Do you have a good literary rejection story for me?

Madeleine L'Engle w husband

Dear Literary Ladies,
A book that I’ve toiled on and believe in with all my heart has been rejected by more than a dozen publishers. Am I delusional? Maybe it’s no good after all. I need to hear a great story of a book that was rejected over and over but then became a smash success. Do you have such a story for me?

A Wrinkle in Time was almost never published. You can’t name a major publisher who didn’t reject it. And there were many reasons. One was that it was supposedly too hard for children. Well, my children were 7, 10, and 12 while I was writing it. I’d read to them at night what I’d written during the day, and they’d say, “Ooh, mother, go back to the typewriter!”

A Wrinkle in Time had a female protagonist in a science fiction book, and that wasn’t done. And it dealt with evil and things that you don’t find, or didn’t at that time, in children’s books. When we’d run through forty-odd publishers, my agent sent it back. We gave up.

Then my mother was visiting for Christmas, and I gave her a tea party for some of her old friends. One of them happened to belong to a small writing group run by John Farrar, of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which at that time did not have a juvenile list. She insisted that I meet John any how, and I went down with my battered manuscript. John had read my first novel and liked it, and read this book and loved it. That’s how it happened.

Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007)

Note: A Wrinkle in Time went on to sell millions of copies, and has won numerous awards. It also has the distinction of being one of the most banned books of all time. Madeleine L’Engle likely paved the way for authors of juvenile and young adult literature to be able to deal with darker themes—the Harry Potter series being just one example.

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