I know, it’s that tired old advice your mom has always given you: quitters never prosper; if you fall off the horse, get back on; finish what you started. But these authors are proof that just because you get rejected by a publisher or two (or three or 27) doesn’t mean you don’t have a classic on your hands.
The same could be said about George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It also made Time’s list of best English-language books ever written, ranked in at #31 on the Modern Library’s List of Best 20th-Century Novels, and won retrospective Hugo award in 1996. But not only was Orwell’s classic written off (and completely misunderstood) by a publisher who noted, “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA,” Orwell’s peer and good friend T.S. Eliot was also less than impressed. Orwell sent a draft to Eliot, who responded that the writing was good, but the view was “not convincing” and that publishers would only accept the book if they had personal sympathy for the “Trotskyite” viewpoint.
Moving on to a modern classic, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Plenty of publishers took a gander at the Chosen One and decided not to choose him, including bigwigs like Penguin and HarperCollins. Jo Rowling finally decided to try a small London firm called Bloomsbury, who accepted only after the CEO’s eight-year-old daughter read the book and declared it a winner. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about all of the accolades and great commercial success that followed nearly immediately.
I’m not a big fan of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books myself, but there’s obviously an audience out there – there are now more than 105 titles under the Chicken Soup heading (including Chicken Soup for the Chiropractic Soul), they’ve been translated into 54 languages and there are more than 100 million copies in print. Who would have ever guessed that the book was turned down 33 times in a row before it found a willing publisher? Among the 33 rejections included gems like, “anthologies don’t sell,” and “too positive.”