Thursday, February 17, 2022


An email from Steve M in response to the Bytes post in January Some Thoughts and Tips on Writing (Steve himself being a multi published author):

I found today’s Bytes most informative – for obvious reasons. Some great stuff there thank you!

I thought I might send you some literary info, perhaps for a future Bytes. The writer’s world is full of rejection, which often makes me think about all the great works that never made it to print because the authors simply gave up. However, for those few who succeed in a big way, the rewards can be substantial.

  • JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected by 4 publishers before Bloomsbury bought the rights for approx A$4,700. The advance on the rest of the series was A$3.8m approx. (An interesting aside here, Otto: one of the publishers who was responsible for knocking back the Potter book went on to publish my children’s book, Brain In A Box which is still in print in the USA after 25 years. She told me about her decision to reject Harry Potter over dinner one evening, and was quite philosophical about it.)
  • Mary Higgins Clark was paid an advance of almost A$85m for a five book deal with Simon & Schuster.
  • Enid Blyton published 700 books and 10,000 short stories before her death in 1968.
  • One of the rejection letters H.G. Wells received for The War Of The Worlds said “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Don’t read that horrid book!’” The book finally found a home in 1898 and had been in print ever since!
  • An American newspaper knocked back a story by Rudyard Kipling in 1889. In their rejection letter they stated ‘I’m sorry Mr Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language. This isn’t kindergarten for amateur writers.’ Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 8 years later!
  • 16 literary agents and 12 publishing houses rejected John Grisham’s first novel, A Time To Kill. It eventually found a home with 5000 copies in the first print run. Grisham purchased most of them himself, and decided to have one last go at writing before giving up... The Firm was book 2, and the movie rights were sold before the book arrived in bookshops. The Firm went straight to the NY Times best seller list on day one of its release. He has now sold in excess of 400 million books, and A Time To Kill has gone on to be his best seller.
  • Alex Haley manuscript Roots was rejected 200 times before finding a home – it has now sold in excess of 8 million copies.
  • Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables contains the longest sentence in French literary history – 823 words before the full stop finally arrives.
  • Stephen King received an advance of approximately A$43.4m for a four book deal – shortly after, he announced that he was retiring from writing, but as we all know, he is still at it, as brilliant as ever!
  • The Diary of Anne Frank was first printed in 1952 after 11 publishers rejected it as ‘unsatisfactory’ but ‘promising’.
  • In the original Sherlock Holmes books, Holmes never once said “Elementary my dear Watson.” The famous phrase was introduced in the film versions of his book, along with the deer-stalker hat and curved pipe that he is now recognised for.
  • The world’s best-selling books in order:
       No 1: The Bible

       No 2: Quotations From The Works of Chairman Mao

       No 3: The Lord of The Rings
  • Science Fiction books: the biggest seller of all time is Dune by Frank Herbert, with sales in the tens of millions. It was rejected by 23 publishers before it finally made it to print – apparently most thought it too slow or too long.
  • The first words ever printed were said to be carved into marble columns in Chinese temples in the second century AD.
  • The first book ever printed in English was in 1477.
Thanks Steve.

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