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Words of Encouragement to myself

Posted by E on November 16, 2007

When you write your first book, this is what you tend to think:

Finish book, stick in large envelope, mail to publishing house, receive call from ecstatic editor offering huge book deal, receive enormous check, buy mansion, end up on cover of Time.

I miss that period of delusion. I’ve become all to familiar with the reality of trying to have a book published. For instance…you cannot send your book to a publishing house anymore. Publishers do not take unsolicited manuscripts. You must get an agent. Ok, no problem.

Except I’m currently stuck at “you must get an agent”. Getting an agent is about as hard as it used to be getting your book in front of an editor at a publishing house. If you can even get an agent to respond to your query, you’re lucky!

But…just to make us all feel better, I’ve posted a list below of famous authors that were rejected (some multiple times) by either agents or publishing houses.

Ray Bradbury has had about a thousand rejections over his 30 year career according to a B&N interview, and says he is still getting rejected.

Ellen Jackson’s Cinder Edna was rejected more than 40 times before it was accepted for publication. Since then, it has won many awards and sold more than 150,000 hardcover copies.

Jasper Fforde received 76 rejection letters from publishers before his first novel, The Eyre Affair, was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2001.

Judy Blume received “nothing but rejections” for two years. “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.”

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time was rejected by 26 publishers before being accepted by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. It ended up winning the John Newbery Medal as the best children’s book of 1963 and is now in its 69th printing. (Thanks to Mark Bernstein)

Meg Cabot said that her Princess Diaries got rejected seventeen times before it was finally bought.

J.K. Rowling was rejected by 9 publishers before London’s Bloomsbury Publishing signed her on.

Marcel Proust decided to self-publish after being rejected three times.

Lois Bujold wrote three books (Shards of Honor, Barrayar, The Warrior’s Apprentice) before her third book The Warrior’s Apprentice was accepted after four rejections.

Edgar Rice Burroughs was repeatedly rejected when he tried to sell a book sequel to his successful “Tarzan of the Apes.” After Tarzan serializations became popular in newspapers, book publishers suddenly became interested.

Stephen King got the following rejection for his bestselling novel, Carrie: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

Shockingly, The Diary Of Anne Frank received the following rejection comment: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity’ level.” The book was rejected 16 times before it was published by Doubleday in 1952. More than 30 million copies are currently in print, making it one of the best-selling books in history.

The Dr. Seuss books got rejected more than 15 times before the author finally found an editor who accepted his work.

William Saroyan collected a pile of rejection slips thirty inches high (about 7000) before he sold his first short story.

Alex Haley, author of Roots, wrote every day, seven days a week for eight years before selling to a small magazine.

Richard Hooker’s book, M*A*S*H was rejected 17 times.

John Kennedy Toole received so many rejection letters for his novel, A Confederacy Of Dunces, that he finally killed himself. Only the persistence of his bereaved mother led to the eventual publication of his novel and its receipt of the Pulitzer Prize in 1980.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach was rejected 140 times before it was eventually published.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times.

Watership Down by Richard Adams: 26 rejections.

Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected nearly 20 times before being published.

Feel like crawling back into bed? Well, don’t. If anything, this list merely proves that determination and commitment to the craft is what will get you published. The way I see, anything with any merit will eventually be recognized by someone.

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