Famous Book Rejections

Here are a few book rejections I'd bet the editors would like to take back...


The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot, slipped through the hands of 17 publishers before being accepted for publication.

Tony Hillerman, now famous for his Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels, was initially told to "Get rid of all that Indian stuff."

William Faulkner's book, Sanctuary, elicited the following comment. "Good God, I can't publish this!"

John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by a dozen publishers and 16 agents before finding a home.

One editor's rejection letter to Rudyard Kipling said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

Gone With the Wind  was rejected 38 times.

To Stephen King on Carrie... "We're not interested in science fiction that deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."

To Irving Stone on Lust for Life..."A long dull novel about an artist." (After 16 rejections, Stone found a publisher and the novel sold twenty-five million copies.)

On 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."

To Anita Loos on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes... "Do you realize, young lady, that you're the first American writer to poke fun at sex?"

To J.G. Ballard on Crash... "The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help."

Mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark received a $60 million plus advance for five books. But when she was trying to sell Journey Back to Love in the 1960s, one rejection letter stated, "We found the heroine as boring as her husband did."

Dr. Seuss received the following: "...too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling."

Only seven of Emily Dickinson's poems were published during her lifetime. One rejection said, "Your poems are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauty and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities."

The Torrents of Spring by Ernest Hemmingway elicited the following rejection: "It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horrible cruel, should we want to publish it."

Of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, one editor said, "I haven't really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say... Apparently the author intends it to be funny--possibly even satire--but it is really not funny on any intellectual level... From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities."

On Jacqueline Susanne's Valley of the Dolls: "She is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro."

Share the misery

Has your writing been rejected?

Share the misery! Rejection is a fact of life for writers. But a rejection letter doesn't have to be the end of the story! If you have a funny or strange rejection story to share, submit it here. Laugh along with other writers who've been rejected, then get back to writing!

Other writers' rejection stories

Click below to see rejection stories other writers have shared...

. . . but don't let this letter discourage you! 
Too late! I'm discouraged. After hanging on for over four months, they write to tell me that they have to decline my proposal. But whatever you do, don't …

Why the cruelty? 
I thought I knew it all, and when I received my first rejection, from the hallowed house of Harlequins no less, I wept like a newborn. I quickly got over …

Oh, If They'd Only Included Page 2!! 
My debut novel, "Fire at Midnight," published by Medallion Press in 2009, was first requested by an editor from another publishing house as the result …

Not nearly rough and tough enough 
My favourite for laughs is the one that said, "I'm sorry, but your book is not nearly rough and tough enough." This for a book which opens with CCTV …

Haud Libri 
Dear Ms Roebuck, I read your submission with interest but I have to tell you that I would not like to walk barefoot and hand-in-hand with it on a moonlit …

Black Ink 
When I first started submitting my work to editors, I was as sensitive as any new writer. For the most part, I grew a tough skin and learned to weather …

God's Rejection 
I once had an agent write a note telling me she would pray about the manuscript, THE PRIVATEER, and get back to me. I had to re-query many months later--and …

Beginning Too Tame 
One agent replied, saying that my first chapter was not interestingly enough. Despite the fact that it contained a brutal rape by four assailants and the …

No Turning Back Now 
I'm a writer, one whose trying to get that first novel published and I have lived with my share of discouragement. Although I've only received ten rejections …

My "Marketing Plan" Wasn't Detailed Enough 
I've had more rejections than I care to count and I'm still not published. Most recently an editor of a small press wrote on her blog about a query she'd …

Transatlantic Trauma  
So many examples... Once I received someone else's manuscript in my return envelope from Harlequin London with the reader's hand-written questionnaire, …

Aaargh! 
I was so excited when I read in a Writers' magazine that Pocket Books had just opened a window of opportunity for un-agented writers, requesting a synopsis …

At least they were clear 
My personal "favorite" is the first page of my manuscript with "NO" written on the top of the page, in pencil. There was nothing else in the envelope.

Click here to write your own.