Writing an American Classic, One Rejection Letter at a Time, or, ‘We’re just Knopf that into you’

“…this is a badly misdirected talent and … this huge sprawling and inconclusive novel would probably have small sales and sardonic indignant reviews from every side.”  — Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. publishing house’s rejection letter of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, an American classic

As I talked about in a recent post, I have recently entered several writing contests and will be sending out query letters to agencies and production companies to promote my script, tentatively titled From Beyond. Or maybe it’s called Among the Spirits. Working titles, go figure.

I was disappointed to receive a couple of email rejection letters already, but I am (realistically) expecting many more.

I’m not stressing about it. Hell, I’m excited to get the cold shoulder. Because even the greats have been denied. Some of them in extremely insulting fashion.

“[1] Reject recommended

I’m not sure what Heinemann’s sees in this first novel unless it is a kind of youthful American female brashness. But there certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.”


–Knopf editor “Jbj” and his rejection of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, an American classic

“I shall bring forth upon all vampires an ass-handing like you wouldn’t believe. Even the sexy, brooding ones.”
Photocredit: http://www.peterubel.com

Rejection and failure are part of the deal for writers, certainly, but also anyone with a Dream. Notable examples of Heroes who have overcome rejection include:

Abraham Lincoln: Everybody’s heard this one. According to popular motivational lore, Honest Abe’s road to the White House was beset on all sides with failure and heartbreak. Honestly. Lincoln endured lost elections, vampires, failed business ventures, vampires, a dead sweetheart, vampires and a nervous breakdown before he achieved Heroisms of great historical resonance. He didn’t know when to quit. Honestly.

Colonel Sanders: The founder of KFC drove around the US, knocking on doors, sleeping in his car, trying to get someone to buy his fried chicken recipe. Legend has it that he was rejected 1,009 times before he succeeded. He must have gone through through ten plantation-owner white suits before he hit pay dirt.

The Beatles: Just before they blew up on a global scale, they went in to audition for an executive at Decca records. After recording a set that demonstrated their versatility, energy and charm, they received an abrupt Hello, Goodbye from the exec, who told their manager, Brian Epstein:

“Not to mince words, Mr. Epstein, but we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups are out; four-piece groups with guitars particularly are finished…The Beatles have no future in show business.”

Business executives, as we all know, are known for their vision and taste.

As I send my query letter, I will be eagerly anticipating the first real rejection letter, which is rite of passage for any writer.

“This office has taken a long time to say no to Nabokov’s Lolita which you and I both know was impossible at least for us… I wonder if any publisher will buy it.”

— Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.’s rejection letter of Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita, a (naturalized) American classic

Geez, these guys over at Knopf, Inc. really know their books… Knopf!!! I mean, not!!! They hate on the classics like some slouchy, indifferent teenagers in 3rd hour lit class.

Whatever your Dream is, don’t let the Greek Chorus of critics slow you down.


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3 Responses to Writing an American Classic, One Rejection Letter at a Time, or, ‘We’re just Knopf that into you’

  1. Pingback: Cry Havoc! And Let Slip Your Inner Chuck Norris! | Write Your Own Story!

  2. Miguel J. Zambrana Villanueva says:

    Never give up!

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