As you probably surmised from my query letters, I got a lot of rejections. In fact, I think I'd racked in close to 200 by the time I stopped submitting. But I kept going.
Why? How? Why in the WORLD did I keep paying $.24 (I think it was up to $.33 by the time I stopped) for MORE PAIN?
Because of the stories that inspired me to keep going. To never give up.
The first one I tacked to my wall was a flyer my mom brought home, which was actually supposed to be some sort of advertisement to go to church. It told the story of Theodore Geisel, the poor children's writer who sent his manuscript, THE HOUSE ON MULBERRY STREET, to 24 publishers, and was rejected by each and every one. He was on his way home to burn his manuscript and give up writing for good when he ran into an old friend of his, who had become an editor at a publishing house. A name change later and THE CAT IN THE HAT was born.
God works in mysterious ways, the flyer told me.
Yeah, and so does publishing.
My second inspiration came from a rejection letter, via email from the Intellectual Property Management Group:
Putting Rejection into Perspective
If your manuscript gets rejected, consider the company
you are in when you get rejected by an agent or
publisher who lacks the foresight to see just how
great your work may be. The following list is compiled
from Michael Larsen's book, "Literary Agents."
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck was returned fourteen
times, but it went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was rejected
Patrick Dennis said of his autobiographical novel
Auntie Mame, "It circulated for five years through the
halls of fifteen publishers and finally ended up with
Vanguard Press, which, as you can see, is rather deep
into the alphabet." This illustrates why using the
alphabet may be a logical but ineffective way to find
the best agent or editor.
Twenty publishers felt that Richard Bach's Jonathan
Livingston Seagull was for the birds.
The first title of Catch-22 was Catch-18, but Simon
and Schuster planned to publish it during the same
season that Doubleday was bringing out Mila 18 by Leon
Uris. When Doubleday complained, Joseph Heller changed
the title. Why 22? Because Simon and Schuster was the
22nd publisher to read it. Catch-22 has become part of
the language and has sold more than 10 million copies.
Mary Higgins Clark was rejected forty times before
selling her first story. One editor wrote: "Your story
is light, slight, and trite." More than 30 million
copies of her books are now in print.
Before he wrote Roots, Alex Haley had received 200
Robert Persig's classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance, couldn't get started at 121 houses.
John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was
declined by fifteen publishers and some thirty agents.
His novels have more than 60 million copies in print.
Thirty-three publishers couldn't digest Chicken Soup
for the Soul, compiled by Jack Canfield and Mark
Victor Hansen, before it became a huge best-seller and
spawned a series.
The Baltimore Sun hailed Naked in Deccan as "a
classic" after it had been rejected over seven years
by 375 publishers.
Dr. Seuss's first book was rejected twenty-four times.
The sales of his children's books have soared to 100
Louis L'Amour received 200 rejections before he sold
his first novel. During the last forty years, Bantam
has shipped nearly 200 million of his 112 books,
making him their biggest selling author.
If you visit the House of Happy Walls, Jack London's
beautiful estate in Sonoma County, north San
Francisco, you will see some of the 600 rejection
slips that London received before selling his first
story. If you want to know how much easier it is to
make it as a writer now than it was in London's time,
read his wonderful autobiographical novel, Martin
Eden. Your sufferings will pale compared to what poor
British writer John Creasy received 774 rejections
before selling his first story. He went on to write
564 books, using fourteen names.
Eight years after his novel Steps won the National
Book Award, Jerzy Kosinski permitted a writer to
change his name and the title and send a manuscript of
the novel to thirteen agents and fourteen publishers
to test the plight of new writers. They all rejected
it, including Random House, which had published it.
Every no gets you closer to yes ...
Uh, BEST REJECTION EVER.
These were the little things that kept me sane, that kept me hoping even after 200 tries. As an agent, they STILL keep me going, STILL keep me sane.
We ALL know those OTHER stories, the ones where some mom in the middle of nowhere dreams up a bestseller, writes it in a month and sells it for six figures after practically NO rejection. The ones that every author seems to think are the norm.
But I want to take a moment to celebrate the TRUE inspirations; the Mandy Hubbards and Stephen Kings of the world, the ones who show that hard work and perseverance really do pay off.
So tell me - what is your story? Your inspiration?
(psst...need more? You can read a whole other version of this here!)