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View Full Version : Rejections aren't a sign of bad writing.



Harris
11-12-2006, 09:24 PM
I truly believe rejections aren't necessarily a sign of bad writing. I know some of you are already turning up your noses. It is the general belief that good writing will always find a home.

I would like you to look at this article.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1965623,00.html

It was a test to see if the modern world could recognize talent or if they only follow trends. They failed.

That's not to say that everyone is a great literary mind. Far from it. I've found few aspiring writers are even readers. That's sad. Still, considering the garbage churned every year, this article should be read.

ChaosTitan
11-12-2006, 09:43 PM
I would like you to look at this article.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1965623,00.html

It was a test to see if the modern world could recognize talent or if they only follow trends. They failed.

This article has been hashed and rehashed in multiple threads. All that the test proved was that novels published in the 1970's wouldn't find a home today. Tastes changed, the market changed, writing styles changed. It has nothing to do with recognizing talent.

Linda Adams
11-12-2006, 09:55 PM
This is something the newspapers do periodically to try to prove the publishing system must be broken. What doesn't get mentioned is that the market has changed A LOT since those books were published. I mean, that was THIRTY years ago! Books have changed, what people like to read has changed, what's acceptable has changed. It might very well be that a book published in the 1970's might not be publishable today--even if it was an award winning book at the time.

Harris
11-12-2006, 09:56 PM
"Spending three years on “A Time to Kill”, he finally finished the masterpiece in 1987. It was rejected by nearly every major publisher on the planet and was finally picked up in 1989 by the very small Wynwood Press. Wynwood published the book with a modest 5000 copy run. It is estimated that half of the copies went to libraries around the country and the remainder of the run was circulated at a few stores. Of these store copies, most did not sell and were sent back to the publisher. John Grisham himself purchased most of these back from the publisher. It is rumored that they were stored in a storage unit in Memphis, TN and were slowly given out by Grisham to friends and sold personally by the author. The Wynwood Press ‘A Time to Kill’, with it’s 5000 copy print run is now legendary and one of the greatest stories of booklore in the hobby."

:www.flatsigned.com/news.html

veinglory
11-12-2006, 09:57 PM
"necessarily" is a key word here. Bad writing will get you rejected. It's not the only thing but it is always a possibility. Unsuitability for the market is the other main reason.

Harris
11-12-2006, 09:57 PM
There would be a lot of wealthy writers if there was a magical formula to writing success. It is difficult to know what the public will reject or embrace. As a result, there are many publishers who are having regrets because they have overlooked best seller books. For instance, J.K. Rowling was rejected nine times until the daughter of the publisher, who had been given the first Harry potter book to read, insisted that her father publish it because it was so good. It was also a child who pushed for the publication of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:IaTtoWCZdswJ:www.thebookblowout.com/books/books/its-amazing-how-best-seller-books-are-born.html+rejected+novels+that+became+best+sellers&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=13

Harris
11-12-2006, 09:59 PM
William Phillips, now senior executive editor and vice president of Little, Brown & Company, ... "In the intervening fifteen years, the list of books I’ve turned down that became best sellers is as long as my arm . . . My only comfort is that every editor of long standing is burdened with a similar list."

http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:8peU9QAQEA4J:aalbc.com/reviews/so_you_wanna_write_a_best_seller.htm+rejected+book s+that+became+best+sellers&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1

Harris
11-12-2006, 10:04 PM
I thought since everyone enjoys discussing a good topic, I would provide the above quotes with links.

veinglory
11-12-2006, 10:05 PM
Is this surprising? Editors pick books they like, and books become best sellers because the public likes them. So even if an author is absolutely certain the public will love the book they may have to search to find the editor who will love it to (and he or she may not exist). Sad but true. But publishers pick and choose who they invest in so it is quite apparent that they will have quirky and fallible judgement...

Rolling Thunder
11-12-2006, 10:12 PM
There would be a lot of wealthy writers if there was a magical formula to writing success. It is difficult to know what the public will reject or embrace. As a result, there are many publishers who are having regrets because they have overlooked best seller books. For instance, J.K. Rowling was rejected nine times until the daughter of the publisher, who had been given the first Harry potter book to read, insisted that her father publish it because it was so good. It was also a child who pushed for the publication of Tolkienís The Hobbit.

Which also brings up the question: How does a child know what is good writing and what is not? I doubt they even ponder the question. If the story interests them enough that is all that matters to them.

