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Submit Again, The Right Publisher Awaits

Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

“Submit Again, The Right Publisher Awaits” by Joan Y. Edwards

#2 in Series – Famous Writers Recovered from Rejection, So Can You

Would you return an advance and a contract if the publisher wanted you to change the ending of your story?

If 27 publishers rejected your story, would you throw it into the trash in despair?

If publishers said your story is too disturbing, would you write a different story and intentionally make it even more disturbing?

Who do you think did each of these things? Would you do it?

Read the following stories of ten famous writers who recovered from rejection, to find out who did these things. Follow my suggestions for action afterwards. Go ahead. Guess what my suggestions are. You can check at the end and see if you’re right.

Charlaine Harris published several mystery books. When she tried to get her vampire story, Sookie Stackhouse published, Alexandra Alter stated in the Wall Street Journal, SpeakEasyher blog article that 12 editors turned it down. There were 13 books in the Sookie Stackhouse series that sold more than 32 million copies globally. HBO made a “True Blood”series with Sookie that ran for six years and had 80 episodes.

Charles Shaw’s Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a novel about an American marine shipwrecked in the South Pacific. In Book of Lists, David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace state that virrually very Australian publisher and 20 British firms rejected Shaw’s humorous novel over a three-year period.

In 1952, Crown Publishing Group in New York took a chance on it. By 1957 producers made Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison into a movie with Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum. It is a war classic and received several Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Writing.

Chinua Achebe sent “Things Fall Apart” to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately and claimed that fiction from African writers had no market potential. Even, Heineman educational publishing executives hesitated until Donald MacRae, an educational advisor persuaded them to publish it with these words: “This is the best novel I have read since the war.”

In 1958, Heineman published 2,000 hardcover copies, It has sold over eight million copies worldwide and translated into over 50 languages. It is a milestone in modern African literature written in English, and is one of the first to receive global acclaim. Time Magazine selected it for its list of “100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005.”

Chuck Palaniuk first tried to publish his novel Invisible Monsters. Publishers rejected it because it was “too disturbing.” Palaniuk showed them by concentrating on his seven-page short story “Pursuit of Happiness” about a Fight Club and intentionally made it even more disturbing. When Palaniuk expanded it to novel length, changed the name to Fight Club, W.W. Norton published it in 1996. They made a movie from it starring Brad Pitt in 1999.

After Fight Club had sold many copies, Palaniuk was able to publish Invisible Monsters in 1999.

C. S. Lewis. Aaron Earls said on Wardrobe Door.com that publishers only rejected Narnia one or two times, not 800 times as internet poses.

Daniel Keyes wrote Flowers for Algernon. Twelve publishers rejected it. What is interesting about Daniel Keyes and his book is that several publishers sent him a contract and advance money and demanded that he change the ending. Keyes rejected their offers and returned their money advances. Harcourt Brace published it in 1966. They made a movie from it called “Charly” (1968).

Darcy Chan’s story goes from the slush pile to a huge success in self-publishing to being published by a traditional publisher. Her experience is almost unique. In 2011, her self-published novel “The Mill River Recluse” appeared on the bestseller’s list.  And, still, she never found a publisher. Chan sent her novel out to over a hundred literary agents, and twelve publishers, and they all rejected it. She decided to publish it and sold more than 400,000 copies.

In 2014 Chan chose to let a traditional publisher, Ballantine Books, to republish The Mill River Recluse and to publish its sequel: The Mill River Redemption. In an interview with David Njoku on Indie Authorland.com, Chan states that she signed a contract with a traditional publisher to help with editing, research, legal issues, and because they could reach more people than she could with her self-publishing.

D. H. Lawrence (David Herbert Lawrence). André Bernard said in Rotten Rejections that publishers told D. H. Lawrence “For your own good, do not publish Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” According to Biography.com, in 1928 Lawrence’s graphic and highly sexual novel was published in Italy, but it was banned in the United States until 1959, and banned in England until 1960.

Dick Wemmer’s obituary in the New York Times says that publishers rejected his book, Irish Wine 162 times during a period of twenty-five years. Mercury House published it in 1989.

