Friday, June 8, 2012

A little Something Every Writer Should Know: The In Between by Kris Jacen

You may or may not know who Kris Jacen is. You've seen her work though, even if you don't know her name. She's a muse, a goddess, a mother, the holder of an EDJ and the kick-ass Exec. Editor over at MLR Press.

The woman is a powerhouse.

I managed to persuade her (okay, I bribed with views of multiple hotties and a cool ass place to break her fast one day) to write a bit about something that plagues many a new and not so new writer, and robs far too many of us of far too many amazing stories.

The dreaded revise and resubmit letter.

Many see we regret to inform you and flee for the hills screaming and whimpering, fearing that they are merely being told politely that they, and their writing suck. Babies, it just ain't so... and Kris, the all powerful Smut Fairy and muse to many is just the one to tell us why. So, without further pandering or posturing from moi, here's Kris...


The In Between

With all the editing and formatting I do, I've gotten so far behind in my pleasure reading it's not funny. BUT I finally gave up and started listening to audiobooks for a few of the books that I so want to read but don't really have the time to read. Right now I'm listening to JR Ward's LOVER REBORN (I’m a huge fangrrl) and the main male character has lost his shellan (mate) and she's in the In Between—didn't go to their version of Heaven (The Fade) or Hell (Dhund); it's different for everyone and can be a desolate place. 
Now you're probably wondering where I'm going with this reference or thinking I've lost my mind (which is a possibility). Most authors at one point in their career go to THEIR version of the In Between. Yes, they do. When? When they see a revise and resub letter. They're so focused on "they didn't say yes" that they miss that "THEY DIDN'T SAY NO". That's right, they completely miss the entire letter.

Most publishing houses have three types of letters that they'll send to an author that has submitted a manuscript to them:

· Yes – here's a contract; we might want some edits and you'll work with an editor but we want it

· No – sorry but this just doesn't fit our needs at this time but thank you (and if the letter is from ManLoveRomance/Passion in Print/Featherweight there will be editorial feedback on your story – just FYI)

· Revise/resub – and this is the one that throws authors to their In Between; the house liked the bones of the story but wants to see: a) that you're willing to work on your story with them; b) that what the house thinks of as major changes are acceptable to you and that you'll change them; c) you've got the determination to work with an editor in a back and forth to put out the strongest book that you can

The whole point of a revise and resub and what most authors don't see when they read a revise/resub is that the house really wants to work with you but thinks the manuscript needs more work before it can go into edits. A house is not going to take the time to give you point-by-point feedback if they don't want you to do it and send it back to them.

The In Between for authors really isn't that bad a place – it just means that the editor wants you to do a bit more work before they send you and "yes, here's your contract" letter.

I know of what I speak (er, spoke?) as I was in receipt of a revise/resub letter from MLR... I nearly tossed it into my etrash until a wise writer friend told me it didn't mean no... it meant we'd like to but can't unless you change a few things. That story ended up being the first thing I ever published as a professional writer. 

Thank you Kris Jacen, and Mlr Press for taking a chance on me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

You can find more about the amazing Kris over at Mlr Press. 
You'll be looking at The Talent, which surely applies to Kris, and while you're there take a moment to poke around and find out a bit about the authors and artists listed there. 


  1. Yes, I agree, except (now you knew I was going to add an "except" didn't you?) it only applies to a house and an editor you can trust. In the distant past, I spent lots of time rewriting for houses that, by the time I was done, had vanished, or the editor who was interested was gone and the new one had no interest in my masterwork. This was in the days of the NYC houses, where editorial chairs is a regular game. I would say if you get a rewrite resub from MLR, you can safely take the time to work on your ms., safely assuming the time will be put to good use.

  2. Those letters can be daunting! It can make you feel as if you should never write again... My first submit to MLR Press was one of these and I remember feeling a mix of ick & terrible. It took the love of my life the better part of 3 hours to convince me it wasn't a no. I sucked it up, did the work and The Dark Angels are much better for it!!!
    I am sitting on an in between letter currently and this blog reminds me I need to once again suck it because the characters deserve their story told.
    Kris Jacen is the Editor Goddess!!! May your editors all be as wonderful as she... (now is that a fragment???)
    Hugs, Z.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this Kris. When you talked about this at lunch I felt like taking notes. I know now to read over everything very carefully whenever I get an email from a publisher now. Thanks!

