If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Written by Hollye Dexter

I recently read an interview with Kathryn Stockett, author of the New York Times #1 bestselling novel The Help, which is now being made into a film. She said her book was initially rejected by 60 agents and publishers.
4 agents rejected my first book, and I went back to the drawing board to reassess. Maybe they have a good point, I thought. Maybe it really is too hard to sell a childhood memoir right now if you have no “platform”. In other words, if you’re not a celebrity or reality TV star, no one cares what your story is.
60 rejections. Wow. There is something about that kind of persistence that boggles my mind. When I get doors slammed in my face, I take it as a sign that I must be knocking on the wrong doors, or headed down the wrong path, so I retreat. But maybe I’ve got it all wrong?
Jack London received hundreds of rejection letters. In fact, he papered his study with them.
The movie It’s a Wonderful Life was a commercial flop, quickly shelved after it’s original release.
33 publishers rejected Chicken Soup for the Soul (who’s cryin’ now?).
Dr Suess’ first children’s book was rejected 24 times.
And…I love this one. Decca records rejected The Beatles- stating that “guitar music was on the way out”, and the Beatles had no future in show business.
I just finished reading The Help, and loved every page of it. It is a beautifully told story of race relations in Mississippi in the sixties, and the change that was coming. I do believe this book, even though it is fiction, has a lot to teach us, especially in parts of the country where racism is still prevalent. I also believe the movie will help to open hearts and minds. 
It left me wondering…what if, after, say…30 rejections, or even 59, Stockett had given up on this beautiful and important story? What if It’s A Wonderful Life got shelved forever? What if the Beatles took Decca records comments to heart, and their music never touched our lives?
I am now working on a second memoir that my agent is interested in and thinks she can sell. But what about my first book? What if I keep sitting on it forever, afraid of what may happen if I release it into the world?
So I ask you , dear readers, in your own experience, when do you try, try again? And when do you try another direction?

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  1. Anonymous

    I say knowing you, just keep writing and submitting while you work on new works. You words are meant to be heard by millions. Love you Hollye Dexter.

  2. Anonymous

    What a wonderful observation! It would be a sad world without the works you mentioned, so we should definitely learn to keep trying again and again – ESPECIALLY if we feel strongly about our story. We keep revising and submitting until it gets picked up. 🙂 That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.

    I, too, read The Help and loved it! It's a remarkable story about our nation's past that shouldn't be overlooked.

  3. Dolores

    Your comment about the Beatles made me remember this video:


    Can you imagine the world without any of those people? Can you imagine what would have happened if they gave up because someone dismissed them? Can you imagine TV without Lucille Ball?! I don't know if I know the answer to your question, but I think you just keep going because it's what you do. It goes back to your other blog post about not being qualified but doing it anyway. Once your heart sets you onto that path I don't think you can stop it.

  4. Deb

    Hollye, I always feel that if I can easily let something I do slide after a rejection then I do. But if it will not leave my head and my heart, I will keep trying to find a place for it. For what it's worth.

  5. Jennifer Wolfe

    Hi fellow blogger!

    I just wanted to shoot you a quick note letting you know that I've enjoyed your blog and have chosen you to receive The Versatile Blogger Award! You can read about it on my blog, mamawolfe, at http://mamawolfe-living.blogspot.com.

  6. Hollye Dexter

    Thanks for piping in, Alexandra- nice to hear from you.
    Dolores- No I don't want to think about a world in which we weren't inspired and changed by the genius of the Beatles! Thank goodness we don't have to!
    Deb- I agree, and this book keeps nudging at me, so I know there's still a life for it. Maybe it's just waiting for the right moment.
    Mamawolfe- Thank you! I'll head over to your site and check that out right now. : )

  7. Debra DeAngelo

    I so admire anyone who can just COMPLETE something to submit! I can't even get that far. Just keep on plugging away at it, Hollye. I know of writers who papered their office walls with rejection slips. And then got published. Keep pushing! 🙂


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