Wednesday, December 08, 2010


More than a few business writers have secret yearnings to also become novelists. There's a lot to be said for such literary aspiration, not least because it tends to spur higher standards for day-to-day 'non-creative' writing chores. However, most salaried business/government writers think of themselves as realists, inclined to estimate their chances of being published at close to zero, so fearful of likely rejection they are reluctant to make the effort. True, competition is tough, but it is for every wannabe writer, and has always been so. A refreshing dictum of screenwriter, William Goldman, is: "Nobody knows anything beforehand about what makes a successful script.".
Similar ignorance exists in the print publication world too; some acquisitions editors repeatedly unable to predict which manuscripts are potential best-sellers. (On a personal note, one of my own books was submitted to 23 firms before being accepted and becoming successful enough to be published on both sides of the Atlantic. It is still in print 20 years later, and continues to sell.)
If you are working on a book on the quiet, take heart in knowing that -- time and again -- publishers can be wrong about which manuscripts to bring out as a book. Here's just a few examples of now perennial best-sellers which had to first survive publishers' repeated rejections:
"Peter Rabbit" -- turned down 16 times.
"Love Story" -- turned down I I times
"M*A*S*H" --turned down 16 times.
"Silent Spring"" -- turned down 5 times.
"Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" -- turned down 12 times "Day Of “The Jackal" -- turned down 8 times.
"Jonathan Livingston Seagull"" -- turned clown 18 times.
"Kon-Tiki" -- turned down 23 times.
Now I've cheered you up, here’s a word of caution. Try not to write your book on company time.

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