Why Great Books Are Rejected

Rejections Aren’t Reflections

Life, especially a writer’s life, is filled with rejection. If you’re not reading the tons of blog posts talking about facing rejection as a writer and how to deal with it, you’re probably reading the posts that talk about writers who faced the same rejection before succeeding. The Internet is filled with inspiring stories like these.

But a lot of famous writers who faced rejection have something in common. Those books they wrote that were rejected X amount of times are considered classics now, though nobody really thought so until proven wrong. The reason they are enduring? They’re unexpected. They broke the mold, pushed boundaries, defied how we see one thing and explored how we can see another. But why were they rejected so often, and what do I do if I keep getting rejected too?

Here are three things to consider when it comes why great works are rejected and how you can learn from them with your own work.

The Publishers Don’t See Your Book the Way You See It

“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative dystopias. They do not sell.”

Someone once told Steven King this after rejecting his first novel, Carrie. This kind of response encompasses the author-publisher relationship. Here, you have two sides to the same coin: the author and the publisher. One wants to put their work out there and be successful, the other wants to put out work that will be successful. So if a book (no matter how good it may be) just doesn’t fit well for that publisher, it’s going to be rejected.

Before you pull out your knives and pitchforks, remember publishers have a job to do. They have to market these things, and if they’re going to put hard effort into a book, there should be a future in it. This is where the whole “finding a right home for your work” and “publishers liked it but couldn’t use it” factors come in. Every publisher is going to think differently, and there’s bound to be someone out there who is willing to give your work a chance. But that’s why these books everyone thinks are great once faced rejection. At the time, they weren’t considered something that could “sell.” That leads into the second reason.

If You’re Not on a Pathway, You Have to Dig Your Own

The Literary World is filled with trends. You see this a lot in genres like Young Adult, but it’s not just that. This is why each of the literary movements that you study in high school and college have defining characteristics that famous works of that movement exhibit.

This is also why a work may become incredibly popular and a string of works with similar elements follows in its wake. So if you’ve written the book that you want to see in the world, you have to take the time to dig out your own path, go in a different direction that people haven’t previously seen. Besides “not selling,” other famous works that received rejection were rejected for this reason: they are unconventional. Publishers (and even readers) weren’t exactly sure what to do with them. Think of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies or J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

But you know what happened? They were given a chance. They dug out their own path in a new direction. People didn’t want to go down that path at first, but they were nudged down it anyway. And with your story, you’re trying to do the same.

You’re Probably Doing What They’ve Done

Even if you’re writing a book that you feel is completely new, everything is inspired by something. That doesn’t make your work a copy, it’s just a fact. And the same thing is true for publishing your book. There are just certain methods and strategies that are effective that a lot of your favorite authors may have done as well.

So if you think about it, you’re doing the same thing that the people who inspired you have done. The difference? They are where you want to be.

How do you get there? For one thing, don’t give up. Also remember that, all in all, a rejection isn’t a reflection on you as a person. If you’ve been rejected, but you believe in your book and you know that people need to hear what you have to say, then remember why great books are rejected. Publishers and readers might just need that gentle push. All you need is one chance anyway.

Want to know more? Click the LEARN MORE button at home. You’ll find some helpful links to my own work in journals (which I have started posting here too!). You can find my work at Ariel Chart, the Cedarville Review, Nailpolish Stories, Bluepepper, 50 Word Stories, The Aurora Journal, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice! Also look for me in Anti-Heroin Chic, Sledgehammer Lit, later this year!

Want to see a sample? Check out this post!

Need help proofreading a story before you send it out? You can find me on Fiverr!

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