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Should you re-query an agent with a revised manuscript?

We’ve talked before—and there’s a lot of chatter on the internet—about how hard it is to get a literary agent. These days, agents are receiving hundreds of queries a week from aspiring writers. One question that comes up: is it permissible to re-query an agent with a revised manuscript?

The scenario we’re talking about: you’ve queried agents with your manuscript, The Lost Balloon, and haven’t received any offers.

In the meantime, you’ve been working hard, and you have revised The Lost Balloon. A substantial revision, you say. You’d like to reach out to agents whom you’ve already queried. After all, you’ve done your homework, and they’re still well-respected agents who represent projects like yours.

The essential question is whether your revision is actually substantial. Courtney Maum in her Substack newsletter “Before and After the Book Deal,” puts it this way:  “If I part my hair to the right, and show up to work one day parting it to the left, that is not a substantial change. If I cut all of my hair off, or dye it an entirely different color, those are visible and higher-level changes. But if your manuscript is going to show itself at an agent’s desk again, it needs to be so unrecognizable, it’s not about a different haircut—your manuscript has on a different head.”

A change in POV from first person to third person? Not substantial for purposes of this scenario (although plenty of tedious work… ask me how I know…).

Switching the setting from a rural area in West Virginia to a rural area in Kentucky? Not substantial.

Converting a slow-paced, pensive literary story to a pulse-pounding thriller? There you go. This would be considered a substantial change.

Subject to agency guidelines, which you should always double-check, if your revision fits this definition, if it will sound like a new and different book, then go for it. Re-query those agents. I’m cheering you on—I hope to see The Lost Balloon at an independent bookstore or library someday!