Famous Rejection Letters

What an encouragement to know that so many of the greatest authors around were rejected — sometimes many times.  It merely serves to prove my video blog’s point: “NEVER GIVE UP!”  On the other hand, one of the reasons I’ve stated as why I never wanted to truly pursue acting in the land of Entertainment where I live, is because of the horrible rejection factor.  I can’t take it.

I suppose I’ve just traded one pitfall for another. Ah well.  C’est La Vie!  I am WRITING!

This is a reblog of a post I found on http://cristianmihai.net/2013/04/29/famous-rejection-letters-2/ via my friend (and fellow author) on Facebook, Vickie McKeehan.


For any aspiring writer, a rejection letter, regardless of the provenience of said letter, is one of the most dreaded of objects. In this line of work getting rejected is considered a sort of literary murder – people are knowingly destroying something you’ve spent time on, and a lot of it. But the thing is everyone got rejected, more or less. I can think of very few instances when writers found publishers/agents from the first try. Or the second, or the tenth.

Editors/agents are quite human. So they make mistakes. But it’s not just about that, like one publisher wrote Frank Herbert while rejecting Dune ( I might be making the mistake of the decade, but …) It’s more along the line of literary preferences. I know publishing is an industry, and I know that it’s all about business decisions, but editors/agents make those decision on account of their own ideas of how a book should look or what it should do, and they have to be able to sell it. It’s like giving your novel to a lot of random strangers. If you’re unlucky, you might even get a long streak of people who won’t like your story.

Agatha Christie got 500 rejections, and then went on to sell more books than anyone else on the planet, with the exception of Shakespeare.

J.K. Rowling got 12 rejections, before making a billion dollars out of Harry Potter, and breaking all sorts of ridiculous records in terms of book sales.

Dr. Seuss got a rejection letter than went like this, “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” Of course, he didn’t give up.

“I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” – this is how the youngest writer to ever receive the Nobel Prize for Literature was rejected.

We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough.”- this is what J.D. Salinger got for The Catcher in the Rye, which is probably famous just because the narrator has such a clear and interesting voice.

“It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.” – this one was addressed to Hemingway.

William Golding received something like this, “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” Of course, he didn’t give up, and his masterpiece, The Lord Of The Flies sold 15 million copies.

It took Gertrude Stein 20 years before getting her first poem published.

As I said earlier, Frank Herbert got rejected 20 times, John Grisham got rejected 25 times, even the very prolific/rich/famous Stephen King got a dozen rejection letters for Carrie.

Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” – The Wizard of Oz

Even notorious bestsellers, like Twilight ( got rejected 14 times) or The Help (60 rejection letters) stand as proof to the fact that rejection is a part of a writer’s life.

An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.” – War Of The Worlds, H.G. Wells.

Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long, and rather old-fashioned.” –  Moby Dick.

Even James Joyce, who some consider to be the supreme literary genius of the past century received 22 rejections for The Dubliners, before it finally got published. He sold three hundred books in the first year, out of which 120 were bought by the author himself.

An absurd story as romance, melodrama or record of New York high life.”- rejection letter for The Great Gatsby

Alex Haley wrote for eight years before selling his first short story. Eventually he went on to win the Pulitzer. Much like Normal Mailer, who got his fair share of rejection letters before winning the Pulitzer also. Twice.

Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, Mario Puzo, all of them got their fair share of rejections.

To end this post on a positive note, I believe that the only thing a writer can do is write. And he has to persevere at this task. If he starts the day thinking about getting published, about landing that six figure deal, or just finding an agent, if he writes with the thought of having to write something brilliant, because anything short of brilliant won’t impress the agents, he’s just putting unnecessary pressure on his shoulders.


Writing Tip: Don’t Erroneously Use “Scare Quotes”

This post is a direct re-blog from a site I subscribe to called Daily Writing Tips. Go there and sign up. You’ll be glad you did.

Today’s post resonated for me, so I am re-blogging it here for you. Enjoy. And STOP putting quotes around terms and phrases as a means of highlighting them! Here you go:

Scare Quotes: Don’t Over Use Them

3 Erroneous Uses of Scare Quotes

by Mark Nichol
Rules are made to be broken, but more often they are made to be followed, because violation of those rules, in writing as in any other human endeavor, often leads to unintended consequences. One case is the careless use of quotation marks for emphasis.

Scare quotes, as quotation marks employed for this purpose are called, are often used to call out nonstandard or unusual terms, or merely to introduce a word or phrase. However, although this strategy used to be common, scare quotes have taken on a new role that has largely, at least among careful writers, supplanted the old technique: Now, they are better employed to convey derision, irony, or skepticism.

For example, a writer who describes how “the institute offers workshops in ‘self-awareness therapy’” is widely presumed not to be gently preparing the reader for the appearance of an unfamiliar phrase; more likely, they are calling attention to what they feel is preciously New Age-y terminology.

Meanwhile, the statement “The Pentagon’s strategy of ‘pacification’ certainly did make things quieter in the neighborhood” comments on the evasive military euphemism, while “The ‘new’ model strikes me as less sophisticated than the old one” calls attention to an unjustified adjective.

Here are three types of superfluous usage of scare quotes:

1. The astronomers reported Tuesday that they had combined more than 6,000 observations from three telescopes to detect the system of

Exoplanets is a term that has only recently entered the general vocabulary, but neologism is not a criterion for use of scare quotes; simply introduce the word, define it, and move on: “The astronomers reported Tuesday that they had combined more than 6,000 observations from three telescopes to detect the system of exoplanets.” (In the article from which this sentence is taken, a definition of exoplanet follows the statement.)

2. They engaged in listening exercises and musical analysis so as to better understand the “musical DNA” of their favorite songs.
If you use an established term in an unfamiliar but analogous sense, trust readers to make the connection; don’t bracket the term in scare quotes: “They engaged in listening exercises and musical analysis so as to better understand the musical DNA of their favorite songs.”

3. So-called “notification laws” require businesses to notify customers when certain unencrypted customer data is improperly accessed.
Never employ scare quotes around a term introduced by the phrase so-called. Yes, you may want to signal to readers your dissatisfaction with the term, butso-called performs that function, so scare quotes are redundant: “So-called notification laws require businesses to notify customers when certain unencrypted customer data is improperly accessed.”


Lisa Jey Davis Twitter @LisaJeyLisa Jey Davis is an award winning writer and the founder and principal of Jey Associates Marketing & PR.  Her book Ms. Cheevious in Hollywood (due 2013) won best unpublished manuscript at New York Book Festival in 2007* and details her post-divorce years navigating “single” life while pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. The book became the premise for her weekly blog/magazine Ms. Cheevious – Enjoying Every Moment (www.mscheevious.com). The “Ms. Cheevious” blog along with the use of various social media platforms (YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook) sparked a widespread movement of supporters who follow the hilarious, indelible antics of a single woman and mother in Los Angeles, living her dreams on her terms, and despite the odds.

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