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.
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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.
Ryan Lanz is an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
A pretty incredible list. I knew about Harry Potter, Carrie, and Dr Seuss, but the wonderful Anne Shirley – my, oh, my.
I needed some extra motivation, so thanks for this! If even the greats had trouble selling their manuscripts, then I don’t feel so bad right now.
Reblogged this on The Reluctant Poet and commented:
Don’t MIss Reading This!!
Amazing group of “rejected” authors! Quite a few publishers must be feeling quite overlooked.
Thank you for your inspiring post and a reminder to myself not to give up. I rarely reblog, but reblogged for my readers on Terre’s Blog – Women of All Seasons who also might need some inspiration. Thank you again!
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It has been said many times before, but I will say it again here, “you only lose when you give up.”
I always love reading about these. I had no idea about the Madeleine L’Engle and Frank Herbert ones.