Don’t believe me? A bestselling author, Jerzy Kosinski, decided to test this theory and show everyone exactly how difficult it is for new writers to get started. He submitted his book Steps, which was already a commercial success, under a pen name to 13 literary agents and 14 publishers. All of them rejected it, even Random House--who had already published it!
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was rejected by 25 literary agents before it became a bestseller.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, was rejected by 60 literary agents before it was accepted. It’s now a worldwide best-seller.
Dune, by Frank Herbert, was rejected by 23 publishers before it was accepted. It is currently the best-selling science-fiction novel of all time.
MASH, the debut novel of Richard Hooker, was rejected 21 times before it became a bestseller, an Oscar-Winning Film Adaptation, and one of the most watched television shows in history.
Jack London received around 600 rejections before he ever published a story.
J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before one agreed to publish Harry Potter, and they only did because an editor's eight-year-old daughter liked it. Rowling was told to keep her day job.
Walt Whitman originally published his poetic epic Leaves of Grass with his own money, because no one else would. His own brother said it “wasn’t worth reading.” This did not stop Whitman from romping up and down the countryside and selling it himself. He is now widely considered the Father of American Poetry.
Notice a trend? No one, no matter how gifted a writer, escapes rejection. But no matter how many times a publisher, agent, or reader tells you that your work is “not worth reading,” you must persistently remind yourself that they’re wrong. Even if they’re right--which, if we’re being perfectly honest, they sometimes are--that’s none of your business! You must believe they’re wrong. You can (and should) use criticism to improve your work--but never let it stop your work. Never. You are a writer, remember?
Sounds crazy, right? Well, all artists are crazy. They have to believe in themselves even if no one else will.
Be the crazy artist. Keep writing. Keep growing.
And don’t stop just because someone out there tells you to.