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Believe it or not, not everyone can recognise a future hit when they see it. So often, wildly successful authors were rejected by publishers and agents before eventually making it big.

1. JK Rowling

Not only was JK Rowling’s manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone rejected 12 times before finally finding a home at Bloomsbury (the Potter series has sales totalling over 450 million copies worldwide), the author was also rejected several times after her record-breaking success. Rowling penned a crime novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and submitted it to publishers under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. One particularly nasty rejection letter advised Rowling to take a writing class. When the book was eventually published, it received critical acclaim before Rowling was unmasked as the author. 

2. Rudyard Kipling

Author of, among others, The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling was famously told by the editor of The San Francisco Examiner, that, “you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

3. Louisa May Alcott

The author of Little Women worked as a governess to earn money, while writing in her spare time. Publisher James T. Fields rejected Alcott’s work with the scathing words, “Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write.” When Little Women was published in 1868 and 1869, it was an immediate critical and commercial success. So much for Alcott’s writing ability.

4. Stephen King

One of the most popular and successful authors of the 20th century, Stephen King’s debut novel, Carrie, was rejected some 30 times by publishers. Were it not for King’s wife, Tabitha, the book may never have been published at all. Frustrated by the repeated rejections, King threw the manuscript into the bin, but Tabitha fished it out and encouraged him to keep trying.

5. Beatrix Potter

It’s difficult to comprehend, but Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected by several commercial publishers before Potter decided to self-fund an initial print run of 250 copies in 1901. Eventually, when the book had become a resounding success, publisher Frederick Warne & Co agreed to republish the book in 1902, this time with colour illustrations instead of the original black and white. Frederick Warne & Co had been one of the publishers to initially reject the book.

6. Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl was rejected by over 15 publishers when Otto Frank, Anne’s father, sought to have it published. After spending years as a popular book published in its original Dutch, the diary’s English translation was published by Doubleday in the US.

Which of these rejections surprises you the most?

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