Harris
11-12-2006, 10:22 PM
Oops. Here is an intersting list that was just emailed to me.
Ten Best-Selling Books Rejected by Publishers 20 or More Times:

1. Dubliners by James Joyce

2. Mash by Richard Hooker

3. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison by Charles Shaw

4. Kon-Tiki : Across the Pacific by Raft by Thor Heyerdahl

5. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

6. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

7. Lorna Doone by Richard Doddridge Blackmore

8. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis

9. The Peter Principle by Laurence Peter

10. Dune by Frank Herbert

Source: A Passion For Books, edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplain, Copyright © 1999
http://www.dailycelebrations.com/reject.htm

Enjoy and find a little hope in these posts.

Christine N.
11-12-2006, 10:24 PM
And a child pushed for Eragon to be picked up by Knopf too, IIRC.

Wow, I guess I should start mailing my subs to the children of editors :) seems to be a trend.

janetbellinger
11-12-2006, 11:09 PM
Yes but were those novels eventually published in the original version or did those authors do revsions on them before they were eventually accepted? Maybe those novels weren't so brilliant when they were originally submitted and that's why they were rejected. It was probably a combination of that plus the editors not realizing the tremendous potential in a book that needed revison or improvement. Maybe it was rejected because of something simple like spelling mistakes or something to do with form. It's my belief that any novel can eventually be published if the author does enough rewriting. Some novels require more rewriting than others and some writers are unaware of the amount of change needed, since most editors don't inform them of it. Also, some writers know what's needed but still opt not to make the leap forward.

veinglory
11-12-2006, 11:16 PM
Here is my analogy:

It reminds me of my first class in animal training. We were issued a chicken to train and I could not get mine to do anything. I went to my instructor and said 'this chicken is very stupid, I cannot get it to do what I want.' My instructor replied, 'over my many decades of experience with chickens and students, I have found the deficit in ability is more often on the part of student than it is on the part of the chicken.'

James D. Macdonald
11-12-2006, 11:29 PM
It was a test to see if the modern world could recognize talent or if they only follow trends. They failed.

The test was totally bogus. I commented on it at length here (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007138.html) when it first hit the papers.

Let's look at that "Ten Best-Selling Books Rejected by Publishers 20 or More Times."

I'll let others comment on other titles on that list. I'm just going to look at Dune:

Dune was a reprint: it had already been serialized in Analog magazine. At that time there were few presses that printed science fiction at all; Dune was too long for them to print on the presses they had available to them. Dune was eventually published by Chilton, a publisher that did automobile price guides and technical manuals (Dune was their first fiction work) -- they owned presses that could handle the spine width. Chilton's advance, $7,500, was outstanding for a science fiction novel in 1965.

Dave.C.Robinson
11-12-2006, 11:45 PM
Here's my take on the whole test:

When an agent looks at a manuscript and begins to seriously look into offering representation the question they are asking is not whether it's good or not. They're asking a very different question: "Can I sell it?" Good is important, but an agent is in the business of selling manuscripts.

In the same vein, a publisher wants to know if they will be able to make money on either the manuscript or the author. They want good, but they're looking for a novel that will either make them money directly or springboard a career to make them money with subsequent volumes.

Take Uncle Jim's example of Dune above. All those presses that couldn't print it and turned it down did so because a book that can't be printed can't be sold. It was their inability to profit on it that was the primary factor, not the quality of the work.

Christine N.
11-12-2006, 11:51 PM
I've turned down well-written books that I didn't see as being marketable. Sure.

icerose
11-13-2006, 01:43 AM
Add to that the issue of a full roster. If you only have twenty slots and those twenty are filled, everything after that is going to get turned down because they simply can't swing it.

Even Miss Snark outright claims on her blog that she has turned down what she considered a brilliant (or remarkable something like that) because she just didn't know how to sell it.

victoriastrauss
11-13-2006, 03:14 AM
For instance, J.K. Rowling was rejected nine times until the daughter of the publisher, who had been given the first Harry potter book to read, insisted that her father publish it because it was so good. A nice story, but I strongly suspect it's apocryphal.

As for Eragon, the (adult) son of a well-known author happened to pick it up (after it had already sold multiple thousands of copies through Paolini's own self-promotion efforts), and passed it on to someone at Knopf, who then made his own decision.

Beware of nice stories about how famous writers got their start. Like the one about John Grisham being self-published, they are not always reliable.

- Victoria

Harris
11-13-2006, 03:40 AM
I never heard that Grisham was self published. I just found interesting stories. Maybe the confusion came in about him buying back copies.