Writing craft

Famous Authors and Rejection

Dealing with rejection is an inherent part of being a writer. You’ve probably heard that, right? Instead of addressing that today myself, I want to show you examples. Because that can be way more powerful. And I always find it inspiring to hear famous authors talk about rejection.

Authors on rejection

I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.

Sylvia Plath

This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.

Barbara Kingslover

Rejection has value. It teaches us when our work or our skillset is not good enough and must be made better. This is a powerful revelation, like the burning UFO wheel seen by the prophet Ezekiel, or like the McRib sandwich shaped like the Virgin Mary seen by the prophet Steve Jenkins. Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its enervating soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist past it are survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by the tentacles of woe?

Chuck Wendig

Successful books and rejection

Let’s look at some famous works that have gone through numerous rejections because that always makes us feel better, am I right? Yeah, we shouldn’t compare ourselves but it’s always good to see that your struggles are completely normal and that you are not alone in this.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: rejected by 12 different publishing houses.

Dune by Frank Herbert: rejected 31 times by publishers.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: rejected 21 times.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: rejected 22 times. Noice.

Carrie by Stephen King (his first novel): rejected by 30 publishers.

The Number by James Patterson (his first novel): rejected 31 times by publishers.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell: rejected by 38 publishers.

Murphy by Samuel Beckett: rejected 40 times by publishers.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett: rejected 60 times by agents.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova: about 100 rejections or non-replies from agents.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig: rejected 121 times.

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen: rejected 144 times.

Freebie: Journaling Prompts

I hope these examples of rejection of famous authors make you realize that rejection is a natural part of the process. In fact, do you know who never gets rejected? People who don’t try. So keep that in mind the next time you are sending out queries or submitting your work for anything. Keep trying and you will find your audience.