Rejection Letters 2 by Warren Bull
More from Alex Carter at Mental Floss who provides authors everywhere with hope by sharing some of the rejection letters sent to great writers by publishers who missed the opportunity to publish what later became very successful books. Let’s rise from our hot keyboards, and shake our hands in the air as we shout, “Write on!”
Image from Daniel Pascoa on Upsplash
“…overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”
Released in 1955, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita saw the light of day much sooner than this publisher hoped.
“...you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
Rudyard Kipling got this response to a short story he pitched to a now-defunct newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner.
HUNTER S. THOMPSON
“...you shit-eating freak. I warned you not to write that vicious trash about me — Now you better get fitted for a black eyepatch in case one of yours gets gouged out by a bushy-haired stranger in a dimly-lit parking lot. How fast can you learn Braille? You are scum.”
Another example of writer-to-writer smacktalk. Hunter S. Thompson sent this doozy of a rejection to his biographer, William McKeen.
“...for your own sake do not publish this book.”
D.H. Lawrence did not take this advice, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover was soon published.
JOHN LE CARRÉ
"You’re welcome to Le Carré—he hasn’t got any future.”
This note was sent by one publisher to another about John Le Carré and his third novel, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, which became an international bestseller.
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
“Stick To Teaching.”
Louisa May Alcott rejected this dismissive response to Little Women. It would be published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, and remains a classic nearly 150 years later.
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
"You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character."
The rather drastic revision was suggested to F. Scott Fitzgerald about—you guessed it—The Great Gatsby.
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
Despite this feedback, Stephen King eventually published The Running Man under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.
“Reject recommended: I’m not sure what Heinemann’s sees in this first novel unless it is a kind of youthful American female brashness. But there certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.”
An editor at Alfred A. Knopf rejected Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar twice: first when the manuscript was submitted under a pseudonym (above) and again (below) when her name was attached to it. Her name proved to be surprisingly difficult for the editor to spell:
“I have now re-read—or rather read more thoroughly— “The Bell Jar”, with the knowledge that it is by Sylva Plath which has added considerably to its interest for it is obviously flagrantly autobiographical. But it still is not much of a novel. The trouble is that she has not succeeded in using her material in a novelistic way; there is no viewpoint, no sifting out o the experiences of being a Mademoiselle contest winner with the month in New York, the subsequent mental breakdown and suicide attempts, the brash loss of virginity at the end. One feels simply that Miss Plat is writing of them because [these] things did happen to her and the incidents are in themselves good for a story, but throw them together and they don’t necessarily add up to a novel. One never feels, for instance, the deep-rooted anguish that would drive this girl to suicide. It is too bad because Miss Play has a way with words and a sharp eye or unusual and vivid detail. But maybe now that this book is out of her system she will use her talent more effectively next time.”
One of my favorite short stories collected a dozen rejections before it found a home. What memorable rejections have you received?
It was a standard rejection from an agent but the memorable part was when she congratulated me on one of my Agatha nominations and admitted she may have made a mistake. :-D
At the time, all rejections seem memorable. Thankfully, they do fade into the distance.
That's great, Annette. So glad that agent had second thoughts. At least she knew who you were. I don't remember mine because most of the time I get no response. And I think that says a lot. The ones that Warren presented--they exist. They got it wrong, but someone actually responded.
My then-agent once suggested that a certain publisher was looking for a y/a about a young cowgirl. i sent what I thought to be an appropriate manuscript, but the wrote that they found the writing "most pedantic." It became the first of a trilogy, still in print thirty years later.
Great quotes, Warren. I loved reading them.
My first rejections, back in the 1960s, were of the "not for us" variety. Later they became more specific ("no pizzazz"), and now I'm back to the "we'll pass on this" type. The really painful ones fade, and editors move on. But I keep on writing (and publishing). That's what any writer should learn from all rejections. Read them, forget them, keep writing.
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