The road to becoming a published author, filled with hours of bleeding your heart into believable characters, only to have your work rejected time after time by literary agents and publishers, is dismaying. Many writers, stumble some fall and crumble into tears of self-doubt even resignation. But you have to get back up and continue. It’s your dream for God’s sake! As with all things worth pursing on this planet, writing doesn’t come easy. Determination and discipline are crucial. As author Judy Blume stated, “Yes, rejection and criticism hurt. Get used to it. Even when you’re published, you’ll have to contend with less than glowing reviews. There is no writer who hasn’t suffered.”
Rejection happens to the best of us, and below are prime examples showing several widely known authors’ triumphs despite naysayers.
- Louisa May Alcott was told to stick to teaching. If she had, we would never have read her masterpiece, Little Women, which has been in print for over 150 years.
- James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room was turned down by Knopf Publishing and called “hopelessly bad.”
- Judy Blume received rejections for two years and can’t look at Highlights without wincing. But she was determined and succeeded.
- E.E. Cummings named the fourteen publishers who rejected No Thanks in the book itself.
- William Faulkner’s book, Sanctuary, was called unpublishable, but picked up by publishers Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith; Faulkner became one of the most critically acclaimed Novelists.
- William Golding called it quits after collecting a stack of rejection letters for Lord of the Flies. Today, the book has sold more than 14.5 million copies. Golding won the Nobel Prize in Literature and Lord of the Flies made the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list.
- John Grisham faced rejection by “thirty-something” publishing houses and “thirty-something” editors. Sending one application after another, John Grisham was rejected by 16 publishers before one agent finally signed a contract with him.
- Stephen King filed away three novels that barely made it out of his desk drawer (Rage, The Long Walk, and Blaze) which were published years later.
- Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was rejected by five publishers fearing prosecution for obscenity before being published in Paris.
- James Patterson’s The Thomas Berryman Number was rejected by 31 publishers, but when it finally released, it won an Edgar Award, the Oscars of the suspense world.
- J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by twelve publishing houses before agent Christopher Little accepted the novel.
And the list goes on . . . So, when in doubt, keep plugging away. You might be one step away from success.
Donning A Writers Hat
I was a senior in high school when I first tried to write a novel. My preferred method was ink and paper, multi-colored pens, notebooks and A4 paper with doodle sketches on the back. The novel was about treasure hunting with an Indiana Jones theme. I was nowhere near finished when I showed it to a friend, who admirably hid her wince and told me to keep on trying. Patience ran out before my ink and paper….