Famous Rejection Letters

letterFor any aspiring writer, a rejection letter, regardless of the provenience of said letter, is one of the most dreaded of objects. In this line of work getting rejected is considered a sort of literary murder – people are knowingly destroying something you’ve spent time on, and a lot of it. But the thing is everyone got rejected, more or less. I can think of very few instances when writers found publishers/agents from the first try. Or the second, or the tenth.

Editors/agents are quite human. So they make mistakes. But it’s not just about that, like one publisher wrote Frank Herbert while rejecting Dune ( I might be making the mistake of the decade, but …) It’s more along the line of literary preferences. I know publishing is an industry, and I know that it’s all about business decisions, but editors/agents make those decision on account of their own ideas of how a book should look or what it should do, and they have to be able to sell it. It’s like giving your novel to a lot of random strangers. If you’re unlucky, you might even get a long streak of people who won’t like your story.

Agatha Christie got 500 rejections, and then went on to sell more books than anyone else on the planet, with the exception of Shakespeare.

J.K. Rowling got 12 rejections, before making a billion dollars out of Harry Potter, and breaking all sorts of ridiculous records in terms of book sales.

Dr. Seuss got a rejection letter than went like this, “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” Of course, he didn’t give up.

“I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” – this is how the youngest writer ever to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature was rejected.

We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough.”- this is what J.D. Salinger got for The Catcher in the Rye, which is probably famous just because the narrator has such a clear and interesting voice.

“It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.” – this one was addressed to Hemingway.

William Golding received something like this, “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” Of course, he didn’t give up, and his masterpiece, The Lord Of The Flies sold 15 million copies.

It took Gertrude Stein 20 years before getting her first poem published.

As I said earlier, Frank Herbert got rejected 20 times, John Grisham got rejected 25 times, even the very prolific/rich/famous Stephen King got a dozen rejection letters for Carrie.

Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” – The Wizard of Oz

Even notorious bestsellers, like Twilight ( got rejected 14 times) or The Help (60 rejection letters) stand as proof to the fact that rejection is a part of a writer’s life.

An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.” – War Of The Worlds, H.G. Wells.

Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long, and rather old-fashioned.” –  Moby Dick.

Even James Joyce, who some consider to be the supreme literary genius of the past century received 22 rejections for The Dubliners, before it finally got published. He sold three hundred books in the first year, out of which 120 were bought by the author himself.

An absurd story as romance, melodrama or record of New York high life.”- rejection letter for The Great Gatsby

Alex Haley wrote for eight years before selling his first short story. Eventually he went on to win the Pulitzer. Much like Norman Mailer, who got his fair share of rejection letters before winning the Pulitzer also. Twice.

Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, Mario Puzo, all of them got their fair share of rejections.

To end this post on a positive note, I believe that the only thing a writer can do is write. And he has to persevere at this task. If he starts the day thinking about getting published, about landing that six figure deal, or just finding an agent, if he writes with the thought of having to write something brilliant, because anything short of brilliant won’t impress the agents, he’s just putting unnecessary pressure on his shoulders.

***

This post was sponsored by Tim Vicary, who writes quality crime and historical fiction.

He has written three legal thrillers, about a tough British barrister called Sarah Newby. The Kindle Book Review called them ‘superb’ and ‘accomplished’ , while another reviewer praised his books as ‘a serious rival to the works of Scott Turow and Michael Connelly.’   Tim’s four historical novels have also been highly praised.  Why not checkout Tim’s website or his blog – you might find something worth reading!

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187 comments on “Famous Rejection Letters

  1. barbtaub says:

    Ha! Great post.

    What I’d like to know is who is writing all these interesting rejection letters. The ones I’ve been collecting all assure me that while they are sure my [piece of crap] work would be [less vomit-inducing] fabulously interesting to another [clueless] agent [with time on their hands], they themselves are too [successful and busy] successful and busy to give it the [complete overhaul] attention it [so desperately needs] deserves.

  2. Bar Science says:

    Yeah, it is very hard to get published. I submitted a manuscript to AK Press and I am shopping a screenplay. Hey at least I have an agent. (That happened completely by accident)

  3. I needed to read this today, since I got a doozy of a rejection last week.

  4. socialbridge says:

    After reading about James Joyce, especially, there has to be hope for us all. Did I tell you before that I’m Irish and living in Ireland ~ the land of great writers?

    • Well, your Gravatar states you’re from Ireland. :)

      I’ve always had this strange relationship with Joyce’s prose. I mean, I can actually realize that technically speaking, his stuff is brilliant. All of it. Stylistically is beyond perfect. Some of his passages are wonderful. I know he changed the art of storytelling and broke many conventions, but I just don’t like most of the stories themselves. They leave me with this strange feeling…

      • socialbridge says:

        I can quite see why you mightn’t like most of James Joyce’s stories. That strange feeling that you talk about is something that resonates with me too but I don’t find it an unpleasant strangeness. Perhaps that’s where Irishness comes in? Have you read his poetry. I find it surprisingly simple and appealing ~ unexpected might be the best word.

