Thursday, 9 February 2012

Thursday Thought: Rejection

Here's just a few writers who were rejected many times, these figures vary a bit across the internet but these are apparently the most accurate thanks to Writers Relief:

John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times.
Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) received 134 rejections.
Beatrix Potter had so much trouble publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit, she initially had to self-publish it.
Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) received 121 rejections before it was published and went on to become a best seller.
Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted.
Judy Blume, beloved by children everywhere, received rejections for 2 straight years.
Madeline L’Engle received 26 rejections before getting A Wrinkle in Time published—which went on to win the Newberry Medal and become one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.
Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times before being published and becoming a cult classic.
Stephen King received dozens of rejections for Carrie before it was published (and made into a movie!).

Pretty much every writer has been rejected, so you're not alone and at least you're trying. You're already ahead of all the others who haven't sent off their manuscripts, everyone else who hasn't finished and everyone else who hasn't even bothered started!

Here's some quotes courtesy of Writers Services:

Jorge Luis Borges
'utterly untranslatable'

Isaac Bashevis Singer
'It's Poland and the rich Jews again.'

Anais Nin
'There is no commercial advantage in acquiring her, and, in my opinion, no artistic.'

Jack Kerouac
'His frenetic and scrambled prose perfectly express the feverish travels of the Beat Generation.  But is that enough?  I don't think so.'

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D H Lawrence
'for your own sake do not publish this book.'

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
'an irresponsible holiday story'

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
'an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.'

Watership Down by Richard Adams
'older children wouldn't like it because its language was too difficult.'

On Sylvia Plath
'There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice.'

Crash by J  G Ballard
‘The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.'

The Deer Park by Norman Mailer
'This will set publishing back 25 years.'

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
'Do you realize, young woman, that you're the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex.'

The Diary of Anne Frank
‘The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’

Lust for Life by Irving Stone
(which was rejected 16 times, but found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies)
‘ A long, dull novel about an artist.’

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
'The grand defect of the work, I think, as a work of art is the low-mindedness and vulgarity of the chief actors.  There is hardly a lady" or "gentleman" amongst them.'

Carrie by Stephen King
'We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.  They do not sell.'

Catch – 22 by Joseph Heller
‘I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.’

The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
‘You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.’

Animal Farm by George Orwell
‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA’

Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde
‘My dear sir, I have read your manuscript.  Oh, my dear sir.’

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
‘... overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy.  It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.’

So, what to do if you face rejection? 

Here's a big tip: if you are upset about it then don't vent online! It's just rude really. Anyone could read it and you don't want to go around upsetting people or putting off potential agents, publishers or readers. Also never mentions names! If you badmouth someone and they find out then they probably won't want to bother working with you at all. Would you? If you need to vent then talk to a friend or your cat.

Remeber that it doesn't mean you are a bad writer or a bad person. Don't take it personally. Oh, and it should go without saying that you don't respond!

Put the letter aside for a while and come back to it in a few days time. It probably won't seem so bad and if they've mentioned any specifics they think you could change or improve then it will probably seem more reasonable now. Then look at your story. Maybe they were right. Maybe they weren't.

Image from InkyGirl
Most importantly keep trying!

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