15 Best-Selling Books That Faced Rejection and Prove Publishers Don’t Know What They’re Doing

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Even the most famous authors faced rejection at some point in their careers. Publishers initially turned away these 15 best-selling books, but they went on to become literary classics and commercial successes. Their stories remind us that perseverance pays off, even in the face of initial setbacks.

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

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Believe it or not, the magical world of Hogwarts was initially rejected by several publishers. Now, it’s one of the best-selling series of all time, enchanting readers, young and old.

“Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell

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This sweeping Southern epic faced numerous rejections before finding a home with a publisher. It went on to become one of the most beloved and enduring novels in American literature.

“Dune” by Frank Herbert

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Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece, set in a distant future on the desert planet Arrakis, was rejected by more than 20 publishers. Today, it’s considered one of the greatest achievements in the genre.

“The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

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Anne Frank’s poignant diary providing a window into the life of a Jewish girl during the Holocaust, faced rejection before finding a publisher. Now, it’s a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett

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Kathryn Stockett’s powerful novel about race relations in the American South was rejected over 60 times. Yet, it went on to captivate readers around the world and was even adapted into a successful film.

“Carrie” by Stephen King

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Before Stephen King became a household name in horror, “Carrie” was rejected by numerous publishers. Now, it’s considered a classic of the genre, and King’s works have sold over 350 million copies.

“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle

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Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved sci-fi/fantasy novel faced rejection before it won the Newbery Medal. Readers of all ages now cherish it for its imaginative storytelling and memorable characters. It’s also a great movie!

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

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Harper Lee’s iconic novel addressing racial injustice in the American South was initially rejected. Now, it’s a staple of high school literature curriculums and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir

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Numerous publishers turned down this gripping tale of survival on Mars before finding success through self-publishing. It later became a best-seller and was adapted into a successful film starring Matt Damon.

“The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter

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Beatrix Potter’s beloved children’s classic was initially rejected, leading her to self-publish it. Now, Peter Rabbit and his adventures are cherished by generations of young readers.

“Watership Down” by Richard Adams

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Richard Adams’ epic tale of a group of rabbits searching for a new home was rejected by multiple publishers. It went on to become a best-seller and a classic of children’s literature.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig

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This philosophical novel, blending personal narrative with philosophy, was initially rejected by over 100 publishers. It later became a cultural phenomenon and a cornerstone of modern philosophical literature.

“Chicken Soup for the Soul” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

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This heartwarming collection of inspirational stories faced rejection by over 140 publishers. It’s now one of the best-selling book series in history, with numerous titles covering various topics.

“The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

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William Golding’s haunting exploration of human nature and civilization faced initial rejection. It has since become a staple of high school literature curriculums and a powerful allegory. Although many believe it should be banned and is inappropriate for students to read.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger

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Audrey Niffenegger’s innovative love story, blending elements of science fiction and romance, was initially rejected by multiple publishers. It went on to become a best-seller and was adapted into a successful film starring Rachel McAdams.

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