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Don’t Let Rejection Get You Down – These Famous Writers Overcame Rejection

Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

Image Copyright © 2014-2017 Joan Y. Edwards

“Don’t Let Rejection Get You Down – These Famous Writers Overcame Rejection” by Joan Y. Edwards

Thank you, Riley Amos Westbook, (sonshinegreene), one of my latest subscribers, for telling me he would like to know more about how many times famous writers got rejected. I had no idea that little seed of curiosity would lead to a whole series of posts about this topic. There are over one hundred authors I found with information about their rejections before they were published.  I put them in alphabetical order by first names to help you and me find them easier.

  1. Agatha Christie tried to get The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring the character of Poirot published for 5 years without success. She got it published in 1920. The Guinness Book of World Records lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. She published 85 books according to Wikipedia as noted by Passive Guy in “Ten Best Selling Fiction Authors of All Time
  2. Alex Haley wrote short stories and articles and sent them to magazines and publishers back in the United States. Although he received mostly rejection letters in return, they published a handful of his stories which encouraged Haley to keep writing. His book and movie “Roots” told the story of his ancestors.

  3. Alice Walker. Literary Rejections stated in “Best Sellers Initially Rejected” that Little, Brown & Company passed on a two book deal for Alice Walker. When complete her novel The Color Purple sold 10 million and won the The Pulitzer Prize. Her Official Website stated that she was the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize.

  4. Allen Loeb. Kyle Buchanan’s article on The Vulture quoted Allen as saying, “[I was] the baby writer at the lowest rung within the system, who has just enough rope to hang himself. That’s what I lived and breathed for seven, eight years.” Undercover, Escape From New York, Rock of Ages, Just Go With It, and countless other films.

  5. Amanda Hocking. Ed Pinkington relates that in March 2010 Amanda needed $300.00 to go to Chicago for a Muppet exhibit. Here’s how she got her $300.00. She self-published one of her many novels that had been rejected by umpteen book agents and publishing houses from 2001-2010 on Amazon and other digital eBook websites  She thought surely, she could sell a few copies to her family and friends. She was right. By October 2010, she not only raised $300.00 but she sold 150,000 copies of her books. She published My Blood Approves on March 17, 2010 and My Blood Approves, Book 2 called Fate was published April 15, 2010.

  6. Andy Warhol. The Guardian says in its blog,In a way, he was not a writer at all. All his books were either dictated or transcribed from recordings, and in this respect he was part of a curiously old-fashioned tradition. In the LA Times Culture Monster blog, it shows a letter from the Modern Museum of Art(now known as the New York Museum of Art) in which they reject the copy of The Shoe drawing that Andy offered to donate to them for free. The museum official, Alfred H. Barr, Jr. wrote “I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collection.”

  7. Anne Frank. John Noonan states in his article on Finding Dulcinea.com that after the holocaust was over, Anne’s father, Otto Frank found her diary. He typed it in German and shared it with family and close friends, who convinced him to share it with the world. He took it to a publisher, which released the first copies of the diary, titled “Het Achterhuis,” or “The Secret Annex,” on June 25, 1947.

David Oshinsky states in his New York Times Book Review that The Diary of Anne was rejected by Frank Knopf and 15 others before Doubleday published it in 1952. Now it is one of the best-selling books in history. According to one publisher, The Diary of Anne Frank was scarcely worth reading: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”

  1. Audrey Niffenegger. In Jessica Strawser’s interview in Writer’s Digest.com, she stated that Audrey Niffenegger spent four and a half years writing The Time Traveler’s Wife and had 20 or more agent rejections before it was published in 2003.
  • Ayn Rand  Rand did not enjoy real success until the publication of The Fountainhead in 1943 which was rejected 12 times. Gradesaver.com states in its Biography of Ayn Rand that many people consider her last novel, Atlas Shrugged (1957) to be her masterpiece

  • Beatrix Potter.  Beatrix sent her tale to six publishers, but was rejected by all of them because of the lack of colour pictures, which were popular at the time. She self-published Peter Rabbit in 1901 because she was fed up with rejection letters.


    I can’t find where Barbara Kingsolver was rejected, but Barbara Kingsolver gives you great advice if you are rejected.

    Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible is one of her best-selling novels. One Hundred Rejections.com says in “Famous Rejection #36: Barbara Kingsolver’s Advice” for writers about rejection is: This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”

    Famous writers recovered from rejection, so can you. Submit again.

    Here’s a three-week plan to get your manuscript, query, cover letter, and/or proposal in gear. Week 4 gets you to celebrate and write another story.PubSub

    Pub Subbers

    Week 1 Send manuscript off for final critique before submission. Choose publisher or agent. Print Guidelines.

    Week 2 Write pitch, query, cover letter, proposal, etc. to make a good impression.

    Week 3 Proof read everything. Submit this week.

    Week 4 Celebrate life. Write another story.

    50 Publishers Who Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts updated November, 2017

    22 Literary Agents Who Are Looking for You

    Good luck in your publication. Believe in you and your writing.

    Celebrate you.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    Copyright © 2014-2017 Joan Y. Edwards




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    19 Responses

    1. Joan,
      What a great start to an inspiring series. Thanks for tackling the topic. I especially liked Barbara Kingsolver’s advice. Clever look at rejections.


      • Dear Linda,
        Thank you for writing. I’m glad you think this post is a great way to start a series. You’re welcome for my tackling the topic. I loved Barbara Kingsolver’s advice, too. Excellent prospective!

        Never Give Up


    2. Joan,
      These authors have inspired me to keep going! Thank you for taking the time to research this list!


      • Dear June,
        Thank you for writing. I am so thankful that these authors have inspired you to keep on going. Good luck. You’re welcome for my taking the time to research this list.

        Never Give Up


    3. Just goes to show, don’t ever give up! Keep creating!!!!


      • And that’s not including other new time bestsellers, such as J.K. Rowling, rejected twelve times, til a child of a president in the company demanded to read the rest of the book.

        Stephanie Meyer, a book I would have rejected. (Yes, I read all three of them, my wife made me >.>) but it took off like a rocket!


        • Dear Riley,
          Thank you for writing. You’re right, these ten do not include J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer. They come later in alphabetical order. They will be in a later post.
          I am proud that you read these books. Keep on creating new work and submit them! Submit them…submit them.

          Never Give Up


      • Dear Riley,
        Thanks for writing. We should never give up. We should keep on creating one story after another. Celebrate you and your writing now. Submit them.

        Never Give Up


    4. I like to look up how many times an author has been rejected, especially as my list grows and grows. There’s somebody for everything, I simply haven’t found her yet. Thanks!


      • Dear Angela, Thank you for writing. Keep looking for the right publisher. The right publisher is looking for you. Good luck.

        Never Give Up


    5. Thank you for the motivating post!


    6. Reblogged this on barbaraswrittenwords and commented:
      So true


      • Dear Barbara,
        Thank you for writing. I am honored that you reblogged my post,”Famous Writers Recovered from Rejection, So Can You.”
        I hope you’ll come back and read the other ten posts in that series when they are “live.”

        I’ve read through your blog posts. I love how you let your readers know what’s going on in your mind. You share your emotions with us. That’s a gift that keeps readers reading.

        Celebrate you.
        Never Give Up

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you Joan, for the kind words. I look forward to reading the rest of your posts


          • You are very welcome. If you subscribe to my blog, you’ll get 2 free gifts.

            Never Give Up


    7. Joan, thank you again for giving us some inspiration! My agent tells me each rejection is one step closer to the Editor who will love your manuscript.


      • Dear Kathleen,
        Thanks for writing. I believe your agent is correct. Each rejection is one step closer to the Editor who will love your manuscript. Great words! Good energy!

        Never Give Up


    8. This is so interesting, Joan. I adore Agatha Christie’s Inspector Poirot character.

      J. K. Rawling had a LOT of rejections before the Harry Potter books were published. She broke the rules writing such LONG books for children, yet children devoured them.

      There is hope for us! I figure that the day an editor, or perhaps his/her assistant looks at my query and chapter, she may be looking that particular day for dog books or Civil War books. So, if my submission is not a match, it is tossed. I really believe this. That does not diminish the value of what I have submitted. There are more doors to knock on.

      Janis Silverman


      • Dear Janis,
        Thank you for writing. There is definitely hope for you and me and other writers! You have a wonderful outlook on getting your work published. Go, Janis, go.

        Never Give Up


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