      • Beth Johnson says:

        I am convinced that many people like something just because it is popular. I am glad to know you have an opinion of your own.

  5. MythRider says:

    I’d like to know what they did after the rejection. Did all of them continue to send the same piece in over and over or did some take the advice to heart and rewrite until they got it right?

  6. Just Torch says:

    Rod Serling received something like 42 rejections before making his first sale…. Rejections should almost be considered a mark of success. Especially today.

  7. tylasmith says:

    Rejection letters are a writer’s tiger stripes.

  8. I’ve had plenty of rejection letters in my time, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more over the years. However I’m learning how to write better and I’ve got a short story coming out in a month-and-a-half. At the very least, that shows improvement, right?

  9. dannignt says:

    Brilliant post to read on a Monday morning. Thank you!

  10. dustandsoul says:

    Gosh. It almost makes it seems that you’re not a proper writer until you’ve been rejected a dozen times or more… Heartening stuff! :) Very strange response to Catcher in the Rye. Clearly this particular publisher wasn’t very good at his job. (I’m assuming it’s a he, given the time period).

    • jguenther5 says:

      The reader must be excused for passing on “Catcher.” It’s a prime example of the “Unreliable Narrator,” and requires a lot of reading between the lines. Most reviews, positive though they might have been, also missed the point, calling the work a rejection of adult “phoniness,” a coming-of-age, AYM sort of thing. The Cliff’s Notes coverage doesn’t even include the primary thematic word.

  11. The moral – keep at it. That’s what makes a successful writer, artist, musician……

    • geloruma says:

      HI Rosie,
      The Moral; yes, that reminds me that I once wrote a children’s book and the rejection letter said ” we do not publish children’s stories with morals in them…” So much for literature forming a generation….

  12. kiwiskan says:

    Thanks. Very encouraging :)

  13. Peter says:

    According to Robert Pirsig his best selling philosophical novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was rejected 121 times before being picked up by a publisher.

  14. Piscis says:

    That’s the sad reality of the publishing industry, isn’t it? As hard as they try to ensure they’re backing quality and only quality, even the best agents and editors are fundamentally unqualified to make a judgment call for a work on behalf of the public – tastes and market conditions vary too widely. This is plainly observable in the fact that almost every published book is relatively unsuccessful, and almost every successful book (by first-timers, that is) was rejected several times before acceptance. With literary experience, you may have a reasonable idea as to whether a work stands up to itself, but no one person can really say how it will stand up to the world. It all hinges on little more than an educated guess.

    So, a writer can only keep on writing, keep on persevering, and hope that one day the stars will align just right to establish a chain of confidence from their work to the world.

    • But are we, as writers, qualified to make a judgement call for a work on behalf of the public? Sometimes what we feel to be our best work, that’s the story the public doesn’t really like very much.

      • Piscis says:

        I think we are even less qualified to make such a call – we’re too close to the material. No one really can, though; that’s my point. So it becomes a matter of a work not only playing to the tastes of its author, but (assuming a traditional route) also an agent, then an editor, then a publishing house, then the house’s perceived conditions of the market, then the distributors, the retailers, and finally the consumers.

        Can a work pass all these tests and fail to gain traction with readers? Or can it get shot down along this path, but eventually become beloved by the public? Demonstrably yes on both accounts. That’s just the inherent flaw of the human element. There are so many variables up in the air. And that’s the system we’re working in – it takes a lot of right-place-right-time to make a success. So we keep on writing, keep on putting ourselves out there, and maybe we’ll eventually see the cogs click into place.

  15. Great page Cristian, with a message for all of us, visual artists too, and really quite encouraging. I once received a letter from the Crafts Council of Great Britain saying that my “glass painting was unnecessarily crude”. I was crushed.
    Now I’m off to read some of your short stories!

  16. natashagaiski says:

    Great post to see about the issue of rejection. Everyone gets rejected in life, you just need to move forward.

  17. Coach Muller says:

    Great post!! Question…can I share this post on my school blog? It would be a great way to demonstrate to my kids the importance of never giving up.

  18. VarVau says:

    I’ve known about these rejections, but not the statements in some of them. I don’t know if its because of how society and technology have developed, and I’m not sure if there’s actually a study on it–but comparing today’s amounts of rejections (on average) that an author gets compared to the last century, would you say that today an author who knows how to handle querying and writing tends to receive less rejections than those that came before? Citing Agatha Christie’s 500. Today, you’d really have to be doing something wrong to go through that many).

    Last I checked, 99% of rejections today occur because the writer sends it to the wrong type of agent. I believe Noah Lukeman (Literary Agent, New York) is the source of that statistic.

