Fifteen more famously rejected writers who persevered. Can you identify who, and in some cases, what book, got rejected?
(You’ll find the first 15 here.)
“An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.’” First released in monthly serial form in 1897, and published in 1898, the book still in print today. It’s spawned seven films, a TV series and a particularly famous radio broadcast directed and narrated by Orson Welles.
H G Wells, The War Of The Worlds
This author’s enquiry letter was rejected by 14 agents. The fifteenth took a closer look at the book, and it was published in 2005. It debuted at #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list within a month of its release, went on to #1, and foreign rights were sold to over 26 countries. Sales to date: 17 million copies.
Stephanie Meyer, Twilight
An “undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish” story of three young women in the turbulent post-war worlds of Broadway and Hollywood ends up selling 31 million copies.
Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” Or perhaps not. Went on to become one of the most popular family movies of all time and sell 15 million copies.
L Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz
“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” Sold 15 million copies and is now a classic.
William Golding, The Lord Of The Flies
In the author’s own words: “I knew that [book name] couldn’t possibly be successful. It was a first novel, and nobody reads first novels. It was a first novel about a fish, so who cares?” His publishers reject the 100 pages submitted, so the author starts again. The hardcover spends 44 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, sells 20 million copies worldwide, and becomes a blockbuster film directed by Steven Spielberg.
Peter Benchley, Jaws
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” The author’s fourth novel, but his first one published. It began life as a short story, but he tossed it out. His wife retrieved it from the garbage and told him to finish it. Sold a million copies in its first year.
Stephen King, Carrie
“An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” One of the many rejections of this children’s classic that went on to sell 25 million copies. Much loved by President Theodore Roosevelt who wrote he had “come to accept the characters as old friends.”
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind In The Willows
“Stick to teaching.” This author didn’t and her little books is still in print 150 years later.
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
This book was famously rejected by TS Eliot at Faber & Faber because of its “Trotskyite politics”. The book goes on to become a bestseller.
George Orwell, Animal Farm
“I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.” Now a classic but still a challenge at 1.5 million words, it’s divided into seven volumes.
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, AKA Remembrance of Things Past
“Hopelessly bogged down and unreadable.” Finally published in 1969 , this book is now generally rated as the second best fantasy novel of all time, after The Lord of the Rings.
Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
“Older children will not like it because its language is too difficult.” This 1972 book about bunnies became one of the fastest-selling books in history
Richard Adams, Watership Down
After writing for eight years and receiving 200 consecutive rejections, this book becomes a publishing sensation and wins a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation in 1977 and became an eight-part television series.
Alex Haley, Roots: The Saga of an American Family
“An absurd story as romance, melodrama or record of New York high life.” First published in 1925, the book received mixed reviews and sold poorly. It’s author died in 1940, believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten, but the book has since become a literary classic and is regarded as one of the great American novels.
F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby