Thursday, February 2, 2017

Interview With The Expert On Author Rejection, Michael Alvear

The Bulletproof Writer:
How to Overcome Constant Rejection to Become an Unstoppable Author

1.      Mike, what compelled you to put together a list of rejected books that went on to fame and glory? I wanted to support a main theme in my new book--The Bulletproof Writer: How To Overcome Constant Rejection To Become An Unstoppable Author--that rejection is not necessarily an indictment of your work. There is no better way  to demonstrate that to show you classic best sellers who got rejected.

2.      Were there any titles that you were really surprised to see John your list?  All of them! In publishing, successes are public and failures are private. This sets up a perception bias among writers that they are the only ones being rejected when the truth is everyone around us is getting told “NO.”

3.     What were the biggest books to receive rejections? Depends on what you mean by biggest. Do you mean number of books sold like JK Rowling? Do you mean literary lions like Ernest Hemingway?  Classics like Catcher in the Rye? One of the things I love about the list I compiled is that shock is no longer possible.

4.     How long did it take to assemble? How did you go about researching this? I hired a librarian to do a lot of the footwork and then I decided to put the funny in it  by awarding the rejections with lines like, Most Likely To Make You Lactate With Rage.

5.     Why do you think so many critically-acclaimed, best-selling and noteworthy books were initially rejected by so many publishers? The typical reasons that all of us experience rejections --everything from publisher reticence (“We’ve published too many books like it,” editorial preference (“I don’t like this type of writing”) to market conditions (“We don’t know how to market this book because it’s cross-genre”).   Or it could have been that the editor was hungover or had indigestion when they picked up the manuscript.   Rejections and acceptances are so subjective that even the smallest things have a dramatic effect. For example,  the editor might simply not like your agent and dismiss anything he has to offer. I forgot to mention that we just published a sister page of famous rejections—The Biggest Collection Of Famous Rejection Letters, in which you can read the actual letters of rejection written to famous authors like Alice Walker.

6.     Does your list simply show that acquisition editors, like book critics, can make huge mistakes in judgment? YES.  Every book on my list is a testament to  bad judgment. The scary thing is to contemplate how many UNPUBLISHED manuscripts  don't see the light of day because of that bad judgment.

7.     Is your list a call to authors to self-publish or simply to not give up in the face of rejection? Yes and yes.  Self-publishing Comes with its own curses so I don’t automatically recommend it as an option.  

8.     Were you rejected as a writer? Rejection doesn’t just come in the form of manuscripts turned down. They come in the form of insulting advances, sparse book signing attendances, bad reviews, poor sales, the list goes on. I’m a full-time writer--I make a living at it-- So I have a right to say this:  The writer’s life is a constant stream of slights punctuated by blockbuster rejections.  I don't mean that to sound cynical or pessimistic because I love what I do but this is a brutal business that doesn't respond well to logic or common sense. f you don't have a coping strategy for that reality you will not make it as a writer.

9.     What advice do you have for struggling writers?' Developing resiliency is almost as important as developing your writing skills.

The author says this about his book: “It shows newbies, midlisters, self-published and best-selling authors how to transcend painful obstacles like rejected manuscripts, bad reviews, insulting advances and poor sales.  Using the latest studies in building grit and resiliency you’ll cultivate the inner strength needed to push through adversity and thrive under pressure”.

He also notes: “Publishing is one of the few industries that systematically rejects its most talented people.  To understand the scale of how badly it misjudges talent you only have to glance how many times publishers rejected writers like William Faulkner, Vladimir Nabokov, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Jack Kerouac, and John Le Carre. Brilliant writers like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Ursula Le Guin have amassed so many literary rejection letters they could build a bonfire and keep a lot of us warm for a week.”

Here are some sample books he noted on his famously rejected list:

·         The Help by Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before she found a publisher.  The Help spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

·         Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen received 140 rejections for their Chicken Soup for the Soul. They were told that anthologies don’t sell.  They proved them wrong by selling 125 million copies.

·         James Patterson’s The Thomas Berryman Number was turned down by 31 publishers.  Little did they know that it would become a bestseller and win the Edgar for Best Novel.

·         Dune by Frank Herbert received 23 rejections yet it went on to become one of the best-selling science fiction novels of all time.

·         Catch 22 by Joseph Heller received 21 rejections.  One rejection letter said, “I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say.  Apparently the author intends it to be funny.”

·         Stephen King’s first published novel Carrie was rejected 30 times.  One rejection letter said, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.  They do not sell.”

·         William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times.  One editor wrote that his book was, “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”  Since then it has been adapted to four films, translated into over 30 languages, and been read in quite a few high schools.

·         Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times.

·         Even though Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and sold 30 million copies.

Keep on writing – like these great writers, you too can break through!


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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