More Sex and Vampires, Please.

The road to publishing is paved with rejection. Margaret Mitchel submitted Gone With The Wind for publication only to be rejected thirty-eight times, while Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was denied for publication sixty times. Sixteen literary agencies – followed by a subsequent twelve publishing houses – told John Grisham they were not interested in A Time To Kill. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul, were lucky enough to land a literary agent, but were then turned down by over one hundred publishers.

Best selling author Nicholas Sparks (who received twenty four rejection letters from literary agencies for his manuscript The Notebook) put it best, “Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. When all is said and done, it comes down to dollars.” Literary agents and publishers are typically hesitant to take on first time authors – or books that aren’t considered in vogue. An extraordinary amount of manpower, time, and money goes into publishing books, and breaking even is not an option. Success and profits are a must.

I have received over a dozen rejection letters from literary agents for my manuscript. (This is only counting agencies that actually took the time to respond. If I include all the agencies I sent query letters to, it would easily exceed twenty.) As I tuck these rejection letters away, I can’t help but ponder the great literary classics. What if these now famous pieces of literature were never published, and were now trying to make it into the publishing world? What would the responses be? Let’s close our eyes and imagine …

Dear Mr. Melville,

Thank you for the submission of your work, MOBY DICK to our literary agency. Unfortunately, we can not represent you at this time. Who, exactly, is your target audience? Whaling is a thing of the past. Perhaps you should consider revising and instead of a whale, use salmon. (Wild caught. Not farm raised.)


We’ll Get You Published Literary Agency


Dear Ms Bronte,

We regret to inform you that we are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts at this time. If interested in JANE EYRE, we will contact you. In the meantime, perhaps you should consider revising the lengthy descriptions of the English mores, and include some sexual scenes between Mr. Rochester and Jane. Or better yet: between Jane and Mrs. Rochester.

Thank You

Books R Us Literary Group


Dear Mr. Shakespeare,

Thank you for your recent submission to Read Literary Agency. Due to the high volume of manuscripts we receive, we are unable to represent MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at this time. Because, honestly, it was much to do about nothing. We suggest self publishing.

Kindest Regards

Read Literary Agency


Dear Ms. Burnett,

Thank you for your submission of THE SECRET GARDEN. We kept waiting for zombies to enter this “secret garden” and because there were none, we regret to inform you we can not accept your manuscript for representation.

We wish you the best of luck in your writing endeavors.


We Represent Only The Best, LLC


Dear Mr. Tolstoy,

Due to the high volume of manuscripts we receive, we regret to inform you that we can not represent WAR AND PEACE at this time. We strongly urge you to consider making your manuscript less than 1,392 pages. Such a large book is intimidating to most of today’s readers. Including us.

Thank you.

The Quill and Paper Literary Agency.


Dear Ms Alcott,

Thank you for your submission of LITTLE WOMEN. Enclosed please find your manuscript that we are returning. A book about a New England family of girls is dreadfully boring. Have you considered adding sex scenes? Vampires are always a welcomed addition. (Perhaps instead of Beth dying, she can morph into a vampire.) Trilogies are all the rage, too. How much better would the title of “Sexy Women” sound? Followed by a sequel titled “Naughty Women”, then “Angry Women”?


Success Literary Group


Dear Mr. Joyce,

We have decided not to represent your manuscript ULYSSES. Please accept our sincerest apologies, but we need to understand what we are reading.

Warmest Regards,

Pen and Ink, Inc


12 thoughts on “More Sex and Vampires, Please.

    • One publisher told the authors of CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL that their book lacked violence and sex, and would thus not generate the sales they required. Though, now that I think about it, clearly that publisher was not the best fit for that type of book.

  1. It is incredible to think of all of the great unpublished novels that could have been. Ditto for art – where critics and patrons have bestowed fame but not always fortune on some and ignored others with great talent. Some with independent means could follow their heart regardless of whether they were appreciated during their lifetime or the preferences of an often fickle or closed-minded audience. The key here is if authors write to please themselves or a publisher/audience or they can do both. Maybe adding a few angels and the face of a patron & his wife in the crowd is no different to adding a few zombies or vampires? We still ended up with great art. Ditto when artists had to cover up body parts in the interest of modesty in public places while on the walls of private palaces were raunchy sex scenes. Still great art. What happened to the ones who refused to compromise? No idea…
    I read something the other day about how Penguin books started. The founder was standing on a railway platform & wanted something decent to read on his journey – and came up with the idea of a quality paperback that was to cost no more than a pack of cigarettes. Maybe it takes a new form of transport or technology, change in reader habits or literacy levels, or someone with vision to open up new opportunities for authors? Or maybe these opportunities lie in an expanding readership in developing countries? If more people start to work from home, do they read more with the time they save or less as they are no longer commuting? No idea… But ten I don’t read much fiction anyway – especially if it is full of sex and vampires! (PS I didnt mean for this to be so long. It is sort of stream of consciousness with punctuation.)

  2. Beth morphing into a vampire!! And “much to do about nothing.” are my faves!! Was it fun to make up the publishing names? Have you seen the little cartoon where the author is writing a letter to the publisher stating something along the lines of “Dear Publisher. Thank you for this sincere rejection letter, however it does not meet my needs at this time. I wish you luck trying to get it placed elsewhere.” Something like that. I can always count on your posts for a fun way to end my day, but now you’re definitely on the hook for tomorrow!

    • Yay! So happy you enjoyed this one! It WAS fun to make the publishing names – picking the literary classics were a bit tougher. There was a lot to choose from, and some of them would easily be published today (To Kill A Mockingbird, or Lady Chatterley’s Lover, for example.) I had to decide which ones would be least likely to land an agent.

  3. Great post.:)
    I loved The Secret Garden, Little a Women and Ulysses rejection letters. It is so true that by so many of today’s standards many of these great works would never have been published.
    Loved this original take on rejection letters.

    • Thank you so much! It was a challenge to narrow down the literary classics. I considered WATERSHIP DOWN but realized with all of the PETA fanatics out there, that one could very well have made it.

      Thank you for reading AND the follow! I am flattered.

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