First-time rejections


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: The first Harry Potter book was turned down by multiple publishers, including Penguin and HarperCollins.

Animal Farm by George Orwell: If T.S. Eliot had had his way, Animal Farm would never have seen the light of day. As the head of publisher Faber and Faber, Eliot called the manuscript “unconvincing.”

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen: Canfield and Hansen heard from 123 publishers that their book had a stupid title, had no sex or violence, and no one would read it.

. The Shack by William P. Young: Publishers either found this book too Christian or not Christian enough. So 15 photocopied editions led to a self-publishing company and eventually 15 million copies sold.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum: It has several reprints, most often under the title The Wizard of Oz, which is the title of the popular 1902 Broadway musical adaptation as well as the iconic 1939 live-action film. It sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956.

Carrie by Stephen King: The prolific Maine writer got so many no’s (30) for his first attempt at a novel he threw it in the trash. Luckily his wife fished it out. The Shack by William P. Young: Publishers either found this book too Christian or not Christian enough. So 15 photocopied editions led to a self-publishing company and eventually 15 million copies sold.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Nearly 40 publishers wished they had given a damn about Mitchell’s Civil War drama when it grossed more than $1 million and won a Pulitzer in its first year.

Firs book of Mac Lucado – was rejected several times. After much perseverance, one publisher at last said he will publish it, but only this one. Lucado became one of the most read Christian authors of his time.

Dune by Frank Herbert: More than 20 foolish publishers turned down Frank Herbert’s classic that would become the highest-selling science fiction novel of all time, at more than 12 million copies sold worldwide.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein: Stein’s only bestseller received a famous, rude rejection letter from a publisher who turned her down by mocking her trademark style of repetition of simple sentences.

A Time to Kill by John Grisham: On his way to becoming a master novelist, Grisham’s, an Arkansas native, first book racked up rejections from 16 literary agents and 12 publishers before landing a deal.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Although Faber & Faber would eventually publish the book, the first reviewer called this book “rubbish and dull” and “pointless.”

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: Rand was already a successful writer when her publisher, who had first rights to her new book, declared it “unsaleable and unpublishable.” The book has since been called the second most influential book ever, behind only the Bible.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: As crazy as it sounds, 16 publishers declined to buy the story of Anne Frank’s experiences in World War II. Doubleday’s risk paid off as the book has sold more than 30 million copies to date.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville: Publishers initially told Melville his long book about whaling was “not at all suitable for the juvenile market.” Ninth-graders everywhere wish he had listened.

Dubliners by James Joyce: Because of the edgy content, this classic by James Joyce was not an easy sell. He was shot down 22 times before landing a deal with Grant Richards Ltd.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré: Now known as one of the finest novels of the genre, one publisher rejected the book while saying of le Carré, “He hasn’t got any future.”

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: One publisher said of this book, “I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.” If it had been, one of the best books of all time would have been lost.

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy: Alec Baldwin should thank Tom Clancy for being persistent. Without Clancy believing in his book through 12 rejections, there never would have been the bestseller or the great movie.

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl: Twenty rejections from publishers didn’t stop this true account of men adrift at sea from making it into book form in 66 different languages.

Auntie Mame by Patrick DennisAuntie Mame was on the receiving end of 15 rejection letters for being too outrageous, but it became a bestseller, selling 2 million copies in its first run.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling: Kipling’s timeless story was rejected multiple times, with one publisher commenting that Kipling did not even understand the English language.

Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake: Michael Blake, born in North Carolina, lived out of his car while struggling to finish Wolves, and then every major publisher rejected it. Of course, lucky for him, a young man named Kevin Costner found a copy and the rest is history.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery: Countless girls read this book or watched the made-for-TV movie based on it. But Montgomery was turned down by five publishers before securing a book deal.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot: Cabot, from Indiana, says her novel was rejected by “almost every publishing house in America.” But she persevered and the book and its sequels have sold millions of copies and been translated to the silver screen.

San Francisco Examiner by Rudyard Kipling. He got the following response: “…you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

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About the author

Bennie Mostert
By Bennie Mostert