Failure to Publish

4 Feb

For aspiring authors, one of the most important qualities is perseverance in the face of rejection. The publishing industry has a long history of rejecting revolutionary literature. Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, received this response from one publisher:
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” The book later made King famous, and his novels have sold more than 350 million copies world wide.

Even J. K. Rowling, arguably one of the most widely read authors to date, was rejected many times before sending the manuscript of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Bloomsbury, a small publishing company in London. The eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chief executive read the novel and proclaimed that “it was so much better than anything else” and urged her father to publish it.

Of Joseph Heller’s classic novel, Catch-22, one publisher wrote “I haven’t the foggiest idea about what that man is trying to say . . . Apparently the author intends it to be funny—possibly even a satire—but it is really not funny on any intellectual level.” Catch-22 is now one of the most beloved American novels of all time.

The list goes on to include Margaret Mitchell, Ayn Rand, and William Golding. The lesson here is cliché, but essential for publication-hopefuls: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.


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