Friday, November 18, 2011

Rejection & Fame

When I decided to do a series on rejection and perserverance, I specifically asked the lovely Anne Riley to do a guest post. Not just because she's lovely and funny and clearly a talented writer. But because I discovered Anne's blog when she wrote this insightful and uniquely awkward post.

I've since become an avid follower. Anne is one of the few bloggers who can intrigue me not only with her writing journey (which has had many ups and downs already - check out her "Journey to Publication" links near the bottom on the right of her blog!), but also with her personal stories about her day to day life.

True to form, Anne's taken an interesting approach to the rejections theme. She's told me all about the rejection of famous authors and books.  I found it insightful (and encouraging) to read. I'm sure you will too:

Dear lovely readers of Aimee’s blog,

I tried to think of something I could tell you about rejection that you haven’t heard before. I wanted to be eloquent, funny, and maybe make you cry just a little. But to be honest? I’ve got nothing. Rejection sucks. Big time. And unfortunately, it’s gonna happen if you’re pursuing publication.

While I can’t find the words I want to say about that, I can show you some facts that might make you feel better. Some of these I gathered from the internet; others I’ve heard directly from the author. So pull up a chair and brace yourself, kids, ‘cause these stats are CRAZY.

William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES was rejected by 20 publishers. One publisher called the book “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”

Stephen King’s CARRIE was once rejected with this comment: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” (Tell that to the YA dystopian bestsellers!)

JK Rowling’s HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE was rejected by a dozen publishing houses, including some of the big ones like Penguin and HarperCollins. Bloomsbury only took it on because the CEO’s 8-year-old daughter begged her father to publish it.

John Grisham’s A TIME TO KILL was rejected by 16 agents and a dozen publishing houses before it was finally bought and printed.

Kiersten White, author of the NYT bestselling PARANORMALCY series, wasn’t able to sell the first book she went on submission with . . . at all.

One of Rudyard Kipling’s short stories was rejected with this comment by an editor: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME was rejected by 26 publishers before going into print.

Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND was rejected 38 times before being published.

Judy Blume has said that she received “nothing but rejections for two years.” In fact, here’s how the process went in her own words: “I would go to sleep at night feeling that I'd never be published. But I'd wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent.”

Meg Cabot’s THE PRINCESS DIARIES was rejected by 17 publishers.

Beth Revis, author of the NYT bestseller ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, wrote ten books in ten years—none of which sold. ATU was her final attempt.

And finally, Kathryn Stockett, author of THE HELP, says that she stopped counting after 60 agent rejections.

Now. If THEY can do it, why can’t you?

Anne Riley is an author of young adult fiction disguised as a high school Spanish teacher. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her very attractive husband (some say he resembles Matt Damon) and her small, giggly daughter (otherwise known as "Baby Girl").

Her first book THE CLEARING is available in paperback here, on Kindle here and several other platforms linked from here.

Anne's Website:


  1. Thanks for the advice. ^_^ It's always refreshing to see that struggling for an acceptance doesn't make you a failure. Publishing can be such a stressful process.

  2. Love this post as I am finishing up my first novel and writing my query letter. I am not scared, yet excited to begin this part of the process. Bring it, publishers! ;)

  3. Now this - this is crazy inspiring. Thanks, Anne!! And thanks, Aimee, for hosting! :)

  4. Thse are good ones. I was once told by an agent that vampire novels were hard to sell...and yet Anne Rice was doing a bang up job at that time. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a popuar show at that time. But, I didn't give up, a dozen or so years later I've pubished my first vampire novel and second one is about to come out. I've perservered for over 30 years and I don't know how many rejections. People who want to write need to know you will go through a lot of bad, low times.

  5. Elizabeth - That is exciting! Keep in touch and let us know how you fare.

    Lorelei - That's sobering! But such an encouragement to know you've reached that goal. Gives us all hope :)

  6. Such an awesome post! The main thing I take from this is a re-affirmation that writing and reading are such subjective experiences. What one person loves others will hate and vice versa. So just because you get negative feedback, that doesn't mean you're a bad writer, it just means you haven't found the right reader (of course that doesn't mean you should stick your fingers in your ears and ignore all negative feedback either!). :-)

  7. Yes . . . publishing a discouraging world to say the least and it's great to hear about those who made it into the big time despite rejection. My first novel attracted a pile of rejection slips an inch high and was eventually published by Random House after it won third prize in a New Idea/Random House fiction competition (I may well have been the "token male" who entered an action thriller in a women's mag competition!). Interestingly, some years later, when I had two novels "ready to go" and was pitching myself as "an award-winning published author now writing full time," I couldn't get a publisher or agent to even read my work. The rejection slips had become far less encouraging and were now all "form letters/emails".
    I eventually went the self-publishing and digital route (very unsuccessfully as I'm hopeless at marketing myself). Such is life!