Should a writer revise a manuscript based on the disparate opinions of several agents?
I've received flattering, lengthy, detailed rejections of my novel from several A-list agents, each of whom was tempted but ultimately passed. While it's terrific that they considered my manuscript worthy of their thoughtful comments, there's a total lack of consensus about where each felt the story fell short. If even two of these agents criticized the same element of my novel, I'd start an immediate revision before sending off my next round of queries. But agent one praised something that agent two didn't like, etc, etc. I'm confused! To revise or not to revise, that is my question.
Did these agents say they would look at a revision?
When I provide comments without an offer to review a revised manuscript, I usually won't want to see the revision. Instead, I am just trying to provide some general guidance to you.
In contrast, when I ask to see a revision, it means that I could definitely be interested in representing you, but that right now there's too much work to be done still to make an offer of a representation. This doesn't mean that I only take on clients who's work is ready for submission to editors - in fact, I will almost always want a client to revise even after I've signed them up. However, by that point I've been convinced that we share the same vision for the work and their writing is such that eventually we can get the proposal or manuscript in shape for submission.
Of course, even when an agent asks for a revision there's no guarantee that they'll make you an offer of representation. You might not revise to their satisfaction. Or alternatively, the agent's circumstances could have changed and now their list is too full to take on another client. As a result, it's absolutely essential to make sure that you agree with the comments and that the work will be stronger regardless of whether that agent ends up making an offer of representation.