  4. Great insight on the writing process and as a reader I appreciate the final results.

  5. Great post, Kris. I've always viewed revise/resub letters as "Not a NO"; I take them as a challenge to prove that I can do better and that I can take a note from the editor. And usually after I do the revisions, the book is a lot better... Just ask my vegan werewolf. LOL

    As an author, obviously I prefer the "YES" letters, but if I can't have one of those, I'd rather have a revise/resub than the alternative. At least a revise/resub gives me and my characters a second chance.

    I'm published with MLR, Passion in Print, and Featherweight, and if memory serves my first submission to each of them resulted in a revise/resub.

  6. Thanks for the post, Kris. I think a lot of us with that first submission teeter between the extremes of "OMG, what if they like it?" and "I so suck - they're gonna hate it!" that we don't even realize there is an in-between. Deep breathing and careful reading is clearly in order.

  7. Thanks for sharing this information. I'm at the very beginning of my writing career and I've only ever received YES and NO (thankfully, more yes than no!). But I like to think that had I received revise/resub, I would have understood and reacted accordingly.

    Now that I've read this, I will for sure see it as a positive, if ever I receive one, and do the necessary work in relationship with the editor and publishing house.

    Thanks again!

  8. Writers can always count upon good information imparted by Kris, this article by her no exception. I speak from experience when I say that Kris knows about what she speaks.

    Although, referencing my old buddy Victor Banis's comment above, DO make sure the publishing house (and editor) with which (whom) you're dealing is viable, like MLR Press (and Krs), or you just may be left all alone with your revised-but-destined-NOT-to-be-published manuscript in the end.

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  10. Thanks everyone for the comments. I hope this little view of part of the process helps some.

    And Victor and William - yes, you need to have some faith in whomever is giving the opinion.

    Karenna - then you've seen one of my letters since I write the letters for MLR/FW.

    Vic - it did look like quite a bit portion of our lunch time like you wanted to take notes.

    Kendall - glad you got the viewpoint from an editor you haven't worked with yet.

  11. OMG when I got a letter like that from MLR I was so excited. Of course, I'd tried submitting a YA manuscript to over 100 agents and got 100 no's (or just no answer at all). That YA manuscript wasn't well written, even though the story world and characters are good, so I need to re-write it from scratch (when I can be bothered to go there again...), so I'm not upset about it.

    Anyway, I got into m/m and wrote two stories and a few short stories before I had the guts to submit. My writing had improved tons after a lot of practicing, reading "how to write" books, and taking a creative writing course at the university.

    I went for the big guns (MLR), figuring I had nothing to lose, and was so excited not to get a definite "no", lol. I needed to do some serious rewriting, but I was happy to do it. What impressed me was that although I did most of the changes, I wasn't backhanded for not wanting to do all of them (I justified every single thing that I didn't want to change). I very much appreciate that my opinions were taken into consideration. I suppose reading all those publishing/editing horror stories in the YA genre had prepared me well before I submitted my m/m. Of course, this genre is nothing like the mainstream YA and everyone's very friendly and supportive here.

    So yeah, people, that in between letter helped make my book a LOT better, so it's worth it :)

  12. Bloody Brilliant Post.

    PS: Love the blog changes.

  13. This is so true! When I first got the resub letter, I went through the motions that I am sure most people do... But then I spoke with my partner in crime and he kept telling me about a certain author who has made the comment several times how they wallpapered a wall in their house with rejection letters, and look where they are now...

    So we reworked it and resubmitted it, and then GayRomLit in New Orleans happened and well... The opportunity to speak with several authors who took the time to assure me that the 'if they didn't want to deal with you they would have just said no, we are not interested.'

    We've gotten a letter like that for one of our books, so we've got the feel of those. LOL

    But when Kris came up to me and asked where the book was and when we would be resending it. THAT was the turning point really. It made me realize that we weren't told 'no' or that we weren't being strung along with making so many changes and continuiing to be told no, when our story was changed so much.

    It gave me (my partner in crime always had it!) my confidence and inspiration and most importantly my drive back to be successful and get our stories out for people to love them as much as we do writing them.

    Kris has been so helpful and supportive! I don't know if I can find the words to say how much I appreciate her!

    AJ Kelton

  14. So far in my career it's been "no" or "yes" but I guess I am lucky; aside from my miserable short story track record, my acceptances outweigh the no's.

    A resub letter would thrill me. Hell, come on, if I thought my books were crafted from gold, I'd self-publish. I know I need a pro editor's help.

    I must say when Silver sends a no, the no comes with an excellent critique. Just an FYI.

    S.A. Garcia


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