17 Best seller that were initially rejected by publishers

17 Best seller that were initially rejected by publishers

For every writer ‘being a published author’ is a dream they’ve seen since moment when the idea of story sparked first. That dream will become a mad desire by the time when that small idea grew to a book through the words, sentences and paragraphs on the paper. By the time they’ve completed their writings, they barely handle the blow of ‘rejected book’ by the publishers.

Rejections then can be like a cold bucket of water splashing away all warmth of hope. Those are the toughest times that bring the best out of us. The amazing thing is the beginning is always the hardest so never give up.

Here are some bestsellers rejected book by people who found their solid ground amidst the tempest of hardships and rejections.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Bestseller that initially rejected - The Sun Also Rises by Ernest HemingwayErnest Hemingway’s rejected book, “The Sun Also Rises” was called “tedious and offensive” in the rejection letter from Peacock and Peacock. The beautiful style with which human relations and their evolution has been depicted is quite exceptional.

Since its print in 1926 it is the most translated and printed title ever. And it has also found many adaptations failing the initial opinion.


Dubliners by James Joyce

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Dubliners by James JoyceThis After 22 consecutive rejections when a publisher risked to launch James Joyce collection of short stories- Dubliners in 1914, he wasn’t met with any kind of astounding fame.

Merely 379 copies could find buyers. But as it turns out today Dubliners is one of the most sought after work of James Joyce who is celebrated for his influential writings from 20th Century.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Lord of the Flies by William GoldingThis rejected book may appear to be dark and brutal but is revolving around the basic theme of humanity, the one that was rejected ruthlessly 22 times before it found a publisher, Faber and Faber who kept its launch story a secret from T. S. Eliot, an advisor and poet afraid he may not like it.

The Lord of the Flies though was a big flop selling approximately 5000 copies but in a decade its acclaim flourished. The book has sold 15 million copies and was also a favorite of Stephen King, another well-known author.


Animal Farm by George Orwell

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Animal Farm by George Orwell‘Dull, obvious and boring’ were the adjectives used for George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm” and was rejected by 4 publishing houses before its release in 1946 by Secker and Warburg, where it sold nearly 20 million copies.

The enriching novella depicts with precise clarity the events that lead to Russian Revolution and then back to tyranny using simple farm animals. It is now recognized as a work of great social and political significance. Controversial as it was, it remains a breakthrough in political satire today.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Lolita by Vladimir NabokovThis rejected book was refused by all major publishing houses on the ground of being controversial, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita turned out to be one of the best works in erotica literature from 20th Century after being published by Olympic Press in 1955.

What was initially called “overwhelmingly nauseating, revolting” and was recommended to be ‘buried under a stone for 1000 years’ from fear of its disregard became a bestseller with 50 million copies being sold till date.


The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Bestsellers that initially rejected - The Help by Kathryn StockettLife isn’t a bed of roses but the thorns can’t scare the gritty one away. After the 60 rejections by literary agents and despite the physical exertion due to her impending pregnancy, Kathryn Stockett went to the 61 literary agent bringing The Help to life.

It soon grabbed a position in the New York Times bestsellers list till next 100 weeks.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Bestsellers that initially rejected - The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger | The Bookish ElfThis rejected book is a wonderful blend of science and romance, a metaphor for the author’s own life.

It was rejected 30 times before it finally found a place in the pages from where it made way into hearts of the readers, found fame and is widely adapted.



The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Bestsellers that initially rejected - The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank | The Bookish ElfA detailed uncensored narrative through innocent eyes, simple yet heart wrenching still one of the most eloquent and relatable account of the impact of Nazism on Jews life and life styles.

It is a valuable piece of literature which rejected 16 times and comments that claimed Anne to be devoid of “special perception of feelings” and more; before ‘Making it Big’.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Bestsellers that initially rejected - The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger | The Bookish ElfJ. D. Salinger was told that his protagonist wasn’t very well presented. He edited his manuscript producing “The Catcher in the Rye”.

