Those who read this site and are familiar with the story of my novel know that Opalescence is a self-published, but not yet “officially” published book. This is not for lack of trying. Like countless other authors, I have sent query letters to many literary agencies and publishers via Agent Query and Query Tracker. The usual form reply back, when there’s a reply at all, goes something like this:
After awhile those rejection letters begin to add up.
I know a local author who was also a respected editor and book reviewer for a large city newspaper. He has written several books but anguished to me in a letter one day the fact that so many people are writing books now (well over 2,000,000 a year worldwide!) that it feels like his well crafted stories are slowly sinking to the bottom of the ocean while multitudes of others, many of them hastily (and amateurishly) penned by those simply hoping to make a quick buck, drift down like so much silt upon his, burying them for all time. It is a common complaint.
Still, self-published books continue to produce some real gems. There is, though, an in-grained bias against them in the big time publishing world because of the above mentioned dross. One self pubbed author who went on to sell over a million books said: “The phrase ‘vanity publishing’ was almost certainly invented by traditional publishers years ago in order to squash the competition from entrepreneurial authors.”
That got me thinking about this whole rejection business. Initial rejection seems to be an almost automatic reflexive reaction by literary agencies and publishing houses to any new book that is proffered. The ratio of agents/publishers to authors is just too far out of sync. My suspicion is that lots of great writing, perhaps most, never sees the light of day. Even many books that later went on to become best sellers were often rejected numerous times before someone finally decided to give them a fair shake.
Doing a little internet research I found these figures, just a sampling:
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Rejected 38 times
Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. Rejected 40 times
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Rejected 60 times
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Rejected 76 times
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Rejected 121 times
Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Rejected 140 times
Roots by Alex Haley. Rejected 200 times
Following are some of the comments that have been used by these rejectors of books (and their authors) which books are now classics.
“You have no business being a writer and should give up.” Said to Zane Grey
“It is so badly written.” The Da Vinci Code
“Nobody will want to read a book about a seagull.” Johnathan Livingston Seagull
“An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” The Wind in the Willows
“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” Lord of the Flies
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” The Wizard of Oz
“Frenetic and scrambled prose.” On the Road
“An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.” The War of the Worlds
“Stick to teaching.” Little Women
“I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say. Apparently the author intends it to be funny.” Catch 22
“Older children will not like it because its language is too difficult.” Watership Down
“Hopelessly bogged down and unreadable.” The Left Hand of Darkness
“Good God, I can’t publish this.” Sanctuary
“They all said it was a stupid title, that nobody bought collections of short stories, that there was no edge—no sex, no violence. Why would anyone read it?” Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
The above quotes come from Litrejections.
See the following link for a few equally hilarious rejection letters.
This is not to chastise the industry unduly (or to insinuate my book with those greats above); but just a reminder to those of us still struggling for notice that an auto-rejection does not necessarily mean your work is rubbish.
And Opalescence? How big is my “Rejects” collection so far?