We all need a bit of inspiration now and then and I’m no different. Everyone hears the stories or knows a friend of a friend who possesses the determination and endless fortitude to keep pushing for impossible dreams. After being rejected over and over again, often in the harshest words possible, and being written off by everyone around them, they keep pushing. Most, if not all, are likely bullshit passed on and on throughout time to help pick up a family member or a friend…and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. A little inspiration and a pat on the back never hurt anyone. Every now and then, it really is the best advice you can give.
After all, when the going gets tough, the tough keep going…
This list comes from a website called, Literary Rejections. It compiles the best stories and rejection letters sent to famous authors from publishers. We’re not going to print the whole list, these are just some of our favorites, in no particular order.
“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling…”
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Aftermath: 300 million sales later and he’s the 9th best selling fiction author of all time.
“We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough…”
Writer: J.D. Salinger
Book: The Catcher in the Rye
Aftermath: After the initial rejections of the book, he did a rewrite and went on to sell 65 million copies. A few well known assassins later, Holden Caulfield is a generational icon.
“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years…”
Writer: Vladimir Nabokov
Aftermath: Rejected by every major publisher (I’ll give this one an asterisk(*) because the subject matter probably had A LOT to do with that). Anyway, the author goes to France and lands a deal with Olympia Press (Of course, the French…). The first 5000 copies quickly sell out. The novel is then published by all those that initially turned it down, and reaches combined sales of 50 million.
“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull…”
Writer: William Golding
Book: The Lord of the Flies
Aftermath: 15 million copies.
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature…”
L. Frank Baum
Book: The Wizard of Oz
Aftermath: 15 million copies plus the, arguably, most well-known movie of all-time.
“Unsaleable and unpublishable…”
Writer: Ayn Rand
Book: The Fountainhead
Aftermath: Random House took a random chance on it and sold 7 million copies in the U.S. alone.
“Frenetic and scrambled prose…”
Writer: Jack Kerouac
Book: On The Road
Aftermath: The numbers are impossible to guess because it’s estimated to be the most shoplifted book in the country. Yet since Viking Press published the book in 1957, it has sold a minimum of 60,000 copies each year. You read that right. That’s every year for 55 years.
“An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book…”
Writer: H.G. Wells
Book: The War of the Worlds
Aftermath: There are no official numbers, but the book has never been out of print since being published in 1898. Reread that again.
“Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long, and rather old-fashioned…”
Writer: Herman Melville
Book: Moby Dick
Aftermath: You can look at this one of two ways. It’s generally considered to be one of the first Great American Novels, if not THE first. However, Melville only sold 50 copies in his lifetime. The life of a writer is glorious…is it not?
“An absurd story as romance, melodrama or record of New York high life…”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Book: The Great Gatsby
Aftermath: When it published, it became an instant classic. As with Moby Dick, it is now considered as one of the Great American Novels.
“I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say. Apparently the author intends it to be funny…”
Writer: Joseph Heller
Aftermath: The story is that the number 22 is in the title because it was the 22nd publisher, Simon & Schuster, to receive the book and decide to publish it. It’s sold an estimated 10 million copies.
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell…”
Writer: Stephen King
Aftermath: Random House rejected his first novel, The Long Walk. He put that book aside and decided to write a new novel. Carrie would sell 1 million copies. At the time of this post, his total number of books sold is over 350 million, placing him number 16 on the all-time list. That number doesn’t account for the movies and television shows behind his name. Staggering numbers.
“This will set publishing back 25 years…”
Writer: Norman Mailer
Book: The Deer Park
Aftermath: He won the Pulitzer Prize. Twice.
“Good God, I can’t publish this…”
Writer: William Faulkner
Aftermath: He’s fuckin’ Faulkner.
Other Notables Stories (without quotes):
To prove how hard it is for new writers to break in, Jerzy Kosinski uses a pen name to submit his bestseller Steps to 13 literary agents and 14 publishers. All reject it, including Random House…who had published it.
The Alfred A. Knopf publishing house turned down: Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath, and Mario Puzo’s, The Godfather.
After 500 rejections spanning just 4 years, the writer finally lands a publishing deal: Agatha Christie. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more.
After collecting 800 rejection slips, the author eventually lands a publishing deal. Such is the demand for his fiction that it is translated into over 47 languages, as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series by C.S. Lewis goes on to sell 85 million copies.
After 12 rejections, Richard Hornberger switches to the pseudonym, Richard Hooker, and his debut novel becomes a phenomenal publishing success, spawning an Oscar-Winning Film Adaptation, and one of the most watched Television shows in history: M*A*S*H.
16 literary agencies and 12 publishers reject A Time To Kill. Its modest print run of 5000 quickly sells out, as it goes on to become a best-seller for its author: John Grisham. Combined sales of 250 million.
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.
31 publishers in a row turn down The Thomas Berryman Number. It wins the Edgar for Best Novel becoming a best-seller for James Patterson. An author with 19 consecutive number #1′s on the New York Times best-seller list and sales of 220 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.
Margaret Mitchell gets 38 rejections from publishers before finding one to publish her novel Gone With The Wind. It sells 30 million copies.
With 23 rejections, Frank Herbert finally lands a publisher, and Dune becomes the best-selling science-fiction novel of all time.