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Dealing with Rejection

Read the list below of works that met with rejection long enough to kill them, except that they persisted.

It's a good idea to always have something you’re writing - or several things you’re writing - that have nothing to do with the piece that you’ve just had rejected. And carry on writing. Don’t bother trying to ‘learn’ from your rejection. Publishers, editors, even the close friends to whom you show your work, will all have different viewpoints, many of them contradictory. If you learn one thing from one, you’re likely going to have to learn its opposite from another.

Just write. You are your best teacher, and you can learn from master authors rather than editors.

Take consolation in looking over this list:

Dune by Frank Herbert – 13 rejections. As of the year 2000, it had sold 12 million copies.

A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 45 rejections. 13 million copies sold.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 29 rejections 14 million copies sold.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections. More than 30 million copies sold.

Carrie by Stephen King – over 30 rejections. Sold one million copies in the first year alone, with King going on to sell over 350 million copies.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – 18 rejections. Over 60 million copies sold.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling – 14 rejections. Harry Potter books went on to sell 450 million copies world-wide.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally that the author decided to self-publish the book, which has now sold 45 million copies.

And look at these famous authors:

Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – over 300 rejections before publishing his first book.

John Creasy, author of 564 mystery novels – 743 rejections before publishing his first book.

Ray Bradbury, author of over 100 science fiction novels and stories – around 800 rejections before selling his first story.

Rejection as a writer is a bit like bad weather. It happens. Do what you can to shelter from it. Don’t let it stop you doing what you have to do. And recognise that, like weather, it changes.

Here are some more examples of famous works which had to go through the Wall of Rejection first:

From a rejection slip for article sent to the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling:

'I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language.’

Kipling was one of the most popular writers in England, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize, the youngest person ever to receive it.

From a rejection slip for 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.’

First published in 1947, Anne Frank's diary is one of the most powerful memoirs of the Holocaust. The diary has been translated into 67 languages with over 30 million copies sold.

From rejection slip for George Orwell's Animal Farm:

'It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.’

Animal Farm has been translated into several languages including Hungarian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian, has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and has been included on a top 100 list of books between 1923 and 2005.

From rejection slip for Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It:

'These stories have trees in them.’

It has since sold more than a million copies. (By the way, it was MacLean’s first book and he didn’t start writing until he was 70.)

Just thought that might cheer you up.


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