Why I’m Not Mysterious

I don’t believe in being mysterious, especially as an agent. Since I used to write books for publication, I know what it’s like to put your career in the hands of others. As a writer, I wouldn’t want to send off my precious work and then hear no updates or any word from my agent. I realize any agent will update a client when a contract offer is made. And I realize that, technically, that’s all the writer needs to know. After all, who wants to live through many, many rejections?

No one.

But keeping the author up to date on rejections does give her a perspective of what’s happening with her work. The project is being reviewed and considered, even if, ultimately, it is rejected.

When authors don’t know about rejections, they are missing out on valuable feedback. Granted, feedback from editors can be quite confusing. One editor may say the characters lack depth; another may say the plot isn’t plausible; still another may say the writing itself isn’t up to snuff. Do all these opinions matter when a different editor comes to the agent with, “I love this! Here’s a contract!” Ultimately, maybe not. But the rejections are part of the journey; and whether we like it or not, we all learn from rejections in any part of life.

So far, I haven’t met an author who said, “Submit the manuscript, and I never want to hear from you again until we get an offer.” If an author said that to me, I’d comply. But I’ve found that most authors want to know what’s happening with their work in a timely manner. So I let authors know when rejections come in, at the time they come in.

Then acceptance is all the sweeter!


Your turn:

Do you want to hear from your agent with any and all rejections?

Would you rather hear as responses come in, or would you prefer a quarterly report?

How often do you want to hear from your agent?


37 Responses to Why I’m Not Mysterious

  1. Janine Rosche September 13, 2018 at 3:23 am #

    I’m too new to give advice here. I’m sure the rejections will come one day! Any suggestions on how to lessen the sting when they do?

    • Shirlee Abbott September 13, 2018 at 4:57 am #

      We writers voluntarily put our work out to be critiqued, Janine, either as part of a critique group or in our queries and proposals. It’s human nature to want affirmation, but criticism improves the product. We can see rejection as failure, or we can embrace it as course correction. Every rejection is a learning opportunity, especially if it comes with feedback. Cultivate a teachable spirit.

    • Amanda Wen September 13, 2018 at 5:17 am #

      Honestly, for me, it’s just been a matter of toughening up by going through a few. No, they don’t feel good, but it’s helped me to view them as God’s direction. He knows each editor, pub committee, etc. way better than I do, so if I get a no from someone, I view it as Him saying, hey, that wasn’t My best for you. That doesn’t take away the sting entirely, but it does help. Also, some rejections do come with a little bit of feedback, and that can be helpful. Plus, your awesome agent is very good about helping you keep your spirits up during the submission process. 😉 Hope this helps!

    • Sami A. Abrams September 13, 2018 at 6:40 am #

      Janine, join a critique group. That will cure you of being sensitive. Lol! I love my critters and now have a super thick skin when it comes to my writing, but when I first started…OUCH!!

    • Jaime September 13, 2018 at 9:01 am #

      I always view myself as doing my work for God, like a child drawing a picture for Daddy to put on the fridge. I do my very best work for Him, and give it over to Him. If He chooses to distribute it further, that’s in His wisdom. There’s so much I can’t know – the right timing, the right audience – that only He can see and be in control of.

      That means that I trust Him to hold onto my work until He sees fit, so rejection is another opportunity to stand firmly in that trust. And, if it comes with lessons to improve my writing, then I have to be even more thankful that He is helping me to be better at what I do.

      We’re never going to have a job where everyone loves us. We need to press into our relationship with our Creator and be certain enough of our value that we don’t perceive a rejection as taking away from that value. And, if we have an agent bringing us the bad news, what a blessing to be reminded that there are already people who see the potential in our work and are on our side!

  2. Brennan S. McPherson September 13, 2018 at 4:59 am #

    Basically, everything you’ve said about how you act as an agent is what I’d want in an agent. Hah! So, yeah, I’d want to hear about all the rejections and how far they got.

  3. Crystal Caudill September 13, 2018 at 5:31 am #

    I love your transparency. I do want to hear when rejections come. It may take a few days to be able to swallow the critique, but ultimately, rejections are an opportunity for growth. I personally plan to celebrate the day I get my first rejection, because that means I have advanced in my writing journey. I am thinking a superhero movie and giant brownie sundaes with my boys (hubby included). We have walked this journey as a family and I plan to continue that walk together. Thanks for being so open and communicative, I know your clients must appreciate it.

  4. Linda W. Yezak September 13, 2018 at 5:49 am #

    I would *always* want to hear, especially if the rejection came with an explanation. I’m always on the look-out for ways to make my writing better, and if the explanation helped in that regard, I’d definitely want to know.

