George Orwell, Patrick White, Norman Mailer, D H Lawrence, and Leo Tolstoy were all knocked back by publishers. The script for M.A.S.H, one of the most successful television series in history, was rejected 21 times before a producer took it on. J K Rowling of Harry Potter fame was rejected by five publishers, and Gone With The Wind suffered 18 rejections. Dr Seuss was rejected 23 times before Vanguard Press accepted his renowned series of 44 children's classics. Stephen King's first five novels were rejected several times, Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingstone Seagull was rejected 18 times, Jack London received 40 rejection letters before being published, and Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was turned down 20 times.
Wow - we're (meaning I'm) in good company!
Rejection letters aren't a bad thing and in fact, can help a writer more than if they received a thumbs up the first time out. I opted for self-publishing early on so I didn't face much rejection. I have heard horror stories about some of the letters received, but I actually got to sit face to face with the agent and it turned out to be a wonderful experience because with her comments, I'll be able to make my next story much better than the first. So why is rejection not so bad? Well, put simply...
Publishers aren't always right. Have you browsed the bookshelves of your local bookstore lately? Sure, there are a number of wonderful published books and I have the bookstore receipts to prove it, but the big promotions seem to spotlight the lives of reality tv stars or celebrities who really have nothing interesting to say. Don't think just because your manuscript was rejected, that it's not worth reading. Keep submitting it, even if it's to no-name, small-time publishers.
Learn something new. Why did you get that rejection letter? Was it because your manuscript wasn't any good or was it because you sent a western novel to a publisher or agent who deals only with sci-fi or non-fiction. A rejection can force you to better research what you're sending out and to whom. Reality Check. Perhaps your manuscript could use some work (I know mine could have used more). Why not take this opportunity to make it even better. Chances of being provided with feedback are rare, but go back through and edit again, rewrite, edit and rewrite again. It may be that your book needs a bit more work and there's nothing wrong with that - in fact if anyone out there said they had their very first draft of their very first manuscript sent to print...well, I'd like to delve into that brain.
"Publishing is not a genuine measure of success". - from SminkWorks.com
As Ian Syson noted in Overland, "Little gets written, published, reviewed or publicised in Australia without some form of back-scratching, lubrication or inducement going on behind the scenes." While this is often not the case, the point is this: getting published does not always mean you're a good writer and getting rejected doesn't always mean you're not.
Moral of the post? Don't give up - ever.