    • A friend of mine received something like 170 rejection letters. I didn’t know her back then, so I’m not sure who she was querying and how.

      • VarVau says:

        170 sounds more believable these days. The real problem in querying for most people is having no guide on how. The agent I mentioned, Noah Lukeman, is the only literary agent to my knowledge that actually wrote about the subject.

  19. Thumbelina81 says:

    The Great Gatsby got rejected? Hmm, I dint know that. Thanks for this.

  20. I needed this today. Thank you!

  21. mzklever says:

    Love! Although honestly, I would have rejected Hemingway and Golding, too. To this day, I just cannot see the appeal of The Lord of the Flies.

    Let us not forget that a whole lot of crap does manage to make it through (50 Shades, anyone?), but that doesn’t mean their stuff is better than yours. It just means they were extremely persistent.

    The nice thing about blogging is I don’t have to worry about rejection. I write what I want, when I want, and no one tells me what I need to add or delete. While I would love to publish a book at some point, there is a certain freedom in remaining unpublished and unknown. The more blog followers I have, the more pressure I feel to produce something enjoyable, important, thought provoking…Sigh.

  22. treneebolton says:

    Some of these statements seem deliberately mean, as if they are relishing in the abuse they heap on the writer. Perhaps many of them were jealous. Lacking talent and the promise of their own name on a cover, all they can manage is…a letter.

  23. godtisx says:

    Wow. I’m stunned silent.

    (Thank-you.)

  24. fabryhistory says:

    Kurt Vonnegut didn’t seem to mind getting rejection letters, and he liked to save them. To get no letter at all would be worse than rejection.

  25. lhtw says:

    “I might be making the mistake of the decade, but…” Umm, yeah. So interesting – thank you for these quotes!

  26. Hannah Zhang says:

    Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. Have you read it? I haven’t gotten to the part she wrote on rejections yet, but she does say, Write.

    • Yes. It’s one of the best books on writing I read. I wrote a post about books on writing a while back, here.

      • Hannah Zhang says:

        The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield; On Writing Well, by William Zinsser (for nonfiction); Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder (screenplay); and Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell (plot-construction).

        Those are recommendations I have received, in addition to those you mentioned. Quite a few of the books in your older blog post were mentioned, too.

        Would you say you are primarily a fiction novelist?

        • I was born a SF and Fantasy writer, then along the years things changed. I used to be rather frustrated because I just couldn’t come up with a “normal idea.” But to answer your question, yes, I am primarily a fiction writer: I write short stories, novellas, and novels. But I do like to experiment and have some fun now and then, so I did write scripts for hour long TV dramas, movie scripts, comic book scripts. I also write essays, if you consider the most coherent posts on this blog as such.

          I even wrote 4 chapters of a memoir type of thingy.

          What I don’t write is poetry. I admire the form, I derive insane amounts of pleasure and inspiration from it, but it just eludes me. Quite frankly, I can’t process how someone can actually write like that. And I do agree with Faulkner when he said that poetry is the most difficult form of writing.

  27. This is very positive actually. That should boost people perseverance and faith. Thanks.

  28. Thank you for this post…so needed it today. :-)

  29. Excellent post Cristian, thank you very much.

  30. Mr. Wapojif says:

    Kerouac was rejected for years, and then On The Road went massive! And Orwell was turned down by T.S. Eliot for the quite brilliant Down Out in Paris and London. I think some Book Publishers just get incredibly snobbish about their position sometimes.

  31. What a great article. Don’t give up!

  32. prisailurophileblog says:

    I was a wreck couple days back. Felt like I wasn’t moving forward. This post proves that we shouldn’t give up. Thanks :)

  33. Love this post. I’m going to print it out and stick it on my wall where I can see it while I’m writing. Thank you.

  34. Kamiel Choi says:

    I always feel like a voice calling in the desert when I say I don’t care about publishing (or money, or fame); I just want to make my art (write my stories and books). Am I alone? Are there any other writers who just don’t care about being accepted, share their work on the internet, prefer a simple life and do some freelance jobs (writing, translating) a couple of hours a day that enable them to create 100% what they – and not some agent, some public trend, or sponsor wants? Would love to find someone who just thinks this whole “getting published” thing is antiquated since we can spread our stories to our own modest audience through the internet. They’ll know how to find us. Just want to ask if *anybody* agrees when I say it again: Publishing is overrated.

    Great post by the way.

  35. Great post! Thanks for taking the time to put this together :-)

  36. Great post – and a great example of how everyone starts from zero, even the Nobel Prize winners and multi-million bestsellers.

    As Beckett said: ‘Try once, fail once – no matter. Try again, fail again – fail better.’

