The Mark Blog

BOOKMARK THIS: Putting Rejection Into Perspective

It's easy to feel delegitimized after your manuscript gets declined by a publisher. There are, however, innumerable factors that go in to a publisher's decision on what to print and what to deny. To put it into perspective, here's a list of famous titles, compiled from Michael Larsen's book Literary Agents, that went on to exceed the foresight of a publishing house's expectations.

· The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck was returned fourteen times, but it went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.

· Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was rejected twelve times.

· Twenty publishers felt that Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull was for the birds.

· The first title of Catch-22 was Catch-18, but Simon and Schuster planned to publish it during the same season that Doubleday was bringing out Mila 18 by Leon Uris. When Doubleday complained, Joseph Heller changed the title. Why 22? Because Simon and Schuster was the 22nd publisher to read it. Catch-22 has become part of the language and has sold more than 10 million copies.

· Mary Higgins Clark was rejected forty times before selling her first story. One editor wrote: "Your story is light, slight, and trite." More than 30 million copies of her books are now in print.

· Before he wrote Roots, Alex Haley had received 200 rejections.

· Robert Persig's classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, couldn't get started at 121 houses.

· John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was declined by fifteen publishers and some thirty agents. His novels have more than 60 million copies in print.

· Thirty-three publishers couldn't digest Chicken Soup for the Soul, compiled by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, before it became a huge best-seller and spawned a series.

· The Baltimore Sun hailed Naked in Deccan as "a classic" after it had been rejected over seven years by 375 publishers.

· Zelda wouldn't marry F. Scott Fitzgerald until he sold a story. He papered his bedroom walls with rejection slips before he won her hand.

· Dr. Seuss's first book was rejected twenty-four times. The sales of his children's books have soared to 100 million.

· Louis L'Amour received 200 rejections before he sold his first novel. During the last forty years, Bantam has shipped nearly 200 million of his 112 books, making him their biggest selling author.

· British writer John Creasy received 774 rejections before selling his first story. He went onto write 564 books, using fourteen names.