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3 Classic Novels That Almost Failed

3 Classic Novels That Almost Failed

The quest to become a writer is laughably insane. You’ve got to lock yourself in a room, deplete your local economies coffee supply, and somehow transfer what’s in your grey matter to the page. Then comes the part that most of us are woefully unprepared for—selling that idea to someone who sees the genius of your work.

Whether it’s soliciting traditional publishers through agents and query letters or self publishing, writers are the ones who have to pitch their work. Without that relentless effort and tolerance for rejection, some famous books would of never seen print. Thick-skinned authors aside, for a book to come to life, it needs readers to believe in it. That’s why Geek & Sundry is joining forces with Inkshares for their new fantasy contest.

Vote on your favorite story by pre-ordering the book you want to read. As a survivor from the Nerdist Collection Contest, I’ve witnessed firsthand that friends and family can only take you so far. Readers, like you, are the ones who make these contests worthwhile. For without someone taking a chance on a crazy idea, even these three classic fantasy novels would of never seen the light of day.

Carrie by Stephen King (1974)

Carrie First Cover

Stephen King’s first published novel garnered over 30 rejections from publishers, almost tanking my favorite revenge story. One legend surrounding Carrie is about King’s wife fishing the early manuscript out of the trash. The difficulties of getting published King reveals at length in his book On Writing.

“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Read one of his rejection slips. That’s only counting the rejection letters the publishers were polite enough to send. Many gave the cold, empty, gift of eternal silence in response.

Which makes the novel even more iconic if you picture Stephen King in a blood covered prom-dress taking out his revenge on a room full of publishers. Luckily for us, it was picked up and published as the lighthearted, coming of age story, we all know and love.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997)

Harry Potter Book Cover

The story of Harry Potter coming to print is more recent tale, but with Fantastic Beasts coming out, it’s good one to remember. J.K. Rowling herself has had multiple interviews and stories about the difficulty of getting published and the various rejection letters—or lack thereof that she received.

Before Bloomsbury took the project on, Potter languished for months at a time on publishers desks before being returned and rejected 12 times. Even when published, the initial print run was only 500 copies.

Dune by Frank Herbert (1966)

Dune Book Cover

Dune is a divisive science fiction series both loved and hated by millions. Yet it stands as one of the greatest science fiction classics and was rejected by 23 publishers. Which was all of them. Frederik Pohl said:

“No book publisher was interested in acquiring the hardcover rights to this rapidly expanding mass of manuscript, however, until an editor at the quite small publishing house of Chilton Books managed to stitch the several existing stories into a single huge novel. He called it Dune, and when he published the result, it became a runaway bestseller, said to be the most profitable sf book ever written.”

Without that brilliant editor taking a big chance, the first ever Nebula Award and later Hugo award-winning book would’ve stayed buried in obscurity.

We’ve all geeked-out over our favorite creative works before, and many of those books are successful, because of the fans that support them. These classics aren’t even a drop in the ocean of amazing fiction that made it due to a single editor or reader.

So go cast your vote today in the Fantasy contest or let us know which awesome fantasy books you know of that need a spotlight shone on them! Do you think we should restart the Geek & Sundry Book club?

Featured Image: Carrie: The Deluxe Edition, Art by Tomislav Tikulin
Image Credits: Carrie, Dune, and Harry Potter

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