  37. dalo2013 says:

    Fantastic post… Writers need to write, and there will be failure and as you have shown. Rejection from others should not discourage as all it takes is one ear then a voice and your work becomes your own. The reviewers on this post are also pretty darn good…

  38. Yes – a great post. Oddly encouraging though I believe if anything it is now harder than ever. But perhaps every generation thought that…

  39. Thank you. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to start off my week. Your blog is a diamond in the rough.

  40. Dave Higgins says:

    I have often wondered if the correlation between many great novelists and high initial rejections is the same as between education and students: just as we meet calculus and eigenvectors when we are not ready to understand what they could do and later wonder at how much they underpin our material evolution, so do the authors who find a new voice struggle against the prevailing culture then seem so necessary to our linguistic evolution years later.

  41. hanahv says:

    good thing you shared this post, it should be read by those who aspire to become a writer. :) I do tell myself all the time never take rejection seriously instead use it to motivate yourself to become a better person and become a better writer. Great post, thumbs up!

  42. I’m about to start querying agents for my 2nd book and am dreading the next couple months based on all the rejections I got last year for my 1st one.

    • funnyphilosopher, don’t worry about it! Writers are in this together. Don’t let rejections get you down; they’re part of the business. I’m about to start querying as well. Just believe in yourself and write for your enjoyment!!

  43. Thank you, Cristian, for this post. Rejections are always beastly. It’s nice to keep in mind, though, that sometimes they are not an indication on the merit of the work. Rather, they are usually just personal opinion!

  44. Sheila says:

    Ah, encouraging to read! Good to know all these great writers had their challenges in their early days. I knew about several of them, but you added to the list! Just shows that it is important to keep faith in what you’re doing, and not give up! ~ Sheila

  45. chapstick for the wound writing causes….and yes. Write that which interests you ( a LOT) and it will find an audience

  46. As a copywriter I get my work stomped on a semi-daily basis, but its a learning experience.

  47. A great reminder that if you believe in your work, you should keep trying to find the right audience for it, and keep making it. People get rejected all the time, for jobs, relationships, you name it. It is good to see that even highly successful people with excellent work have had their fair share, too. It reminds us in the arts, it’s very subjective, and no one is likely to be an instant success. We just don’t see the many hurdles they’ve overcome, by the time we learn of their work.

  48. conjurors says:

    This was thoroughly enjoyable. Thanks for sharing these letters. Just the pick-me-up I needed on a Monday morning.

  49. GrowlTigger says:

    Such a great reminder to persevere! I had only ever heard of a couple of those rejections before.

  50. tchistorygal says:

    Great post Christian! I always believed them, and I started submitting when I was about 10. I think part of the key to that is that if you believe in the story, you keep polishing as well as submitting. I did neither.

  51. Nicholiovich says:

    Jesus, do these publishers get paid incentives for devouring the writer’s soul with their relentless responses?

  52. charlypriest says:

    Where did you find out about all these great writers getting all those rejection letters? And do you think that traditional publishers, agents, are afraid to give the heads up for a novel that is not “traditional”, being the type of genre of Grisham or any of those who sold millions, because their careers maybe at stake and they don´t want to take the chance with a newbie?

    • Various websites and blogs and Wikipedia. And, yes. Kind of. What agents and publishers consider to be non-traditional, they also consider to be difficult to market and/or figure out a target audience. After all, it’s infinitely more difficult to establish a niche than to find one, so if you’re work is different than anything else ever written, then it kind of makes sense for publishers and agents to be reluctant.

  53. btg5885 says:

    Terrific post. What a great lesson for more than just authors. Thanks for sharing. BTG

  54. khakiout says:

    Awesome post, I think this should be read by everyone. :) This will be of help to every aspiring writers and perhaps even to those in other professions too.

  55. supashmo says:

    I think the post is more positive than you give it credit for. It’s a nice reminder that rejection isn’t the end. All of these writers went on to be renowned. Not that everyone will be, but rejection doesn’t define you.
    My only problem with rejection is that it’s radically impersonal anymore. Yeah, the form email is less of a stab, but it also means you weren’t worth the time. And that’s if they bother to even reject you!

  56. I’ve gotten one rejection letter from one agent, I won’t be rejected again. Or maybe I will, but I know my stories will get somewhere soon. Thanks for this post!

  57. Thank you for this very reassuring post. I have a sneaking feeling, however, that my writing is actually rubbish!

  58. Marie says:

    I’ve never received rejection letters for my stories. I’ve never received any answers for my submissions. I guess my stuff didn’t even warrant a reply. I WANT MY REJECTION LETTERS! Muwah!

  59. bornbefore says:

    Awesome post: yes. Hope springs eternal? I hope so. :) Cheers.

  60. Rejection – the hardest pill to swallow – in its wake – a new path and renewed inspiration!

  61. lyndaanning says:

    makes me feel a lot better about all my rejections thanks christian, but i did find a publisher in the end.

