Monday, April 22, 2013

It Took Stephen King 4 Novels...And Other Inspirational Publishing Examples To Keep You Going When The Going Gets Tough

that kid in sixth grade who gave you a wedgieHi Writing Friends.  Ever have one of those weeks?  Or hell, one of those months?  You know the one I'm talking about - where your computer starts to look like that kid from sixth grade who atomic-wedgied you in the bathroom, and publication sounds like the name of an invite-only party you conveniently never received an invitation for (but you bought the dress, the shoes, and the purse to match and now you have no where to wear them to.)

I've heard the urban legends - So And So wrote 50 novels and submitted eighty bajillion queries before landing their Dream Agent and subsequently their Dream Publisher and then went on to become a universe-crushing best selling author. But are the stories true? Or are they just urban legends?

Turns out they are totally, 100% true.  So for those of you who are having one of those my-computer-is-an-asshole-and-why-did-I-ever-think-I-could-do-this weeks, I thought I'd share some of my favorite totally true stories of publication inspiration.

Stephen King Threw Carrie Away.

Carrie was not SK's first attempted novel, but his 4th, and it almost never saw the light of day because he tossed the type-written pages into the trash.  Thankfully, his wife saw the potential and fished them out.  Carrie became King's first published novel, went on to become an international best seller, and now he's the literary King Of The Universe. If it wasn't for SK, I wouldn't have my gut-wrenching fear of clowns, but who cares?  Those things are creepy as hell anyways.

Dean Koontz Wrote 4 Novels That Never Sold

Koontz attributes his own self-doubt to his early novel writing struggles.  He'd had some early success with short stories, but ended up shelving 4 manuscripts before his novel-writing career took off.  According to interviews, he will never publish the shelved works. The beauty of hindsight taught him that they weren't ready for publication, and he now knows that he needed those early attempts to help build his craft.

It Took Over Two Years to Sell The Sookie Stackhouse Books

A world without True Blood?  Say it ain't so.  Lucky for all of us, Harris's agent was tenacious in his quest to sell Dead Until Dark, the first in The Southern Vampire Series.  Harris published several other mystery series before writing Sookie's story, but according to her they were only mildly successful and she was always at risk of being cut from her publisher. Her desire to write something different lead to the creation of the Bon Temps-based series, but it took over two years before her agent sold it to a publisher.  Turns out it didn't suck after all.

*Looks around room.  Realizes no one is laughing. Scuttles off to pun in shame*

The Help Was Rejected By Over 60 Agents

No joke. Stockette was rejected over 60 times before she landed her literary agent. It took her 5 years to write the story and countless nights locked up in a hotel room feverishly revising before she struck gold.  It went on to sell over 5 million copies, spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and I'm sure the whole movie/Oscar thing didn't hurt either.

It wasn't Always Happily Ever Afters for Danielle Steel

Love her or hate her, no one can argue with Steel's prolific career. I've had the pleasure of walking past her castle, er, house, in San Francisco, and trust me when I say she is doing just fine. But it wasn't always HEA's for Mrs. Steel.  As she said on her blog:  "I was very lucky that my first book published - but the next 5 weren't, and were never sold or published.  But my 7th book was.  If I had given up before that, I would never have had the career I have today. So you just have to keep at it and not give up (as with most things in life), and keep writing."  What would the Lifetime network have done if she'd given up before that 7th book?  My Sunday afternoons would be much less entertaining, that's for sure.

Nora Roberts Was Rejected, And She Turned Out Just Fine

According to an interview, Roberts had three years of hard work and several rejected manuscripts behind her when she finally published her first novel in 1981. She's since written over 200 novels and was the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Not too shabby for someone who received a boatload of form rejections from Harlequin before hitting gold.

Somewhere In The World There's an Agent and an Editor Who Said No to Harry Potter

True story - a friend of mine in the publishing industry sent a form rejection to J.K. Rowling. She didn't read the manuscript, but someone in her office did and they made the decision to pass.  In fact, it took almost a year to sell Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone. And as for Ms. Rowling's quest to find an agent, she too fell victim to the infamous form rejection before she met her match.  It just goes to show you - the business really is subjective, and one person's trash is another one's treasure.

Keep writing, people. It's the only surefire way to make your publishing dreams come true.


  1. Things like this remind me that I'm really only at the beginning of the journey. It's still frustrating though.

  2. I here this all the time. Until my name is one of them, I'm not a believer that anyone can do it!

  3. oops hear this all the time.

  4. Thanks for the reminders. Just keep plugging at it and who knows maybe someday?!