Publishers and literary agents do not always know better. Here are some books / writers that almost did not become published:
“Not only does this bog down in the middle, but the author tends to
stay too long with non essentials. He seems to have little idea of pace,
and is enchanted with his words, his tough style, and that puts me off
badly.” Re: The Ipcress File, by Len Deighton.
“Things improve a bit with the rebuilding of the village but then go
to hell in a hack at the end. Perhaps there is a public that can take
all this with a straight face but I’m not one of them.” Re: Welcome to
Hard Times, by E.L. Doctorow
“It does not seem to us that you have been wholly successful in working out an admittedly promissing idea.” Re: Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.
“A duller story I have never read. It wanders a deep mire of affected
writing and gets nowhere, tells no tale, stirs no emotion but
weariness.” Re: In the Cage, by Henry James.
The novel is “… rather discursive and the point of view is not an
attractive one.” Re: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James
“I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” Re: Untitled work by Rudyard Kipling.
“You’re welcome to le Carre – he hasn’t got any future.” Re: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, by John le Carre.
“… superficial and unconvincing. I do not see this book as a very well told story on any level.” Re: The Assistant, by Bernard Malamud.
“It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” Re: Animal Farm, by George Orwell.
“A long, dull novel about an artist.” Re: Lust for Life, by Irving Stone.
“It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough
enough for the scientific reader.” Re: The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells.
“It contain unpleasant elements.” Re: The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.
Frederic Forsyth‘s The Day of the Jackal was rejected by nearly 50 publishers.
Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles was rejected by six publishers.
Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October was rejected by over two dozen publishers.
Jack King’s The Fifth Internationale was rejected almost 500 times.
John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was turned down by 28 publishers.
Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times.
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times.
The list goes on… As George Bernard Shaw said: “I object to
publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do
They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and
pettishness, without being either good business men or fine judges of
literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an
author and a bookseller, without the intermediate parasite.”