A little over a week ago, my husband and I moved furniture and “stuff” out of three rooms in our house so we could get our hardwood floors refinished. Our floors are now shiny and beautiful, so we spent most of yesterday moving furniture back in. In the process I found a file of “rejection facts” that I kept as encouragement in the try-to-get-published end of the writing business. Here are a few I found interesting.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was turned down 12 times.
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight was rejected 14 times.
Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries went through three years of rejections.
Louis L’Amour got 200 rejections before being published.
Agatha Christie went through five years of rejections.
Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was rejected 60 times.
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks got 24 rejections by agents before being picked up.
25 agents rejected The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
Dr. Seuss’s And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street was rejected 23 times before it was published.
Donna Jo Napoli had 14 years of rejections before her first book was picked up by a publisher.
Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Award winning A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times.
Pearl Buck’s Nobel Prize winning The Good Earth was rejected ten times.
Robert Pirsig’s classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was rejected 121 times.
Bestselling Danielle Steele was rejected 31 times before a publisher accepted her first book.
Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen was rejected 140 times.
Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, first a book, then a hit TV show, was rejected by 21 publishers.
The rejection slips collected by William Saroyan stacked up to about 30 inches high, which is estimated to be 7,000 rejection slips. In 1940 Saroyan himself rejected the Pulitzer Prize.
Here are some actual rejections:
“You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character,” said one publisher, rejecting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s manuscript of The Great Gatsby.
A rejection of The Diary of Anne Frank stated, “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”
Louisa May Alcott was told, “Stick to teaching,” when she submitted Little Women.
Here’s a link to more literary rejections if you’re interested.
These days it’s fairly easy to skip the possibility of rejection and self-publish. In my opinion, the best route is to try traditional publishers and agents first. You might get some very valuable feedback. But self-publishing is also a good option as long as you 1) make sure your writing is the absolute best it can be, 2) get editorial feedback, 3) realize that most self-published authors sell very few copies of their books. Writer who decide to self-publish are in good company. Even when self-publishing was not as easy or respected as it is today, it was the last resort for some authors whose books are now classics, including Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit), the poet e e cummings, and Edward Fitzgerald (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam). Traditional publishers keep their eyes on self-published books that sell well, and they’re not shy about making offers if they think a book will earn them a profit. After all, publishing is a business, so the bottom line for publishers is . . . the bottom line.
Happy Writing, Happy Reading! See you next blog.
© 2013 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved. Photo courtesy morguefile.com
(As always, I recommend any of Holly Lisle’s writing courses. I’ve taken most of them and learned a ton!)