The beginning of a new year can be summed up into one word, “hope”. Possibilities seem fresh and endless just like the first flowers of Spring. So my first topic of the new year is the dreaded “R” word…Rejection. Yep, I said it. It’s a universal word that all writer’s understand immediately, whether they are a rookie who just picked up a pen or a well seasoned published author.
Rejection seems to cause a writer to cease breathing for a slight moment and sometimes make them come to a grinding halt altogether. In this instant however, is where the beacon of “hope” lies. This is where determination and perseverance shines through if allowed. Where every writer comes to a crossroads, choosing to become either a dreamer or a doer. A romanticist or an achiever.
Every creation has a journey just as our stories develop page after page. Rejection is just another step in our creative process. I say embrace it, grow and learn from it. Rejection means your not standing still, but moving.
So in saying all this I leave you with a few examples on how some of the most wonderful, famous, sought out authors started the same way you did with…Rejection.
Nearly 20 publishers told Frank Herbert “no thanks” after he’d submitted the manuscript for Dune. Eventually, Dune was accepted by Chilton, a publisher of auto repair manuals and an unlikely launching pad for a book that would go on to define an entire genre, sell over 12 million copies, and get made into a movie (twice).
J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (later Sorcerer’s) Stone was rejected by a dozer publishers, including biggies like Penguin and HarperCollins. Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, only took it on at the behest of the publisher’s chairman’s eight-year old daughter, who begged her father to print the book. Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, they advised Rowling to get a day job since she had little chance of making money in children’s books. Ummmm…billion dollar success…do I really need to say anything else. Please let someone say that to me!!!
Stephen King received dozens of rejections for his first novel, Carrie. One of the publishers sent a rejection saying, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” If it hadn’t been for his wife, Tabitha, the iconic image of a young girl in a prom dress covered in pig’s blood would not exist. After 30 rejections for his story, he threw it in the trash only to be fished out by his wife. King sent his story out again and, eventually, Carrie was published. The novel became a classic in the horror genre and has been adapted into film and television.
Based on his party-throwing, out-of-control aunt, Patrick Dennis’s story was picked up by Vanguard Press only after being rejected by 15 other prior publishers. Within years Auntie Mame, would not only become a hit on Broadway but a popular film as well. Dennis became a millionaire and, on 1956, was the first author in history to have three books simultaneously ranked on The New York Times bet-seller list.
Within a month of Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen submitting the first manuscript of the multimillion dollar series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, to publishing houses, it got turned down 33 consecutive times. Publishers claimed that “anthologies don’t sell” and the book was “too positive”. You want the total number of rejections before the president of Health Communications took a chance on the collection of poems, stories, and tidbits of encouragement? 140. Today, the 65-title series has sold more than 80 million copies in 37 languages.
Here are a few more little nuggets and their rejections:
1. Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time, was turned down 29 times before a publisher.
2. C.S. Lewis received over 800 rejections before he sold a single piece of writing.
3. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected by 25 publishers.
4. An editor once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.”
5. The Dr. Seuss book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected for being “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant selling.”
6. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected with the comment, “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”
7. The manuscript for The Diary of Anne Frank received the editorial comment, “This girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”
8. Emily Dickinson was told, “Your poems are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true potential qualities.”
9. Edgar Allen Poe was told, “Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.”
10. Herman Melville, who wrote Moby Dick, was told, “We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against this book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in (England). It is very long, rather old fashioned…”
In conclusion, “Keep your chin up” and know even the greats had to deal with the dreaded “R” word but they held onto hope.