Every writer gets rejected and critiqued, even the great ones, and when you're in the midst of that yourself, it can be really encouraging to look at the stories of famous and successful authors who made it through their moments of failure. So I thought I'd share some such tales today! Please enjoy.
J.K. Rowling received a pretty low number of rejections at 12, but she originally wrote Harry Potter while living in poverty as a single mother. She was picked up by a literary agent on the whim of their assistant and then by an editor on their kid's recommendation. She's come a long way since those days--but apparently, she got plenty of rejections for her new adult thriller published under a pseudonym, too!
Dr. Seuss got 27 rejections before he decided to burn his manuscript of And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. On his way to do so, he bumped into an old friend on the street who had just become an editor--and thus he became a published author. 🤷🏻♀️
Stephen King threw out his own first draft of Carrie, but his wife pulled it out of the trash can and insisted he keep going. He was rejected 30 times before that book got him published. He hung up all his rejections on a nail on a wall, and the nail eventually failed. He "replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing."
Agatha Christie wrote her first book at the age of 22, was rejected a whole bunch, wrote a second book, was rejected a whole bunch, then finally got published after she agreed to rewrite the ending of that second book. She's apparently one of the bestselling authors of all time!
Meg Cabot, who writes a lot of fun girly YA books, kept three years' worth of rejection letters in a bag under her bed that became so heavy she couldn't lift it. She went through the whole list of appropriate literary agents to send to multiple times with different manuscripts..
Shannon Hale, a well-known children's author whose Twitter I love, laminated her rejections for her first book into a roll of over 100 feet that she likes to bring out to show off sometimes
It wasn't until three different editions of Frankenstein had been published that Mary Shelley was recognized for her brilliance.
My boy Hans Christian Andersen was once found lying facedown on Charles Dickens's lawn crying because of a critique he received, which honestly just makes me love him more.
E. E. Cummings dedicated his first poetry book "With No Thanks To" a list of publishers who rejected him.
Beth Revis, another bestselling YA author, wrote ten books, got "about a thousand" rejections, ran out of people to submit to, and almost gave up before she finally was published.
Gail Carson Levine wrote for nine years and was rejected by "every children’s book publisher in America."
Rick Riordan knew he wanted to be a writer when he was twelve (around the same time as me) and was first published when he was twenty-nine, which means it took him a good long time!
Tahereh Mafi, whose first book is on my bookshelf, wrote five books and was rejected hundreds of times before she got published.
Here are some quotes from actual rejections authors received (publishers used to be a lot meaner, y'all):
Jack Kerouac: "I don't dig this one at all."
William Faulkner: "Good God, I can't publish this!"
Louisa May Alcott: "Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can't write."
Sylvia Plath: "There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.”
H.G. Wells: "An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be 'Oh, don't read that horrid book.'"
Oscar Wilde: "My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh my dear sir."
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