R&R: My Experience

Last week, while I was brainstorming which theme I should write about for this post, I worked on the edition of an interview I did with author Anna Orenstein-Cardona for the Las Musas blog. During our conversation, we talked about Anna’s soon to be published picture book, The Tree of Hope, and she also shared her publication journey. For me it was surprising to know that Anna’s debut book is the result of a successful Twitter event experience followed by a R&R (revise and resubmit), because that’s exactly what happened to me. So, today I want to share a bit more about that stage in my path to publication.

In one of my previous posts, I’ve shared that my debut book, Santiago’s Dinosaurios, is a result of a LatinXPitch success, in which I got a like from editor Andrea Hall from Albert Whitman & Co. This event happened in September, 2020. As someone who had been querying without success up to then, the fact that I was invited to query her with my story was very exciting and motivating, so I jumped at the chance and sent my query five days later, hoping for the best.

Time went by but I didn’t hear back from Andrea until early November. Thankfully, it wasn’t a rejection. She told me she liked the story and that she believed it would resonate with many children due to it’s theme and message of immigration, diversity inclusion, and kindness. She also asked me if I would be willing to make a revision to it in order to add an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) in the manuscript.

The truth is the recommendation caught me off guard at first. As a picture book writer I had learned that children in the stories should solve the “problems” by themselves, without adults doing it for them. For this reason, I hadn’t really thought about including an ESL teacher in my original story (although in real life, this wonderful resource is available for immigrant students, including my son).

I was able to talk to Andrea about this and she told me she wasn’t intending the teacher to solve Santiago’s problem, but she considered it would be nice to add a bit of hope for him in the story. Up to this day, I appreciate that Andrea told me she’d like to see an ESL teacher included, but she let me decide how to do it, in which part of the story to add it, and under which conditions. So, with that in mind, I set up to revise. It took about three weeks in which I talked to two ESL teachers about their work with immigrant children. They shared about their processes and materials, which was very useful for me, plus I had the experience of my own kid at home.

After my research, I started working on writing a new scene. Adding it to my manuscript implied making changes in the structure, because other scenes had to be moved or even eliminated to make space for the new material. Once I felt the story had a good flow, I shared the new version with my critique partners, who also provided their valuable feedback. In the end, I believe that adding this scene made the story more realistic and stronger. I was able to add hope for Santiago, while showing he would be the one to get the work done to “solve” his dinosaur-sized problems.

I’m really happy that I decided to go ahead and revise this story, because it not only got better but, ultimately, it got me a book deal. My R&R experience turned out to be exactly what my manuscript needed and I’m thankful for the opportunity I was given. Now, in a matter of 3 months, this story will finally get to the hands of little readers. I can’t wait!

To summarize, these are the 10 take aways from my experience. I hope you find them helpful in your own journey.

  1. When an agent/editor offers you an R&R is because they see something special in your story, they realize it has potential and they are interested in discovering what you can do to make the story better or to fix whatever might not be working for them. Who knows? Maybe they even want to know how good you’re with editing, since that’s something that, once your book is sold, you’ll be doing with your editor.
  2. An R&R is an opportunity to consider the feedback received from an agent/editor to make your story better and stronger. However the decision to do it and how to do it, is ultimately yours. You can also say no.
  3. Have an open and clear communication with your agent/editor so that you understand what they expect from you. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask away.
  4. Take the time to consider the agent’s/editor’s feedback and requests before you start revising or changing your story (keep a different file). There’s no rush to get back to them, so give yourself the chance to analyze the situation before making a decision. Once you decide to go forward with it, give it your all.
  5. Make sure the revision of your story goes along with your vision for it, because if the essence of your manuscript is “lost” in the process, then it’s not worth it.
  6. Go into your revision with a mindset of working towards making your manuscript better, stronger, and clearer. If you succeed with that, it’s already a big win, no matter what happens next.
  7. Before resubmitting, ask critique partners for their feedback in the new version of your story. Use their valuable comments to finish the adjustments required so you get the manuscript as polished as it can be.
  8. Make sure you’re happy with the manuscript version you resubmit.
  9. Keep in mind that the R&R is an opportunity for you to get access to the agent/editor again with the improved story; but there’s no guarantee that they will take you as a client (if it’s an agent) or take the story on (if it’s an editor). Do the hard work and wish for the best, but always keep realistic expectations.
  10. While you wait for the final decision, keep writing and revising other stories. Always move forward.

Have you had an R&R experience? Can you share what you’ve learned?

Mariana Ríos Ramírez is a Mexican picture book author living in South Carolina. She was a high school teacher and co-owned an online business before becoming a writer. Her debut book, Santiago’s Dinosaurios, will be published by Albert Whitman in October 2022. Her second book, Abuelita’s Gift, will be published by Knopf on Fall 2024. Besides writing, Mariana enjoys photography, traveling, Chai Lattes, and k-dramas.

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6 thoughts on “R&R: My Experience

  1. I had an R&R with a small publisher once, but it ultimately didn’t work out—although it helped me make my book stronger. Enlightening post!

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    1. Gina thank you so much for sharing your experience. There’s no guarantee with R&R’s, but as long as writers keep that in mind and do their best to make their story better and stronger, there’s a win in spite of the result.

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  2. Wonderful tips shared, Mariana! I’m glad it worked out, and to see that R&Rs can have success stories 🙂

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