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I have 7 publishing houses currently evaluating my manuscript for possible publication. Some houses have already read a few chapters and have requested the entire manuscript, others are basing their evaluation on their interest in my synopsis.

I sent another house (not included in the above tally) my full manuscript because on their website they said that they accepted unsolicited fulls. I got a reply in about one month. It was a rejection, but with an offer to look at the work again should I substantially revise the manuscript (they made a few suggestions) as well as an offer to consider another book when I complete it (I am working on a second novel now).

My question is, has anyone revised a manuscript and actually managed to get published with a house that has asked them to do this? Of course I am going to wait back to hear from the others before I even attempt to make the changes they ask for. I am not even sure the changes are doable, given the scope of the novel.

I am willing to perform surgery on my novel, if you will, but it would be much easier to work with a publisher that is willing to invest in me and guide me through the changes that they want made.

Any similar experiences?

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I had a similar experience over thirty years ago, but it didn't result in a publishing contract. My manuscript was being reviewed by five publishing houses, and the first to reply was a rejection. However, they had some very nice things to say about it and suggested that it was just too long and had too many characters. They recommended that I rewrite it and send it back, so I immediately began working on cutting it down even before I heard back from the other publishers. The manuscript was ultimately rejected by the other four publishers as well, but I continued with the rewrite.

Once I was nearly done with the revisions, I sent out new sample chapters and a synopsis to the same publishers as well as a few others, and this time I had seven publishers willing to look at the completed manuscript. The same publisher who had suggested the rewrite was again the first to reply, and once again they recommended that I reduce the length. This time I decided to wait for the others to respond. In time, all the other publishers ended up rejecting it as well.

At that point I had to decide whether or not I wanted to go through the anguish of trying to make more cuts without having any clear commitment from the publisher or even a clear understanding of what they were looking for. I decided that I just didn't have the desire to do that, so the manuscript sat in my closet for the next twenty-five years. That's when I decided to make a few changes to it and publish it myself. Since then, I've sold about 5000 copies of that book, which isn't great, but I haven't done a lot to promote it either.

Realistically, the publisher isn't going to invest much, if any, time or effort in helping you refine your work. I think at this point, you have to decide what is best for you. Are you willing to take a chance and start making those changes, even though there are no guarantees that they will result in a contract? Another option would be to start looking for an agent to help you. Since you already have some publishing houses showing an interest in your work, an agent might be willing to invest some time and effort in helping you refine the work, even though a publisher won't. If neither of those options works out for you, then maybe it's time to start looking at self-publishing.

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If this is the first book you've sent out, you might be unaware how unusual (and prized!) it is to get any personal feedback from a publisher at all --form rejections and silence are much more common. Given this, any offer to reconsider upon revision should be taken extremely seriously. No publisher ever requests a second look at a manuscript unless they mean it (there are just too many other manuscripts out there to waste time in this way).

Don't do damage to your work if you think the changes they requested are negative, but keep in mind that if they are a reputable publisher, they probably know the market better than you, and may be giving you really good advice.

At one time it used to be common for publishers to help an author work through revisions, but it is extremely rare these days, when publishers typically expect fully polished work. The one book I was personally able to place with a major publisher went through a number of major revisions with a sympathetic editor (who unfortunately retired soon after). If you can develop an relationship with one, I would see this as a big plus.

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