I’ve written a couple of posts in the past sharing some stories from the world of literature concerning all kinds of books and authors who overcame adversity to one day reach the dizzying heights of success. In the spirit of wanting to continue to spread positivity and to satisfy my own curiosity regarding such cases, here are a few more.
- Renowned poet E.E. Cummings had work rejected by 14 publishers. In an amusing twist of fate, he self-published the collection, No Thanks, in which he named and shamed them all in the dedication.
- Even after the first Harry Potter book was finally picked up for publication, JK Rowling was told not to quit her day job as success was very unlikely. She was also told to use her initials rather than her full name as boys “wouldn’t want to read a book written by a woman”.
- In a rejection letter for classic novel Moby-Dick, Herman Melville was asked, “does it have to be a whale?”
- Stieg Larsson was refused a place on a journalism course, being told he wasn’t good enough. He later went on to establish a powerful political magazine and became a best-selling author with his Millennium Series, which also spawned successful film adaptations.
- It took Jack Kerouac six years to attract a publisher for On the Road. Before that, it was described as a ‘badly misdirected talent’.
- Charles Dickens’ education was constantly interrupted by the need to work in factories to help his family financially, but his poverty stricken childhood would later inspire and influence much of his now celebrated works of fiction.
- An illustrated children’s book by a young Tim Burton was politely declined for publication. He went on to become a hugely successful and multi-award winning director, writer, poet and artist.
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë invited some harsh critical reception, with one reviewer going as far as to say “the success is not equal to the abilities of the writer”. Regardless, it has endured as a beloved classic and continues to be considered by many as a benchmark of its genre.
So there you have it. Even the greats of the literary world suffered their own set-backs. It didn’t stop them and it doesn’t have to stop anyone else either.