It May Have Been You – But Don’t Worry

So, you sent me your latest proposal and received a rejection from my assistant. A week later, I post a blog that seems to be talking about your submission.

So, did your proposal prompt that blog post?

Maybe. But consider:

  • If the post appears a few days after we interact, you weren’t the one. Most of my posts are written weeks in advance.
  • If your interaction with my office prompted my post, don’t worry. One communication with a lone author doesn’t trigger a blog post from me. If you see a blog post that seems to be talking to you or about you, if it is, then that means you are part of a trend of three or more people. Enough people that I feel warrant a helpful post.
  • Decisions from my office are all about whether we think a project will attract attention in the current market. We are painfully aware that we are sometimes mistaken in our assessment. Yes, I want to represent people I enjoy working with; but I assume if you’re submitting a proposal to me, you’d like us to work together. So a rejection of your project is not a comment on you as a person. We try to keep authors from feeling that way. We hope we succeed.
  • I hate rejections more than you do. I would never lash out at an author with a vindictive post.

So please never feel chastised by a blog post from me. Look at it this way: If an interaction with my office that you had can help other authors, that’s good for all of us.


Your turn:

What have you learned from your journey in querying agents?

How can agents do a better job of helping authors through rejection?



26 Responses to It May Have Been You – But Don’t Worry

  1. Tuvia Pollack June 27, 2019 at 4:25 am #

    Something I’ve learned is not to take it personally. Querying is not about getting accepted. It’s about finding the agent that is looking for your book. You need to find that specific agent that is going to be enthusiastic about your specific idea and share your belief in it.

    They say that JK Rowling had many rejections. But if one of those rejections had accepted her half-heartedly and said “ok, we will give it a go”, it might have flopped. It wouldnt have had the right amount of marketing and push behind it. She succeeded because she was able to find that one agent and that one publisher that were just as enthusiastic about her idea as she was.

    The rejections I like are when an agent says that. “This is a great idea and you are a great writer – but I am just not enthusiastic enough about it, and I wouldn’t do it justice.” Provided that it is said honestly, it’s a feedback that gives me hope.

    Also, as a Christian, I believe that if I get rejected, then it just means God has other plans for me. Maybe another agent. Maybe a need to revise and rewrite. Maybe a need to try a different market. Maybe I need to go indie or vanity. It’s all about laying it before Him and trust his plans. If he has given me the heart and enthusiasm about the book, he will also provide a way to get it published.

    • Maco Stewart June 27, 2019 at 4:41 am #

      Tuvia, great comment.

      Tamela, you have a reputation for superior care and nurturing of your clients. That you would present such a compassionate and reassuring post for someone who is NOT your client shows remarkable thoughtfulness.

      This post reminds me of when Jerry Maguire says “we live in a cynical world” in the you-had-me-at-hello scene ( True, but you maintain your compassion despite that.


    • Tamara June 27, 2019 at 5:31 am #

      Tuvia, perfectly said.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 27, 2019 at 7:20 am #

      Thank you, Tuvia. Great comments!

  2. Shirlee Abbott June 27, 2019 at 5:20 am #

    Querying is like job-hunting. I feel like it would be a good fit, but my view is short-sighted. A host of other factors influence the decision. When rejection comes, it may not be about me at all. I take comfort in the knowledge that God sees it all–where I see a missed opportunity God may see a big mistake. The rejection may be His protection or redirection to a better fit.

  3. Lillian June 27, 2019 at 5:42 am #

    Long before I knew anything about what it takes to write a book or how to write a proposal, I sent an idea for a book to a very well-known publishing house. This rookie writer had a lot of chutzpah. The rejection was long in coming. When I finally received it, my desire to write intensified. My idea had made it to whatever editorial body decides acceptance or rejection. They concluded that they ” liked” the idea and it was “marketable, perhaps in paperback” and suggested that I pursue that route.

    I never did, but my first encounter with rejection letters was very positive. Soon after, I wrote my first published ARTICLE. 🙂

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 27, 2019 at 7:22 am #

      Article writing can be very rewarding and lucrative! I used to belong to a loop of magazine article writers. A lot of them were doing well!

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 27, 2019 at 6:37 am #

    Some lives are lived for inspiration
    of triumph over stark travail,
    but this is far above my station
    as a simple cautionary tale.
    I have tilted at the windmills;
    were they giants in the mists?
    Perhaps misuse of my skills,
    but I never left the lists.
    I see Sancho in my wife,
    binding wounds and rolling eyes,
    but never questioning this life
    of failed hopes and hopeful tries.
    Do not follow in my path,
    but please do smile, perchance to laugh.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 27, 2019 at 7:23 am #

      You make so many people smile, Andrew!