  62. Excellent and encouraging post.

    Although I agree with them about Moby Dick!

  63. This is great. I have to say I am secretly happy to see “Twilight” got rejected multiple times. I still think it’s awful and I never could get through more than 3 pages. Guess I’ll feel better if my own future book gets a bunch of rejections!

  64. jeansasson says:

    Yes. All writers know what you mean. I have found that most editors/publishers are basically looking for a reason to say no, rather than a reason to say yes. I believe it is because they are afraid of making a mistake and the publisher will blame them… ANYHOW: You can add this rejection to the list: “Nobody cares about a Saudi princess.” This was for my book PRINCESS: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. Only two publishers wanted the book: About 20 editors turned it down. William Morrow & St. Martins. William Morrow got it in a bidding war. NOW, 20 years later this timeless story is still selling worldwide and has sold around 8 million copies. We all just keep trying despite the negativity…

  65. Beachbums1 says:

    Great post ~ very encouraging. I also like that you have a sponsored writer at the end of your post. I’m always looking for the next good read and will check out Tim Vicary’s site. Thanks.

  66. Absolutely the best blog post I’ve read in ages! You’ve made me smile and given me hope! Sharing with everyone know!

  67. To hell with them! Reject THEM and soar onto greater heights!

    Great post, cristian…except for…….

    Rejection notices are but building steps for fame and fortune.

  68. 1EarthUnited says:

    Incredible, I did not know these stats. There is hope, lol. ☼

  69. amarcg says:

    I believe rejection builds your character, it is an essential element that gives you a firm resolve to carry on your passion and stay on your course. One must have a mission and vision in life and self belief that there is an important role to play in the community that God has placed them in. Thank you Cristian , keep on writing

  70. Fabulous post of information & inspiration to keep typing it out! We all need a reminder like this no matter what stage of the game where in (or what game we’re playing). Great job!

  71. PapaBear says:

    All too often, opinion and acceptance lies in the realm of subjectivity. If that one reader (critic) doesn’t like it, then it’s just a terrible piece that needs to be reworked or trashed.

  72. Debi says:

    Interesting piece. Gives us hope

  73. naomimgruer says:

    Great post and plug to keep on trying!

  74. onecoolsoul says:

    Very cool post indeed! I’m going to reblog it!

  75. Andy Robbins says:

    Thank you for such a confidence building post. Receiving a decline, and I say that versus rejection because rejection implies rejecting you, versus declining an offer you are making, and this is a big difference. One of my colleagues suggested creating a goal to achieve a number of declines and this is a great way to get into a more positive mindset to put yourself out there.

  76. Mandy F. says:

    What a fantastic post for writers. Very inspirational indeed.

  77. trp2011 says:

    And Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was rejected seven times!

  78. Thanks, i really enjoyed that, it helps to keep things in perspective as we all get knocks where our writings concerned at some point. Everyone has different tastes and different ideas of greatness but I think as long as one person gains some joy or pleasure from something you’ve written, then you’ve succeeded and should be proud. Thanks for sharing :)

  79. Excellent post :) There is hope for me yet!! Just goes to show, it doesn’t matter who you are and how good you write there’s always going to be room for the dreaded rejection in a writer’s life!!

  80. jguenther5 says:

    I save all my rejection letters, as I plan, once I’m immensely successful, to buy a large home and paper the walls in its smallest room with them.

  81. Soeine says:

    It is consolable for aspiring writers and artists to see these successful people once had rejections. But it is certain that most of us, including myself, will not have the luck that they had. I shall gladly accept rejections, as they are the price I pay for the joy I gain from doing what I am doing.

  82. Chris says:

    What a great post. So encouraging. I bet those 12 editors who rejected Harry Potter keep it to themselves!

  83. Excellent post. There’s no accounting for taste is there!

  84. GREAT info.. gives writers inspiration all the GREATS ( not so gretas) got rejected…. keep it up!!

  85. oddboxcomics says:

    Cartoonists also suffer from the pain of rejection letters. I’ve tried to get my comics syndicated several times and each rejection is more painful than the last. It is articles like these that keep that spark alive! Thank you. And thanks for visiting my site!

  86. It’s good to hear that rejection can be part of what writers receive and they just keep on going anyway. I like the idea of just writing because it’s what you do. You do it very well. It’s very “human” the way you write.
    Cheers Cristian.

  87. auntieyol says:

    Weel, there are so many aspiring writers, and so many busy editors! It’s just out of pure happenstance that a good writer gets published. The serendipitous moment when a good writer and an editor that digs your writing happens is something out of the world of luck or fate. Imagine the possibilities! So, why not publish your own digital books? That can happen really fast as soon as your have your manuscript digitally ready. My advise, don’t wait, do it yourself and advertise it yourself. In the meantime.

