Thanks to an ever-growing pile of rejections I’ve collected over the past few months, I’ve been pondering the place of the rejection letter in the life of a writer. Am I submitting to the wrong places? Does my work need to be more polished? Is it simply supply and demand?
Each of those questions could probably have its own lengthy post for an answer. Still, as much as we writers need to be aware of the market, get out the best work we can, and seek publications that will have an interest in our content, we ought to expect rejection. And a lot of it. However, if you’re feeling down about rejection today, know that you’re in great company. Even the giants of Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Horror had their days- check out the list below!
Lewis received 800 rejections before getting anything published. Can you believe it?
One editor, after receiving and rejecting Wells’ War on the Worlds, wrote, “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be, ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.'”
On the work that would eventually become Slaughterhouse-five, Edward Weeks of Atlantic Monthly wrote:
We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.
Well, it could be worse, right?
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” -Donald A. Wolheim, Ace Books
King did eventually persevere with this work. He published the book in question as The Running Man under a pseudonym.
Ursula K. Le Guin
Nebula and Hugo-award winning author Le Guin received this rejection for her novel, The Left Hand of Darkness:
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 whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material.
She’s still on my TBR. “Unreadable” is indeed a qualification I haven’t heard about Le Guin!
So, rejected writers of today: take heart! You could very well be the most celebrated writers of tomorrow.