Sunday, January 19, 2014

What? Super Famous Authors Get Rejection Letters, Too?

At the annual Florida SCBWI Mid-Winter Conference held in Miami this past weekend, much was discussed concerning rejection letters, collected by most every author known to humanity.  This author certainly has had her share!  It seems fitting, then, to do a post on famous authors who have fallen prey to the same malady.  Have fun! 



GEORGE ORWELL

It seems Alfred Knopf didn’t always understand satire. Animal Farm, the famed dystopian allegory that later became an AP Reader standard and Retrospective Hugo Award winner, was turned down because it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” A British publishing firm initially accepted and later rejected the work as well, arguing that “…the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offense to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.”

 GERTRUDE STEIN

A shockingly nasty letter, I can only imagine how Ms. Stein reacted to this missive from Arthur C. Fifield with her manuscript for Three Lives: “Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your MS three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.” Twenty years later, Stein’sThe Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas became her one and only best-seller.

 STEPHEN KING

Most fans know that King’s big break came with Carrie, the story of a friendless, abused girl with secret telekinetic powers. Though one publishing house told him they were “not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.  They do not sell,” Doubleday picked up the paperback rights to the novel and sold more than a million copies in its first year.

 WILLIAM GOLDING

Lord of the Flies was a favorite of so many high-school students, some publishers disagreed. One agent called the classic “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” To date, the book has been required reading in high schools for nearly fifty years, 14.5 million copies have been sold, and Golding’s work has been adapted for film twice.

 MARY HIGGINS CLARK

Back in 1966, the young romance author was trying to sell a story she called “Journey Back to Love.” It didn’t go well, however; her submission to Redbook came back with a rejection from the editors, stating "We found the heroine as boring as her husband had." Ouch! The piece was eventually run as a two-part serial in an English magazine, and Mary Higgins Clark currently boasts forty-two bestselling novels.


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