Whether it’s in business or the arts, perseverance is key. These people did just that, and reaped the benefits.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is an earnest motivational phrase but starts to ring a little hollow for most of us after that third try. Perseverance is a noble quality, albeit a frustrating one for those among us who don’t possess another admirable quality: patience.
These writers tried one more time after numerous rejections, and that made all the difference.
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, JK Rowling: rejected by 12 publishers
JK Rowling’s personal story starts with her as a single mother living off welfare, and sees her become the world’s first billionaire author in 2004. It’s got to suck to be any of those 12 publishers.
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2. Star Wars: rejected by United Artists, Universal Pictures and Disney
Studios initially had reservations about the budget for Star Wars. Had they known it would turn out to hold the Guinness World Record for the Most Successful Film Merchandising Franchise, and be the second highest-grossing media franchise of all time, they might have thrown those reservations out the door.
3. Pulp Fiction: rejected by 3 studios
Columbia Pictures executives called it “the worst screenplay that this film company has ever been handed… awful”. It turned out to become a cult classic, grossing almost $214 million.
4. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov: rejected by 5 publishers
Lolita has combined sales of 50 million, despite one publisher’s recommendation that the book be “…buried under a stone for a thousand years”.
5. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: turned down by Columbia Pictures
It was only rejected by one studio, but the story will make you weep for them. E.T. was snapped up by Universal Pictures, with Columbia getting 5% of the film’s profits according to the deal that was made. That 5% made them more money than any of the other films the studio released on its own that year. Ranking as the greatest science fiction film ever made in a Rotten Tomatoes survey, winning 4 Academy Awards and grossing $792 million, that rejection was an enormous error in judgement.
6. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss: rejected by 27 publishers
Theodor Seuss Geisel, using the pen name, Dr. Seuss, was on his way home to burn the manuscript of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, when he met someone in the street that worked for publisher number 28. Today he is the 9th bestselling fiction author of all time, selling 11 000 books every day in the US alone.
7. Breaking Bad: rejected by 3 television networks
The show gained a cult following when AMC decided to run it, had a US viewership of more than 10 million people per episode at its peak, and is ranked #3 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest TV Shows of All time list.
8. The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks: rejected by 24 publishers
Spurring a series of blockbuster movies, Sparks’ first novel was eventually sold on his 25th try, and sold to Time Warner for $1 million just a week later.
9. Desperate Housewives: rejected by every major network
When ABC decided to run the show, it was an instant hit among viewers and critics alike, and ran for 8 seasons.
10. Back to the Future: rejected over 40 times
The original script for this cult classic eventually got backing from Steven Spielberg and Universal Pictures and ended up being the highest grossing film of 1985. It is ranked #10 on Film4’s list of 50 Films to See Before You Die.
11. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter: rejected by 6 publishers
One of the most popular children’s books of all time, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first self-published by Potter after numerous rejections. It was picked up by one of the publishers that initially rejected it, once its success became apparent. More than 2 million Beatrix Potter books are sold each year.
12. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig: holds the Guinness World Record for the most rejections by a bestseller
Rejected 121 times, this classic is regularly mentioned as a must-read for entrepreneurs.