    • I just want to agree. I self publish for that exact reason. Amazon has a place to self publish both paperback books and e-books. Smashwords is another great ebook publisher!

    • bloggingbyrgottier says:

      Yes, you can do that! There are so many places to advertise & promote your own books or ebooks too. You can sell your books on amazon or even ebay if you think they are ready. Don’t wait! You can always try sending them to publishers besides finding authors somewhere else where you would never expect it much! Never know when working on the Internet!

  88. I really enjoyed this. Rejections suck and I am glad that even the greats are rejected from time to time. That makes it easier to handle the rejection letters.

  89. kmsb023 says:

    I have received rejection letters and try not to dwell on them for too long. Very uplifting. Thanks for sharing.

  90. sisteranan says:

    Well, i’ve been thoroughly rejected by every literary magazine and contest in Canada, but i don’t know if that necessarily makes me a good writer! I think the one i enjoy the most is the one that said, ‘Too bad. we would have given you the prize, but you used too many words.”
    Thank you for this, and i wish for you success in your own writing.

  91. silmaparker says:

    My first job out of University was to read the unsolicited manuscripts, separate the ones that had potential from the ones that didn’t, and write the rejection letters with constructive feedback for how the authors could improve their work. It was mentally exhausting, and such an eye-opener. My advice to writers: keep at it, but let your manuscript lie in a drawer somewhere for a few months after the first draft. Re-read it. Improve it. Get it to the best it can be. Do this as many times as you need to, and only submit it to a publisher or agent when it is the absolute best that you can make it. Good luck!

  92. catbailey says:

    So motivating. Tnx

  93. bloggingbyrgottier says:

    Cristian! You are absolutely amazing! You know so much about other authors & have told of their lives when others have not known which makes it quite interesting for me & my work besides making websites & learning how to publish a website using open source code. That is the same in a way because if not any publisher, you wouldn’t be able to put anything on the internet either. Happy you can follow my blog as well on wordpress!

  94. jackiewellington21 says:

    Thanks for this post…Stephen Barr told me that even though my manuscript was “poise and plush” it wasn’t what he was looking for….Then Ann Behar told me my character was 2 dimensional…I was like Yeah….I always read where authors said that the agent said their character was 1 dimensional so I felt like I made progress….Haven’t query in a while…maybe it is time to start again!!

  95. I tweeted this out! Loved it! : )

  96. anaopp says:

    I’ll remember to come back to this post when I finish uni. I know I’ll be getting tons of rejection letters! Thank you.

  97. J says:

    Sort of reminded me of Richard St. John’ talk on TED that included an anecdote about C.R.A.P being the thing you need to get through in order to succeed.

  98. lrtrovi says:

    I am going to requisition this be done in cross stitch and hang it over my desk :) Thanks.

  99. tsf36 says:

    I love this. I think i will print it out and put it above my desk!

  100. worldsworth says:

    Great post. Some of them (and you editorial comments) really gave me a laugh.

  101. Excellent post. I agree completely that ultimately the only thing you can do is write. Enjoy the process, write for yourself, have fun with it. Don’t measure your success by whether someone else wants to buy it or not. Measure it by how you feel about the work and how you feel about your growth as a writer.

  102. elmerescoto says:

    Some of those letters are more “hate” than rejection. Would it not suffice to say “Sorry, we won’t publish”?

  103. ElmerEscoto says:

    I had to post a Thank You for this post. It really teaches perseverance overcomes resistance.

    Some of these “rejection” letters seem more like “hate” letters. Would it not suffice if they said “Sorry, we don’t like it”?.

  104. Julie I A.M. says:

    It is always good to be reminded of those who have failed before…Thanks so much…it is oddly super encouraging to know that I am not alone

  105. emotan77 says:

    This is really wonderful, and contains info for writers who may be feeling downright bad about rejection slips and letters. I also enjoy your style: bright/light and not serious even when conveying very weighty matters.

    Thanks for including me on your share list.

  106. What a great idea for a post and so motivating! X

  107. Good to know. I have a screenplay on the shelf that I have not even made an attempt to sell, and another one in process.

  108. candidmentor says:

    Before rejections arrived as emails, even standard rejections with no signature arrived on very high quality stationery that was suitable for papering garret walls. Need to complete wall papering? Send out more stories and poems. Today, if you are over 50, your literary journal submissions are being first read by MFA graduate students who are very unaccustomed to your style of writing and the design of your structure. Rejections, however, halt only those without the imperative to write. Writers write their entire lifetime. Thanks for following my blog. At 72, I’m still writing or editing every day.

  109. Love your page and your posts on your face book- awesome!!!!! Keep it up and thank you for sharing all of the wonderful thoughts!

  110. Hi Cristian!
    I hope you don’t mind me reblogging this post of yours!
    Thanks!

      • simon7banks says:

        The most depressing thing here, though not unexpected, is the recurrent message, “It’s unusual, it’s different, so it won’t sell.” It shows how unimaginative many of these people are, but also how the publishing industry has been able to jog along rejecting the original in favour of the safe.

