Thursday, November 1, 2012

23 Idiotic Rejections of Famous Authors

Rejections are hard on budding young authors - even on old, famous ones.

The following is a list of authors who have received what should have been soul-crushing rejections. Thankfully, their souls were not crushed, and their books went on to become icons in the literary world.

Nowadays, publishers don't put their thoughts into writing (although, believe me, they still say them in private). In some ways, it's a pity. Authors who have achieved success should have the pleasure of gloating over the idiocies of publishers who have dismissed them.

From the American literary publisher Knopf's Archives at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin ...


Jorge Luis Borges
'utterly untranslatable'

Isaac Bashevis Singer
'It's Poland and the rich Jews again.'

Anais Nin
'There is no commercial advantage in acquiring her, and, in my opinion, no artistic.'

Jack Kerouac
'His frenetic and scrambled prose perfectly express the feverish travels of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don't think so.'

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'for your own sake do not publish this book.'

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
'an irresponsible holiday story'

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
'an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.'

Watership Down by Richard Adams
'older children wouldn't like it because its language was too difficult.'

On Sylvia Plath
'There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice.'

Crash by J. G Ballard
The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.'

The Deer Park by Norman Mailer
'This will set publishing back 25 years.'

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

The Diary of Anne Frank
The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’

Lust for Life by Irving Stone 
(which was rejected 16 times, but found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies)
A long, dull novel about an artist.’

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
'The grand defect of the work, I think, as a work of art is the low-mindedness and vulgarity of the chief actors. There is hardly a "lady" or "gentleman" amongst them.'

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

Catch – 22 by Joseph Heller
I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.’

The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le CarrĂ© 
You’re welcome to le CarrĂ© – he hasn’t got any future.’

Animal Farm by George Orwell
It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA’

Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde

My dear sir,

I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir.’

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov 
... 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.’


  1. "Chicken Soup For The Soul" by Jack Canfield was another missed opportunity.

  2. I love reading these, knowing these tales is one thing that kept me going. There is an editor out there who tears people apart, I have countless emails from her (I wont name her)
    Two of my favorite flash fictions, I've been trying to get accepted for almost two years, were accepted just last week into a paying anthology.
    This was her comment on one of those last year (because when she rejected me with editor notes, I worked on it and sent it back to her) :Right, I would suggest now you leave this story alone. Instead of writing something 10 times (never a good idea) put it in an archive and write new, always write new all the time., You will learn by writing new work more than you will learn by rewriting the same old story.

    1. How about the name of the publication/publisher? I'd like to avoid submitting my work there.

    2. This woman obviously doesn't understand a good writing process. If you depend on nothing but new writing, you doom yourself to always have mistakes, and your characters are likely to appear flat and uninteresting. I have a book that I am working on, it will be the first in a series. I have been writing, and rewriting it for nearly 16 years now. I know that it is a million times better now than it was when I started, and it's almost ready for publication finally. In my own opinion, it's the projects that you always want to come back to, and feel compelled to give the most work to, that are your best. Keep going strong!

    3. I agree wholeheartedly :) Thanks for sharing too!

  3. :) I sent you a private message through your webpage.

  4. Funny to read knowing that the author has since become famous but very hard to receive as an aspiring author.

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