by Hilde Garcia
To drive me crazy? Probably.
: to refuse to believe, accept, or consider something, (like my manuscript)
: to decide not to publish (my MS) because it is not good enough- really?
Yet that’s what we authors do- submit and get rejected.
Day in and day out.
It’s daunting to be sure. So why do it?
In an article I read in Psychology Today, Guy Winch discusses 10 surprising facts about rejection. He connects how our psychological well-being is affected more than just emotionally. It’s actually affected physically because rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain. (Great article).
I thought, ok, I’m going to look up that well known story about Dr. Seuss and how many rejections he had, so I can feel better before I get my next rejection letter.
And I stumbled on the site- LiteraryRejections
It’s a list longer than the state of California. That is what surprised me the most, the sheer amount of books rejected.
I was blown away by the books that were initially rejected also, and in every case, so many times! It’s a miracle the author didn’t stop writing altogether.
The most amazing thing is that the books rejected are LOVED by everyone else.
But why do we do it? Why even submit? Surely, we don’t deserve to be the punching bag of someone’s error in judgment? We can spend our time doing more positive things like knitting, playing volleyball, or eating cake.
I have no good answer for you. We do it because we are writers. We are rejected because there are some people out there who get a hold of our letters first.
How do we ensure our letters find the right home?
Send it to every darn place on the planet!
Send it to every darn place on the planet!
Have you sent out your query letter this week?
Feel free to have a cookie while you read this.
(I’m only going to highlight some of the titles from the list.)
Yet in spite of their phenomenal success, every single one of these best-selling authors was initially rejected. Literary agents and publishers informed them in an endless stream of rejection letter that nobody would be interested in reading their book.
Here is an extensive collection of the some of the biggest errors of judgment in publishing history.
The Christopher Little Literary Agency receives 12 publishing rejections in a row for their new client, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of the book. The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books. Yet Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling spawns a series where the last four novels consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history, on both sides of the Atlantic, with combined sales of 450 million.
If we could only let kids be the editors… after all, we write for them or for the rest of us who refuse to grow up, like Peter.
“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” A rejection letter sent to Dr Seuss. 300 million sales and the 9th best-selling fiction author of all time.
Obviously, they didn’t have a clue, huh?
The years of rejection do not break his spirit. He only becomes more determined to succeed. When he eventually lands a publishing deal, such is the demand for his fiction that it is translated into over 47 languages, as The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis goes on to sell over 100 million copies.
Oh my, I wonder what the rejection said. Too violent? Too fantastical?
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.
Can you imagine a world without Judy Blume?
“We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough.” The author does a rewrite and his protagonist becomes an icon for a generation as The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger sells 65 million.
Umm, try reading the book.
5 publishers reject L.M. Montgomery‘s debut novel. Two years after this rejection, she removes it from a hatbox and resubmits. L.C. Page & Company agrees to publish Anne of Green Gables and it goes on to sell 50 million copies.
I simply do not have words. As you know Anne is my favorite.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.
How’s that for chutzpah? And people think self-publishing isn’t worthy. Beatrix set the standard, indeed.
“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” Perhaps the most misguided literary critique in history. With a further 15 rejections, there remained little hope her personal thoughts would see the light of day. Eventually, Doubleday, bring the translation to the world, and The Diary of Anne Frank sells 25 million.
This one left me speechless, the other reason my daughter is named Anne. One of the most powerful books I read as a child, one that has stayed with me ever since. Who could possibly read it and not see her “special perception”?
“An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” Rejection of The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The novel did sell: 25 million copies worldwide.
I have my copy!
Despite 14 consecutive agency rejections Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight goes on to sell 17 million copies and spends 91 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.
It’s a good thing she went for rejection number 15!
“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” Rejection letter sent to William Golding for The Lord Of The Flies. 15 million sales.
Required reading in high school since I went to school but the one book no one had to be forced to read!
Three years of rejection letters are kept in a bag under her bed. The bag becomes so heavy that she is unable to lift it. But Meg Cabot does not dwell on the failure. Instead she keeps sending out her manuscript. It gets taken and The Princess Diaries sells 15 million copies.
And I LOVE The Princess Diaries!
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” L. Frank Baum persists and The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz sells 15 million.
Translation- it’s too weird for kids. No it’s too weird for the person who said this quote!
26 publishers reject A Wrinkle in Time. It wins the 1963 Newbery Medal and becomes an international best-seller. 8 million sales and counting.
HA! I am still laughing about this one. 26 rejections? I am only on my fifth, so I have no excuse but to keep going!
“Stick to teaching.” Louisa May Alcott refuses to give up on her dream. Little Women sells millions, and is still in print 140 years later. Unlike the name of the publisher who told her to give up.
Way to go Louisa! As if teachers can’t also write! Sheesh!
Alex Haley writes for eight years and receives 200 consecutive rejections. His novel Roots becomes a publishing sensation, selling 1.5 million copies in its first seven months of release, and going on to sell 8 million. Such is the success that The Pulitzer Prize award the novel a Special Citation in 1977.
Although this one is not children’s literature, I had to include it because it’s one of my favorite novels, and because 200 is an insane number of rejections. Are there even that many agencies? Alex Haley did not stop! And the world is lucky for his perseverance!
I feel better. I inhaled a dark chocolate candy bar! I'm ready to face rejection junction.