1. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Harry Potter rejected by 20 publishers?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by DefinitelyMaybe, Sep 19, 2012.

    Is it true that J K Rowling received 20 rejections from publishers before her first Harry Potter book was accepted for publication?

    If so, how does this sort of thing happen?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This has happened quite a bit with famous authors/books. Publishing is a risky business. It's hard for a publisher to predict how well a book by a new author is going to do.
     
  3. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I heard it was 12 rejections but whether its 12 or 20 its a lot. I do think J.K Rowling is to be congratulated on her persistence and her self believe. It's a lesson to all aspiring novelists and writers, and we should keep this foremost in our minds, to help us carry on whenever we have a rejection or are afflicted from self doubt. I do any way.
     
  4. Squeakyfiend
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    Squeakyfiend Member

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    It just goes to show that you should never worry about a rejection. It has happened to a lot of big names. You never know, if the first publisher accepted her work, it might never have gotten as famous!
     
  5. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    It is important to note that the publishers who rejected Harry Potter may not have missed out in quite the way you think.

    It is natural to think "they threw away millions!"

    But, the publishers who rejected the ms likely had done so because they felt they could not profit from it. Had they taken on the project, maybe they would not hae marketed it nearly as successfully. Had J.K.Rowling been accepted by the very first publisher, and had they been less than enthusiastic, Harry Potty may have languished on the shelves until being cast into the bargain bin.

    We just don't know.

    So the "how does this happen" comes down to a fact that the aspiring writer should be aware of: being "good" isn't always good enough.

    Having a good manuscript is important. But a publisher also needs to be ale to feel the book is marketable. If they don't feel it is marketable, they won't publish it. If they publish something they are unsure of, they may not want to pour tons of publicity into it so that they minimize their risks. If your book gets the latter treatment, you may be better off with a rejection and try knocking in the next door.
     
  6. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    When J.K Rowlings book was first published her book was only available in libraries because the publisher didn't think it would make any money from it, they took a chance, and only sent out 16 books, which actually turned out to be lucky for them and for Rowling - the rest is history as they say. I see no problem in taking a chance with my MS, in the words of JK, 'What's the worse that can happen, I can be turned down my every publisher in the land' (I'm paraphrasing) I do know that sometimes Ms are sent back with explanations why they have been rejected, this can be very helpful, then you can learn from your mistakes. My motto has always been: if you don't TRY you're never succeed.
     
  7. tiffanylyn
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    tiffanylyn Member

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    The question posed originally was that she was rejected by publishers. Was she sending her ms directly to publishers or did she have an agent? When I decided I would look into publishing my work I had no idea that authors contacted agents first, and that contacting a publisher directly is frowned upon.

    Is an author trusting the agent to pick this publisher well, or should an author be well versed in the publishing world? I ask because I wonder how J.K. Rowling helped this process along when her publisher seemed reticent.
     
  8. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have now read conflicting reports, some saying that she submitted 20 times, some 12. The 12 one said that it was her agent that sent in the manuscript.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Twelve or twenty - I thought it was some huge number! Not quite the Cinderella story I had supposed, then.
     
  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Every author has been rejected numerous times - I read Stephen King hammered a spike in his college dorm room and stuck every
    rejection slip on the spike and at the end of the year counted them - I think it was like 200.

    If you look at the time when Harry Potter came out fantasy wasn't really in style - Horror from the early 90's like Goosebumps
    was still going strong along with preteen girl series like the Saddle Club. Television and movies were running more along
    the line of cyber punk or teen horror, or family shows like Seventh Heaven. Whoever picked up Harry Potter would be
    taking a risk, bucking the trends. Sometimes this pays off , sometimes it doesn't.
     
  11. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Only twelve. That isn't a lot if you think about how many publishing companies there are.
     
  12. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    I heard it was a hundred.

    Anyway, I'm betting those publishers are thinking,"Hot damn! I just threw away fifty million dollars!"

    [Yes, Stephen King did do the spoke thing, I think he mentioned it in his biography. Eventually he couldn't fit any more rejection slips on to that spoke as it was too full.]
     
  13. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    But they really didn't.

    If another publisher had taken on the project and not been enthusiastic about it, it would have languished unread on a shelf.

    The reality is, there are probably books out there making peanuts that have the potential to make Harry Potter level dollars. But, the author landed the book with a publishing house that didn't target the right market, didn't release it at the right time or maybe just designed a really bad cover.

    It is instinct to think that Harry Potter is simply ordained by God and destined for success. The reality is that good writing is only part of the equation that leads to commercial success. Had any number of other publishers taken on the project, it may have ended up one of the many great works that don't achieve commercial success.

    While a publisher may regret having rejected a college kid named Stephen King, I am certain they realize that they did it for a reason. They, for whatever reason, felt unable or unwilling to make Stephen King a success. Personally, I think he should be grateful that they didn't take hm on only to do a crappy job. Him landing as he did worked out the best for everyone (including the publishers who rejected him).
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The usual reason for hiring an agent is so that the agent can use his/her contacts in the industry to find an appropriate publisher. Contacting the publisher is not so much frowned upon as disadvantageous, especially for a first-time writer. After all, an agent is relying on contacts in the industry and knowledge of the industry to find the publisher(s) most likely to be interested in the writer's work, and the very fact that it is being presented by an agent will give it greater visibility than if it is just another part of the slush pile. It has been said that it is actually easier for a writer to find a willing publisher than an agent, but I have seen that notion debunked here and I don't believe it myself. There are writers who find publishers on their own and then hire agents to handle negotiations for them, I suppose, but my own view is that by the time the publisher has been found, the agent's hardest work is done.
     
  15. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've found someone who appears to be a great agent in my small city. However, they aren't accepting submissions at the moment. On their website they list the authors they manage, and boos they have published. And it looks as if these authors have great careers, with some having published very many books. Their procedure for accepting submissions, when they're open for such, looks very sensible. Though I don't want to write too much and identify the agent. I've already come up with a synopsis I could submit to them, matching their market and consistent with their style. Even if they opened up for submissions now, I wouldn't send it in. I need to be able to write properly first. But, it's certainly an opportunity that I've got my eye on.
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If it's a work of fiction, don't even think about submitting until it is 100% completed. Not just a first draft, either, but one you've reviewed and edited countless times to make sure not only that all SPaG errors are fixed, but that inconsistencies in plot are corrected, factual material is vetted, no one is being defamed or copyrights being violated, and someone else you trust for honesty and directness has read it and told you what (s)he thinks (as a rule, I wouldn't trust a spouse for this - unless they are editors themselves, they are likely to think that everything you write is either brilliant or that your time would be better spent doing house repairs, depending on their attitudes toward writing).
     

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