If the agent had personal contact with you and was intrigued by your premise, you should tell him/her that you’ve substantially revised. In fact, it’s a GOOD idea to remind the agent that he/she enjoyed the book originally. Good luck!

  8. If an agent requested your full manuscript years ago–intrigued by your concept–but then passed, should you note that in the new query upon resubmission? I underwent a page-one rewrite of the book, and believe it to be so much stronger.

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