Initially Rejected, Now Famous

Are you a writer who just had a short story turned down by a literary magazine? Has your well-written manuscript failed to generate any interest from agents or publishers? Are you wondering if you’ll ever be published? Then you’re in great company.  Join the ranks of J.K. Rowling, William Golding, John Grisham, and many others. Many of the most beloved novels throughout history were met  with a shocking number of rejections.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


One of the most commercially successful series’ in literary history, Harry Potter has endured with readers both young and old around the globe. It had a something of a rocky start, though. J.K. Rowling was turned down by the first literary agent she ever queried. Although she was accepted by the second one she applied to, she went on to receive 12 rejection letters from various publishers before being accepted to Bloomsbury Publishing. When her books finally got to press, though, it didn’t take long for them to start breaking sales records. Today, Rowling can boast a net worth of one billion dollars. Years later, posted several of the rejection letters she received on social media. 

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies


Rowling’s number of rejections seems small in comparison to those some other writer’s, though. William Golding received 21 rejection letters before Lord of the Flies was finally published. Granted, selling a novel about murderous young boys might be a fairly difficult task, but great literature is great literature. It was difficult for the financially struggling Golding to send out so many manuscripts. Thankfully for him and for all of us, it was finally picked up.

John Grisham’s A Time to Kill


Another member of the multiple-rejected manuscripts club is John Grisham. Grisham was still working as a lawyer when he attempted to publish his debut novel, A Time to Kill. As he was an unknown at the time, he received rejection letters from 16 publishers as well as the first agent he found. Although he would ultimately receive rejection letters for other books, the number of books he’s sold far outweighs the number of rejections. Grisham is now a member of the wealthiest authors in the world club. 

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind


One of the most iconic novels in American history, Gone With the Wind, received an astounding 38 rejections from publishers.  The publishers who finally took a chance on Margaret Mitchell’s rather thick manuscript were likely quite glad they did, though. Mitchell was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her work in 1937. It also inspired what would become Hollywood’s highest grossing film in history.  It really is incredible that 38 publishers could make the same mistake.

Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time


One of the most popular and successful middle-grade fiction works of all time is Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which received 26 rejections before finally being picked up. Many publishers were hesitant to publish a book that they felt could not be categorized or put into a specific genre. The publishing house that accepted it, though, did so enthusiastically. Their instinct proved to be correct, as L’Angle’s book went on to be awarded the John Newberry medal of 1993 and has sold, so far, 18 million copies. 

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