Ten Famous Authors Whose Work Was Initially Rejected

Written by Caitlin Jans | June 22, 2017

One of the ways I comfort myself when I face yet another rejection letter is to think about the “loads” of rejection letters J.K. Rowling received while she was attempting to publish Harry Potter. I also think of the five years Agatha Christie spent trying to get her first novel published.  I have not spent five years trying to get my novel published yet. I am not even close.

I assume most famous and established authors struggled with rejection before finding success, although most don’t talk about the rejections they received before the acceptance. A lot of motivation can be found in knowing how many rejection letters some author’s and books received before being published. I hope this article will encourage you to persist.

Below without any further fuss are 10 authors that dealt with a great deal of rejection, before their work was accepted.

Audrey Niffenegger submitted her book The Time Traveler’s Wife to 25 agents. Every one of them turned it down. Then she submitted it directly to a small publisher who loved the book. It went on to sell over 7 million copies.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had his first book, On Mulberry Street, rejected 27 times before it was accepted.

Kathryn Stocketts book The Help was rejected by 60 literary agents. Thank goodness for agent number 61!

Sylvia Plath was already a known poet by the time she tried to publish The Bell Jar, under a pseudonym. It was rejected even once the publisher found out who the author really was. You can actually read the rejection letter here – just scroll down past the first letter.

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 29 publishers. My childhood would have been completely different without that book.

Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she initially self published the Tale of Peter Rabbit. Then it was picked up by the publisher Frederick Warne & Co. for a trad edition.

Robert Maynard Pirsig is in the Guinness Book of records for having written the best selling book that received the most rejections, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which was rejected 121 times.

Stephen King had already published a number of shorter works when he wrote and attempted to publish his first novel Carrie. Carrie was rejected by 30 publishers before it was accepted.

Meg Cabot, the author of The Princess Dairies and many other bestselling books,  was rejected for two years by publishers and agents before she found an agent. It is important to note that unlike a lot of other authors on this list she was submitting more than one manuscript to different publishers, so it wasn’t one book receiving all the rejections, but several. She still keeps a giant postal bag full (that she say’s she can barely lift) full of the letters. She writes about her experience here.

L.M. Montgomery’s book Anne of Green Gables was turned down by several publishers, so she stored the manuscript away in a hat box for two years. Then she decided to submit it to once more place. It is a good thing they accepted.