Writers take comfort: Rejection may mean you’re on the right track

Writer's take comfort, by Beth Mende Conny

Rejection is rough stuff for writers. You spend months or years working on a book, only to find few takers among the powers-that-be. (Aside: I believe YOU are the ultimate power-that-be, which is why I am a huge fan of self-publishing.)

If it helps any, you are in good company. Here’s an excerpted list of famous authors who have their share of battle scars. Although this information appears on various sites, here’s the one I mainly used.

Photo by Bart Everson is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Best-sellers initially rejected

Apologies for not crediting the author, but I could not find his or her name.

J.K. Rowling

The Christopher Little Literary Agency receives 12 publishing rejections in a row for their new client, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of the book. The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books.

Louis L’Amour

He received 200 rejections before Bantam took a chance on him. He is now their best ever selling author with 330 million sales.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

One-hundred-forty rejections stating “Anthologies don’t sell,” until the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell gets 38 rejections from publishers before finding one to publish her novel Gone With The Wind.

Meg Cabot

Three years of rejection letters are kept in a bag under her bed. The bag becomes so heavy that she is unable to lift it. But Meg Cabot does not dwell on the failure. Instead she keeps sending her manuscript out. It gets taken on and The Princess Diaries sells 15 million copies.

Audrey Niffenegger

After 25 literary agents reject her debut manuscript, she mails it unsolicited to a small publisher in San Francisco, MacAdam/Cage. They believe it is a classic. Upon publication, the world agrees. Translated into over 33 languages and adapted into a movie, The Time Traveler’s Wife sells 7 million copies.

Katheryn Stockett

It was rejected 60 times. But letter number 61 was the one that accepted me. Kathryn Stockett on the worldwide best-seller: The Help.

Jason Wallace

100 literary agents and publishers reject it. Andersen Press does not and Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace wins the Costa Children’s Book Award.

James Joyce

After 22 rejections, Dubliners is finally published. But it only sells 379 copies in the first year. James Joyce bought 120 of them.

Joseph Heller

I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say. Apparently the author intends it to be funny.” Publisher rejects Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, a novel believed to have been given its name because it was the 22nd publisher, Simon and Schuster, who agreed to take it on.

Frank Herbert

With 23 rejections, Frank Herbert finally lands a publisher, and Dune becomes the best-selling science-fiction novel of all time.

Nicholas Sparks

Twenty-four literary agencies turned down The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. The 25th did not and sold it to Time Warner one week later for $1 million dollars.

James Patterson

Thirty-one publishers in a row turn down The Thomas Berryman Number. It wins the Edgar for Best Novel becoming a best-seller for James Patterson.

Lawrence Peter

Thirty publishers tell Laurence Peter that his book The Peter Principle will never sell. In 1969, a mere 18 months later it is a number #1 best-seller.

Alex Haley

Alex Haley writes for eight years and receives 200 consecutive rejections. His novel Roots becomes a publishing sensation, selling 1.5 million copies in its first seven months of release, and going on to sell 8 million. Such is the success that The Pulitzer Prize award the novel a Special Citation in 1977.

E.E. Cummings

The E.E. Cummings best-seller The Enormous Room has a dedication page ‘With No Thanks To’ all 15 publishers who turned it down.

Robert M. Pirsig

Robert M. Pirsig‘s Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is in the Guinness Book Of Records for 121 rejections, more than any other best-seller.

Jack London

The estate of best-seller Jack London in San Francisco, the House Of Happy Walls has a collection of some of the 600 rejections he received before selling a single story.

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