Dr. Seuss. Publishers rejected And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street twenty-seven times because it was too different from the other juveniles on the market to warrant its publishing it. It has grossed more than $75 Million.[17] #25 (Rotten Rejections by André Bernard)

Michale Winerip’s New York Times interview with Guy McLain who is the director of the Museum of Springfield History says “The publication of Mulberry Street is a lesson in perseverance.” Twenty-Seven publishers rejected it. Dr. Seuss was about to burn it in 1937 when a classmate from Dartmouth, who was new to the children’s book publishing business, bought it.

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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.


Pub Subbers Join today.

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.

27 Publishers Who Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts updated August 17, 2014 Now has 27 publishers)

18 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 Joan Y. Edwards

References in the order in which I used them.

  1. Charlaine Harris.com, http://charlaineharris.com/.
  2. Alexandra Alter. “Charlaine Harris the Vampire Series Slayer,” May 7, 2013, 8:45 a.m. EST, http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/05/07/charlaine-harris-vampire-series-slayer/
  3.  “True Blood,” accessed September 1, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Blood.
  4. The Editors of Publications International, Ltd. “14 Best-Selling Books Repeatedly Rejected by Publishers,” How Stuff Works.com, Info Space, LLC., http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/literature/14-best-selling-books-repeatedly-rejected-by-publishers.htm/printable.
  5. David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace, ed. Book of Lists: The Original Compendium of Curious Inforamtion, Canongate, p422
  6. One Hundred Rejections.com, “Famous Rejection #76: Chinua Achebes,” June 2012, http://www.onehundredrejections.com/2012/06/famous-rejection-76-chinua-achebes.html
  7. Time Magazine’s Top 100 All-Time Novels,” Book Guide at Lincoln Libraries.org, http://www.lincolnlibraries.org/depts/bookguide/lists/times100alltime.htm
  8. Famous Rejection #47: Fight Club,” May 2011, http://www.onehundredrejections.com/2011/05/rejection-47-fight-club.html
  9. Aaron Earls. “Was C.S. Lewis Rejected 800 Times before Being Published?”The Wardrobe Door.com, January 13, 2014, http://thewardrobedoor.com/2014/01/was-c-s-lewis-rejected-800-times-before-being-published.html
  10. “Famous Rejection #33: Flowers For Algernon,” March 29, 2011, One Hundred Rejections.com, http://www.onehundredrejections.com/2011/03/rejection-33-flowers-for-algernon.html
  11. “Flowers for Algernon,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowers_for_Algernon
  12. Steve Holland. “Daniel Keyes’ Obituary,” The Guardian, June 18, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/18/daniel-keyes
  13. “Famous Rejection #64: Darcy Chan,” One Hundred Rejections.com, http://www.onehundredrejections.com/2011/12/famous-rejection-64-darcy-chan.html
  14. David Njoku, April 6, 2013, “Interview with Darcie Chan, Author of the Mill River Recluse,” http://www.indieauthorland.com/archives/2916/Kindle-eBook/interview-with-darcie-chan-author-of-the-mill-river-recluse/
  15. “D. H. Lawrence,” Biography.com, http://www.biography.com/people/dh-lawrence-17175776
  16. Dennis Hevesi, “Dick Wimmer, Whose Persistence Got Him Published, Dies at 74,” May 24, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/25/arts/dick-wimmer-74-irish-wine-author-is-dead.html?_r=0
  17. Seussville.com, http://www.seussville.com/
  18. André Bernard. Rotten Rejections: The Letters That Publishers Wish They’d Never Sent. New York: Pushcart Press, 1990.
  19. Michale Winerip. “Mulberry Street May Fade, but ‘Mulberry Street’ Shines On,” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/30/education/dr-seuss-book-mulberry-street-turns-75.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  20. #1 Famous Writers Recovered from Rejection, So Can You.


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24 Responses

  1. Joan,
    Can you even imagine a publisher saying, “For your own good do not publish______?” That probably only made the writer more determined to do it.

    Very recently, I wrote an agent. At that time she was accepting queries. Now, she is closed to submissions. When I discovered the change on the agency’s website, I moaned. Almost in the same breath, I resubmitted and asked if the agent would read my submission since it was sent before the guidelines changed. I’m awaiting her reply.


    • Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. I can’t imagine a publisher saying that in a note today. They don’t even write notes most of the time. No response is the “No” of today’s time.

      I do hope the agent will honor your query because it was sent before the agency changed it on its website.

      Good luck.

