One of the hardest decisions to make as you start receiving feedback on agent submissions is whether you should stop querying and revise. The tricky part of the equation is that the publishing business is subjective, and it’s challenging to sort through the comments you’ve received and determine whether they’re leaning toward “Yes, you definitely have to fix this!” or “It’s a judgment call.”
It’s even more complicated because agents don’t always comment on the same aspects of the manuscript, and you’re more likely to receive feedback on what didn’t work for them than what they loved about it. However, it’s important to take note when they do comment on the positive because, again, what one agent loves may be what another agent doesn’t.
I’ve found it especially helpful to look at feedback visually by making positive and negative feedback charts in Excel. I’m not going to share feedback on my current manuscript here on the blog, but in order to show you what I mean, I’ve created charts for the old manuscript I am revising. I should mention, though, that this manuscript was initially a middle grade novel, and after a revise & resubmit from an agent, I aged it up to young adult. The feedback on these charts is from both versions so it’s a bit skewed, but it will still give you an idea.
As you can see, some agents commented on the emotional journey being a strength, while others felt I needed to work on character depth. Also, one agent complimented my pacing, but another had issues with it. Subjectivity–the bane of every writer’s existence!
For this particular manuscript, I didn’t need a chart to know I had to fix the alternate reality scenes and the voice. The other issues? I needed to figure out how to keep the positive and address the negative. It took me a couple of years to figure out how :). My point is, visualizing your feedback can help you decide whether a particular issue is something you need to step back and address or if it’s a matter of opinion. Because if you are getting positive comments as well as negative on a particular issue, it might be the latter. Perhaps the next agent will be the one where all the pieces fit together just right.
If you’re struggling with contradictory feedback or just want to see how your comments line up, try making these charts. It’s also nice to go look at that positive chart for an ego boost!
If you have any other ideas for sorting out feedback, I’d love to hear them.