Most writers know lots about rejection. I certainly do, and how you handle it varies from author to author. One thing I like to do is to read about famous authors who were badly treated before they became famous. I love reading how those writers forged on and made fools of those who rejected them. Here are a few samples for you - comments by publishers, and the results. I hope these fire you up if you are at a crossroads ...
“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” A rejection letter sent to Dr Seuss. 300 million sales and the 9th best-selling fiction author of all time.
“You have no business being a writer and should give up.” Zane Grey ignores the advice. There are believed to be over 250 million copies of his books in print.
140 rejections stating “Anthologies don’t sell” until the Chicken Soup for the Soul series by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen sells 125 million copies.
The years of rejection do not break his spirit. He only becomes more determined to succeed. When he eventually lands a publishing deal, such is the demand for his fiction that it is translated into over 47 languages, as The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis goes on to sell over 100 million copies.
After two years of rejections stating that her fiction would have no readership, Reilly and Lee agree to publish The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, launching the career of the best-selling author Judy Blume. Combined sales: 80 million.
Having sold only 800 copies on its limited first release, the author finds a new publisher and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho sells 75 million.
“We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough.” The author does a rewrite and his protagonist becomes an icon for a generation as The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger sells 65 million.
5 publishers reject L.M. Montgomery‘s debut novel. Two years after this rejection, she removes it from a hat box and resubmits. L.C. Page & Company agree to publish Anne of Green Gables and it goes on to sell 50 million copies.
“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.” Shunned by all the major publishers, the author goes to France and lands a deal with Olympia Press. The first 5000 copies quickly sell out. But the author Vladimir Nabokov now sees his novel, Lolita, published by all those that initially turned it down, with combined sales of 50 million.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.
“Undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer.” But Jacqueline Susann refuses to give up and her book the Valley of the Dolls sells 30 million.
Margaret Mitchell gets 38 rejections from publishers before finding one to publish her novel Gone With The Wind. It sells 30 million copies.
“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” Perhaps the most misguided literary critique in history. With a further 15 rejections, there remained little hope her personal thoughts would see the light of day. Eventually, Doubleday, bring the translation to the world, and The Diary of Anne Frank sells 25 million.
“A long, dull novel about an artist.” Publisher rejects Lust For Life by Irving Stone. 25 million sales.
“An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” Rejection of The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The novel did sell: 25 million copies worldwide.
His publishers Doubleday reject the first 100 pages. So the author Peter Benchley starts from scratch and Jaws sells 20 million.
Despite 14 consecutive agency rejections Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight goes on to sell 17 million copies and spends 91 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.
“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” Rejection letter sent to William Golding for The Lord Of The Flies. 15 million sales.
After 20 rejection letters, WM Paul Young self-publishes his novel The Shack. 15 million sales and a cultural phenomenon.
Three years of rejection letters are kept in a bag under her bed. The bag becomes so heavy that she is unable to lift it. But Meg Cabot does not dwell on the failure. Instead she keeps sending her manuscript out. It gets taken on and The Princess Diaries sells 15 million copies.
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” L. Frank Baum persists and The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz sells 15 million.
26 publishers reject A Wrinkle in Time. It wins the 1963 Newbery Medal and becomes an international best-seller. 8 million sales and counting.
“Unsaleable and unpublishable.” Publisher on Ayn Rand‘s The Fountainhead. Random House takes a chance on it. It sells 7 million copies in the US alone.
Translated into over 33 languages and adapted into a movie, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger sells 7 million copies.
Clancy's comment: Never give up!