There is always the danger of a columnist going back to the well once too often. That’s particularly true of writers of a certain age, who can be forgetful. Fortunately, that doesn’t apply to me.
Fortunately, that doesn’t apply…ONLY KIDDING!
Anyway, I checked my old columns (thank the Lord the Independent keeps a wonderful archive) and feel secure that I can safely return to one of my favorite topics: Rejection!
So, for those who have felt the sting of having our novels lambasted by critics, this blog is for you. (Catchy! Probably make a good beer commercial.)
- Jack London (you may have heard of him) accumulated 600 rejections before he sold his first story. THAT IS NOT A TYPO. I have to think that, were I in London’s snowshoes, I’d have been howling at the moon like White Fang.
- After a mere 21 rejections, an obviously easily discouraged Richard Hornberger started using a pseudonym. As Richard Hooker, his debut novel, MASH, becomes a huge bestseller. Oh, yes, they made a pretty good movie out of it, and I think the TV series had a decent run.
- I love this one: “He hasn’t got any future.” You would think this was written about someone on death row, not John le Carré just before the publication of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Le Carré has penned about a zillion bestsellers since.
- Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath, and Mario Puzo. You probably also heard of these losers. The Alfred A. Knopf publishing house turned all of them down at one time or another.
- A classic: “We suggest you get rid of all that Indian stuff.” That’s what a publisher told Tony Hillerman. I wonder how his bestselling Navajo Tribal Police mysteries would’ve looked if he’d followed that advice.
- Alex Haley got 200 consecutive rejections, which is really impressive if you are not named Jack London. His novel, Roots, sold 8 million copies.
- As readers of my blog know, I’m not a big fan of James Patterson, who now uses a stable of co-authors to write his novels (as he himself admits). But 220 million sales later, I wonder how the 31 publishers who first turned him down feel.
- Finally, this probably says it all. There’s a famous business-management concept that holds that people tend to rise to their "level of incompetence." It was formulated by Laurence J. Peter, who thought his idea would make a pretty good book. Editors who validated his thesis at 30 publishers disagreed and turned him down. In 1969, The Peter Principle became a number-one bestseller.
Remember: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!