Famous (Or Infamous) Rejection Notices
(Published as something of a seasonal gift to Lakeside’s many talented and hardworking writers, to keep them from getting discouraged at this reflective time of year.)
1. Stephen King
Mr. King received dozens of rejections for his first novel, Carrie; he kept them tidily nailed to a spike under a timber in his bedroom. One of the publishers sent Mr. King’s rejection with these words: We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.
2. William Golding
Mr. Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers. One denounced the future classic with these words (which should be inscribed on the hapless publisher’s tomb): an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.
3. John le Carré
After Mr. le Carré submitted his first novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, one of the publishers sent it along to a colleague, with this message: You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.
4. Anne Frank
According to one publisher, The Diary of Anne Frank was scarcely worth reading: The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level. Fifteen publishers (other than this dope) also rejected The Diary of Anne Frank.
5. Joseph Heller
In an act of almost undiluted stupidity, one publisher wrote of Mr. Heller’s Catch-22: I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say…Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level.
6. J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (later Sorceror’s) Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers, including biggies like Penguin and HarperCollins. Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, only took it on at the behest of the CEO’s eight-year old daughter, who begged her father to print the book. God bless you, sweetheart.
7. Ursula K. Le Guin
One publisher sent this helpful little missive to Ms. Le Guin regarding her novel, The Left Hand of Darkness: The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having thought of us. The manuscript of The Left Hand of Darkness is returned herewith. The Left Hand of Darkness went on to win both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.
8. George Orwell
One publisher rejected Mr. Orwell’s submission, Animal Farm, with these words: It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.
9. Tony Hillerman
Mr. Hillerman, now famous for his Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels, was initially told by publishers to: Get rid of all that Indian stuff.
10. William Faulkner
One publisher exclaimed in the rejection letter for Mr. Faulkner’s book, Sanctuary: “Good God, I can’t publish this!”
Moral of all this?—What each writer chooses to make of it.