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Rejection letters

The most common thing when trying to publish a book is to receive a rejection letter. But what does that mean? Does that mean your work is not good enough? Not necessarily.

Many famous authors received cruel rejection letters. Here are some excerpts from some of those letters:

  • Sylvia PlathThere certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.
  • Rudyard KiplingI’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.
  • Emily Dickinson[Your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.
  • Ernest Hemingway (on The Torrents of Spring): It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.
  • Dr. SeussToo different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.
  • The Diary of Anne FrankThe girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.
  • Richard Bach (on Jonathan Livingston Seagull): will never make it as a paperback. (Over 7.25 million copies sold)
  • H.G. Wells (on The War of the Worlds): An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would “take”…I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’. And (on The Time Machine): It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.
  • Edgar Allan PoeReaders in this country have a decided and strong preference for works in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.
  • Herman Melville (on Moby Dick): We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in [England]. It is very long, rather old-fashioned…
  • Jack London[Your book is] forbidding and depressing.
  • William FaulknerIf the book had a plot and structure, we might suggest shortening and revisions, but it is so diffuse that I don’t think this would be of any use. My chief objection is that you don’t have any story to tell. And two years later: Good God, I can’t publish this!
  • Stephen King (on Carrie): We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.
  • Joseph Heller (on Catch–22): I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.
  • George Orwell (on Animal Farm): It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.
  • Oscar Wilde (on Lady Windermere’s Fan): My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir.
  • Vladimir Nabokov (on Lolita): … overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.

But that’s not all, that’s not all at all. Many famous authors were rejected many times before being able to publish their books:

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down so many times, Beatrix Potter initially self-published it.
  • Lust for Life by Irving Stone was rejected 16 times, but found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies.
  • John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times.
  • Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) received 134 rejections.
  • Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) received 121 rejections.
  • Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted.
  • Judy Blume, beloved by children everywhere, received rejections for two straight years.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle received 26 rejections.
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.
  • Carrie by Stephen King received 30 rejections.
  • The Diary of Anne Frank received 16 rejections.
  • Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rolling was rejected 12 times.
  • Dr. Seuss received 27 rejection letters

So my opinion is: no matter what, keep going. Got a rejection letter? Great! Save it somewhere you can find it later and go send more manuscripts. Print this list and put it where you can see it, to inspire you, to remind you that you’re not alone. Do what you have to do. But don’t ever give up.

 

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Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Today is Dr. Seuss‘ birthday. He’d be 108, had he not died in 1991. And although I didn’t grow up with his books, I love them. I’ve read different books when I was a child, from Brazilian authors, but that’s a story for another post. Now I read his books all the time to the children I know. And yes, I did go to the movies to watch Horton Hears a Who! and I will watch The Lorax, with or without the company of children, since I have no problem going by myself to enjoy a movie. In fact, it’s even better, because children tend to make comments during the movie and I don’t appreciate the constant interruption.

But back to books. Today I read one of my favorites, Green Eggs and Ham. I can almost recite that book by heart and I always say “You don’t like them, so you say. Eat them, eat them, and you may. Eat them and you may, I say,” every time someone say they don’t like something but don’t even want to try it. I know, I know, who am I to say something when I refuse to eat oysters? But have you seen how gross they look? It’s like eating boogers, the limy kind, from a child who has been sick with a cold and crying so much he has that long line of limy-green, disgusting booger running from his nose, over his lips, passing his chin, and threatening to fall but still hanging by a thread. No, thanks, I’ll pass.

And speaking of quotes, one of my favorites is “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” And I find that lately I’ve been saying this a lot!

I’m always worried about what I say and how I say it. People often say I over-think things and I can’t say they are wrong, but I just can’t help myself. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but I can’t just be quiet about certain things. Can I? Better yet, should I? Should we just not say what we think because of how others may receive the information? Should we be so concerned about what others will think? I don’t want to hurt people, but I feel like I’m still entitled to have my own opinions and to express them, don’t you think?

 

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