Friday, July 15, 2016


Oh the pain of being rejected! Almost every author has experienced rejection: from literary agents, publishers and editors. Many are cringe-worthy. And if you let it, they can affect your self-confidence. But being rejected happens to every writer, even best-selling ones. Here are a few famous rejections of well-known works:

"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." - Lolita by Valdimir Nabukov

"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level." The Dairy of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

"First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale? While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?" – Moby Dick by Herman Melville

"For your own sake, do not publish this book." - Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence

“Do you realise, young woman, that you're the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex" -
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

“You’re welcome to le CarrĂ© – he hasn’t got any future." - A fantastically incorrect prediction by one publisher, sent to his colleague, upon turning down The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre

"We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." -
Carrie by Stephen King

“I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one." - Letter to Gertrude Stein after receiving one of her manuscripts in 1912.

"If I may be frank, Mr. Hemingway — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a man’s man, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you had penned this entire story locked up at the club, ink in one hand, brandy in the other." - The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

So how to handle rejection? In an interview, Beck McDowell, author of the YA thriller, THIS IS NOT A DRILL, says, “Don’t let the rejection get to you. Don’t take it personally. Keep writing. If one book doesn’t sell, get busy writing another one. Process is more important than product; your efforts are never wasted when you’re teaching yourself to write. Read great books like King’s ON WRITING and Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. Read constantly in your genre, marking passages that impress you and studying those that don’t measure up. Attend local and regional writers conferences to hear what agents, publisher, and other authors have to say. Read everything you can find online about making those first few pages sing, researching agents and writing a query letter. But keep going. Keep writing. Keep dreaming. Keep hoping. Break a plate, make a wish, and start a new chapter – in your life and in your work.

Mohan Ashtakala is author of “The Yoga Zapper –A Novel,” a fantasy novel published by Books We Love.