    • Judith Robl June 27, 2019 at 8:46 am #

      What Tamela said, Andrew. You make me smile, laugh, admire, and weep. Praying that this is a better day. Grace, peace, and love.

  5. Ramona June 27, 2019 at 6:42 am #

    To this day I remember the one time I argued with an editor over a rejection, much to my chagrin. I still say I was right (he said they didn’t publish horror; my story isn’t horror), but I was wrong to argue with him. It was his publication. And I’d love to apologize, if I could.

    Of course, it’s also one reason why I’m reluctant to give feedback as an editor…

  6. Elisabeth Warner June 27, 2019 at 7:11 am #

    Tamela, I have never queried to you, but with the interactions I’ve had with you, you’ve been nothing but kind and encouraging. Thank you for this post!

    Not to air out my dirty laundry, but I wish that agents answered our queries. I know my writing hasn’t always been the best, and I know that I probably queried prematurely. However, I appreciate the two agents that actually took the time to respond to my queries. They both said no, but they were incredibly helpful. One even invited me to a Writer’s conference.

    You all had limited time, but even if you had an automated message that you send at the end of the day to all those you’re rejecting, it would be helpful. As a new writer, I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Sometimes it’s me, but sometimes it’s the agent (not that he/she is at fault, but that the agent may not represent my genre or already may have too many clients to take me on).

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 27, 2019 at 7:29 am #

      Thanks for your kind words, Elisabeth. I don’t think most agents and editors intend to give a passive no, but sometimes it happens. Please keep being patient with us!

  7. Lillian June 27, 2019 at 7:50 am #

    Pardon me for posting twice, but in thinking about queries, proposals, and rejections, I wondered if published articles carried less weight for agents and publishers than published books, or do they? Both indicate your writing ability.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 27, 2019 at 8:34 am #

      Lillian, I have approached book editors as both an author and an agent representing authors with a long list of magazine credentials. While article writing does show talent, it is an entirely different type of writing than staying the course with a full book. Therefore, a writer with a list of book credits, especially when the books have sold well, is in a stronger position with a book editor than a writer with a list of magazine credits.

      However, an author with an incredible list of magazine articles on a topic that the author is writing about in a nonfiction book can be in a strong position. This is especially true when the articles translate into an author’s popularity as a source and authority on the topic.

  8. Lillian June 27, 2019 at 7:54 am #

    Also, pardon my run-on sentence. LOL

  9. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D June 27, 2019 at 10:01 am #

    Tamela, one thing I have learned through the years is that a thin envelope is bad news and a thick one is usually good. It takes considerably less paper to turn someone down than to accept them into the fold. Therefore, I look upon a thin envelope with fear and trembling and a thicker one with joy.

    Agents can help with rejection if they take the time to say why they said “no.” Are my sentences bad? Is my topic something Methuselah would have enjoyed? am I out-of-date, uptight, or outtasight? Let me know WHY I am standing there with an thin envelope and I will feel better about being rejected. Or not. 🙂

    • Tamela Hancock Murray June 27, 2019 at 12:21 pm #

      Sheri, I get it, but there are a couple of reasons I tend not to ask my assistant to comment:

      1.) Lack of time to go into detail about each rejection.

      2.) We may think an author is off base, but Mr. Al Agentee may love your work as is. We wouldn’t want to ruin your chances with him.

      That said, when you do get a medium-sized envelope with feedback, heed it if you want to work with the agent. If you disagree with her comments and think the agent is foolish, which is your right to think, then you have learned that she is not the agent for you.

  10. Loretta Eidson June 27, 2019 at 11:14 am #

    You always do a wonderful job of supporting and encouraging others. If you ever have to offer rejections, you would have a good reason for doing so. I trust your judgment. Thank you for your informational articles, Tamela.

  11. Joey Rudder June 27, 2019 at 12:40 pm #

    “I would never lash out at an author with a vindictive post.” I think anyone who has had any interaction with you at all, Tamela, should know this. You’re always striving to teach and encourage us to become better writers.

    And thank you for doing just that! 🙂

  12. Michael McMillan July 23, 2019 at 7:43 am #

    Thank you for these kind words, Tamela. I must admit to feeling that I had fallen into this mindset lately. I’m still new to all of this, and it is very nerve-racking waiting to receive feedback on submissions. I know you know that already, so thanks for being so kind and positive.

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