  5. Carol Ashby September 13, 2018 at 6:15 am #

    If I had an agent, I’d want to know whenever something was happening, good or bad, as soon as it did, not quarterly. Better to receive rejections with reasons as soon as possible so I could use the info to improve and increase the probability of an offer. Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power.

  6. Sami A. Abrams September 13, 2018 at 6:35 am #

    I want to hear everything. (But you know that. hehehe!) As they say, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Rejections are a part of the process. I also like frequent contact. When I know what’s going on, even if it’s a quick update/chat it keeps me focused and driven to complete the next project. Of course, I’m an extrovert so that might have something to do with it. LOL!! It helps that I have the best agent ever! I love that she lets me think out loud and we work together on decisions.

  7. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D September 13, 2018 at 7:08 am #

    I want to hear from my agent! The rejections help guide my thinking and put me one step closer to an acceptance, if I take the feedback seriously (I do).

  8. Anne Carol September 13, 2018 at 7:22 am #

    I would want updates on anything and everything! It’s all part of the process, as I understand. I’ve yet to experience this, but I imagine the rejections would give me thick skin, which authors needs once their book is out there.

  9. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 13, 2018 at 7:25 am #

    “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” – C.S. Lewis

    • claire o'sullivan September 13, 2018 at 3:07 pm #

      amen! I’ve said that in various forms over the years.

  10. Linda Riggs Mayfield September 13, 2018 at 7:42 am #

    I’ve had the advantage of submitting articles for publication in the popular and academic press on my own and having both rejections and acceptances. “Good” rejections were great learning tools, whether I agreed with the rationale or not–I got to see how others were perceiving what I had written and re-evaluate my approach accordingly. Sometimes changes were warranted, sometimes not. Like others, I’d want to hear from my agent at the time each rejection was received so I could learn from it.

  11. Kay DiBianca September 13, 2018 at 7:43 am #

    I love that quote, Andrew. Here’s another one:

    “reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” — Proverbs 9:8(b)

    Rejection definitely stings, but if there’s a valid reason, it’s a gift. We learn much more from failure than from success.

  12. Loretta Eidson September 13, 2018 at 8:14 am #

    I love hearing from my agent at any time. Whether it’s good news or bad news. I like the open communication and the comradery that develops between the agent and the author. I like that my agent is professional & prompt. She’s caring, compassionate, and believes in the power of prayer. I am blessed to have an awesome agent!

  13. Joann September 13, 2018 at 8:50 am #

    Tamela, your clients are blessed to have you working with and for them. I hope to have the opportunity to work with an agent who cares, gives constructive critiques, and inspires his or her clients to grow in their craft. To be honest, this is my current prayer. I’d be humbly thankful to hear regular feedback, whether it be good news or bad. Rejections hurt, but silence can snuff out a writer’s spark while they wait for acceptance. Communication is the key to any good relationship. Thanks for all you do to encourage us on this journey.

    • Joann Claypoole September 13, 2018 at 10:41 am #

      BTW, This is Joann Claypoole. 🙂

  14. Virginia Graham September 13, 2018 at 9:19 am #

    Hear any and all rejections?
    Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!
    As responses come in is preferable and hearing from my agent as often as their time permits.

  15. Patti Jo Moore September 13, 2018 at 9:50 am #

    Tamela, your post today shows why you are so loved and respected by your clients! 🙂 Everyone I know (who has you as their agent) has told me nothing but positive comments about you. Thanks for sharing this today.

  16. claire o'sullivan September 13, 2018 at 10:43 am #

    Hi Tamela,

    Probably too much to ask but ? monthly updates would be cool from any agency.

    “Needs work.”
    “Not marketable.”

    • Linda W. Yezak September 13, 2018 at 11:02 am #

      OR: “Let’s get together and celebrate.”
      (Hey–it could happen.)

  17. Tamela Hancock Murray September 13, 2018 at 12:29 pm #

    Thank you all so much for encouraging me, and for giving such great feedback and advice to others. You have warmed my heart today.

  18. Ed Lane September 13, 2018 at 12:32 pm #

    Love to hear every bit of news I can. Knowing what editors want is a big advantage.

