To those of you who have had their work (or proposals) rejected, here's a short list of some famous authors who got their work denied:
- James Baldwin (1924-87) -- Giovanni's Room was called hopelessly bad.
- Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) -- Submissions said to be "utterly untranslatable."
- Pearl Buck (1892-1973) -- Pulitzer Price-winning The Good Earth was rejected because Americans are "not interested in anything on China."
- William Faulkner (1897-1962) -- Of Sanctuary, which Faulkner claimed to have "deliberately conceived to make money," his editor said, "Good God, I can't publish this. We'd both be in jail."
- Anne Frank (1929-45) -- The reader found Frank's diary to be "a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances, and adolescent emotions," commenting that it wouldn't sell due to a lack of familiar or appealing characters. "Even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject was timely," the reader wrote, "I don't see that there would have been a chance for it."
- Tony Hillerman (1925-2008) -- Hillerman was told by an agent to "get rid of all that Indian stuff."
- Jack Kerouac (1922-69) -- "His frenetic and scrambling prose perfectly express the feverish travels of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don't think so."
- John le Carré (1931-) -- A publisher sent his submission to a colleague with a note: "You're welcome to le Carré--he hasn't got any future."
- Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-) -- The Left Hand of Darkness was "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."
- Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) -- Lolita was considered "...overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian... the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream... I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years."
- George Orwell (1903-50) -- Animal Farm was declined because it is "impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A."
- Sylvia Plath (1932-63) -- 'There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice."
- Marcel Proust (1871-1922) -- One editor said in response to the tome In Search of Lost Time (aka Remembrance of Things Past), "My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can't see why a chap should need 30 pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep."
- Dr. Seuss (1904-91) -- And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street... was rejected by publishers 27 times before Vanguard Press agreed to publish it. His subsequent success as a children's author didn't make him immune to rejection, though. Random House rejected Seuss's proposal for a book on how to write for children in 1949, saying, "Some of them would feel an author-artist of picture books could hardly qualify as an expert in the field of juvenile writing."
Taken From: I Used to Know That: Literature