Writing and Editing


One of the hardest parts of living the writing life is dealing with the reality of rejection. No one likes rejection. It is hard to have your work returned to you and not lose faith in its value. It’s just as hard to keep from losing faith in our abilities as writers. It’s something everyone goes through; something everyone has to deal with. Everyone. In fact, one of the marks of a true professional (or dedicated amateur on their way) is their persistence in the face of rejection, usually multiple rejections.

There are some things we all need to keep in mind when that dreaded rejection shows up in our mailboxes. Editors and publishers are not gods (though they do seem to have god-like power sometimes). Their word is not necessarily the last one. Each of them is a human being just like the rest of us doing their job to the best of their ability. And their job is to go through the works submitted and pick the ones they think the reading public will like. A rejection doesn’t necessarily mean the work wasn’t any good. It just means, in their judgement, there was no place for it with them.

The second thing to remember is that editors and publishers, for all their knowledge and experience, are often wrong. Often what several say is awful or will never sell, ends up doing quite well, thank you. But only because the author believed in themselves and their work and didn’t quit in the face of (multiple) rejections.

Below is a list I’ve compiled of books that were rejected multiple times but later went on to be very successful. Some became best-sellers and spawned movies and television series. Others became classics. One or two have faded over time, but were quite successful in their time.

When you find yourself discouraged and doubting your abilities maybe you can remember this list and remember that persistence and faith are every bit as important as talent.

Animal Farm       Number of Rejections            4

George Orwell

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone         8

J.K. Rowling

Valley of the Dolls                                              10

Jacqueline Susanne

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance      12

Robert M. Pirsig

Twilight                                                               14

Stephanie Meyer

Diary of Anne Frank                                           16

The Peter Principal                                             16

Laurence J. Peter

Jonathon Livingstone Seagull                             18

Richard Bach

Lorna Doone                                                        18

Richard Doddridge Blackmore

Kon-Tiki                                                                20

Thor Heyerdahl

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison                                   20

Charles Shaw

MASH                                                                    21

Richard Hooker

Dubliners                                                                22

James Joyce

Dune                                                                       23

Frank Herbert

A Wrinkle in Time                                                    26

Madeleine L’Engle

Carrie                                                                       30

Stephen King

Chicken Soup for the Soul                                        33

Jack Canfield

Gone With the Wind                                                  38

Margaret Mitchell

If all the authors listed above hadn’t persisted in the face of such rejection, the world would have been cheated out of some very good works of literature, wouldn’t it? Kind of makes you wonder how many are out there somewhere that are just as good (maybe even better) but we’ll never see them because the author gave up after a couple of rejections.

We can’t let ourselves become one of those authors.


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