Why Revisions Matter (Or: Giving Editors A Reason to Say Yes)
November 2, 2010

I’m currently in the process of finishing up intensive manuscript revisions with several of my clients. And since I’m a total geek, I think it’s a whole lotta fun. But I’m not so sure my clients agree with me, at least not at this particular moment in time.


Giving editorial advice and doing revisions with clients is a large part of my job, and I take it quite seriously. That’s why, even when I sign clients whose manuscripts are in fine shape, I have them do at least one round of revision before I submit their project to publishers.Why am I so keen on revision? Is it because I enjoy being a slave driver? Because I’m addicted to the pretty colors that pop up on the screenwhen I use track changes? No and no. You see, editors are constantly bombarded with manuscripts—way more projects than they could ever hope to accommodate on their seasonal publishing lists. For that reason, editors say no to many more projects than they say yes to. Which is why it’s of utmost importance for a manuscript to be in tip-top shape before sending it out to publishers. It helps you stand out from the pile, rather than getting lost in it.When I begin an edit with an author, and sometimes even before I sign them, I give them some variation of this speech: Before I submit your book to publishers, I’m going to edit it. At the beginning of the edit, you’re going to love me. Somewhere around the halfway point, you’re going to start to think I’m annoying and picky. About three-quarters of the way, you’re going to hate my guts. And by the end, you’ll love me again.At this point, I have a couple of authors in the three-quarters stretch. I know they’re tired. I know they dread seeing my name pop up in their inboxes, asking for more changes here or there. I know they feel like they’re going to rip their hair out if they have to look at their manuscript for another second. I know that every time they see my yellow highlights and my wordy little track changes, complete with my over-use of inspirational exclamation points (it’s a writing tic of mine!), they feel like calling me up and telling me where to stick my suggestions.But that’s okay with me. I can live with them shaking their fists at me or ranting about me on Twitter or to their writing groups. What I can’t live with is sending a manuscript out into the world that’s in less-than-nearly perfect shape.These days, editors have plenty of reasons to say no, even to manuscripts that show flashes of greatness. It’s not my job to give editors reasons to say no. It’s my job to give them a reason to say yes.And so: Revisions.You may hate me for it now, but you’ll love me for it later.What about you? Do you enjoy revising your work? Do you have any revision tricks or tips that you use to get through the process?