Writing Success Stories

January 12, 2009 in On Writing by pacejmiller

That last post was too depressing, so I’ve decided to share some success stories to cheer myself up.

JK Rowling and Stephen King

jk-rowlingMost people have probably heard of the most famous ones, like JK Rowling and Stephen King.  Rowling was a single mother on unemployment benefits, and the first Harry Pottstephen-kinger manuscript was rejected by all 12 publishing houses it was submitted to.  Now she’s one of the richest women in the world.  King, on the other hand, spent years getting rejected, submitting short stories to magazines for chump change and even pumped gas for a living.  There’s no need to describe how successful he is now.

Both authors apparently had a bit of luck.  In Rowling’s case, rumour has it that the daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman read the first chapter and urged her dad to get the rest of the manuscript, which led to publication.  For King, he had thrown the draft of Carrie into the trash, and had it not been for the encouragement of his wife to continue the story, it would never have been finished.

Nicholas Sparks

nicholas-sparks1Famous soppy romance novelist, Nicholas Sparks, is one of my favourite success stories.  In short, he wrote The Notebook while selling pharmaceuticals and sent 25 query letters to agents.  Only one, a rookie agent, agreed to represent him.  He ended up selling the book for a cool $1 million.

You should read about his story for yourself at his webpage.  Here are the links to the stories of how he found an agent and how he found a publisher:



Also have a browse of his very interesting and informative “Writer’s Corner”, very worthwhile.

rockySylvester Stallone

I only came across this the other day.  I don’t want to spoil it, so I will say no more.  Follow this link (http://www.rockysdream.com) on how Sylvester Stallone shot to stardom with Rocky (which he wrote), as told by motivator Tony Robbins.  The guy really does know how to tell a story. 

Matthew Reilly

The guy may come across has a bit of a toss, but one cannot deny that Matthew Reilly knows how to write excitement.  His story is also one of continued persistence and hard work.  After being rejecmatthew-reillyted by every major publishing house in Sydney, he decided to self-publish 1000 copies by borrowing money from his family.  Unbelievably, he even lost some of his books from the back of his car through theft.  However, eventually one of the copies of his book Contest was picked up (from the book store he negotiated with) by an editor from Pan MacMillan, and he went on to sell several bestsellers.

Reilly also comes across as a bit of a shameless self-promoter (maybe that’s what you need to be), but you cannot help but admire the things he did to get to where he is today.

And more…

The list goes on and on.  Just about every famous writer ever has an inspiring story of success or funny rejection story to tell.   Here are just a few examples of what famous authors have received in their rejections (from Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections):

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: “Sentimental rubbish…Show me one page that contains an idea.”

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: “I haven’t really the foggiest idea of what the man is trying to say.”

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: “It does not seem to us that you have been wholly successful in working out an admittedly promising idea.”

And last but not least, my 2 favourites:animal-farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”


Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence: “For your own good do not publish this book.”

I’ll add more success stories or funny quotes if I come across any (or if I remember them).