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It’s the dreaded bane of every aspiring writer: The rejection slip which begins with the words ‘The Editor regrets …’. And to add insult to injury the recipients of such communications can’t help but harbour a suspicion that the sentiment of remorse being expressed doesn’t have the ring of sincerity.
But writers are a never-say-die breed, and keep at their labours of unrequited love, many of them collecting ‘The Editor regrets’ missives with the enthusiasm with which stamp collectors collect stamps and autograph hunters hunt autographs.
Perhaps their undeterred determination to carry on regardless in the face of repeated rejections springs from the knowledge that they are in good – indeed great – company, in that many who went on to become literary legends had initially to undergo a similar series of rebuffs.
The long list of rejected writers includes at least two Nobel laureates – novelists John Steinbeck and William Golding, whose Lord of the Flies got 21 rejections – apart from writers like JRR Tolkien, of The Lord of the Rings fame.
Publishing lore has it that Joseph Heller’s international bestseller Catch-22 derived its title from the fact that it had been sent back to him 22 times by publishers.
Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was deemed by the author himself to be so bad that he threw the manuscript in the garbage bin. His wife rescued it and sent it to a publishing house, which turned it down. It was eventually printed and went on to sell over a million copies.
JK Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, who is said to be the first writer ever to have made a billion dollars by way of royalties, considered herself to be ‘the biggest failure I knew’ after she was given the thumbs-down by 12 publishers. Finally, a London firm accepted her first Harry Potter manuscript for an advance of £1,500, and her editor suggested that she try to get a job as a schoolteacher as she wouldn’t make a living writing children’s stories. Famous last words.
So, as a writer, the next time you receive a rejection slip, don’t let it get you down. Because, like a host of ‘reject-quality’ writers, one day you might well pen an award-winning megaseller.
And then all those who sent those ‘The Editor regrets’ notes will really regret their decision.