Monday, September 3, 2012


by Anna Buttimore

A couple of years ago a friend asked for advice on writing and publishing his book. I told him all I knew (not much) and wished him luck. And a few months ago he gleefully posted on Facebook that he was now a published author. How I rejoiced as I followed the link to his masterpiece. How my heart sank when I saw "Authorhouse" across the top bar on my screen.

I asked him, in that wheedling way of mine, "Why?" Why did he give up? Why did he fund the publication of his book himself, and forego any possibility of profit or royalties, not to mention any sense of achievement, affirmation or accomplishment?

"I got fed up with being rejected," he replied.

As much as you are warned that rejection is part and parcel of being an author, it still smarts. I'm fed up with being rejected. Emon and the Emperor has now been rejected by eighteen agents.

Agents are well aware that choosing whether or not to represent an author is entirely an arbitrary business and that they daily run the risk of turning down the next Harry Potter or Twilight, or indeed accepting the next embarrassing flop. Contrary to popular opinion they are not kicking themselves over the ones that got away.  They know that there are some great books slipping through their fingers just because they are not really in the mood for them that day. They accept that as an occupational hazard with every rejection slip they send out.

Almost all books get rejected before they are published.

·         Jonathan Livingstone Seagull was rejected 18 times and went on to sell a million copies in its first year and become a cult classic.

·         Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 140 times but has since sold more than 80 million copies in 37 languages, and spawned numerous extra versions.

·         Dubliners by James Joyce - yes, James Joyce - was rejected 22 times, and even when it was finally accepted only 1250 copies were printed.

·         After Carrie had been rejected 30 times, Stephen King threw it out. His wife retrieved it from the bin and persuaded him to keep trying. It has now become a horror classic and has been adapted for film and television.

·         Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was rejected 12 times, and only accepted by Bloomsbury because the CEO's eight-year-old daughter read it and insisted her father publish it.

I'm fed up with being rejected. But I believe in my book. So each time I get a rejection letter - or email - I just send it to the next agent in the list. Going to Authorhouse or similar would mean I had rejected my own book.  So I'll keep welcoming each rejection as a step closer to acceptance.

This is a subject a lot of authors will know a lot about Anna. I must say though, that your facts will provide inspiration for authors waiting for that eventual acceptance letter.


  1. Anna, I can't tell you how many times I've had writer acquaintances in that similar scenario. Meanwhile, I'm sure that e-publishing is the way of the future. But with a good agent, a good editor, and money flowing towards the author.

  2. I agree, and am coming round to that way of thinking. I was previously entirely opposed to self publishing (and the friend in question did fork out a lot of money he isn't going to make back) but it now looks as though epublishing is the way of the future. But as you say, a good editor is crucial. The agent is a bit more challenging...

  3. It really is a case of keep persevering and reminding yourself of all those other famous rejection stories...
    One day...
    E is definitely the way to go -but as a distribution mechanism -still think you need an agent/editor to get the best chance of actually making money