Category Archives: Rejection

The possible impossibility

We crush your spirits: you, the writer who dreams of publication. We, the bloggers who’ve been published, want you to know it’s an improbable journey.

Finishing a good book is scaling Mount Everest. Signing with an agent is reaching the summit. Finding a publisher is making it back to base camp, alive, without losing your nose to frostbite. And having a runaway book? It’s your second Everest Climb, but this one without the help of sherpas, oxygen or ropes.


It’s true for most people who dream of publishing, because most of them will never pass the dreaming stage. Some will give it a go, but they won’t master the skills. They can become better writers, but they’ll never be great novelists. The few who remain won’t devote enough time to learn the craft, revise like revising maniacs, and persevere through the rejections. They give up. After 10 years, they think it’s time to burn the manuscript and pick up golfing or quilting or karate. Life’s too short. Who can blame them?

That leaves the rest of us, and the odds get better. Way better. The handful of people left in the pool are either good and getting better, stunningly tenacious, crazy, or a combination of all three.

It is POSSIBLE! For talented writers with dedication, it’s even — dare I say? — PROBABLE!

Proof: I recently went to the Edina Barnes and Noble. I thought about the writers I know, mostly from Mankato, and their hard work and devotion to their craft. An impressive number of those writers actually sold their books.

I searched the B & N shelves for a few minutes and found several books from writers I know. Check out the pictures. (Shame on WordPress for the bizarre layout.)

We'll be the Last Ones to Let You Down, Rachael Hanel.

We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down, Rachael Hanel.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, Kirstin Cronn Mills.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, Kirstin Cronn Mills.

The Nearly Departed, Michael Norman

The Nearly Departed, Michael Norman

My book, Little Rock Girl, which I got to sign!

My book, Little Rock Girl, which I got to sign!

That’s not all. The store’s computer system said these other Mankato-area writers are on their shelves: Diana Joseph, Nicole Helget‘s adult novel (Nicole’s middle grade novel, Horse Camp, co-authored with Nate LeBoutillier was sold out.), Thomas Maltman, Steve Shaskan, Geoff Herbach, “the Godfather” Terry Davis, and many more, including writers who’ve published in niche markets.

I had to end the search because of a lunch date and a tired camera-phone battery .

Many of the writers I know made it. And I really don’t know that many people.

What we share in common:

  • Writing is a passion. It’s a job, not a hobby.
  • Reading is part of the job.
  • A community of writers provide support and energy to chase the dream.  (Mankato can thank the MFA department at Minnesota State University for the care and feeding of this community.)
  • We listen to Chumbawumba:

I get knocked down but I get up again

You’re never gonna keep me down

I get knocked down but I get up again

You’re never gonna keep me down

Or not.

Still, that’s the tub-thumping message: slapped by rejection, cursing the industry over a few beers with pals, and then back up again. Back to the laptop, back to the notebook.

So, yes, you can do it. You can do it. You can.

If you’re not sure, take a trip to Mankato, Minn. Perhaps New York is better, but Mankato’s way cheaper. Walk around campus. Go to the coffee shops and parks. Open yourself to the energy. It just may be your place.

Sinclair Lewis wrote parts of Main Street in Mankato. Maybe his creative energy permeates the funky river town, maybe he’s the life force of it all. Lewis said:

It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.

Lewis and Chumbawumba. Quite the team.


Who do they think they are?

From the excellent Gotham Writers Workshop, a very cool blog. Recently, the blogger wrote about famous books and the number of rejections the authors received. Hopefully it’ll provide new writers with some perspective and let them know they’re in very good company.


It just feels fatal. It’s not.

There’s a post along with it. Check it out here.

Dune by Frank Herbert – 13 rejections

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 14 rejections

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 17 rejections

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 18 rejections

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 29 rejections

Carrie by Stephen King – over 30 rejections

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections

A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 45 rejections

Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – over 300 rejections before publishing his first book

John Creasy, author of 564 mystery novels – 743 rejections before publishing his first book

Ray Bradbury, author of over 100 science fiction novels and stories – around 800 rejections before selling his first story

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally the author decided to self-publish the book

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

From rejection slip for Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It: “These stories have trees in them.”

From rejection slip for article sent to the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

From rejection slip for The Diary of Anne Frank: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”

Rejection slip for Dr. Seuss’s And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street: “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”

Rejection from a Chinese economic journal: “We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.”