15 Bestselling Authors Who Overcame Rejection

Reading a book at the beach


Have you ever felt that you’re the only one in the entire world who likes your book? You’re not alone. These bestsellers might also have wondered that after so many rejections.

Take a look at these examples and then ponder on your situation. Perhaps you have a bestseller similar to these authors that just needs more time for the right person to discover it.


1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Before Golding wrote The Lord of the Flies in 1954, the book had been rejected by 21 publishers. The book has since been adapted into four films and translated into 30+ languages.


2. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Suess (Theodor Suess Geisel)
Geisel received some attention when he did illustrations for a children’s magazine, but when it came to his writing along with his illustrations, it was a difficult sell, at first. After 27 rejections, he finally sold his first book to Vanguard Press. Fun fact, he wasn’t a doctor at all. He added the “Dr.” to his pen name because his father had always wanted him to study medicine.


3. Animal Farm by George Orwell
According to The Telegraph, poet T.S. Eliot himself, who worked for Faber & Faber at the time, rejected Orwell’s book due to his concern whether the political climate at the time would support it. Eliot also said the narrative was not convincing. Three other publishers also passed. Secker & Warburg eventually published it in 1945.


4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Often called the great American novel, Moby-Dick was rejected by Richard Bentley publishing house. The company even asked in a letter whether the main struggle had to be with a whale. Eventually, a different acquisition employee at Richard Bentley wisely chose to accept the manuscript, after all.


5. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Say what you will about Twilight, it’s still a bestseller. The saga’s first novel was handily rejected 14 times in a row before Little, Brown & Co. picked up the book.


6. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
When Beatrix Potter first began submitting her book, publishers were interested but wanted so many big changes both in story and art, that Potter grew frustrated and self-published 250 copies in 1901 (aka before Amazon). It has grown ever since.


7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This Canadian author found her place fairly quickly, but L.M. Montgomery’s first Anne book was rejected by five publishers before L.C. Page & Co. published it in 1908. Since then, it has sold over 50 million copies.


8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
A publisher named Moberley Luger disliked Hemingway’s novel so much that she sent a long rejection letter, which ended with the phrase, “Certainly, what is not needed are treatises about bullfights and underemployed men who drink too much.” Hindsight is 20/20.


9. Sanctuary by William Faulkner
When Faulkner submitted his sixth novel, Sanctuary, he said in the foreword that it was sensationalist tripe written just for money. I supposed a publisher believed him when he rejecting it, with part of his letter reading, “Good God, I can’t publish this!” Can you imagine receiving a rejection letter like that? Jonathan Cape-Harrison Smith later published it, though.


10. Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune has developed a large following, both in fantasy and science fiction communities. Yet when Herbert searched for a publisher, 23 of them said no. Chilton Book Co., best known for hobby magazines and car manuals at the time, eventually said yes.


11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
L’Engle’s classic, which mixes science fiction and quantum physics, was rejected by over two dozen publishes before Farrar, Straus, and Giroux made a good gamble on it.


12. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling’s career centerpiece was rejected by countless publishers. One even commented that Kipling did not know how to properly use the English language, Still another claimed to see “no genuine talent” in his writing. Fortunately for Kipling, Macmillan Publishers knew a good thing when they saw it.


13. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
“My dear…I don’t give a damn” resonated in the halls when 38 publishers rejected Margaret Mitchell’s epic Southern classic. Macmillan snagged it in 1936, turning out to be a wise decision as it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and went on to sell over 30 million copies across the globe.


14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
Surprisingly, when JK Rowling initially sent the manuscript for the first Harry Potter book to 12 publishing houses, she was rejected by all of them. If not for the eight-year-old daughter of an employee of London’s publishing house Bloomsbury, who convinced her father the book must be published, the world might have never known the adventures of Harry Potter.


15. Carrie by Stephen King
King’s first published novel wasn’t just rejected by publishers initially, but by the author himself. King disliked his own book so much that he threw the pages in the trash, to be later rescued by King’s wife, and published by Doubleday editor William Thompson.


Can you imagine how different these authors’ lives would have been if they had given up after these rejections? Keep it in mind when you feel like calling it quits on writing. The first few dozen publishers/agents might not believe in your work, but eventually, somewhere, someone might. And one good “yes” could be all it takes to get your writing career started.




Image courtesy of Simon Cocks via Flickr, Creative Commons.

71 thoughts on “15 Bestselling Authors Who Overcame Rejection

  1. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this!! There is the illusion that some authors immediately became successful, not realizing the long road of struggle behind their success. This is motivational and inspiring!! Great post! So happy to have read this!! I tweeted it too! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Always encouraging to read such stories. Overnight success is rare in writing, as in so many worthwhile pursuits. And, yes perseverance is key.
    Always good to be reminded that ‘good luck’ usually follows hard work and keeping on, keeping on.
    Good positive post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the trick is in finding the ‘RIGHT’ person to discover your work.

    I have the first two of my newest Trilogy ((Brides) … more adult content and audience than my Orples Trilogy) available on Amazon, in spite of some punctual errors that I have discovered since self-publishing. Due to the time, effort, competition, and a lack of funds, I am banking on my ‘storyline’ and the strength of my characters to propel my book into the spotlight. Editing can be reworked once the Trilogy is complete and in the limelight. I may be cutting my throat with this approach, but at least the book has a chance to be seen by that ‘special someone’. If left buried in a drawer somewhere, or had I not stopped chasing commas, my work might never be seen. At some point you just have to cast your fate to the wind, and pray.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reminds me of the quote from Edison on inventing the light bulb. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” All you need is one yes to get started, regardless of how many nos you get.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on August MacGregor and commented:
    Inspiring persistence by authors of books that had rough roads getting published… but eventually hit it big. “Gone With the Wind” was rejected by 38 publishers! Margaret Mitchell kept right on pushing, though.


  6. I needed this TODAY. Seriously, I was just wondering if it’s worth continuing to work on my novel or if I should just give up and start something new. Then I happened upon this post, and WOW, so grateful I saw you. I suppose maybe I will stick with my novel a bit longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Now that there’s Amazon and Smashwords, authors don’t need to depend on the gatekeepers at the publishing houses. It is a lot of hard work to market the self published books, but it’s a lot less frustrating than dealing with those gatekeepers.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Encouraging article, Ryan. Just goes to show that many publishers are often wrong. I wonder how many are kicking themselves for rejecting ‘Twilight’ and ‘Harry Potter.’ But then these days, a writer no longer has to rely on publishers for the reading public to enjoy their books. Happy days!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. One should always just do it .Im of the attitude it will always go where its meant to go .My blogger daughter and i will publish our autobiographys soon but first our very own bloggers magazine is due to be published Febuary 15th .So keep writing keep submitting we will all get there.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting; I wonder if the 8 year old who saw the light in Harry Potter has been signed up for a job yet. Very interesting reading and it shows that a lot of luck is involved. Obviously, as has been said, the harder I try, the luckier I get is also important!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I read things like this all the time. I never know if it’s daunting or inspiring. People don’t recognize genius when they see it, that’s for sure. Keep going, writers!


  12. Literary rejection happens on all levels. My first English Comp course featured a professor who told all of us (former honors English students) that we were horrible writers. He was challenging our ability to perform with negative criticism. I caved;switched major out of Journalism. (but once a writer….)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Obzervashunal and commented:
    Thanks to A Writer’s Path for this important reminder not only to those of us who write and look to publish, but to all who create. Keep believing in what you do. You never know what’s coming around the next corner!

    Liked by 2 people

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