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How Many Rejections May A Writer Face, Before . . . .

26 January, 2017

Couldn’t help paraphrasing Bob Dylan here. Similar to his song, the answer to if and how soon a writer will become successful is not certain, but is ‘blowing in the wind’.

Chriss McCallum, in her book, The Beginner’s Guide to Getting Published,  suggests that writers not give up, citing well-known authors and books once rejected by a number of editors and publishers.

There’s no fairy godmother waving the success wand over the heads of writers. Many will face disappointments. And success may be a long time coming, or never happen.

I’m not sure if these examples will inspire yet-to-be-published writers or leave them in despair. But I think it useful to be aware of the hard road to publication and the amount of fortitude needed to keep going.

  • Famed children’s writer Enid Blyton received 500 rejections.
  • Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, who wrote the mega-selling book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, received over 130 rejections.
  • Crime writer John Creasy garnered 774 rejections before finally selling his first story. He followed that with an amazing record of having over 564 books published.
  • Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Timewas rejected 26 times. After it was finally published, it was awarded the Newberry Medal.
  • Anne Frank’s diary was published in 1947 and remains a classic today, but it was rejected 15 times.
  • Lord of the Flies, a classic novel by William Golding, was rejected 20 times. It later became famous, and a memorable film version was made.
  • Zane Grey had dozens of rejections, and he ended up self-publishing his first book. Now he’s known as the most famous early writer of westerns.
  • A Time to Kill, the first novel by John Grisham, was rejected by 15 publishers AND 30 agents.
  • Twenty-one publishers nixed Richard Hooker’s novel, which was made into the  major TV series hit, M*A*S*H.
  • Margaret Mitchell’s  Gone with the Wind, a novel that has long been popular, was rejected 38 times. (Unbelieveable!)
  • Laurence Peter’s internationally popular business psychology book, The Peter Principle, received 22 rejections.
  • Robert Pirsig’s manuscript of  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a 1970s classic, was rejected 121 times.
  • Twelve publishing houses rejected J.K. Rowling’s manuscript about an orphan boy with special powers. Now Harry Potter is one of the most well-known character names in English literature.
  • Before getting his first short story published, William Saroyan received 7,000 rejections.
  • Twenty-seven publishers rejected the first book by famed children’s picture book author, Dr. Seuss.
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer, had some of his work rejected, but later he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • And perhaps the ‘don’t give up’ award should go to Gertrude Stein, who submitted poems for 22 years before one was accepted for publication.
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