Five Myths about an Agent’s Rejection

Tamela Hancock Murray,@Tamela_Murray


1.) The agent hates me. Unless you approached her and said something along the lines of, “You and your kids are ugly and you have lousy taste in manuscripts,” a rejection shouldn’t be personal.

But if you are worried that you unintentionally offended an agent or other publishing professional, take action. Email to let him know you have been worried about why you may have been the cause of offense, followed by an apology. Chances are good the other person had no idea he should have been offended, and has been enjoying the beach, not thinking a thing about the “incident” that has you worried. Or, if he really was offended, he should accept your apology. Then you can make a fresh start.

2.) The agent was making up an excuse to reject me. Except when writing blog posts, we don’t have time to wax long and poetic. But if an agent says anything beyond a catchphrase such as, “This work is not a good fit for me,” then I would consider the advice. Those phrases might include allusions to the quality of writing, slim market for your type of work, or other hints as to why your work was rejected. This hint could help you learn what might work better for you in the future.

3.) The agent should give me an evaluation, even on a rejected proposal.This is a waste of everyone’s time, even the writer’s. Why? Because another agent may be in complete disagreement with the first one, and may be eager to represent your work.

This idea also suggests that there is some implicit right for authors to receive free reviews of their work. While we may have a heart to teach and to nurture authors, we don’t have the time or resources to offer this level of support to authors we don’t represent. This is one of the advantages of a writers conference or a contest where the organizers have made clear that part of that experience is getting feedback on your project.

4.) The agent was just trying to be nice when she said that even though this project wasn’t right for her, she would look at future submissions from me. Yes, we all try to be nice in our rejections, but I can tell you for certain that I don’t make the offer to look at future submissions unless I really want to hear from the author in the future. Granted, the author might find another agent with her current project, and if so, great! I don’t ask for submissions I don’t plan to review.

5.) I promised the agent I would have the manuscript to her by June 1, but I can’t, and now she’s going to be mad and will send me a rejection. I can’t recall ever being upset with any writer missing a self-imposed deadline for me to consider offering representation. The time to be concerned about deadlines is when an author is under contract with a publisher.


Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency is a literary agent and is ACFW’s Agent of the Year for 2017. She brings to her clients her past experience as a bestselling novelist and author of nonfiction as well. Her fiction has been recognized with an RWA Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Tamela has been a literary agent since 2001, joining The Steve Laube Agency in 2011. A native Virginian, she holds a BA with honors in Journalism from Lynchburg College, and lives in Northern Virginia. She and her husband of over 30 years are the parents of two bright and beautiful daughters. An avid reader, Tamela feels blessed by the Lord to have a career in Christian publishing, where she enjoys long-term relationships with key publishing professionals in every top CBA publishing house.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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