Some of my favorite rejections

I have a new blog percolating in my mind, but it’s not ready yet. So, until then, I want to offer a few of my favorite famous rejections (taken from Rotten Rejections by Andre Bernard).

Make sure these don’t happen to you!

* In 1962 Mary Higgins Clark received the following rejection for her novel Journey Back to Love: “We found the heroine to be as boring as her husband had.”

* Pearl Buck received these words concerning her manuscript for The Good Earth: “Regret the American public is not interested in anything on China.”

* James Farrell’s manuscript was returned with this note: “Although these manuscripts are physically a mess, they are also lousy.”

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

* Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of the Perry Mason mysteries was rejected with: “The characters talk like dictionaries, the so-called plot has whiskers on it like Spanish moss hanging from a live oak in a Louisiana bayou.”

* Kon-Tiki was rejected with: “The idea of men adrift on a raft does have a certain appeal, but for the most part this is a long, solemn, and tedious Pacific voyage.”

* Tony Hillerman’s book The Blessing Way was rejected with: “If you insist on rewriting this, get rid of all that Indian stuff.”

* Here’s a great one: William Kennedy’s Ironweed earned this interesting rejection. “I like
William Kennedy, but not enough. He’s a very good writer….and his characters are terrific. I cannot explain turning this down.”

* George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”

* Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is now being made into a movie. But the book was first rejected as “…much too long…I regret to say that the book is unsaleable and unpublishable.”

* Dr. Seuss’s first book And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street was rejected as “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”

One of my favorites is Samuel Johnson’s rejection to an aspiring writer: “Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.”


For a final parting shot, I’ll end with the succinct reply Oscar Wilde got for Lady Windermere’s Fan:

“My dear sir,

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

Never let rejection get you down…at least not for too long. Like maybe five minutes. Editors can wrong. I was wrong once a few years back. 🙂

4 replies
  1. Kathy Nickerson says:

    Thanks for the encouragement today! It is so easy to take those few negative words as the final authority that sends a manuscript back to the file drawer instead of to the revision desk. Or the Out Box.

  2. Sue Harrison says:

    My favorite rejection for my novel Mother Earth Father Sky (Doubleday/Avon, Publisher’s Weekly bestseller) was “Who wants to read about Eskimos anyway?” It’s not about Eskimos.

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