10 Brilliant Authors Who Were Rejected Multiple Times Before Becoming a Success

Picture of success quote. Success comes easy, hard work and smart choices.
Picture of success quote. Success comes easy, hard work and smart choices.

It’s always easier said than done. But then again, it’s better to get it done than not to have done anything at all to fight for your dreams.

Success comes easy, hard work and smart choices.

That just summarizes what many motivational quotes in our news feeds are saying. For a moment, it gives you some “high”. But this “high” is temporary. The real world is harsher than it really seems. And authors are not immune to life’s favorite joke…that is, rejections.

It’s true that getting represented by big publishing houses still appeals as the gold standard for many authors because of their extensive marketing machineries. This is not to discount the many benefits of self-publishing. Some authors took this route after not having any publisher take a chance on their work.

These brilliant authors that we know today have gone through a series of rejections. That they gained instant success was far from truth. Whether they ended up winning over a publisher or obtaining success from self-publishing, they all shared the same experience in the rejections arena. They were slapped in the face with a rejection letter from publishers more times than they ever needed to call a plumber to fix a broken kitchen pipe.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Picture of rejection quote.
Picture of rejection quote.

What a shame

If that was how you felt when you received your first rejection letter, then you are in the right place to get some motivation and to see what’s possible. If you are about to start or in the middle of writing your first novel and dread the idea of receiving rejection letters, I’m glad you’re here reading this article. This is for every author who needs an extra kick in the ass and aspires to get into the traditional publishing route before trying other options.

Agatha Christie

Picture of Agatha Christie.
Picture of Agatha Christie.

She is the author of the famous book And Then There Were None. It took 5 years before her first book was published, after having been rejected by 6 publishers. Today, she’s one of the richest dead celebrities, having sold roughly 2 billion books, 3rd in rank after the Bible and Shakespeare. She’s also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling novelist of all time.

Louisa May Alcott

Image with author Louisa May Alcott.
Image with author Louisa May Alcott.

Her book Little Women became a staple children’s book. It was even turned into a morning cartoon show. But before she became a published author, she was harshly criticized by a publisher named James T. Fields saying, “Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write.”

Stephen King

Picture of Stephen King.
Picture of Stephen King.

The quote, “Behind a man’s success is a woman” can’t be more true for Stephen King. This famous author of Carrie was saved by his wife Tabitha. She picked up the manuscript from the trash after Stephen got too frustrated from writing it. But that was not the only hurdle. Once it was completed, it got rejected 30 times before publication. Well, look at how Carrie ended up.  It not only became a bestselling novel, but was also turned into a commercially-successful movie.

Stephen King spent weeks and months, even years to write his first paragraph. Read the 13 best first sentences in fiction.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling.
J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter was not saved from rejections on account of him being a wizard from Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was rejected by 12 publishers before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. As a wildly successful author whom we think really has magical powers, who would think someone so big today had gone through rejections. Glad she didn’t give up. Her book releases spanning 10 years have molded the childhood of many children around the world.

William Golding

After seven months of rejections from various publishers, Charles Monteith paved the way for William Golding’s fame by purchasing the manuscript of the Lord of the Flies at a bargain price of £60. That’s even after a Faber reader already dumped it in the bin. Later on, the book sold millions of copies. I don’t know what the Faber reader was thinking when this happened, after he said “absurd and uninteresting…rubbish and dull.”

Margaret Mitchell

38 times. Yeah, that’s the number of times that Margaret Mitchell has been rejected for her book Gone With the Wind. Well, not everyone can appraise a gem. The book received a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937 and became a hit movie winning 10 Academy Awards. They’re saying that considering inflation, it’s still the most successful box-office film of all time.

Rudyard Kipling

How about receiving a rejection letter stating “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” But Kipling has got a poem to counter that and it goes, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster / and treat those two impostors just the same…/ Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”

Beatrix Potter

Now, to those seeking to publish their novels independent of large publishing houses (self-publishing), listen up. Beatrix was way ahead of her time when she self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, after getting tired of rejection letters coming to her mailbox. Man, that was the year 1901! And, guess what? She was successful!

Before you give up, try one more time.

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