        However, of course some successes are controversial. I personally think the Dune series is much overrated and no doubt there are better SF books out there that never get published. The response to Hemingway sound heartfelt and I might half agree with it.

        As an East European, you might be amused by George Orwell’s rejection for Animal Farm on the grounds that the publisher didn’t publish children’s stories.

  111. bhawnasaini says:

    :)

  112. Shainbird says:

    Unbelievable! Thanks for posting Cristian, you give us hope in our own endeavors.

  113. Rose L. says:

    Ah yes, those of us who write know how it feels to be rejected. I am in a women writers group filled with some fabulous writers. Some have done the self-publishing route and are selling. I highly suggest the books you can get for your digital readers! Authors: Lisa Nowak (YA but also great for adults), Patricia Lichen Kidnapping the Lorax ending is a shocker!), Alice Lynn, Kris Knorr (so funny) .
    I write poetry and get such good responses when I do open mikes and read to the class, but afraid to try publishing. I did win first place in a poetry contest and received $100, also won State fair, so must do okay!

  114. The people who write rejection letters are often little more than motivated receptionists. My first job out of college was at a publishing house, and though I was an “editorial assistant”, whatever that is, I sometimes filled in for the receptionist. Between the two jobs, I was meant to open the unsolicited submissions and send them back to the authors. However if I saw something FANTASTIC, I had the right to move it forward to a real editor. Because I was interested and motivated, I didn’t always send back the formula rejection letter. Sometimes I really liked a story or a style of writing, but knew it had no chance at our firm (which mostly made money printing glorified cat calendars). In those instances, I would write heartfelt feedback and suggest alternate routes. But in the event that I read a submission that was ridiculously full of spelling and grammatical errors, I also reserved the right to reply with devastating frankness and discouragement. Sometimes I just had a bad day and was frustrated by my lowly position in the publishing house, and envious that I wasn’t spending my time at home writing like all these submitters. So if you receive a devastating rejection letter, don’t take it personally. Unless your spelling and grammar sucks. Then you really should just quit.

  115. ampbreia says:

    It’s nice to know we at least have illustrious company.

  116. laurieboris says:

    Great post. 138 rejections. :D

  117. pablovilas13 says:

    Excellent and encouraging. A little nit; please fix “Normal Mailer.” 8)

  118. very inspiring. whenever i’m doubting myself, i’ll just go back to this post and read it again. :D

  119. Rejection doesn’t mean that your material is bag. Sometimes publishers like publishing what’s going to make them money. There were many errors found in Shades of Grey, however, sex sells and publishers know this. People that read Shades of Grey admitted that they never read poetry, and that they weren’t avid readers.

  120. Hope you don’t mind I have put up a link to this post on aresoa5rces for writers page I am setting up.

  121. iWriter says:

    Thanks for sharing this post with the writer’s sphere, it clearly serves its purpose to rejuvenate the soul of the writer who has experienced deconstructive criticism. Regarding James Joyce, I was fond of A Portrait of the Artist…because he personified the voice of the times, at the turn of the century, similar to Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, which was to choose individualism over group-thinking, prefaced on disillusionment from the social & religious institutions of their times. I’m not saying that their character’s choices were right or wrong, but I am saying those two writers were able to capture the voice of internal conflicts of their times. Us writers may profit from this. In the school of business, strategic management requires analyzing the remote environment to discern what’s trending. This leads managers to identify competitive methods to gain added value to their business. In the world of music, I liken this theory to the production of a song that falls into two genres, a hybrid.

    One may consider publishers to be like middle level managers who look at historical data to project what will happen in the 1 to 5 years. As one of my professors once said, doing that is like driving a car while staring at the rear view mirror. To be prepared for the future, we can look at the world around us and see what’s trending. I’d say that is essentially what writers have done all along, apart from historical/nonfiction works.

    And while many of us would fall under the category of “chasing fame,” or looking for some good ole “bread on the table” for our creative works, the fact that we have created a work of art which we can share with others, entertain others with, and hold on our bookshelves is like a trophy in its own rights, and is one we can all be proud of.

    Thus, I say write and write and write some more, because fame may come knock, knock, knocking at your door. you may have a message that will one day strike a chord with many, many people who’ll say it is your writing that they adore.

  122. tashterd says:

    lol welcome to the harsh world.

  123. Dahni says:

    Great post. Thank you. Makes you wonder what a critic is actually for. I’ve not known any that have ever had a statue erected in their honor. Critics criticize. Writers write. Readers read. Two out of three is good!

  124. Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet was called “The most insipid piece of trash I’ve ever watched.” by its first reviewer.

