Whether you’re a struggling writer, or just know one, you’re probably aware that rejection is part of the game. Good eggs — hardboiled to soft — counsel us writerly types to remain calm, remind us that rejection happens even to the best. You are not a Loser. Here’s a list of 50 esteemed writers who were told NO several times, but kept on chugging.
Thanks to literary agent Nathan Bransford for bringing this comfort to my attention. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/ The list has been making the rounds on the Internet so I’m not taking any credit for compiling it or finding it. Alls I’m saying is, if you’re a writer and you’re feeling down, here’s a warm blanket to cozy you:
1. Dr. Seuss had his first book (And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street) rejected 27 times before finally being accepted by Vanguard Press.
2. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times before becoming published.
3. James Joyce’s Ulysses was judged obscene and rejected by several publishers.
4. Isaac Asimov’s had many stories rejected, never sold, or eventually lost.
5. John le Carre’s first novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, was passed along because le Carre “hasn’t got any future.”
6. Jasper Fforde racked up 76 rejections before getting The Eyre Affair published.
7. William Saroyan received an astonishing 7,000 rejection slips before selling his first short story.
8. Jack Kerouac’s work was rejected as pornographic.
9. Joseph Heller wrote a story as a teenager that was rejected by the New York Daily News.
10. Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows was not intended to be published, and was rejected in America before appearing in England.
11. James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room was called “hopelessly bad.”
12. Ursula K. Le Guin: An editor told Le Guin that The Left Hand of Darkness was “endlessly complicated.”
13. Pearl Buck’s first novel, East Wind: West Wind received rejections from all but one publisher in New York.
14. Louisa May Alcott was told to stick to teaching.
15. Isaac Bashevis Singer, before winning the Nobel Prize, was rejected by many publishers.
16. Agatha Christie had to wait four years for her first book to be published.
17. Tony Hillerman was told to “get rid of the Indian stuff.”
18. Zane Grey self-published his first book after dozens of rejections.
19. Marcel Proust was rejected so much he decided to pay for publication himself.
20. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen: Chicken Soup for the Soul received 134 rejections.
21. William Faulkner’s book, Sanctuary, was called unpublishable.
22. Patrick Dennis: Auntie Mame got 17 rejections.
23. Meg Cabot: The bestselling author of The Princess Diaries keeps a mail bag of rejection letters.
24. Richard Bach: 18 publishers thought a book about a seagull was ridiculous before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was picked up.
25. Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Peter Rabbit had to be published by Potter herself.
26. John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 publishers before finding an agent who eventually rejected him as well.
27. Shannon Hale was rejected and revised a number of times before Bloomsbury published The Goose Girl.
28. Richard Hooker: The book that inspired the film and TV show M*A*S*H* was denied by 21 publishers.
29. Jorge Luis Borges: It’s a good thing not everyone thought Mr. Borges’ work was “utterly untranslatable.”
30. Thor Heyerdahl: Several publishers thought Kon-Tiki was not interesting enough.
31. Vladmir Nabokov: Lolita was rejected by 5 publishers in fear of prosecution for obscenity before being published in Paris.
32. Laurence Peter had 22 rejections before finding success with The Peter Principles.
33. D.H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers faced rejection, and D.H. Lawrence didn’t take it easily.
34. Richard Doddridge Blackmore: This much-repeated story was turned down 18 times before getting published.
35. Sylvia Plath had several rejected poem titles.
36. Robert Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance faced an amazing 121 rejections before becoming beloved by millions of readers.
37. James Patterson was rejected by more than a dozen publishers before an agent he found in a newspaper article sold it.
38. Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years before having one accepted.
39. E.E. Cummings named the 14 publishers who rejected with “No Thanks” in the book itself.
40. Judy Blum received nothing but rejections for two years and can’t look at Highlights without wincing.
41. Irving Stone’s Lust for Life was rejected by 16 different editors.
42. Madeline L’Engle’s masterpiece A Wrinkle in Time faced rejection 26 times before winning the Newberry Medal.
43. Rudyard Kipling: In one rejection letter, Mr. Kipling was told he doesn’t know how to use the English language.
44. J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses, all of which rejected it.
45. Frank Herbert: Before reaching print, Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.
46. Stephen King filed away his first full length novel The Long Walk after it was rejected.
47. Richard Adams’s two daughters encouraged him to publish Watership Down as a book, but 13 publishers didn’t agree.
48. Anne Frank: One of the most famous people to live in an attic, Anne Frank’s diary had 15 rejections.
49. Margaret Mitchell: Gone With the Wind was faced rejection 38 times.
50. Alex Haley: The Roots author wrote every day for 8 years before finding success.
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