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 Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, one publisher warned: for your own sake do not publish this book.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):
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.