15 Famous Books That Were Initially Rejected

    As Samuel Beckett once said: "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

    Writing a book is darn hard work, so we’d like to give a shout-out to all the aspiring writers out there who are just about ready to throw in the towel. Not so fast! You’ll be shocked to learn how many critically acclaimed books (and writers) went through rejection after rejection, most in the double-digits, on their way to literary fame. Even über-best-selling authors like J.K Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, who are currently pole-vaulting into swimming pools filled with British pounds and dollar bills respectively, struggled with numerous rejections.

    So take a break from beating yourself up about that most recent rejection letter, and peruse this slideshow of 15 incredibly famous books that were initially rejected. Have you been rejected 121 times yet? We didn’t think so.

    Now get back to work.



    John Crow's Devil

    By Marlon James

    Rejected: 78 times

    Marlon James, winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings, told the BBC he almost gave up writing after his first novel was rejected nearly 80 times. “I did give it up. I actually destroyed the manuscript, I even went on my friends computers and erased it.” (Thankfully he later recovered the text by searching through his e-mails on an old computer.)

    John Crow's Devil

    By Marlon James

    Lord of the Flies

    By William Golding

    Rejected: 20 times

    According to LitRejections.com, one of Golding’s rejection letters read: “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”

    Lord of the Flies

    By William Golding

    Anne of Green Gables

    By L. Montgomery

    Rejected: 4 times

    After four rejections, L.M. Montgomery nearly gave up, putting the manuscript for Anne of Green Gables in a hatbox. And she didn’t exactly have a supportive family, either. Of her writing, she said, “I struggled on alone, in secrecy and silence. I never told my ambitions and efforts and failures to any one. Down, deep down, under all discouragement and rebuff, I knew I would ‘arrive’ some day.”

    Anne of Green Gables

    By L. Montgomery

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    Lolita

    By Vladimir Nabokov

    Rejected: 5 times

    Nabokov’s masterpiece had difficulty finding a publisher because many believed the book too obscene for public consumption. One editor wrote, “It is overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian. To the public, it will be revolting. It will not sell, and will do immeasurable harm to a growing reputation … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.” Jeez, dude.

    Lolita

    By Vladimir Nabokov

    Gone With the Wind

    By Margaret Mitchell

    Rejected: 38 times 

    Despite dozens of rejections, Margaret Mitchell’s sweeping Civil War epic went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1937...and became one of the most famous, top-grossing films of all time.

    Gone With the Wind

    By Margaret Mitchell

    The Diary of a Young Girl

    By Anne Frank

    Rejected: 15 times

    Unbelievably, one publisher wrote of Anne Frank’s incredible record of her life in hiding from the Nazis: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” Wow.

    The Diary of a Young Girl

    By Anne Frank

    Dubliners

    By James Joyce

    Rejected: 22 times

    The road to publication for James Joyce was long and hard due to the threat of obscenity charges at the time. Nearly all of his publishers asked him to re-write large portions of Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and his novel Ulysses was eventually banned and had to be smuggled into the United States.

    Joyce wrote one editor about the obscenity issues with Dubliners: “I have written my book with considerable care, in spite of a hundred difficulties, and in accordance with what I understand to be the classical tradition of my art.”

    Dubliners

    By James Joyce

    Carrie

    By Stephen King

    Rejected: 30 times

    One rejection letter read: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Hahahahahahaha. Haha. Ha.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    By J.K. Rowling

    Rejected: 8 times

    Harry Potter almost didn’t see the light of day, until one publisher’s 8-year-old daughter found the first chapter and begged her father to get his hands on the rest of the story. Clever girl.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    By J.K. Rowling

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    By Robert M. Persig

    Rejected: 121 times

    After being rejected a whopping 121 times, the editor who finally decided to take a chance on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance later said, “It forced me to decide what I was in publishing for.”

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    By Robert M. Persig

    Twilight

    By Stephanie Meyer

    Rejected: 14 times

    Then unknown, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer struggled to find representation for her manuscript, which was rejected by 14 agents. They were Team Jacob, obviously.

    Twilight

    By Stephanie Meyer

    A Wrinkle in Time

    By Madeleine L'Engle

    Rejected: 26 times

    Shortly after turning 40 with no literary success, Madeleine L’Engle nearly threw in the towel. But after a 10-week cross country road trip, she found the inspiration for A Wrinkle in Time.

    A Wrinkle in Time

    By Madeleine L'Engle

    Animal Farm

    By George Orwell

    Rejected: 4 times

    Poet T.S. Eliot himself rejected Orwell’s novel, a satire of the perils of communism, writing, “We have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticize the political situation at the current time.” In your face, Eliot.

    Animal Farm

    By George Orwell

    Dune

    By Frank Herbert

    Rejected: 23 times

    Despite its initial 23 rejection letters, Dune went on to become the best-selling science-fiction novel of all time.

    The Bell Jar

    By Sylvia Plath

    Rejected by American publishers

    When Sylvia Plath went to publish her first novel from a publisher she had received a scholarship from, she thought she’d be a shoe-in. But Harper & Row’s editors called The Bell Jar “disappointing, juvenile and overwrought.” She went on to publish the book in the UK under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, but the novel didn’t find an American publisher until after her death in 1963.

    The Bell Jar

    By Sylvia Plath

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