I Hate My Job!

Well, I don’t always hate my job. I only hate it on the days I have to send rejection letters. Or maybe I should say, I only hate it during the moments of the day that I must send rejection letters.

If you receive a rejection letter either from my assistant or myself, you can count on a few truths:

  • If we say you are talented, we believe it.
  • If we say your work isn’t the right fit for us, you can believe it.
  • If we say you can send us proposals in the future, you can take us up on that offer.

In fact, you can believe anything we say in our letters. We don’t search for excuses. If you think you’ve gotten a form letter, then your work has a similar reason for being rejected that it shares with many others.

Next time, I’ll elaborate on those reasons. But in the meantime, I want to assure you that writing rejection letters causes us much pain. Much more than you may realize. I have a writer’s heart, and I remember rejection of my own work all too well.

So please know that while I’m not able to take on every project I like and every author I adore, I do understand the heartbreak of rejection.

May many acceptance letters be in your future!

Your turn:

What was the most painful rejection letter you received?

What was the most encouraging rejection letter you received?

75 Responses to I Hate My Job!

  1. Brennan S. McPherson March 1, 2018 at 4:12 am #

    Tamela, you send the kindest rejection letters I’ve received.

  2. Janine Rosche March 1, 2018 at 4:58 am #

    Not writing related, but the kindest rejection I ever received was my senior year of high school. Robin Williams had just won his Oscar for Good Will Hunting and it gave me courage.
    So I called my crush, Adam, and asked him out.
    He said, “I’m really flattered that you would like me and I’m impressed by your courage. I think you are beautiful, and smart and you have a great sense of humor! But I just started dating someone and I’d like to see where that goes.”
    With that rejection, he showed me more respect than any other boy ever had. It actually lifted me up, rather than depressed me. It also gave me a standard of the kind of boy I should be pursuing.
    Any time I have to “reject” someone, I use what Adam taught me. You can still encourage someone without accepting them.
    And you can be rejected, and still hold your head high, knowing that God has other plans.
    (Btw, Adam is a Catholic priest now, and I’ve been married for 16 years; I’d say it worked out for all involved).

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 7:14 am #

      How lovely! With that much graciousness, he should be a wonderful priest, too.

  3. Marian Rizzo March 1, 2018 at 5:22 am #

    Many years ago, I received a scathing rejection letter for a first attempt at an article for Women’s Day magazine. The editor wrote, “Story lacks drama and writer lacks talent.”

    I didn’t quit. Fast forward five years and I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

    I framed both letters and placed them on the wall over my desk. One keeps me from becoming too proud and the other keeps me from becoming discouraged.

  4. Loretta Eidson March 1, 2018 at 6:51 am #

    My first rejection letter crushed me. It was my first piece of nonfiction and I knew nothing about the writing world. After I threw it in the trash and walked away, I still felt like I had a story to tell, so I decided to ‘learn’ to write properly. That’s when I enrolled in Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and took the four-year writing course and attend writers conferences. Best thing I’ve ever done. I learned what was meant by having a ‘thick skin.’ The most encouraging rejection letter came from a magazine submission. They simply said it didn’t fit what they were looking for.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 7:16 am #

      It’s great to have such a healthy attitude toward rejection. I hope others will be encouraged by your comment.

  5. Sarah Hamaker March 1, 2018 at 7:14 am #

    For my first nonfiction book I pitched to editors a dozen or so years ago, I received a form rejection letter with a handwritten note from the editor saying that the book didn’t fit their line, but that she thought I had talent and to keep trying. I kept that letter until the book did find a home, but there are days when I wish I had hung onto it a little bit longer.

    I’ve thought about that particular rejection letter many times over the years because it reminds me of why saying no doesn’t have to be harsh but can be framed in an encouraging or kind way. We all have to say no to something, but kindness and encouragement–when possible–can co-exist along with the rejection.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 7:17 am #

      You’re so right — rejection is a part of life, but there’s no reason to be mean.

  6. Sandra Ardoin March 1, 2018 at 7:49 am #

    My “worst” came years ago with a personal note from the editor to study certain craft books. Now I know that it was one of the better ones I’ve received. I think the worst are the ones that don’t come at all.

  7. Lillian March 1, 2018 at 8:13 am #

    My “worse” rejection letter came from a very well-known Publishing House. Believe it or not, it I was on cloud nine after receiving it, because it wasn’t a form letter. It actually said that it had gone through the evaluation process by the Editorial board, but felt it did not meet their need at the time. They liked the idea and suggested I consider seeking another publisher who might consider publishing it in paperback. As I look back, for this novice writer who knew nothing about anything and had never published ANYTHING,
    I felt I had hit a home room. From that rejection, I moved on to a more realistic ambition and published my first MAGAZINE article. 😉

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 8:28 am #

      A wonderful example of a teachable spirit, Lillian! Congratulations on your article!

