Beware the prevailing wisdom

Since it’s Halloween, I dug up statistics to scare you today: five of the best-selling books of the twentieth century were initially refused by more than a dozen publishers who simply did not understand their market appeal. Get a load of what got turned down:

Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H — rejected by 21 publishing houses.

Thor Heyerdahl’s KON-TIKI — rejected by 20 publishing houses.

Dr. Seuss’ first book, AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET — rejected by 23 publishing houses.

Richard Bach’s JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL — rejected by 18 publishing houses.

Patrick Dennis’ AUNTIE MAME — rejected by 17 publishing houses.

Frightened yet? These first books were roundly rejected back when it was significantly easier to get published, too — they were all written back when the major publishing houses were still willing to read unagented work, and back before so many of the major publishing houses consolidated into just a few. With this much editorial rejection, can you imagine how difficult it would have been for any of these books to find an agent today, let alone a publisher? And yet can you even picture the publishing world without any of them?

See — we writers don’t have to dig up old ghosts to scare ourselves silly. The odds alone are enough.

At one time, all of these authors were just wannabe writers with a dream, the kind who were told not to quit their day jobs. Aren’t you glad they didn’t listen to the prevailing wisdom?

Boo! And keep up the good work!

– Anne Mini

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