Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Q & A 90 Should I work on my book without getting paid?

What is your feeling on requests for a writer to revise a novel multiple times before a contract? How often do you see these revision efforts pay off and end up with a contract at the house where the revisions were requested?

I have no stats on how often the work pays off with a sale, but this request isn't uncommon. It's more uncommon than a form rejection, however, so feel good about it. Once you've gotten enough form rejections, you'll consider revising anyway, so at least this publisher has pointed out a possible direction for those revisions. Which is not to say, do anything they ask. The following scorecard should help with your decision:

Are the requested revisions destroying your vision of the book?

Yes: 0 points
No: 20 points

Is this your dream publisher, one with whom you desperately want to get your foot in the door?

Yes: 20 points
No: 0 points

If you revise again and they reject, which version will you send to the next publisher?

The revised: 20 points
The old: 0 points

How much time and effort is involved?

Months of drudgery: 0 points
Hours doing what I love: 10 points

Do you have a more promising project you'd rather be working on?

Yes: 0 points
No: 10 points

Was the request made by a lieutenant or a general? (If the former, it'll still have to get past the latter.)

Lieutenant: 5 points
General: 10 points

How many more times are you willing to revise the novel for them, without blowing up their corporate headquarters if they ultimately reject it?

0: 0 points
1: 5 points
2: 10 points

Now add the total number of points for your answers.

30 - 100: Someone's interested in your book. Revise.
0-25: You're clearly fed up with these people, and are waiting for EE to give you permission to dump them. Permission granted. Now send it to someone else and get to work on your next book.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting, EE. I once did a revision for an editor and then did it again and then again. Ultimately, it was not acquired by the house (the editor loved it) and I ended up very angry at myself for wasting my time.

But the book was better and went on to sell, so I can't complain. But I doubt that I'd do it again because I just don't feel the love anymore about this.

Now, if I'd had your little evaluation method at my fingertips, I might have passed on said revision, but probably my passion for my work would have won out anyway.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That was the most sensible response to a publishing-related question I've seen in quite some time.

Either that, or I just have a soft spot for cost/benefit analyses.

Anonymous said...

Useful approach. Thanks, EE.

Anonymous said...

An editor at a major house requested revisions for my YA. After the revisions, she turned down the manscription--which, of course, rather pissed me off--BUT! BUT! BUT! I ended up with a much stronger manuscript, was signed on by a different (and just as prestigious) agency, and the novel sold to a major publisher in 3 months. Really, what this boiled down to was free PROFESSIONAL editorial advice which, in the end, certainly paid off. I'd do the same thing again.

Anonymous said...

One of the interesting things about this formula is that an editorial assistant at some house I don't really care about could request a mechanically easy revision I find totally revolting, and it would still score enough points that revising is indicated. Five points for "one more revision," five points for "lieutenant," ten points for "no preferable alternative project," and ten points for "hours spent writing," makes thirty points.

Revise! Revise! OK! OK!

(This accords with what I've already decided is the prudent approach, but it's still interesting to note.)

McKoala said...

I love a good quiz.