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Rejected Authors ~ HAH!
Famous Authors Repeatedly Rejected
Hang in there kids! Follow your own instincts on whether your writing has value. Seriously consider any feedback you might get BUT don't let one person declare your writing good or not. Some of the most infamous authors who achieved massive success were sent nasty notes b
y publishers and other critics
smacking their writing down. But they believed in their work and perservered.
Teachers, be careful of the red-pen-judgements ~ our coaching goal is to nurture young authors' intrinsic reflection and assessment of their own work.
, Book Examiner.
1. Stephen King
Mr. King received dozens of rejections for his first novel,
; he kept them tidily nailed to a spike under a timber in his bedroom. One of the publishers sent Mr. King's rejection with these words:
"We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."
2. William Golding
Lord of the Flies
was rejected by 20 publishers. One denounced the future classic with these words (which should be inscribed on the hapless publisher's tomb). To date, the book has been required reading in high schools for nearly fifty years, 14.5 million copies have been sold, and Golding's work has been adapted for film twice.
"An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull."
3. John le Carré
After Mr. le Carré submitted his first novel,
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
, one of the publishers sent it along to a colleague, with this message:
"You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future."
4. Anne Frank
According to one publisher,
The Diary of Anne Frank
was scarcely worth reading. 15 publishers (other than this dope) also rejected
The Diary of Anne Frank
"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."
5. Joseph Heller
In an act of almost unparalled stupidity, one publisher wrote of Mr. Heller's
"I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say…Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level."
6. J.K. Rowling ~
"This one makes me - Bernajean, a BIG Harry Potter fan - laugh and laugh"
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s
was rejected by a dozen publishers, including biggies like Penguin and HarperCollins. Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, only took it on at the behest of the CEO’s eight-year old daughter, who begged her father to print the book. God bless you, sweetheart.
7. Ursula K. Le Guin
One publisher sent this helpful little missive to Ms. Le Guin regarding her novel,
The Left Hand of Darkness.
The Left Hand of Darkness
went on to win both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.
"The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having thought of us. The manuscript of The Left Hand of Darkness is returned herewith."
8. George Orwell
One publisher rejected Mr. Orwell's submission,
, with these words . . .
"It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA."
9. Tony Hillerman
Mr. Hillerman, now famous for his Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels, was initially told by publishers to "Get rid of all that Indian stuff."
10. William Faulkner
One publisher exclaimed in the rejection letter for Mr. Faulkner's book,
"Good God, I can’t publish this!"
11. John Grisham
Mr. Grisham’s first novel,
A Time to Kill
, was rejected by a dozen publishers and 16 agents before breaking into print and launching Mr. Grisham's best-selling career.
12. Vladimir Nabokov
was greeted by one publisher with these words:
"…overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian…the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream…I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years."
13. Sylvia Plath
According to one publisher, Ms. Plath's ability as a poet was nothing special:
"There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice."
14. ee cummings
Mr. Cummings’ first work,
The Enormous Room
, was rejected by 15 publishers. He eventually self-published the book and it went on to become considered a masterpiece of modern poetry. The kicker? He dedicated the book to the 15 publishers who rejected him. Ouch.
15. Irving Stone
Lust for Life
was rejected 16 times, once with this helpful synopsis . . . the book went on to sell over 25 million copies.
"A long, dull novel about an artist."
16. Rudyard Kipling
These were the words used by one of the editors of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper when rejecting one of Mr. Kipling’s short stories. Mr. Kipling is now a revered author and the San Francisco Examiner is….
"I'm sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."
17. Frank Herbert
He was rejected 20 times before successfully reaching print – and becoming one of the most beloved science fiction novels of all time.
18. Richard Adams
was rejected since
"Older children wouldn’t like it because its language was too difficult."
19. Madeleine L'Engle
Ms. L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 26 publishers before finally breaking into print. It went on to win the 1963 Newbery Medal.
20. Jack Kerouac
This was one publisher's take on Mr. Kerouac's On the Road:
"His frenetic and scrambled prose perfectly express the feverish travels of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don't think so."
21. Margaret Mitchell
Gone With the Wind
was rejected 38 times before finally finding a publisher.
22. Judy Blume
Ms. Blume received “nothing but rejections” for two years. According to Ms. Blume . . .
"I would go to sleep at night feeling that I'd never be published. But I'd wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent."
Determination and hard work certainly did the trick for Ms. Blume, who is now considered to be one of the most influential children's literature writers of her generation.
23. Kenneth Grahame
Wind in the Willows
was refused by a publisher because it was an . . .
"Irresponsible holiday story:
24. Isaac Bashevis Singer
One jaded publisher rejected a submission of Mr. Singer's with the words . . .
"It’s Poland and the rich Jews again."
25. Marcel Proust
Mr. Proust’s behemoth
Remembrance of Things Past
received this delightfully plain-spoken critique from one publisher . . .
"My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can't see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep."
26. Jasper Fforde
Mr. Fforde received 76 rejection letters before finally seeing his first novel,
The Eyre Affair
, in print.
The Eyre Affair
is now considered a classic of the modern fantasy genre.
27. Meg Cabot
The Princess Diaries
slipped through the hands of 17 publishers before finally being accepted for publication.
28. Thor Heyderdahl
Mr. Heyerdahl's classic adventure narrative,
The Kon Tiki Expedition
, was rejected 20 times before finding a publisher.
29. Jorge Luis Borges
One publisher rejected Mr. Borges' work because it was:
30. D.H. Lawrence
After reading Mr. Lawrence's
Lady Chatterley's Lover
, one publisher warned:
"for your own sake do not publish this book"
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