Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil—but there is no way around them.
– Isaac Asimov
We’ve all gotten rejected once or twice in our lives. This is especially true when it comes to authors: it’s all about putting yourself out there, and you’re bound to come across someone who isn’t a fan.
Of course, one of the benefits of publishing independently is that you don’t have to worry about rejection. There aren’t any gatekeepers trying to stop your work from seeing the light of day. You can publish what you like and let your work be judged by the people who really matter: readers.
Still, sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone. Some of the most famous authors in the world have had their books rejected at one point or another. Here are a few to reassure you that even the greats hit speedbumps every now and then.
Sylvia Plath sent The Bell Jar in under a pseudonym, where it was immediately rejected. The editor then discovered the author’s true identity, and the manuscript was…rejected again.
“I have now re-read—or rather read more thoroughly—“The Bell Jar” with the knowledge that it is by Sylva Plath which has added considerably to its interest for it is obviously flagrantly autobiographical. But it still is not much of a novel.”
Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness received this rejection letter:
It went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. Go figure.
Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times. He even threw the manuscript away before his wife retrieved it from the trash.
Tarzan of the Apes was initially rejected, but Edgar Rice Burroughs’ persistence eventually bore fruit when the novel became a classic.
Sometimes they get a little personal, as with the rejection for Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises:
“If I may be frank, Mr. Hemingway — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive.”
And finally, one bonus rejection: Dr. Seuss’ first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times. Where would we all be without a little Seuss in our life?
So there you have it: it happens to the best of us, but you can’t let it get you down! Is one of your favorite authors on this list? Have a rejection story of your own that you’ve learned from? Let us know in the comments!