  19. Kathleen Denly September 13, 2018 at 12:38 pm #

    Tamela, you are clearly a wonderful agent. I once had an agent tell me that they would only contact me when I got a contract. That was an immediate signal to me that we wouldn’t be a good fit. I’d like to hear when the rejections come because I agree that each one is a learning opportunity, but I’d also like a heads up when the submissions actually go out. Other than that, a note every eight weeks or so to let me know they’re still alive and I’m not forgotten is about all I’d hope for during the submission process. I understand I’m not going to be the only client of a successful agent which means frequent hand-holding isn’t a practical option and shouldn’t be expected. However, I’ve also heard of writers whose agents didn’t contact them once during a six month period and failed to respond to emails for nearly a year. I think there is a better balance to be found in keeping the writer in the loop with reasonable frequency. From everything I’ve heard, you are among those wonderful agents who have found a great balance. 🙂

  20. Jennifer Mugrage September 13, 2018 at 1:38 pm #

    Of course, I would want to hear from you as often as you could possibly manage, without becoming a “high maintenance” author.

    I would also want to hear the agent’s opinion of the editor’s feedback, so I knew how seriously to take it. We authors all kinda suspect that our WIP is complete trash. Or else it’s brilliant, we are not sure. This makes it hard to know whether our initial reaction to criticism is, shall we say, calibrated to reality. If the criticism has any merit, and we can see that it does, we may fall into the “complete trash” ditch for a while.

    I am still worried by an acquiring editor’s comment that my WIP needs much more character development, when the character arcs are basically the entire plot. I have no idea whether it just means that one person couldn’t connect to my story, or whether there’s something seriously wrong that beta readers didn’t have the vocabulary to tell me.

  21. Richard New September 13, 2018 at 2:05 pm #

    Some sort of feedback would be greatly appreciated while a novel is making its rounds within a publishing house–like whenever one reviewer is finished with her crack at it and passed it along to the next reviewer. Even something like a notice that this has happened would be great.

    A monthly report would be even better.

    And in this day of instant computer capability and communication, why not set up an in-house form that would automatically dispense some notice to the poor, forgotten author at month’s end?

    • claire o'sullivan September 13, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

      Hi Richard,

      great idea… but what if technology goes awry and you’re either celebrating or weeping and it was the wrong answer?

      I’ve never been a techno-holic as in, Murphy’s Law applies. Especially to automated responses.

      It would be a great idea if I felt I could rely on tech.

      But like others I fear becoming the pesky, annoying, coddling, high-maintenance writer. Agent needs that like having their perfect doo shaved.

      (I replied to several all in one, sorry)

    • Richard New September 14, 2018 at 8:36 am #

      This would require someone in the IT department to draft the form and input it into the system. Once built and linked to all the proper computers, a simple “check off” would be marked by the appropriate reviewer when they’d finished their review. When the month’s end rolled around, the computer could automatically email the upgraded notice to the proper author at midnight. If nothing had changed during the month, no email, meaning no change in progress.

      This could be as simple or as complex as wanted. However, the editorship would have to want to do this in the first place. And IT would have to do it. Yes, there might be problems at first, bugs to work out and so on, but what a revolution and benefit for the entire team! At the very least, some progress would be seen.

  22. Tez Brooks September 13, 2018 at 4:33 pm #

    I was uplifted just a few weeks ago from two different rejections that Bob Hostetler forwarded to me. The pub houses both complimented my manuscript (one even said “I really would have liked to work with Tez”) but ultimately it wasn’t the right book for them at this time.

    So yes, tell me about the rejections. I need the encouragement!

  23. claire o'sullivan September 13, 2018 at 5:04 pm #

    Tez —

    Both and encouraging and a somewhat dashed against the rocks feeling. The process is not simple, it takes a village (of people sitting around a table and giving input from plot to the bottom line) to accept or deny the manuscript. I’ve learned that on this website …

    Having an agent isn’t a guarantee and I can only imagine your hopes but also the encouragement. You got the ‘I really liked it, just not at this time.’ as opposed to ‘I hope I never hear this author’s name again.’

    I guess I could celebrate with some flat sparkling cider with you. That might do it.

    It will get there. The right publisher in God’s time will land you that very awesome contract.

  24. Richard Mabry September 14, 2018 at 11:52 am #

    Tamela, great post. Sometimes the editor/pub house says only “We’ll pass,” or words to that effect. Not every one gives words of advice–not every editor, and for those still seeking representation, not every agent. But even hearing that “I submitted to X, Y, and Z, but got passes from all of them” is better than silence. Thanks for doing that.

  25. Melissa Henderson September 14, 2018 at 4:22 pm #

    Right now, I have not searched for an agent. I hope and pray one day I will have an agent. At that point, hearing from my agent often, even about rejections, would be beneficial. I think keeping the line of communication open is helpful to the author and the agent.

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