Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before it was published. It took Judy Blume two years to find a publisher. Frank Herbert’s Dune, considered one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, racked up 20 rejection letters before being picked up.
Outright rejection is the most severe form of editing that authors face, and every “thumbs down” that we receive can make us want to put down the pen (or keyboard) forever. It’s crucial to keep in mind that some of the most famous authors of all time, along with their greatest works, have had publishing doors closed in their faces (sometimes rudely.)
So today, AuthorHouse presents some famous literary works–and the rejections they received.
Frank L. Baum (The Wizard of Oz) – “Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.”
Stephen King (Carrie) – “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
Anne Frank (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.”
William Golding (Lord of the Flies) – “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”
John le Carre (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) – [sent from one publisher to another] “You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.”
Sylvia Plath – “There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.”
Joseph Heller (Catch-22) – “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.”
George Orwell (Animal Farm) – “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”
Tony Hillerman – “Get rid of all that Indian stuff.”
William Faulkner (Sanctuary) – “Good God, I can’t publish this!”
Jack Kerouac (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.”
Rudyard Kipling – “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows) – “Irresponsible holiday story.”
D. H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover) – “For your own sake do not publish this book.”
Jacqueline Susann (Valley of the Dolls) – “She is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro.”
Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) – “Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching; she can never succeed as a writer.”
Needless to say, while they’re an important part of the publishing process, agents and publishers aren’t always right. So the next time you get some negative feedback, listen to it, give it some consideration, incorporate it (if necessary) into your work… but most importantly, push forward with your writing!