Number of manuscript rejections

19 May 2012 / 2 comments
Last week I received two manuscript rejections. But my salvation was coming across James Hughes’s list of famous literary rejections (via William Yatscoff’s guest post on my blog). It was the perfect antidote to the feeling that nobody is ever going to like my book enough to publish it. Here is my shortlist of famous literary rejections that I will return to, any time I need to lift my spirits again:

William Golding, Lord of the Flies, 20 rejections
James Joyce, The Dubliners, 22 rejections
Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind, 38 rejections
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 121 rejections

It made me wonder how many times my Searching for Von Honningsberg manuscript has been rejected. Publisher Michael Hanrahan recently said in his guest post on my blog:

If the rejections really start to pile up, it’s time to look at your manuscript again. You might reach a point where it’s time to admit the truth; maybe your book needs more work.

I had no idea how many times Searching for Von Honningsbergs has been rejected. Each time I receive a rejection, I hastily file it under by ‘Book’ subfolder on my email system, as though if it is removed from my inbox, then it can’t torment me any more.

I went back through that dreaded ‘Book’ email subfolder to find out just how many rejections I had so far received...

Vogel Award (longlisted), 2007
Allen & Unwin (reader’s assessment, as a result of longlisting in Vogel Award), 2007
Australian Society of Authors Mentorship program, 2008
Text Publishing, 2008
Curtis Brown, Agent, 2009
Jenny Darling, Agent, 2009
Victorian Premier’s Award, 2009
Allen & Unwin, Friday Pitch, 2011
Sleepers Publishing, 2011
Rickshaw Publishing, 2011
Holland Park Press, 2011
Transit Lounge Publishing, 2012
Hachette Australia, 2012
Text Publishing, 2012
Snowbooks, 2012

So 15 recorded rejections to date (including awards, agencies and a mentorship program).

It is hard to believe that the closest I’ve come to some sort of success was the very first submission I made – to the Vogel Award in 2007. Was this a good thing for me, or not? Perhaps if Searching for Von Honningsbergs had been rejected back then, I would have scrapped it and started on a new book – as I was more likely to do in the past. Or perhaps I would have given up on my literary aspirations all together and been content to have a normal 9-5 job?

But because I received that initial encouragement, it was hard to let it go. And now, 14 rejections and two extensive rewrites later, it’s harder than ever to give up on it!


  1. I started reading it last night and loved it. I have three little kids who interrupted me and they demanded my attention until I fell asleep. I've been thinking about it all day and about to get back to it. You're a great writer. Don't give up.

    Fleur Ferris

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement! Let me know if and when your work is up on Authonomy too!


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