      Never Give Up


      • Joan I have had a number of notes sent to me by editors of a publications. Sometimes they like what you have written, but can’t find a place for it, or have other concerns and comments. I’ve gotten letter/notes from Pauline, Hopscotch, and few others. It is true we don’t have much contact anymore, but they do send notes on occasion.


        • Dear Susan, Thank you for writing. I am glad that you received notes from editors. That is so great. You are right. Magazine publishers are good about sending notes. Small publishers may send them, too. The submission guidelines usually let you know.

          Celebrate you.


      • Hi Joan,
        I did get a reply and quickly too. It was a “no,” but a courteous “no.”


        • Dear Linda,
          I’m glad the agent looked at your work. So sorry the answer was “No.” Send it off again. Another agent is waiting to hear from you.



          • Joan,
            Thanks for the vote of confidence.


            • Dear Linda,
              You are very welcome.

              Love, Joan


  2. This just goes to show you that if YOU don’t believe in your manuscript, no one else will.

    Perseverance is the word.

    Trust you gut. If you’ve done your homework, had it critiqued by writers and readers you trust, edited the heck out of it and made the changes that make sense to YOU, then keep sending it out until you find that connection. It only takes one!

    Writers have to be super sensitive to write a great story and tough as nails to get it published. This, finding an agent or publisher, is the tough as nails part.

    Keep on keeping on!


    • Dear Sandra,
      Thanks for writing and sharing your words of wisdom about writing and believing in yourself and your stories. Good advice. many times it does seem “tough as nails” to find that wonderful connection to get our work published.

      Celebrate you and all the stories you have written and will write,


  3. Joan, I submitted to a magazine once and they accepted my story, but wanted revisions. They kept up the revisions for three long days. A constant demand to rewrite the story. Each editor that it had to pass through an approval, would decide to have it rewritten a different way.

    After three editors it was accepted to go to the head editor. There she said,”why would you take this approach?” She then had me change it again. It was finally published, and became my unrecognizable story “destroyed”,

    To add injury to insult, they illustrated it with raccoons when the story was about a little girl of about three or four years old. I was embarrassed to have it published with my name on it, and must say I learned a good lesson that day.

    We must all make adjustments and bend for editors, but when it comes to ruining your entire story, it’s time to put your foot down. I will never submit to an editor just for the sake of getting published again.

    It became an embarrassment to me and made me feel bad about my self, not to mention they worked me really hard for what I thought was garbage in the end.

    Just saying believe in yourself. Be flexible, but know your objective and don’t let any one destroy your work.


    • Dear Susan, I am so sorry that you had that experience! We don’t know these things at first. Hopefully, our faith in ourselves and our stories grows. Keep on writing. I wish you much success with your new book. I am very proud of you.

      Never Give Up


      • Thanks Joan, and thanks for such thought provoking blog posts. Sharing our bad experiences as well as our good ones can always be informative and helpful.


        • Dear Susan,
          Thanks for writing. You’re welcome. I’m glad my posts are thought-provoking. You are right. Sharing bad experiences, as well as good experiences is always informative and helpful and leads us to our own path of wisdom.

          Celebrate you.
          Never Give Up


  4. Joan, Wow you put a lot of research into this blog post. Thank you for the encouragement!


    • Dear Megan, Thank you for writing. You are welcome. I am very glad that these stories encouraged you.

      Good luck with your new book. Are your edits finished?

      Never Give Up


  5. Thank you for the motivation.


    • Dear Kristina,
      Thank you for writing. You’re welcome for the motivation. Go ahead, write that story. Go ahead, submit that manuscript. You’ll be glad you did.

      Never Give Up


      • That is so true. Without submitting, how will a writer ever know. Sometimes it’s scary, but well worth it.


        • Dear Kristina,
          You are so right. Amen to that.

          Never Give Up


  6. Never Give Up! Believe in yourself and your work.

    Janis Silverman


    • Dear Janis,
      Thanks for writing. That’s a good idea. I wish you well with all of your writing. Your meditations are wonderful.

      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up


  7. Joan for a little inspiration, I just wanted to say that Jack Canfield, founder of Chicken Soup For The Soul, was rejected 144 times with his first book in that series. He hung in there to be come a huge success. Just my two cents.


    • Dear Susan,
      Thank you for writing. You’re right. He is amazing and a good one to teach us never to give up! My list is in alphabetical order. He will be on another post in the series.

      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up


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