  8. Sami A. Abrams March 1, 2018 at 8:23 am #

    I’ve received two rejection letters, and I have to admit they were both wonderfully written and encouraging. Yes, I was disappointed both times, but now I see the timing of that proposal wasn’t right. That’s not to say I’m giving up having that novel published, but now isn’t the time. I can see that God had a purpose in those letters, and he has a better plan. It took me a little time to lick my wounds before I could see it. Now, I’m excited about the new path I’m on.

  9. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 1, 2018 at 8:23 am #

    The tears of rejection cleanse the hands of the midwife as she prepares for the rebirth.

  10. Lillian March 1, 2018 at 8:54 am #

    I apologize for not sufficiently editing my Kindle. It writes strange things. LOL “Home room” should be “home run.”

  11. Vanessa Burton March 1, 2018 at 9:03 am #

    Thank you for your view of things! The most painful rejections I’ve received are ones that don’t explain why it’s a no. On the flip side, the best ones are ones that give encouragement and advice of how to improve my writing for next time! 🙂

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 10:22 am #

      Vanessa, I understand what you mean, but one agent’s “I don’t like this story because it doesn’t have a three-legged dog,” is another agent’s, “Wow! This is AMAZING!” I don’t usually offer a critique for that reason. I hope that helps ease the pain of the unexplained no for you!

  12. Joey Rudder March 1, 2018 at 9:17 am #

    Thank you for this timely post, Tamela, and for sharing your beautiful heart with us through your posts. It helps to discuss rejection, to understand it is part of the writing business, and it’s soothing to read how others have triumphed.

    The most painful and the most encouraging rejection letter I have ever received are one in the same. It arrived on Monday. Steve was very kind and professional in his letter. The painful part is all on me. I’m just someone who gets her hopes up; way, way up.

    I’m praying and asking God to lead the way if I should seek another agent for this book or if I should set it aside and begin the next or…

    God bless you, Tamela, as you continue to serve Him.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 10:24 am #

      Thank you, Joey, and I’m always edified to learn, though not surprised, that our agency continues to treat authors with kindness and respect.

      • Joey Rudder March 1, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

        It’s an excellent agency which is why you all have so many wanting representation. 😉

  13. Carol Ashby March 1, 2018 at 9:23 am #

    The best rejection I ever had started with an editor at a conference scanning the first one-sheet I offered, then reading 1-2 pages of the beginning of that Roman novel. Then she asked to see the other 4 one-sheets. (Lesson 1: Take a one-sheet for everything you have completed. Also take a 1-page synopsis and the beginning 15 pages, like a Genesis contest entry. You never know what might pique the editor’s/agent’s interest.)

    Next she told me to send the full manuscript of the 1925 Colorado thriller to one of her imprint editors. The info sheet for that imprint said 80K words max, but mine was 110K. I asked her about that, and she said send it anyway. (Lesson 2: It might have helped that I showed sensitivity to what her requirements were even though what I had didn’t fit them.)

    The first imprint editor passed it on to a different imprint editor. She read it and responded with a rejection that said my 110K words would have to be reduced by 30 K before it would fit her needs. But when I responded with a thank you for considering it and a question about whether there were some general problems that I should address, she summarized a few and then sent me the full manuscript with all her notations. She’d read the whole thing even though it was too long for them. (Lesson 3: If you ask someone for some guidance when you thank them for considering your work, even though they ultimately rejected it, you may end up with a treasure that will help you going forward.)

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 12:39 pm #

      Exactly. You have already proven a willingness to work with them. That’s always good!

  14. Sharron Cosby March 1, 2018 at 9:28 am #

    I agree with another commenter that the worst rejections are the ones that are never sent. The silence screams, “Your writing isn’t worthy of a response.”

    I pitched a proposal to Cec Murphy in 2009 at the She Speaks Conference. He said, “Honey, you’re an unknown and your memoir won’t sell. You DO have a powerful story to tell. Find a creative way to tell it, besides memoir.”

    I took his advice to heart and wrote my devotional book.

    He was kind and gave constructive feedback that I’ll never forget.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 12:42 pm #

      So wonderful to hear that, Sharron!

      Please know that the lack of a response doesn’t always scream, “Your writing isn’t worthy of a response.” I know not receiving a response at all can hurt, though!

