Some writers continually submit the same manuscript until it is accepted. Others chose to do a more polished draft before sending it out again. A select few learn from the lessons of submissions, to write a completely new book.
What they all have in common is a persistence to never give up on their dream; a dream that has elevated them from writer, to best-selling author.
They have written some of the most critically praised and commercially successful books of all time. In some cases their enormous sales were so consistent that they even kept their publishers afloat.
Yet in spite of this 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 letters that nobody would be interested in reading their book.
Here is an extensive collection of the some of the biggest errors of judgement in publishing history.
After 5 years of continual rejection, the writer finally lands a publishing deal:
Agatha Christie. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more.
J K Rowling. 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.
Louis L’Amour received 200 rejections before Bantam took a chance on him. He is now their best ever selling author with 330 million sales.
Beatrix Potter. 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.
Margaret Mitchell gets 38 rejections from publishers before finding one to publish her novel Gone With The Wind. It sells 30 million copies.
WM Paul Young. After 20 rejection letters, WM Paul Young self-publishes his novel The Shack. 15 million sales and a cultural phenomenon.
H. G. Wells. “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.” Publisher rejects The War Of The Worlds by H. G. Wells. It is soon published in 1898, and has been in print ever since.
Louisa May Alcott . “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.
Stephen King. After Random House reject his debut novel The Long Walk the author puts it away and ponders his next move. He decides to write a new novel: Stephen King. “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Stephen King’s Carrie sells 1 million in the first year alone.
Marcel Proust. “I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.” French editor rejects Remembrance of Things Pasts by Marcel Proust. Now regarded as a literary classic, its word count would be a challenge for any editor: 1.5 million – making it the longest novel in the history of literature.
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