Saturday, May 15, 2010

30 famous authors whose works were rejected (repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers

Great article by Book Examiner's Michelle Kerns: 30 famous authors whose works were rejected (repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers

My favorite editor quotes:

William Faulkner One publisher exclaimed in the rejection letter for Mr. Faulkner's book, Sanctuary: Good God, I can’t publish this!

Vladimir Nabokov Mr. Nabokov's Lolita 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.

D.H. Lawrence After reading Mr. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, one publisher warned: for your own sake do not publish this book.

And for us kid writers out there:

J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (later Sorceror’s) Stone 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.

Meg Cabot The Princess Diaries slipped through the hands of 17 publishers before finally being accepted for publication.

Madeleine L'Engle A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 26 publishers before finally breaking into print. It went on to win the 1963 Newbery Medal.

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.

Here's my final word on rejection---after enduring years on my own writing and a year on behalf of my writers (yes, agents feel the sting of rejection much more than you all since there are few of our writers who sell their books without at least one rejection):

F*** Rejection!

Write the best book you can.
No really, go back and look at it with a critical eye.
Revise some more.
One, maybe two...three, four, five more times.
And then believe.

Believe in your words. Believe in your creation. Believe in yourself.

Now get out there and submit. Rejection is part of the process.
Deal with it and move on.


  1. Thanks for the encouragement! It's easy to forget that published authors went through the same thing that unpublished authors do.

  2. Wow, Judy Blume and Jk Rowling! Jill, this was the PERFECT thing for me to read this morning, while I sip my coffee, look at my Word Doc, and think about it all. THANKS!

  3. This is one of the most inspiring posts ever! And I'm not even a writer. Thanks for sharing that with your readers.

  4. Judy! Who could have ever rejected Judy?

    And wow, one eight-year-old changed the world. She should have her own suite at the Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios.

    All great names on that list. Thanks for the inspiration, and the reminder that it's all extremely subjective.

  5. If I could I would send that 8 year old a Thank You note. Harry Potter was such a fun reading experience for me I can't imagine the world without it.

  6. Very cool reminder.

    And reading this feels more concrete than all the urban legends that circulate on this subject.

    Thanks for posting this.


  7. Thanks for today's post - I'm about to jump into the query process and am already bracing myself! :)

  8. Well said. I am sending out submissions.

  9. Sometimes we writers need to read something like this to keep moving forward. Thanks!

  10. This is an awesome post! Its inspiring and I love it!

    Thank you.

  11. Love this. That Judy Bloom quote got me all teary-eyed.

  12. Oh thank you Jill :) What a fabulous reminder!

  13. Thanks for the link. F*** rejection, indeed.

  14. Great post, Jill! Other people's struggles, and subsequent successes, are always encouraging! I'm off to edit :-)

  15. Thanks for the link. It's nice to be reminded that failure is a normal part of the process.

  16. Just wanted to say I love this post!

    It's great to be reminded that rejection is a part of the process. Hard work and effort must be put in, but believing in yourself and getting back up on that horse is equally as important!

  17. Wow, thank you so much for this post. This is something that I feel is eating away at me. Loved this post, you've both encouraged and inspired me :)

  18. All of this is so true. Write, revise, revise then send it out. If you're rejected, keeping writing and trying to improve the craft. Excellent post. Thank you!!

  19. Soon I'll be facing another round of rejections, I mean queries. I'll keep this post in mind.

  20. You don't know how much I needed to read this post. After a few rejections, I felt I needed to give up. Thanks so much for this reminder.

  21. What a fabulous reminder that the road to publication isn't supposed to be easy. Thanks.

  22. I really thought my rejection days were over when I signed with my agent. And I worried a little that the new rejections make my agent rethink her decision to sign with me. Thanks for helping me understand the dynamics of the agent in all of this. I definitely needed that information.

  23. One of the greatest gifts I'd received was when a well-published, successful author shared with me a rather rude rejection she'd received by a very well known and revered editor. She now laughs it off but knows what it means to new and unpublished authors to hear the encouragement of those who've survived, and thrived. I believe she even dropped an F* bomb!

    Thank you!

  24. Here! Here! It can be so frustrating getting repeated rejections, but when your book is requested it's like your birthday and Christmas rolled up in one.

    While my novel has yet to get picked up, I'm moving slowly. I want to make sure that it's ready and it gets into the right hands. For me, not publishing is not an option.

  25. Thanks, Jill, for putting things in perspective. I heard Meg Cabot speak at the LA Times Festival of Books and she said she got rejected for five years before selling anything. In the meantime, she just kept writing, writing, writing. It certainly paid off for her.

  26. Thanks for this post! It's so encouraging to remember that well-published writers were once rejected too! Thanks too, for the reminder to believe in oneself despite rejections. It really helps persepective!

  27. FAbulous post, Jill! Hadn't realized the numbers were up in the nosebleed range for some of those rejections.



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