      I realize this sounds lame, but things can happen in an agent’s office that keep him or her from responding. Perhaps your message never arrived, or the agent thought she responded but didn’t. Unless the agent’s guidelines state that they don’t respond to queries that don’t interest them, it’s okay to ask for a response if you don’t receive one.

  15. Hilary Cobb March 1, 2018 at 9:45 am #

    I submitted an article to a local magazine, and the editor sent me a personal email explaining why they weren’t able to use it. Although it was a rejection, I was still excited that she had read my article, even if she didn’t publish it.

    I sent a super enthusiastic, grateful email back to her, explaining how touched I was that they would even consider my writing. I think based on my gracious and humble response, she ended up reaching out to me a few months later to ask if I had any more articles to submit.
    A year-and-a-half later, the magazine has now published several of my articles.

    I think being gracious as the rejector and the rejectee goes a long way! 😉

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

      Being gracious in loss makes everything more pleasant for everyone!

      It’s never fun to get a poison pen letter after sending a rejection! And sometimes we do get those. We understand that a writer can be upset, but those letters do burn bridges.

      Thank you for a comment that shows that courtesy counts. A gracious writer may not find a happy publishing ending, but a good attitude is its own reward.

  16. Gail Arbogast March 1, 2018 at 9:46 am #

    Receiving a rejection letter from your agency when my proposal didn’t get to the gentleman who sold his agency to yours. I knew before I sent it, that would happen once I found the other agency was no longer in business. “I fell through the cracks.” Didn’t make me feel any better.

  17. Jennifer Haynie March 1, 2018 at 10:07 am #

    Worst? Actually, it wasn’t a rejection letter from an agent. It was never hearing back, which left me in suspense as a young, inexperienced writer. Of course, I got it.

    Best? One I received from your boss. He said I have the craft. I keep it on my bulletin board in my officer and look at it when I get discouraged.

  18. Janet Ann Collins March 1, 2018 at 10:39 am #

    When I told my college roommate I wanted to be a writer she said, “Show me your rejection slips. You’re not a writer until you have some.” She kept nagging me until I sent something I’d written as a kid to a place I knew it couldn’t get published, got a rejection slip, and she quit nagging.
    It was years later when I actually submitted something for the first time and it was accepted. Then I sent out something else and got a rejection slip. Wow! I was thrilled! That proved I was really a writer.

    I wish publishers still sent those instead of simply ignoring submissions they don’t want.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 12:49 pm #

      Janet Ann, I realize how frustrating it is to be ignored, but publishers often don’t have the time or staff to answer all queries. I wish things were different in that department. Keep on trying!

    • Sonja Anderson March 1, 2018 at 1:27 pm #

      I hear you! That big, black hole of nothingness hurts way worse than a form rejection letter ever could. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen as much as it used to, and I try to have enough balls in the air that all my hopes aren’t riding on a single project or publisher.

  19. Shirlee Abbott March 1, 2018 at 10:40 am #

    Best rejection: it offered praise for the concept and my writing, but politely suggested that my commitment was shakey. It asked if I was ready to invest the time and make the sacrifices. It led me to a long conversation with God. Writing, I concluded, was my calling, not a hobby.

    • Karen Sargent March 1, 2018 at 11:45 am #

      Shirlee, what a great reflective question the agent asked! And what a great answer you arrived at. 🙂

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

      So glad the agent helped you go full force!

  20. Karen Sargent March 1, 2018 at 10:43 am #

    My best rejection email came from an agent who called my ms a “very good property,” but she was no longer accepting fiction. She recommended an agent for me to contact. Although I queried but didn’t hear back from the other agent, I kept reminding myself a top literary agent called my ms “a very good property.” That kept me encouraged while I waited for the eventual “yes.” I don’t envy an agent’s job when it comes to rejecting a writers’ work.

  21. Mark Stevenson March 1, 2018 at 10:58 am #

    Tamela,

    I have spent the better part of a year getting to know agents, publishers, and other writers. It has been quite an education, following FB posts, tweets, and blogs.

    I have come to the conclusion that every part of the process is a calling to be experienced by journey for a writer. That first novel (where I am at) is going to be my first love. Knowing my first love will be judged makes me work harder to make sure it is as close to exceptional as I can get to erase every doubt by agents about it becoming a best seller. That’s the creator in me talking.

    Now I’m smart enough to know, if and when I get that first rejection letter after I release queries, it will be to make something better so it will become a best seller. Because in my heart, I know that first love will always be loved by me. No matter what anyone may say. And if I am blessed enough to earn a readership, they also will be my journey, walking with me and my characters.