  125. jaclyna79 says:

    Wow! This is an amazing post who knew all these great pieces of literature were once coined as terrible.

  126. This post really made me laugh. I have never attempted to have anything published, but knowing that so many great works got rejected so many times is rather an encouragement to keep trying.

  127. sudebaker says:

    Okay, okay, I will persevere! I haven’t even submitted anything to anyone yet, really. Except a tiny magazine a couple years back. They never said anything. Which constitutes rejection. Thanks for the reminder that believing in your own voice – your own spark of “divine fire” – is the first step to getting anywhere. And thanks for the follow :)

  128. sudebaker says:

    Maybe, to cheer us along, you could sing “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. You know you want to. No? Had to ask… ;)

  129. Funny, just yesterday I printed out every entry on my site, and was surprised to find it was as thick as a book; I actually thought to myself, I should try to get this published. I have since changed my mind. LOL.

  130. This is a great post! I heard some of these at a lecture a while back, but nice to see so many of these in print. A reminder that we take too many things personally, rather than believing in ourselves.

    And thanks for signing on to my blog.

  131. This post was eye opening and extremely inspiring to me. I will keep all of the above famous names in mind, as a matter of fact, I am printing this and placing it above my computer for encouragement. Hope that is okay. Haven’t gotten my manuscript to the point of submission yet, but this post incites me to keep working on it. Thanks for the visit to my blog and the follow!

  132. This is, bizarrely, reassuring. I wonder, though, how many aspiring academics would persist after so many rejections. I once found a most hilarious reply by a frustrated Author to the Editor of a scientific journal. Here is a link: http://wp.me/p1YSjr-g2

  133. k67winn says:

    Rejection letters are a right of passage for writers. I just finshed reading Stephen King’s “On Writing”; and he talks about the many rejection letters skewered on a nail over his desk….great book, by the way! I really enjoyed the posts….and look forward to the next one.

  134. Thanks for liking my cartoon! I have a rejection letter from Marvel Comics. :)

  135. Very interesting and entertaining! I believe Tolkien noted in a foreword that LOTR was roundly denounced by certain parties who had read it, “or at least had critiqued it.” Writing is something I have done since I learned to read and I do it because I am impelled; I think Van Gogh, as an extreme example, persisted in his art because of inner compulsion to discover and reveal beauty and bliss on canvas that did not exist in his three-dimensional world.

  136. Wo…the fact about Agatha Christie IS very surprising, thank you so much for such an inspirational post. Great writing, as always.

  137. aj vosse says:

    I love this… if you don’t mind I’m going to use it as the basis of a post myself! ;-)

  138. Rebecca Lacy says:

    The perfect balm for a rejection letter that I got last week saying that my business parable is too short for a traditional publisher to touch even though the book that is its closest competitor is less than half the length and it has sold something like 26 million copies.

  139. This is great – makes me feel better TY!

  140. Next you should blog about literary reviews…. almost as bad as rejection letters :)

  141. Hi Cristian,

    I loved your post.

    Looks like I am in good company. Who could not want to be associated with Dr. Seuss, J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, and “The Help” author, Kathryn Stockett? I’m proud to receive my rejections. It means I am actively working in the publishing field. Recently I received two “good” rejections.

    Two agents commented positively and specifically about my work. Of course, I wasn’t real excited about the next two agents who sent generic letters. But I know there is an agent and a publisher who will want my manuscript, “Prisoner Without Bars: Conquering Traumatic Brain Injury.”

    I just hope it’s in THIS life time.

    Thanks for following my blog. I’ll enjoy reading yours too.

    Donna

    donnaodonnellfigurski.wordpress.com

  142. It always helps me feel at peace when I see that other people share about the struggle of rejection. It’s such an intimidating aspect of any creative endeavor that I think many shy away from it. This post was a great light!

  143. This post makes me feel better about the struggles writers face. It can be hard breaking into the publishing world, but we keep trying. Hopefully the rejection ends up leading to positive outcomes.

  144. swamiyesudas says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Cristian!

  145. ugnholmes says:

    I never thought that famous literary works from famous works also had their share of rejections. This is very encouraging especially to writers who haven’t let go of their dreams. They just have to try and try until they succeed.

  146. Sara Lewis says:

    If I may add one to the list, Vince Flynn’s first novel Term Limits was rejected by sixty different publishers–and then it became a New York Times bestseller. :-)

  147. Argus says:

    Reminds me of a printed cartoon (somewhere) … a very old fashioned school room, one kid standing and looking very hangdog, a grouchy old teacher with glaring eyes:

    “William Shakespeare—your English, sir, is TERRIBLE!”

  148. Ahhh, yes. Rejections, something I’m quite familiar about. I’m at about 10. I wish I had saved them all so that one day when I finally make it, I can laugh at all the rejections. Great post. Nice reminder that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. Unpublished authors and starving artists alike, we must persist!

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