50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected

This post is taken from onlinecollege.org and is being reposted here as a great reminder to all writers out there that many now-famous writers took a long time to be discovered. Many self-published first and in a future post we’ll look at some of the top writers who began by self publishing.

Do you know of more who should be added to this list? Or do you have a good publishing story of your own? Send a comment to tell us…

And now here is the article…

Whether you’re a struggling writer, or just studying to be one, you probably know that there’s a lot of rejection in your future. But don’t be dismayed, rejection happens even to the best. Here are 50 well-respected writers who were told no several times, but didn’t give up.

  1. Dr. Seuss: Here you’ll find a list of all the books that Dr. Seuss’ publisher rejected.
  2. William Golding: William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times before becoming published.
  3. James Joyce: James Joyce’s Ulysses was judged obscene and rejected by several publishers.
  4. Isaac Asimov: Several of Asimov’s stories were rejected, never sold, or eventually lost.
  5. 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.”
  6. Jasper Fforde: Jasper Fforde racked up 76 rejections before getting The Eyre Affair published.
  7. William Saroyan: William Saroyan received an astonishing 7,000 rejection slips before selling his first short story.
  8. Jack Kerouac: Some of Kerouac’s work was rejected as pornographic.
  9. Joseph Heller: Joseph Heller wrote a story as a teenager that was rejected by the New York Daily News.
  10. Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows was not intended to be published, and was rejected in America before appearing in England.
  11. James Baldwin: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room was called “hopelessly bad.”
  12. Ursula K. Le Guin: An editor told Ursula K. Le Guin that The Left Hand of Darkness was “endlessly complicated.”
  13. Pearl S. Buck: Pearl Buck’s first novel, East Wind: West Wind received rejections from all but one publisher in New York.
  14. Louisa May Alcott: Louisa May Alcott was told to stick to teaching.
  15. Isaac Bashevis Singer: Before winning the Nobel Prize, Isaac Bashevis Singer was rejected by publishers.
  16. Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie had to wait four years for her first book to be published.
  17. Tony Hillerman: Tony Hillerman was told to “get rid of the Indian stuff.”
  18. Zane Grey: Zane Grey self-published his first book after dozens of rejections.
  19. Marcel Proust: Marcel Proust was rejected so much he decided to pay for publication himself.
  20. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen: Chicken Soup for the Soul received 134 rejections.
  21. William Faulkner: William Faulkner’s book, Sanctuary, was called unpublishable.
  22. Patrick Dennis: Auntie Mame got 17 rejections.
  23. Meg Cabot: The bestselling author of The Princess Diaries keeps a mail bag of rejection letters.
  24. Richard Bach: 18 publishers thought a book about a seagull was ridiculous before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was picked up.
  25. Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Peter Rabbit had to be published by Potter herself.
  26. John Grisham: John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 publishers before finding an agent who eventually rejected him as well.
  27. Shannon Hale: Shannon Hale was rejected and revised a number of times before Bloomsbury published The Goose Girl.
  28. Richard Hooker: The book that inspired the film and TV show M*A*S*H* was denied by 21 publishers.
  29. Jorge Luis Borges: It’s a good thing not everyone thought Mr. Borges’ work was “utterly untranslatable.”
  30. Thor Heyerdahl: Several publishers thought Kon-Tiki was not interesting enough.
  31. Vladmir Nabokov: Lolita was rejected by 5 publishers in fear of prosecution for obscenity before being published in Paris.
  32. Laurence Peter: Laurence Peter had 22 rejections before finding success with The Peter Principles.
  33. D.H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers faced rejection, and D.H. Lawrence didn’t take it easily.
  34. Richard Doddridge Blackmore: This much-repeated story was turned down 18 times before getting published.
  35. Sylvia Plath: Sylvia Plath had several rejected poem titles.
  36. Robert Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance faced an amazing 121 rejections before becoming beloved by millions of readers.
  37. James Patterson: Patterson was rejected by more than a dozen publishers before an agent he found in a newspaper article sold it.
  38. Gertrude Stein: Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years before having one accepted.
  39. E.E. Cummings: E.E. Cummings named the 14 publishers who rejected No Thanks in the book itself.
  40. Judy Blume: Judy Blum received nothing but rejections for two years and can’t look at Highlights without wincing.
  41. Irving Stone: Irving Stone’s Lust for Life was rejected by 16 different editors.
  42. Madeline L’Engle: Madeline L’Engle’s masterpiece A Wrinkle in Time faced rejection 26 times before willing the Newberry Medal.
  43. Rudyard Kipling: In one rejection letter, Mr. Kipling was told he doesn’t know how to use the English language.
  44. J.K. Rowling: J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses, all of which rejected it.
  45. Frank Herbert: Before reaching print, Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.
  46. Stephen King: Stephen King filed away his first full length novel The Long Walk after it was rejected.
  47. Richard Adams: Richard Adams’s two daughters encouraged him to publish Watership Down as a book, but 13 publishers didn’t agree.
  48. Anne Frank: One of the most famous people to live in an attic, Anne Frank’s diary had 15 rejections.
  49. Margaret Mitchell: Gone With the Wind was faced rejection 38 times.
  50. Alex Haley: The Roots author wrote every day for 8 years before finding success.
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