    It is an endearing quality to hear an agent, such yourself Tamela, be so transparent. In reading all your communications, I already knew these things about you because I have learned your character.

    I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge you, as an agent. We have not yet had the pleasure of doing business together, but you are a special person in your job. And if any writer knows your character, they will know if they ever receive a rejection letter from you, or your agency for that matter, it is a note of compassion to encourage further development and follow through on recommendations. And that should always be accepted with humility and determination.

    Thank you for your words today.

    Mark

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 12:52 pm #

      Thank you, Mark. Now I have encouraging words to post on my bulletin board! Much appreciated.

  22. Claire O'Sullivan March 1, 2018 at 11:49 am #

    Love this post…

    My worst was ‘I cannot relate to your characters. Don’t ever submit again. Ever.’

    Mildly dejected, I began to laugh and realized I needed a lot of work. I found critique partners who were happy to tear it apart. I’ve since become best friends with my harshest critique partner.

    Fast forward four years. A wonderful Christian publisher rejected my work but gave me advice. I submitted it as a romance, however started it with the crime. She was gracious, said the writing was good, but said she couldn’t find the romance.

    That led me to another revision. Then another. And… another. Completely different than my first-to-millionth rewrite/edit, and the fiction finally opened with the main character as opposed to the crime. I went through a beta group. They loved it/hated it (LOL) because of the twists. Went through a junior high school teacher (LOL once again) because I couldn’t afford an editor, and she had to stop editing so she could weep, laugh through the HEA for now.

    That … led me to submitting my proposal to SLA in 2016, and then, the manuscript in 2017 (after I’d done some more revisions), an edit, and now awaiting the final word. But SLA was my finest hour, my smelling salts, and even if the manuscript is ultimately rejected, I will have made it to the best of the best (as far as I am concerned).

    So … in summation, embrace rejections. Even when they don’t give feedback or poor feedback, it means (to me) that it hit the trash and I need to work on it.

    Claire

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

      What a wonderful story of perseverance! A teachable spirit will take you a long way, as you have seen!

      • Claire O'Sullivan March 3, 2018 at 12:39 pm #

        Hi Tamela

        🙂 thank you. The ‘waiting game’ is stretching patience even more. Which I figure God is still plowing through my heart.

        But, I don’t know when to nudge on the manuscript (six months waiting? Is that yet too soon to expect an answer – i.e. rejection or acceptance?

        Thank you!
        Claire

        • Sonja Anderson March 3, 2018 at 12:53 pm #

          I would love to hear an answer to this question, too, especially how long to wait for a response for a requested full manuscript submission from traditional publishers (unagented). Is six weeks too soon to send an email asking if it is still under consideration?

          • Claire O'Sullivan March 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm #

            Hi Sonja,

            I think six weeks isn’t long–you have to wait for readers, editors and the agent, each process could take longer than 2-3 months (each).

            Same boat, same still waters, am I. ‘He makes me lie down in green pastures…’ Consider it rest as you work on your next project. ‘I shall not fear the shadow of death, for You are with me’ (rejection…? which rather feels like that.).

            I pray you hear soon – (and me, too!)
            Claire

            • Sonja Anderson March 3, 2018 at 1:27 pm #

              Thank you for the encouragement, Claire!

  23. Sonja Anderson March 1, 2018 at 1:24 pm #

    The most encouraging rejection letter was a long email in which the agent seemed to be talking herself out of taking on my story the whole time. She told me so many things that she liked about it, and finally ended by saying that she thought “I was going places.” (She didn’t think she could place that particular story with a bigger publisher than I could myself, so she finally said no.

    That phrase, “I think you’re going places,” has done more for my confidence level than she could imagine! I think it to myself when I’m asked for speaking gigs, and when I’m submitting myself once again to putting a new project out into the world.

    A rejection letter that made me laugh? One that appeared FOUR YEARS after submitting the manuscript. The work in question was already published by someone else by that time! I felt sorry that I had forgotten to let them know that it had been taken on by a different publisher, but so much time had gone by that I never dreamed it was still under consideration!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 1:39 pm #

      Sometimes the decision is hard, as your experience shows. Ummm, I try not to take four years to respond!

      Thanks for sharing!

  24. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D March 1, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

    Tamela, the hardest rejection letters to receive are those that do not say why the rejection was made. The most helpful ones suggest, however briefly, how to improve.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 2:55 pm #

      Sheri, you make a good point. When there is something helpful to say, such as, the manuscript doesn’t meet word count, that can work. But if my reasons are more subjective, such as, the story just didn’t grab me, then that might not be as helpful to an author. I do try to be helpful when I can, though.

