50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected
- Dr. Seuss: Here you’ll find a list of all the books that Dr. Seuss’ publisher rejected.
- William Golding: William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times before becoming published.
- James Joyce: James Joyce’s Ulysses was judged obscene and rejected by several publishers.
- Isaac Asimov: Several of Asimov’s stories were rejected, never sold, or eventually lost.
- John le Carre: John le Carre’s first novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, was passed along because le Carre “hasn’t got any future”.
- Jasper Fforde: Jasper Fforde racked up 76 rejections before getting The Eyre Affair published.
- William Saroyan: William Saroyan received an astonishing 7,000 rejection slips before selling his first short story.
- Jack Kerouac: Some of Kerouac’s work was rejected as pornographic.
- Joseph Heller: Joseph Heller wrote a story as a teenager that was rejected by the New York Daily News.
- Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows was not intended to be published, and was rejected in America before appearing in England.
- James Baldwin: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room was called “hopelessly bad”.
- Ursula K. Le Guin: An editor told Ursula K. Le Guin that The Left Hand of Darkness was “endlessly complicated”.
- Pearl S. Buck: Pearl Buck’s first novel, East Wind: West Wind received rejections from all but one publisher in New York.
- Louisa May Alcott: Louisa May Alcott was told to stick to teaching.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer: Before winning the Nobel Prize, Isaac Bashevis Singer was rejected by publishers.
- Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie had to wait four years for her first book to be published.
- Tony Hillerman: Tony Hillerman was told to “get rid of the Indian stuff”.
- Zane Grey: Zane Grey self-published his first book after dozens of rejections.
- Marcel Proust: Marcel Proust was rejected so much he decided to pay for publication himself.
- Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen: Chicken Soup for the Soul received 134 rejections.
- William Faulkner: William Faulkner’s book, Sanctuary, was called unpublishable.
- Patrick Dennis: Auntie Mame got 17 rejections.
- Meg Cabot: The bestselling author of The Princess Diaries keeps a mail bag of rejection letters.
- Richard Bach: 18 publishers thought a book about a seagull was ridiculous before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was picked up.
- Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Peter Rabbit had to be published by Potter herself.
- John Grisham: John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 publishers before finding an agent who eventually rejected him as well.
- Shannon Hale: Shannon Hale was rejected and revised a number of times before Bloomsbury published The Goose Girl.
- Richard Hooker: The book that inspired the film and TV show M*A*S*H* was denied by 21 publishers.
- Jorge Luis Borges: It’s a good thing not everyone thought Mr. Borges’ work was “utterly untranslatable”.
- Thor Heyerdahl: Several publishers thought Kon-Tiki was not interesting enough.
- Vladmir Nabokov: Lolita was rejected by five publishers in fear of prosecution for obscenity before being published in Paris.
- Laurence Peter: Laurence Peter had 22 rejections before finding success with The Peter Principles.
- D.H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers faced rejection, and D.H. Lawrence didn’t take it easily.
- Richard Doddridge Blackmore: This much-repeated story was turned down 18 times before getting published.
- Sylvia Plath: Sylvia Plath had several rejected poem titles.
- Robert Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance faced an amazing 121 rejections before becoming beloved by millions of readers.
- James Patterson: Patterson was rejected by more than a dozen publishers before an agent he found in a newspaper article sold it.
- Gertrude Stein: Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years before having one accepted.
- E.E. Cummings: E.E. Cummings named the 14 publishers who rejected No Thanks in the book itself.
- Judy Blume: Judy Blum received nothing but rejections for two years and can’t look at Highlights without wincing.
- Irving Stone: Irving Stone’s Lust for Life was rejected by 16 different editors.
- Madeline L’Engle: Madeline L’Engle’s masterpiece A Wrinkle in Time faced rejection 26 times before willing the Newberry Medal.
- Rudyard Kipling: In one rejection letter, Mr. Kipling was told he doesn’t know how to use the English language.
- J.K. Rowling: J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses, all of which rejected it.
- Frank Herbert: Before reaching print, Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.
- Stephen King: Stephen King filed away his first full length novel The Long Walk after it was rejected.
- Richard Adams: Richard Adams’s two daughters encouraged him to publish Watership Down as a book, but 13 publishers didn’t agree.
- Anne Frank: One of the most famous people to live in an attic, Anne Frank’s diary had 15 rejections.
- Margaret Mitchell: Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times.
- Alex Haley: The Roots author wrote every day for eight years before finding success.
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