50 Best-Selling Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected

50 Best-Selling Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected


Writers Write is your one-stop writing resource. In this post, we write about 50 best-selling authors who were repeatedly rejected.

Even famous, best-selling authors have stories of rejection and heartbreak to share. Here are 50 writers who were repeatedly rejected before they found fame.

  1. Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie had to wait four years for her first book to be published.
  2. Alex Haley: The Roots author wrote every day for eight years before finding success.
  3. Anne Frank: One of the most famous people to live in an attic, Anne Frank’s diary had 15 rejections.
  4. Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Peter Rabbit had to be published by Potter herself.
  5. D.H. LawrenceSons and Lovers faced rejection, and D.H. Lawrence didn’t take it well. “Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today. They’ve got white of egg in their veins, and their spunk is that watery its a marvel they can breed. They can nothing but frog-spawn — the gibberers! God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers. God blast them, wish-wash. Exterminate them, slime. I could curse for hours and hours — God help me.” Letter to Edward Garnett, expressing anger that his manuscript for Sons and Lovers was rejected by Heinemann (3 July 1912)
  6. Dr. Seuss: This is a list of all the books that Dr. Seuss’ publisher rejected.
  7. E.E. Cummings: E.E. Cummings named the 14 publishers who rejected No Thanks in the book itself.
  8. Frank Herbert: Before reaching print, Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.
  9. Gertrude Stein: Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years before having anything accepted.
  10. Irving Stone: Irving Stone’s Lust for Life was rejected by 16 different editors.
  11. Isaac Asimov: Several of Asimov’s stories were rejected, never sold, or eventually lost.
  12. Isaac Bashevis Singer: Before winning the Nobel Prize, Isaac Bashevis Singer was rejected by publishers.
  13. J.K. Rowling: J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses, all of which rejected it.
  14. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor HansenChicken Soup for the Soul received 134 rejections.
  15. Jack Kerouac: Some of Kerouac’s work was rejected as pornographic.
  16. James Baldwin: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room was called ‘hopelessly bad’.
  17. James Joyce: James Joyce’s Ulysses was judged obscene and rejected by several publishers.
  18. James Patterson: Patterson was rejected by more than a dozen publishers before he found an agent who sold his novel.
  19. Jasper Fforde: before getting The Eyre Affair published.
  20. John Grisham: John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 publishers before finding an agent who eventually rejected him as well.
  21. John le Carre: John le Carre’s first novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, was passed along because le Carre ‘hasn’t got any future’.
  22. Jorge Luis Borges: It’s a good thing not everyone thought Mr. Borges’ work was ‘utterly untranslatable’.
  23. Joseph Heller: Joseph Heller wrote a story as a teenager that was rejected by the New York Daily News.
  24. Judy Blume: Judy Blum received nothing but rejections for two years and can’t look at Highlights without wincing.
  25. Kenneth GrahameThe Wind in the Willows was not intended to be published, and was rejected in America before appearing in England.
  26. Laurence Peter: Laurence Peter had 22 rejections before finding success with The Peter Principles.
  27. Louisa May Alcott: Louisa May Alcott was told to stick to teaching.
  28. Madeline L’Engle: Madeline L’Engle’s masterpiece A Wrinkle in Time faced rejection 26 times before willing the Newberry Medal.
  29. Marcel Proust: Marcel Proust was rejected so much he decided to self-publish. Remembrance of Things Past received this critique from one publisher: “My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can’t see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”
  30. Margaret MitchellGone With the Wind was rejected 38 times.
  31. Meg Cabot: The bestselling author of The Princess Diaries keeps a mail bag of rejection letters. It took her three years to find an agent.
  32. Patrick DennisAuntie Mame received 17 rejections.
  33. Pearl S. Buck: Pearl Buck’s first novel, East Wind: West Wind received rejections from all but one publisher in New York.
  34. Richard Adams: Richard Adams’s two daughters encouraged him to publish Watership Down as a book, but 13 publishers didn’t agree.
  35. Richard Bach: 18 publishers thought a book about a seagull was ridiculous before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was picked up.
  36. Richard Doddridge Blackmore:  Was turned down 18 times before getting published.
  37. Richard Hooker: The book that inspired the film and TV show M*A*S*H* was denied by 21 publishers.
  38. Robert PirsigZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance faced an amazing 121 rejections before becoming beloved by millions of readers.
  39. Rudyard Kipling: In one rejection letter, Mr. Kipling was told he doesn’t know how to use the English language.
  40. Shannon Hale: Shannon Hale was rejected and revised a number of times before Bloomsbury published The Goose Girl.
  41. Stephen King: King received dozens of rejections for his first novel, Carrie; he kept them nailed to a spike in his bedroom.
  42. Sylvia Plath: Sylvia Plath had several rejected poem titles.
  43. Thor Heyerdahl: Several publishers thought Kon-Tiki was not interesting enough.
  44. Tony Hillerman: Tony Hillerman was told to ‘get rid of the Indian stuff’.
  45. Ursula K. Le Guin: An editor told Ursula K. Le Guin that The Left Hand of Darkness was ‘endlessly complicated’.
  46. Vladmir NabokovLolita was rejected by five publishers in fear of prosecution for obscenity before being published in Paris.
  47. William Faulkner: William Faulkner’s book, Sanctuary, was called unpublishable.
  48. William Golding: William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times before becoming published.
  49. William Saroyan: William Saroyan received a 7 000 rejection slips before selling his first short story.
  50. Zane Grey: Zane Grey self-published his first book after dozens of rejections.

Source for original article: OnlineCollege.Org (Some of the links have been updated by Writers Write)

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  3. Famous Authors Insulting Other Authors
  4. It’s Never Too Late To Start Writing – When 27 Famous Authors Were Published
  5. The Opposite Habits of Famous Writers
  6. Writers of Substance (Abuse) – Famous Writers and their Addictions
  7. Memorable Animals From Literature

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This article has 2 comments

  1. Melody Kubiak

    Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography, written for adults, was rejected for years. Eventually, she used it as the basis to write her famous Little House books for children. Her annotated autobiography was finally published as Pioneer Girl last year and is a fascinating read.

  2. Brian Lipensky

    Stephen King was rejected so many times that he threw one of his works in the trash. His wife found it, liked it and made him finish it for her. The subject matter was of a teenager finally getting revenge on the bullies who tormented her in school, and at home, and, in time it became one of his most popular novels, Carrie.

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