Getting Rejected Ain't So Bad

The  publishing world is full of rejected books that went onto find a home and great success. Joe Heller’s Catch 22 was turned down 50 times by mainstream publishers. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by 121 publishers (the record!) and now has sold over 4 million copies.

Also, remember, bad books also make best sellers. Take Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. It has sold millions. It is unreadable to anyone who reads English. Look at the Love Story by Erich Segal. Another huge bestseller. It’s a sappy, teenage love story written by a classics professor at Harvard. Segal wrote it as a movie script and the studio made into the first novelization ever done. 

Remember The Bridges of Madison Country by Robert James Waller? It sold 50 million copies worldwide. Has anyone ever attempted to read James Patterson and the novels that are manufactured by his publishing factory?

Then there is Nicholas Sparks who wrote The Notebooks, and other novels, about faith, love, tragedy, but no sex!

You don’t have to be able to write to be a successful writer. In fact, I think it actually helps if you can’t write!

Also, great writing goes in and out of vogue. Faulkner was out of print until The Portable Faulkner, with an introduction by Malcolm Cowley, came out in 1946. This book ‘reintroduced’ William Faulkner to American readers. In the early 1970s F. Scott Fitzgerald was out of print but then Nancy Milford wrote a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, and suddenly ‘everyone’ was reading The Great Gatsby.  His novels have been taught ever since in college literature classes.

It is not a level playing field. Bad writing can provide success and fortune, and great writing goes unnoticed and unread.

There is only one answer.

You write first for yourself. The pleasure and satisfaction from having written something that you are proud of is about as good as it gets. Everything else in the way of praise or profit is only the icing on the cake. Let’s hope its green.


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  • Zen is a favorite book of mine, though Pirsig’s second book, Lila, is not. And if you’d like to see what I thought of The Da Vinci Code or one of those Nicholas Sparks books, look me up on Amazon for my reviews. I completely agree with you about your assessment of some of these writers. More recent books by John Grisham also seem to fit in this category as well. And Catch 22? I read it during PC training in Utah in 1965, and it still sticks in my memory.

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