Best-Sellers Initially Rejected
Despite phenomenal success, every single one of these best-selling authors was initially rejected. An endless stream of rejection letters told them nobody would be interested in their work.
Here’s an extensive collection of the some of the biggest errors of judgement in publishing history.
|Author||Title||Publisher comments||Rejections||Book sales|
|Dan Brown||The Da Vinci Code||“It is so badly written.”||80 million copies|
|Richard Bach||Jonathan Livingston Seagull||“Nobody will want to read a book about a seagull.”||44 million copies|
|Jacqueline Susann||Valley of the Dolls||“Undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer.”||30 million|
|Agatha Christie||(Various)||5 years of rejection letters.||$2 billion|
|Louis L’Amour||(Various)||200||330 million copies|
|Dr. Seuss||“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”||300 million copies|
|Zane Grey||(Various)||“You have no business being a writer and should give up.”||over 250 million copies|
|Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen||Chicken Soup for the Soul (series)||“Anthologies don’t sell.”||140||125 million copies|
|J.K. Rowling||Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone||Advises author to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books.||12||Combined sales of all her books 450 million copies|
|C.S. Lewis||The Chronicles of Narnia||Years of rejection||over 100 million copies|
|Judy Blume||The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo||Tells author that her fiction would have no readership.||80 million copies|
|J.D. Salinger||The Catcher In The Rye||“We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough.”||65 million copies|
|L.M. Montgomery||Anne of Green Gables||5||50 million copies|
|Vladimir Nabokov||Lolita||“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”||Shunned by all major publishers.||50 million copies|
|Beatrix Potter||The Tale of Peter Rabbit||Rejected so many times, the author decided to self-publish 250 copies.||45 million copies|
|Margaret Mitchell||Gone With The Wind||38||30 million copies|
|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.”||15||25 million copies|
|Irving Stone||Lust For Life||“A long, dull novel about an artist.”||25 million copies|
|Kenneth Graheme||The Wind In The Willows||“An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.”||25 million copies|
|Thor Heyerdahl||Kon-Tiki: Across The Pacific||20||20 million copies|
|Stephenie Meyer||Twilight||14||17 million copies|
|William Golding||The Lord Of The Flies||“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”||15 million copies|
|W.M. Paul Young||The Shack||20, author eventually self-published.||15 million copies|
|Meg Cabot||The Princess Diaries||3 years of rejection letters.||15 million copies|
|L.M Frank Baum||The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz||“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.”||15 million copies|
|Madeleine L’Engle||A Wrinkle in Time||26||8 million copies|
|Ayn Rand||The Fountainhead||“Unsaleable and unpublishable.”||7 million copies|
|Audrey Niffenegger||The Time Traveler’s Wife||25||7 million copies|
|Kathryn Stockett||The Help||60|
|Yann Martel||Life of Pi||5|
|Jason Wallace||Out of Shadows||100|
|H.G. Wells||The War Of The Worlds||“An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.”|
|Herman Melville||Moby Dick||“Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long, and rather old-fashioned.”|
|F. Scott Fitzgerald||The Great Gatsby||“An absurd story as romance, melodrama or record of New York high life.”|
|Louisa May Alcott||Little Women||“Stick to teaching.”|
|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.”||10 million sales|
|Richard Adams||Watership Down||“Older children will not like it because its language is too difficult.”|
|Stephen King||Carrie||“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”||Sold 1 million in the first year alone.|
|Pearl S. Buck||The Good Earth||“The American public is not interested in China.”|
|Nicholas Sparks||The Notebook||24||$1 million|
|James Patterson||The Thomas Berryman Number||31||220 million copies|
|John Grisham||A Time To Kill||Rejected by 16 agencies and 12 publishers.||250 million copies|
|Isaac Singer||Satan in Goray||“It’s Poland and the rich Jews again.”|
|Laurence Peter||The Peter Principle||30|
|Norman Mailer||The Deer Park||“This will set publishing back 25 years.”|
|Alex Haley||Roots||200||Sold 1.5 million copies in its first seven months of release, and going on to sell 8 million.|
|Jasper Fforde||The Eyre Affair||76|
|Tony Hillerman||Navajo Tribal Police (series)||“We suggest you get rid of all that Indian stuff.”|
|D.H. Lawrence||Lady Chatterly’s Lover||Rejected by all publishers in the UK and US, leading the author to self-publish.||The book quickly sells millions, as by becomes a worldwide best-seller.|
|Marcel Proust||Remembrance of Things Past (with a 1.5 million word count!)||“I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”|
|Mary Higgins Clark||“We found the heroine boring.”||$60 million|
|J.G. Ballard||Crash||“This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish.”|
| E.E. Cummings
|The Enormous Room||15|
|John le Carre’||The Spy Who Came in From the Cold||“He hasn’t got any future.”|
|Robert M. Pirsig||Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance||121|
|Ursula K. Le Guin||The Left Hand of Darkness||“Hopelessly bogged down and unreadable.”|
|Richard Hornberger (pseudonym Richard Hooker)||M*A*S*H||21|
|William Faulkner||Sanctuary||“Good G**, I can’t publish this.”|
|Jack London||House of Happy Walls||600|
To prove how hard it is for new writers to break into the publishing market, Jerzy Kosinski used a pen name to submit his bestseller Steps to 13 literary agents and 14 publishers. All of them reject it, including Random House, who had published it.
Hollywood Rejection Slips
The studios of Hollywood have always produced the most impersonal rejection slips that a writer will receive.
To this day, the practice continues as screenwriters receive blunt responses from the pool of readers who work for the major studios.
As with all writers, they long for constructive criticism to help them make the necessary changes. This very rarely occurs unless they pay for a reader’s report, and even then boxes are ticked, and scores are given. In some cases these writers are told to be 20% funnier, or make their protagonist warmer.
This rejection slip sent by the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company in the early days of the studio system demonstrates just what screenwriters have had to endure in response.
If these slips were adopted by the book industry today it would incense writers.
One can imagine how unpublished crime-fiction authors would react to a ticked 17.
Info taken from http://www.literaryrejections.com/letters/