Tony Hillerman’s agent told him, ‘Get rid of the Indian stuff.’”
Number of times various books were rejected...
Harry Potter (12)
Carrie, Stephen King (30)
Diary of Anne Frank (16)
Dune, Frank Herbert (23)
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (38)
M*A*S*H, Richard Hooker (17)
And the all time winner, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (104)
How would you like to be one of the 12 dumb asses who rejected Harry Potter?
Thriller Guy is still letting Allen Appel write the posts...
As outlined in the last blog, my famous agent sent out Cross, my novel about a human/chimpanzee child/creature. The rejections began to come in, and they were pretty much all the same. I have learned, after writing a dozen or so more novels, many of which have earned their own fair share of rejections, that these things all follow the same formula.
“Mr. Appel is one whale of a storyteller! Not quite right for us.”
“The Catholic church is going to hate this one! Not quite right for us.”
“Wow! What a story! I'm sure someone will pick this up, though it's...”
You guessed it, “Not quite right for us.” After about 10 of these rejections, the agent gave up. I gave up as well and went back to what I was doing, which was being a photographer and illustrator. I wasn't bothered by the rejections, I just figured that it was sort of cool to have a big time agent and sort of fun to have had all these places reject me. Hey, I was young, what did I know?
So, an ex-girlfriend of mine was dating a small independent publisher in New York, Kent Carroll, who had his own company, Carroll and Graf Publishers. Kent had come up with a great idea: he was publishing reprints of famous old pornographic books, stuff written so long ago that the copyright had run out. These books sold well, (remember, this was around the mid-eighties, Internet porn wasn't really widespread yet) well enough that he took the money and used it to publish more literary stuff. He also had a line of Luis L'Amour westerns that had slipped out of copyright (he got sued on those and eventually gave them up) that he made money on. Kent asked me if I would do the covers for his line of porn, and I said sure. The pay was crappy, but I needed the money, and I certainly didn't have any scruples about porn. Still don't.
While doing the porn books, I told Kent about my foray into publishing with Cross. He asked to see it, I sent it to him, he liked it, but wasn't willing to take it on (hey, wait a minute, you do porn but you can do Chimpanzee/human sex?) So he asked me, would I be willing to write three chapters and an outline for an idea he had? What's the idea? I asked.
One night while he was riding home on the train to his house on Long Island he was thinking about where he'd like to go on vacation. He'd been all around the world, pretty much everywhere, and he thought where he'd really like to go was Russia in the year 1918. So he asked me, could I write a novel about a guy like him time traveling back to that place and time.
Why not? What did I know?
So I wrote three chapters about a guy Kent's age who was a history professor at the New School who goes back in time. Kent takes the pages, and goes to Dell and sells them the paperback rights for $20,000.00, gives me $10,000.00 and uses the other $10,000.00 to pay the production costs on the hardback when I finished the book. Time After Time and a series was born. The point here is, you never know how things are going to turn out when you write a book. I wrote one, it was rejected by a lot of folks, but it showed another publisher that I had the skills needed to write a novel, in particular the novel that publisher wanted written.
Kent Carroll was a genius. Eventually, I'll get to the story of why we broke up our publishing relationship, but I loved the guy then and had a great time writing what became a series of four books with Carroll and Graf.
Meanwhile, here's one of the C&G porn book covers I did.