Monday, October 29, 2012

18 Incredibly Stupid Publishing Mistakes

The wacky world of publishing continues with this second installment of Publishers Say the Darndest Things.

There is a lesson to be learned from these rejections.


Dr. Seuss

(Theodor Seuss Geisel's first book was rejected by 27 publishers - this is why)

'too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
(LeGuin's book went on to win both a Nebula and a Hugo award and to reshape a genre)

'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 Female Man by Joanna Russ
(winner of the Nebula award)

"We've already published our feminist novel this year, so we don't want another" … "I'm sick and tired of these kinds of women's novels that are just one long whiny complaint."

Mary Higgins Clark
(rejected 40 times)

'Your story is light, slight, and trite.'

(Colette went on to publish 50 books)

"You won't be able to sell 10 copies."

Bridge Over River Kwai by Pierre Boulle

'A very bad book.'

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel

"We are very impressed with the depth and scope of your research and the quality of your prose. Nevertheless ... we don't think we could distribute enough copies to satisfy you or ourselves."

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
(sold more than 7.25 million copies)

"Jonathan Livingston Seagull will never make it as a paperback."

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

'An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would "take"...I think the verdict would be 'Oh don't read that horrid book'.'

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

' ...she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes ...hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly ...'

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

'I wish there were an audience for a book of this kind. But there isn't. It won't sell.'

Emily Dickinson

'(Your poems) are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.'

Edgar Allen Poe

'Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.'

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

'We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in (England). It is very long, rather old-fashioned...'

Jack London

'(Your book is) forbidding and depressing.'

The Torrents of Spring by Ernest Hemingway

'It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.'

Rudyard Kipling

'I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language.'

Sanctuary by William Faulkner

'Good God, I can't publish this!'

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10 Things Publishers Wish They Had Never Said

Given their abysmal track record when it comes to predicting what readers will enjoy, we have to wonder why publishers are so short-sighted. After all, gauging the interests of readers is their business.

The answer is quite simple.

Publishers don’t like to take a chance on anything too different from what they have already published. ( See below: ‘Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.’)

As one publisher famously said, “We want the same thing … only different.”

Acceptance criteria for large publishing houses are based almost exclusively on what they have sold before. All the necessary components of calculating potential profits — cost/benefit analyses, market projections, etc. — rest entirely on previous sales, not on the inherent value of the manuscript.

Sometimes we forget that publishing is a business like any other. Businesses don’t like to take chances, and the bigger the business, the more cautious it will be. (Random House turned down the Harry Potter books because they were “too long, and nobody would read them.”)

These pointed— and completely misguided — rejections should not only encourage you on your path to publication (you are in good company!), they should steel you against the frustration of the inevitable “Thanks, but no thanks.” Imagine where we would be if L. Frank Baum (or Oscar Wilde!) had quit after being given the brush-off. They didn’t quit and neither should you.

(Just as a case in point, my trilogy was rejected repeatedly for five years before being picked up by Random House.)

But don't take my word for it; here’s what publishers had to say about the following books:


The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

'Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.'

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

'It contains unpleasant elements.'

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe


The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman

'get rid of the Indian stuff.'

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

'Stick to teaching.'

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

'The American public is not interested in China.'

Lady Chatterly's Lover  by D. H. Lawrence 
'for your own sake do not publish this book.

Garfield by Jim Davis
'Too many animals, and cats don’t sell.'

Zane Grey (93 books, 21 films)
'You have no business being a writer and should give up.'

Remembrance of Things Past Marcel Proust

'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 thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.'

Monday, October 22, 2012

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

What? Rejected? Again?

Buck up! 
For writers, rejections aren't just inevitable – they are a way of life. Every writer gets rejections. EverySingleOne

There are no exceptions. 

Here is a tally that should, if not encourage you, at least bring you back to reality. 

(The reality is this: KEEP WRITING!!)


The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot, was rejected by 17 publishers 

Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.

Thor Hyerdahl's Kon-Tiki was rejected 20 times

Richard Hooker's novel M*A*S*H was rejected 21 times.

James Joyce's Dubliners was rejected 22 times.

John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected by 25 publishers

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was turned down 29 times.

Stephen King's Carrie was rejected 30 times.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 40 times

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen received 134 rejections. 

Louis L’Amour was rejected over 200 times before he sold any of his writing. 

And the grand prize goes to:

C.S. Lewiswho received over 800 rejections before he sold a single piece of writing. 

(My personal goal is to beat C.S. Lewis. What's yours?)
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