I don’t want to ruffle any professional feathers, but the Professionals don’t always get it. I don’t know if they stay locked in their stuffy offices too long or if they are mesmerized by their own bios, but something, somewhere occasionally gets disconnected.
The book series Chicken Soup For the Soul? It was rejected 144 times. Professional publishers, one hundred and forty-four times, said they had no time for that chicken soup stuff.
Twelve publishers and sixteen agents rejected John Grisham’s A Time To Kill.
Seventeen publishers turned down The Princess Diaries.
Thirty-eight said no to Gone With the Wind.
What were they thinking? Or were they?
Those folks who decide whose manuscript will live and whose will die often live in circles isolated from book lovers. Declared professionals by the embossed business cards they so kindly include with each rejection letter, they seem to think if they believe it then the rest of the world must accept it. And I guess some writers do. But those who persist will eventually find that the Professionals aren’t always right.
One of the sixteen Professionals who rejected Irving Stone’s Lust For Life, called it a “long, dull novel about an artist.” There must be a market for long, dull novels. It sold more than 25 million copies.
Professionals are only human. Because they control access to important places, we, and they, sometimes think they are smarter than everybody else. But most of the time, they have the keys to the office because they can be trusted to keep the well-oiled systems rolling along despite what is happening all around them. Bought a Polaroid camera lately? Seen IBM’s newest computer?
When Rudyard Kipling submitted a short story to the San Francisco Examiner, he was told that he didn’t know how to use the English language.
A dozen publishers, including huge houses like Penguin and HarperCollins, could have boasted of making J.K. Rowling the world’s richest author (not to mention enjoying a chunk of that profit themselves), but they all passed on Harry Potter.
Andy Andrew’s bestseller The Traveler’s Gift was turned down by fifty-one Professionals before the wife of one convinced him to reconsider.
And that Harry Potter series? Bloomsbury, the small London house that published Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, only did so because the CEO’s eight-year-old daughter begged her father to.
Keep writing. Keep working. Somebody out there wants to read what your passion has compelled you to say.
The Professionals aren’t always right.