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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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Another reason why I’m going to hell. But that’s okay, because that’s where most of my friends will be anyway.

This whole post was written a while ago, but only now is coming to life.

I was having an off day, which is fine, it tends to happen from time to time, and I usually just brush it off and keep going because I know it won’t last forever. I mean, it can’t last forever, and the next day has to be better, because an even always follows an odd. That’s math. You can’t argue with math.

And what do I do when I’m feeling down? I go to my favorite store in town (totally didn’t mean for that to rhyme, by the way): Half Price Books. Apparently they are all over the place, so definitely check them out. Anyway, I walked around, got a few notebooks, the book On Writing by Stephen King, plus three books by José Saramago: one copy of The Double and two copies of Death with Interruptions. Both are great, I’ve read them already. In fact, I already own a copy of the second one, so the two copies I bought this time are going to two lucky friends of mine. But as I was not totally happy, I kept on walking around. Just being surrounded by books already helps improve an odd day for me. However, after you walk around the same aisles three times, people tend to look at you suspiciously. To avoid that, I decided to walk over to the game section. And that’s when I saw it, the reason why I’m going to hell: Brain Box Wood Cube.

Tell me you see what I'm seeing.

Right now you’re probably thinking I’m insane and that there’s nothing wrong with that game. And you’re probably right. But that’s only because you were not in my head at the time. Let me explain.

When I looked at the wood cube, the first thing that crossed my mind was how much it resembled a Rubik’s Cube, but colorless, since it’s all in different shades of beige. So what did I think? Rubik’s Cube for color blind people! Think about it. It would be a perfect gift for that color blind friend who always felt left out because he could never play the game. I’ve know a lot of color blind people in my life (okay, only four, but still, four can be a lot) and I always thought about buying one of them a Rubik’s Cube, just to see their reaction, but never did. One of my color blind friends, by the way, loves pink and purple. Once she asked me to help her shop for a dress. I said they had that dress in black, blue, and purple, and my friend was like, “Purple? I love purple! Which one is it?” I’m so not kidding. Of course I made her tell me which one was it. After all, she’s the one who loves purple.

Back to today’s story. So I’m at the store, I see the wood cube, and then I have to buy it for a color blind friend. Of course! I can imagine my friend opening the gift and me saying, “It’s a Rubik’s Cube for color blind kids!” all excited, because there’s no way you can’t be excited at something like that. I can even imagine my friend’s face, even with that pause that you do before doing your ‘present face’. It will be priceless!!

Finally a Rubik's Cube that won't make that color blind friend feel left out.

P.S.: I really like this site about color blindness, or, as some prefer, color deficiency, and how they explain life’s minor frustrations (and occasional dangers) for the color blind. Or you can try to see how color blind people would see your site to understand a bit more about how it works.

 

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