  25. Ann L. Coker March 1, 2018 at 2:52 pm #

    Mine would be combined — a rejection that spurred me on to prove him wrong. I agree with Sheri’s comment, for one rejection about a devotional submission encouraged me try again and why.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 2:55 pm #

      Maybe a devotional on rejection might be in order!

      • Ann L. Coker March 1, 2018 at 3:01 pm #

        I’m smiling. Also thankful that you did not edit my comment. 😉

        • Claire O'Sullivan March 3, 2018 at 1:36 pm #

          Ha ha… I worry about that, too. I have a friend on Facebook who reads through my work looking for grammar (in my novels), Once, she corrected my spelling on Facebook — ha- and I check my spelling before I post. Too funny.

          Claire

  26. Lynda Boucher March 1, 2018 at 3:07 pm #

    The worst is no response at all! I’ve followed Guidelines that suggest including a SASP to simply acknowledge receipt of a ms that were never mailed to me by the publisher.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 1, 2018 at 4:03 pm #

      I am so sorry. When they ask for that, the least they can do is say, “Got it.”

  27. Hannah Currie March 1, 2018 at 5:02 pm #

    Tamela, the most beautiful and encouraging rejection letter I ever received was from you. I’d worked so hard on that manuscript and gone back and forth in emails and making the changes suggested and such that I was certain if it was finally rejected, I’d be devastated, and yet, I wasn’t. Your beautiful note was worded in such a way that I felt really encouraged and like I couldn’t wait to try again. Thanks more than you’ll probably ever realise for that.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 2, 2018 at 7:24 am #

      Hannah, thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate knowing I could be an encourager!

  28. Christine Henderson March 2, 2018 at 4:53 pm #

    In the 1990’s I sent a story to Amazing Stories Magazine (sci-fi stories) and received a full page critique which gave me tips on what I needed to change to improve, pointed out the grammar errors, and even misspellings. Thus were the days before “Grammarly”!

    Back then I was crushed, and even more so now as I look back on how poorly written that story was. That editor showed me grace in responding to me in such great detail. Even then magazine responses were the one paragraph of “thanks, but it’s not for us.”

  29. Deb Santefort March 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm #

    I have read the rejection letter from your assistant over and over. It feels like a kiss on the forehead.

    Looking forward to next Thursday’s blog.

  30. Denise March 26, 2018 at 4:17 am #

    The most difficult rejection I received was two-fold. I had attended a writers conference where I pitched my book to several publishers and agents. A representative from Zondervan as well as an agent seemed interested.

    The rep for Zondervan gave me specific instructions to forward my manuscript to a specific person at the publisher and if I did not hear a response within two weeks to contact her (she gave me her office number). She made sure before our time ended that I had her contact information. I assured her I did.

    One of the agents with an agency that I met with also seemed interested and asked me to forward the full manuscript to her email inbox as well as another manuscript I was not prepared to pitch but I had briefly mentioned.

    I forwarded my manuscript(s) as instructed to both parties, but never heard anything back…ever. I even called the rep from Zondervan when I did not hear back and my phone call was never returned. I found it odd that I heard nothing, not even a form rejection, especially when my manuscript was specifically requested by both. That was pretty painful because I had high hopes when not just one, but two people seemed interested and then to hear nothing at all.

    • Janine March 26, 2018 at 5:07 am #

      Oh I’d be crushed, too! I hope one day that connection will come back into play for you!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 26, 2018 at 6:59 am #

      Denise, I’m so sorry. That shouldn’t have happened. But sometimes, it just does.

      I suggest trying with a couple of different agents, citing that the project did garner interest at a major conference, and go from there.

    • Christine L Henderson May 4, 2018 at 10:11 pm #

      I had a similar experience. I met with an editor at a conference who praised my picture book manuscript and asked my permission to bring it to their full editorial committee for approval. She even asked for other manuscripts, which I sent in the following week. I followed up twice and no feedback.

      The same conference I met an agent who liked my story pitch of a novel and asked me to do a full book proposal according to his company’s guidelines and send it to him in 6 weeks when he’d be back in the office from conferences. I did hear back from him only to be told he was no longer looking for novels only non-fiction. Could have saved me a lot of time if he’d told me that at the conference.

      I recently attended another mini-conference and pitched a different picture book story to a publisher who laughed at all the story points and said she’d like to see the full manuscript. I also pitched two other stories to her that she declined and gave me tips to improve. It will be interesting to see what response I get for the one she did like.

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