Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On Rejection

Chin up; my friend. You are not the only one who has had to suffer indifference and disrespect, even rejection, before finding success in your endeavors.

Consider Jane Austen. Her lovely novel, Northanger Abbey, now considered one of the true classics of 19th Century English literature, was refused by so many publishers that she finally sold the manuscript to a bookseller in Bath. Even then it wasn't published until it had sat around for a long, long time. Once it did get to the public, it was a great success and made Miss Austen's reputation. But what had she gotten out of the bookseller for it? 10 pounds!

And then there was William Makepeace Thackeray's grand novel, Vanity Fair. It was rejected by so many London firms that it only went to print when Thackeray paid for it himself. The same thing happened with the first volume of fairy tales written by Hans Christian Andersen and The Tale Of Peter the Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.

Zane Grey, one of the best-selling authors of all time, didn't find a publisher easy stuff either. One editor not only refused a submitted manuscript of Grey's, he also sent along this message: "I do not see anything in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction."

Such shortsightedness isn't rare in publishing history.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's splendid and momentous novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, first found readers when it was serially printed in an anti-slavery journal published in Washington. It was then offered to Jewett and Company but their reaction was quite negative. Indeed, the critic responsible for accepting or rejecting books determined the story just didn't have enough to hold the public's interest. Fortunately for Miss Stowe (and America!), the critic's wife overruled him.

William Saroyan saved the rejection slips he received before he was ever published. The stack of almost 7,000 ended up 2 and 1/2 feet high.

He's in good company.

George Orwell was told of Animal Farm, "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A."

Rudyard Kipling sold one brief article to a San Francisco newspaper before being told they would not consider any more of his submissions. He was told, "You just don't know how to use the English language." Kipling, of course, became England's poet laureate and one of the most beloved writers in English the world has known.

Edgar-Award winning John Creasey, one of the most prolific authors of all time, received an unbroken succession of 743 rejection slips before finally winning a publisher over. At last count, way over 60,000,000 of his books have been published.

What about two of my favorite books, Kon-Tiki and Watership Down? The former, Thor Heyerdahl's thrilling true-life account of sailing the Pacific in a reed boat, was ignored by 20 publishers before one finally saw what should have been obvious to all. And Richard Adams? Before Watership Down was published to rave reviews all over the world (the book is still reprinted regularly), it was denied by 26 companies.

And finally, Margaret Mitchell got rejection letters from 38 publishers before someone took a flyer on Gone With The Wind. It became the bestselling novel ever.

As I said, chin up. Rejection comes to the best.