What You Do With It

I wanted to post something different today: the email thread of my last rejection letter for Between the Lines.

After the February 2011 writers' conference during which I pitched the manuscript to this agent, I decided that if I received a rejection from her, I was going to indie publish. That decision was the culmination of almost a year's worth of queries to agents and two manuscript-pitching sessions at conferences. Her rejection wasn't the lone catalyst for my decision, it merely represented my last unsuccessful attempt to land an agent. (Because the decision had already been made, I didn't explore the suggestion she included in her email. Had I followed her advice, I might have found an agent, and eventually a traditional publisher. I'll never know; for me, that route became the road not followed.)

I'm not going to include/reveal the agent's name, because (1) it doesn't matter; (2) she was sweet and professional, but it would be bad form, I think, even if she'd been rude; (3) hopefully, she made her decision based on what/who she was comfortable representing at the time, and she wouldn't regret her decision now, even if she vaguely recognized my name on the NYT bestseller list. (I actually have no delusions that any of the agents who turned me down remember having done so or ever will, though emails and messages from readers or other authors suggesting otherwise make me smile. Seriously, who hasn't dreamed about someone who ignored/dumped/rejected/fired you earlier in life seeing you at your most fabulous?)

But this isn't about her. This is about me and what I did with her thanks-but-no-thanks, because everyone experiences rejection. What we do with those rebuffs makes all the difference between success and failure, happiness and misery. I'd love to say I seized the reins to my destiny and giddyapped into my future, but that wouldn't be an accurate depiction. I simply heaved a sigh and sought encouragement from my husband/ newly-minted IT department before timidly going where no Tammara Webber had gone before.

1:18 pm

Hello Ms. X,

It was lovely meeting you last Saturday, and I appreciated the chance to pitch my manuscript to you. I hope you enjoyed your stay in DFW.

As requested, I've attached a synopsis of my manuscript, Between the Lines, and 100 pages for your review. I have no previously published work, but I do have a few "shelf novels" to my name that will never see the light of day. Between the Lines is my best work so far. My query is below my signature. Please let me know if you need anything further.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Tammara Webber

11:52 am

Thank you, Tammara. I look forward to reading more of this!

All best wishes,


11:43 am

Dear Tammara,

Thank you for sharing your work with me—and for your patience in waiting to hear back. You write well, this is a lot of fun, and I enjoyed following these characters and reading this but I’m afraid that this is not quite right for me.

Still, I hope you will continue writing and sending out your work. If you haven't done so already, you may wish to look at The Jeff Herman Guide to Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents—there, you should be able to find someone who's a better fit for your work.

Best of luck with this and future projects.

All best wishes,
Associate Agent

The above email, forwarded to my husband Paul:
12:54 pm

Well, I asked for it, so here it is.

(forwarded message from Agent X here)

Answer from Paul:
1:22 pm

I guess the part that confuses me is the 1) writing well, 2) lots of fun, 3) enjoyed the characters and 4) enjoyed reading it BUT not interested... Very odd.

Well, now its up to us. Let's do this thing!!

Me to Paul:
3:13 pm

Okay. I'm trying very hard to look at this as "I'm free." I guess I could say I knew this was coming. I'm scared but not frozen.


So, there you go. The biggest, most important decision I ever made, and how do I term it? I'm scared but not frozen.

What are you not doing because the thought of doing it scares the hell out of you? What are you being told you'd be nuts to try? Are you listening to an argument that includes any equivalent of the phrase "because it's always been done that way"?

Maybe it's time to make your own path. Maybe it's time to tell that fear SCREW YOU and go do that nutty thing, whatever it is. Maybe it's simply time to be scared but not frozen.

Tammara Webber

New York Times and international bestselling author of contemporary romantic fiction