Photo by Debra Lopez
From Danielle: Rejection letters are a healthy part of the process of writing. Stabilizing, even. Stephen King collected rejection letters for years, tacking them to the cork board in his bedroom, starting at the age of thirteen. With each No, he knew he was one step closer to that Yes.
Embrace the idea of rejection, the inevitability of rejection, the power of rejection... As the old saying goes,
"Rejection is God's protection."
Got rejected? You're in good company.
11 famous authors who got rejected, and rejected, and rejected... till they were...
1. George Orwell: One publisher rejected Animal Farm by declaring "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA." Time magazine went on to name the book one of the 100 best English-language novels of all time.
2. Jack Kerouac: One publisher had the following comments about On the Road: "Kerouac does have enormous talent of a very special kind. But this is not a well made novel, nor a saleable one nor even, I think, a good one. His frenetic and scrambling prose perfectly expresses the feverish travels, geographically and mentally, of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don't think so." Sterling Lord, Kerouac's literary agent, shopped the manuscript around for four years before finally securing a deal.
3. Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead was rejected 12 times, till an in-house editor threatened to leave the publisher unless it was pub'd.
4. J.K. Rowling: manuscript for Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone was rejected by 12 different publishers. All of whom probably feel very, very dumb.
5. Robert Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times. The publisher who finally approved the manuscript said, "It forced me to decide what I was in publishing for."
6. Judy Blume: nuthin' but rejections for two straight years...
7. Anne Frank: her diary was rejected by Alfred A. Knopf Inc. in 1950, after one reader called it "a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions" ... and was then rejected by 15 other publishers--one of whom said, "The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."--before Doubleday pub'd it in 1952.
8. Margaret Mitchell: Gone With The Wind got 38 rejections.
9. Paulo Coehlo: The Alchemist sold around 800 copies in its first release and was dropped by its first publisher. It has now been translated into 60+ languages, and has sold 75+ million copies... and is one of the best selling books in history.
10. Oscar Wilde: upon reading his play, Lady Windermere's Fan, one publisher famously wrote back to Wilde with a rather polite, repressed NO: "My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir."
11. Stephanie Meyer: sent out fifteen agent queries about her girl-who-falls-in-love-with-a-vampire saga. All but one of the agents either rejected or ignored her. One rejection arrived after she'd received a three-book deal from Little, Brown. We're guessing this Twilight author no longer worries about queries.
From Linda: I used to cringe when my agent sent me rejection letters from an editor at some swanky, big publishing house saying "No thanks," to my work...
"The author seems great, but I'm afraid this title isn't for us." "Terrific concept, but we just signed on a similar book." "We'd love to see anything else by her, but this particular title seems as if it would be better as a magazine article."
Okay. Live and learn. Lots of books have followed. Ideas, like email, never stop flooding in. And, mastery in any job requires compromise. But, these days, when I look at those letters of rejections, I smile. They're like old friends. The ones who taught me to love myself. Believe in my visions. And skip to the beat of my own inner boom box.
Especially after these two rejections came in on the SAME DAY for my first book, Lives Charmed, a collection of interviews I did with seventeen very blessed and wise people... "The people in this anthology are too famous. Everyone already knows about them. We'd like to see stories of everyday people doing extraordinary things." And then this: "You need bigger names. The interviewees in this book aren't yet well-known enough."
Crazymaking, right? While these rejections made me feel far away from my goals of authorship, I'm so glad they came in tandem--reminding me to keep my sense of humor and to listen to stellar advice.
Stay in the game. Put your work out there. And keep your rejection letters! One day you'll be laughing about them with your buddies at your book party, reminiscing about the days of "no's."
By Danielle LaPorte & Linda Sivertsen
April Yvette Thompson