September 26, 2005 (Raleigh, N.C.) — J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and Hunter S. Thompson all got their share of publishers' rejection letters. Stephen King got so many that he used to nail them on a spike under a timber in his bedroom.
Now, authors whose work has met similar rejection are getting the chance to put it behind them and simultaneously start to get even, thanks to a website that lets them print their rejection letters onto rolls of customized toilet paper.
Lulu (www.lulu.com), a site that enables anyone to publish and sell their own book, e-book, calendar... and now toilet roll, without some lofty editor first having to grant permission, is offering the groundbreaking new service — at www.lulu.com/tp — to highlight that it does not reject any material that is legal and decent.
"We reject the idea of rejection," says Bob Young, CEO of Lulu. "We don't have some grizzled editor deciding who or what is worthy of publication. Lulu lets anyone publish their work — and the world decides on its merits."
The first author to use the new service is D. Judson Hindes, 52, a Florida-based writer who has already used Lulu to publish a science fiction novel called Haltia and The Third Planet (www.lulu.com/JudPub). "I originally submitted the manuscript to every publisher I could think of," he says. "All of them gave me the standard rejection slips. I've still got them all. When Spielberg does the movie, they'll be worth a fortune."
Meanwhile, Hindes has made his own small piece of literary history by becoming the first author to publish his rejection letters on toilet paper (which, connoisseurs might care to know, is facial-quality but not two-ply).
"George Orwell, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and almost any writer you could name received rejection letters," points out Lulu's Bob Young. "Margaret Mitchell got rejection letters from 38 different publishers before anyone finally deigned to publish her novel, Gone With The Wind. How many talented writers are there who gave up without ever making it into print because of misguided rejection?"
William Saroyan may now be rated an American literary great but he amassed a stack of rejection slips 30 inches high — some 7,000 — before he sold his first story.
Rudyard Kipling managed to sell one article to The San Francisco Examiner in 1889, but the paper then rejected any future submissions, saying, "You just don't know how to use the English language."
John Kennedy Toole, meanwhile, received so many rejection letters for his novel, A Confederacy Of Dunces, that he finally killed himself. Only the persistence of his bereaved mother led to the eventual publication of his novel and its receipt of the Pulitzer Prize in 1980.
Beatrix Potter, the poet ee cummings and, more recently, Dominique de Villepin, France's new Prime Minister, took a more positive, Lulu-style approach by publishing their own early work.
No one, until now however, has ever found a really worthwhile use for the sort of rejection letters which a reported half-a-million American authors — and countless more across the world — still receive from publishers each year.
The best previous idea belonged to Lee Pennington, an experienced magazine writer, who received so many rejection slips in one six-month period that he papered his room with them — all four walls.
In 2002, an aspiring author by the name of Gerald Jones got so fed up with receiving rejection letters from publishers that he got revenge by publishing them on a website. The site also featured comments from other rejected writers, grateful for the chance to vent their frustration.
Revenge may be sweet but it's not free. It costs $90 to print your own rejection letters onto toilet paper, for a minimum order of four rolls. But the cost-per-roll falls for a bulk order.
The new Lulu service recalls the remark attributed to, among others, both Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill. The latter is reputed to have written in reply to an unwelcome letter: "Dear Sir, I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your letter before me. Soon it will be behind me."
|Famous Books or Authors Who Met Rejection|
|140||Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach|
|38||Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell|
|30||Carrie by Stephen King|
|26||Watership Down by Richard Adams|
|22||Dubliners by James Joyce|
|20||The Kon Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl|
|16||The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter|
|15||The Enormous Room by ee cummings
(Cummings self-published this, his first work, now rated a masterpiece, dedicating it to the 15 publishers who had rejected it.)
|12||Harry Potter by JK Rowling
(Rowling is vague on the number of rejections she got, saying, "I'm not sure if it was a dozen, but it was plenty...")
|7||The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
(Potter finally published it herself.)
You can print your own rejection letters onto toilet paper by going to: http://www.lulu.com/tp
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About Lulu (www.lulu.com): Lulu is the world's fastest growing source of print-on-demand books — and a way for authors of all kinds to publish and sell their books, without some faraway editor deciding whether they should have the right. Founded by Bob Young, who previously co-founded Red Hat, the open source software company, Lulu provides independent publishers with free access to on-demand publishing tools for books, e-books, music, images and calendars.