With the subjective style of writing, from Holden’s Caulfield’s point of view; the controversial piece of literature based on themes of teenage angst and alienation though meant for adults snagged the adolescent crowd too. With a sales of more than 65 million copies, it sells 1 million per year.


The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Bestsellers that initially rejected - The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling | The Bookish ElfRudyard Kipling’s masterpiece is full of adventure, thrill and childhood enthusiasm. The beautifully knitted world of fantasy with Mowgli, Rikki-tikki-tavi and the amazing scenery of the Jungle book has the child in everyone enraptured .

Yet before it found its way into the print world; the book was rejected while the editor went ahead to claim that Mr. Kipling didn’t ‘know how to use the English language’.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley | The Bookish ElfAnother famous rejected book that had to course through the tempest of rejections before it met the dawn of its fame was “Frankenstein”.

The classic infusion of Gothic and Romantic Movement elements by Mary Shelley and her gift of one of the best horror heroes; Frankenstein which was created on a winter evening wasn’t inked in the history of time without criticism and refusal.


The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

Bestsellers that initially rejected - The War of the Worlds by H G Wells | The Bookish ElfAn amazing standing that “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells has today isn’t without perseverance. It has received comment like “An endless nightmare”, “A horrid book” and the book that won’t take.

It has come a long way being serialized in Pearson’s Magazine in 1897. A complete volume came in 1898 with never-ending readership keeping it in print ever since and vagaries of triumphant adaptations.

Carrie by Stephen King

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Carrie by Stephen King | The Bookish ElfRejections can be tough but 30 rejections piled on a book spine can banish all shreds of hope. Such was the dismay that compelled Stephen King to shove his first manuscript into the dustbin after being told ‘science fiction with negative utopias’ weren’t welcome.

His wife retrieved the manuscript and asked him to give it one last try. Which turned it into a renowned science fiction novel- Carrie, selling 1 million copies in a year.


Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Life of Pi by Yann Martel | The Bookish ElfBefore winning the prestigious Bookers Prize, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, an amazing saga of adventure with creative elements was refused the opportunity of publication at 5 famous London publishing house.

This rejected book carved its niche by selling more than Pi (the mathematic numeral) copies. It shocked the world when it started selling feverishly after the movie was released.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Harry Potter and the philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling | The Bookish ElfThe legendary world of witches, wizards and Qudditch that dripped off J.K. Rowling’s pen, and has spread like wildfire globally is an exemplary achievement.

It’d shock you to know that ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ was rejected 12 times before it appealed to the Bloomsbury editor’s child. Like all changes with revolutionary potential, the book fought the resistance and found its corner in many lives.


The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

Bestsellers that initially rejected - The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi | The Bookish ElfAnother page-turner, an amazing blend of mythology, adventure and creative thinking, “The Immortals of Meluha” by Amish Tripathi was believed by publishers to be a “religious book” which won’t interest the youth and hence rejected.

Amish says, “I stopped counting after 20 rejections” but his belief kept him going. He self-published the book. It became the sensation selling over 1 million copies becoming No 1 National Bestseller.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Bestsellers that initially rejected - Twilight by Stephenie Meyer | The Bookish ElfAll great things take time and effort and so did the book featuring the teenage Bella Swann who falls for the old, handsome vampire in “Twilight”. It was rejected 14 times before becoming bestseller.

After author found a publisher,  17 million copies of book were sold. It became a sensation and grabbed a place in the New York Times Bestsellers list for 91 consecutive weeks.


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  1. This is not even the complete list. Very many great books were rejected for years before they got their chance. I read a story a few years ago about a man who re-typed a pulitzer prize book word for word and submitted it less than two years later and it got rejected. Editor said “It looks a little like-______” Se what we are up against?”

  2. Wow. What an amazing list. It just goes to show that some publishers are completely clueless, but also that the great reads will eventually make it to the top. The Immortals of Meluha is the only one I hadn’t heard of.

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