Writers: Laugh Last, Laugh Best


There’s life (and a living) after rejection
Bestselling authors are among those who struggled to get their first book accepted


Catherine O’Flynn had her novel What Was Lost turned down by 20 agents and publishers before it was accepted by the small Birmingham firm Tindal Street Press. It has since been shortlisted for the Orange and the Man Booker prizes and last week won the Costa First Novel Award. If your first magnum opus is still waiting to be propelled to Booker-winning glory, take heart from these rejectees.

G P Taylor, a Yorkshire vicar, self-published Shadowmancer before getting a deal with Faber. He now commands six-figure advances.

Doris Lessing was rejected by her publisher when she sent in a manuscript under a pseudonym.

Lionel Shriver’s seventh novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, was so controversial that it was rejected by several agents and publishers. It became a small underground hit before taking off and winning the 2005 Orange Prize.

Stephen King’s first novel was rejected by Doubleday, prompting him to take a teaching job. He began a short story called Carrie but threw the manuscript in the bin. His wife retrieved it. Doubleday bought the hardback rights for $2,400 (£1,200), and New American Library paid $400,000 for the paperback rights.


Never quit.

Explore posts in the same categories: Writers - Living, Writing

4 Comments on “Writers: Laugh Last, Laugh Best”

  1. DG Says:

    Very, very heartening! Makes me want to write some more on the novel I have begun in bits and pieces. Would come back for more of such inspiring posts:)

  2. mikecane Says:

    Acceptance is just part of the publishing battle. Then there’s the contract. Then the cover (really!). Then the marketing…

    Which is why I hope so much for a universal ebook file format.

  3. Jonathan Says:

    And let’s not forget that sometimes when you get a zillion rejections, it means the manuscript sucks.

    But don’t give up! Either rewrite it and send it back out, or write something new.

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