As I mentioned in the previous installment of Rejection Letter Rundown, an author might, from time to time, come across a letter that is neither rejection nor acceptance but some strange hybrid of both. I covered the further consideration letter last time, and this time I’ll be covering its distant cousin, the revision request letter.
Okay, full disclosure. I have never received a revision request letter. Luckily, I have access to the exceedingly talented and prolific Rose Blackthorn, who has sent out more submissions than can easily be counted and has received just about every type of letter a writer can receive. You might remember rose from her Ranks of the Rejected interview. Anyway, Rose was kind enough to let me borrow one of her letters, so I could discuss it on my blog. Thanks, Rose; I’ll try not get anything on this while it’s in my possession.
Now that my conscience is clear, let’s have a look at the letter:
Dear Ms. Blackthorn:
Good morning, and thanks for submitting [XXX] for consideration in [XXX]. I read your story and liked it, but was a bit dissatisfied with the ending. I had some thoughts on this matter and was wondering if you would be open to a minor re-write.
Please understand that this is not a guarantee of acceptance or rejection from the anthology, but I feel that [XXX] has promise and would like to explore the story a bit more. However, as a writer myself, I also understand that you have to be proud of what bears your name when it ultimately appears in print and don’t want to remove your original vision of the story.
Please let me know your thoughts on the matter as soon as you are able.
This is pretty nice letter. Not only does the editor say nice things about Rose’s story (always welcome), she calls out an area she thinks needs work, and then, hold the fucking phone, she gives Rose the opportunity to fix the problem. I’d be thrilled to get a letter like this (I’m sure Rose was too). I mean, a second chance to a) improve my story, and b) vastly improve my chances at publication. Yes, please.
Rose: Honestly, at this point I was completely blown away. This was the first time I had received any kind of revision request, and I was at least open to what the editor had to suggest. As was stated, they weren’t requiring a revision, but were offering to consider the story again if I was willing to make some changes. This was like opening up a whole new world to me.
Now, as Rose said, the editor isn’t requiring a revision nor is she promising to accept the story once it’s revised. She’s very upfront about that. She’s also admitting that revising the story based on her suggestion what Rose has envisioned for the story. That’s a nice, honest way of doing things, and it makes sure both parties are going into this with all the cards on the table.
If you get a letter like this, the question becomes should you do the revisions? I think you have to take that on a case by case basis. If the suggested revisions seem like they’ll make the story stronger—you know, a “why the fuck didn’t I think of that” moment—then, yeah, go ahead and do it and thank your lucky stars you sent the story to an editor that could show you the light. If, however, the revisions seem like they’re sending the story in a direction you’d rather not go or removing something you believe is an essential element, then I think it’s perfectly acceptable to send a polite “no, thank you” to the editor. I don’t think declining the revisions—again, politely—hurts your chances at publishing with the editor again.
Rose: As you stated above, the changes (or in this case, one specific important change) the editor suggested was a “Why didn’t I see that myself?” moment. It can be hard to be objective about a story you’ve been living in for however long, and this particular revision had never occurred to me. When it was suggested, I immediately saw the possibilities, and what led to (I believe) a stronger ending.
The suggested revisions made sense to Rose, so she went ahead and revised and resubmitted the story. A short while later, she received this letter:
Good afternoon. I’m pleased to let you know that after reading the revisions, I would like to offer you a place in the anthology. I think the new ending is much stronger and offers the reader a sense of surprise for how things will turn out.
Attached, please find an edited version of the article. There were a few places that required additions, and I wanted to make sure the new text and changes were OK with you before going to print. Most of the cuts that I made were done so for readability or details that were repeated and/or slowed the plot.
Please let me know if you’re not familiar with the editing tools in WORD. Otherwise, I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Hot damn! An acceptance. For me, this kind of acceptance would hold special significance because I would be establishing a relationship with the editor, a mutually beneficial collaboration that would, hopefully, lead to more acceptances in the future. I mean, it’s rare to get this kind of insight into an editor’s mind and really get an understanding of what he or she is looking for in a story. Good stuff.
Rose: I have to laugh. I have an ongoing online friendship with this editor—but this was a guest editing, one-off kind of project. So, while I appreciate making it into this particular anthology, and even more enjoy my friendship with this erstwhile editor, it hasn’t necessarily helped me get published again. Except, of course, to value a good second set of eyes for my work!
Have you received a revision request letter? How’d it go? Tell us about in the comments.