Another Regrettable Rejection — Ayn Rand is “Unsaleable”

You are entering another dimension, a dimension of hope and despair, a dimension of doubt and longing, from the ecstasy of receiving a request for full to the agony of a form rejection letter . . . on the signpost up ahead: You are entering the Submission Zone! (cue eerie music.)

Yes, it is sometimes hard to understand what happens here in the land of the eager author. A rejection letter says you need more “x” (dialogue, description, whatever), so you edit; the next rejection says you are way too heavy on “x”. You keep telling yourself that this is art, not science, and it is all subjective. The very ms one editor hates is the one another editor craves like chocolate after a break-up.

But it is hard, living here in the Zone. We have to encourage each other. So in the interest of improving your outlook, Ro’mama brings you another of her Regrettable Rejections, an example of a fellow author who proved the experts wrong – oh, so dreadfully wrong.

This week we talk about Ayn Rand. Remember, you had to read The Fountainhead in high school or college?

5 Million Copies sold -- so far!

Your professor told you it was an architect’s moral obligation to blow up his buildings rather than allow the unworthy to occupy them – or something like that. I had a late night before that lecture. You may have, like me, gone through a philosophical phase where you read several of her works, muttering all the while: “Yes! The will of the individual is the highest good; to submit to the collectivist demands of society is a form of living death!!!” Or maybe that was just me; I was always odd that way.

But suffice it to say, Ms. Rand is one of the great authors of the 20th Century. She wrote two big ol’ smash bestsellers and lots of really influential smaller works that get assigned in college courses all over the world. She came up with her own philosophical system, known as Objectivism. (Since my idea of a philosophical system is smart-ass quotes on my teeshirts, Ms. Rand is really impressing me here.) There is now a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing her works to future generations of readers.

So, of course back when Ms. Rand was just an aspiring author, editors and agents were struck dumb with the brilliance of her work and fell over themselves to sign her, right? Well, not so much.

For the previously-mentioned The Fountainhead: “It is badly written and the hero is unsympathetic.” And not just that — “I wish there were an audience for a book of this kind. But there isn’t. It won’t sell.” Somehow, despite that prediction, my college bookstore managed to sell a few copies of it – by making it required reading for all 5,000 freshmen in my class.

But of course we know that once you become a bestselling author, you are on easy street, and everyone fights to get the rights to your future works. Again, for Ms. Rand, not so much.

Half a Century Later, Still in Top 50 Sellers Annually!

After the success of The Fountainhead, she sent out her queries for Atlas Shrugged and was told: “… the book is much too long. There are too many long speeches… I regret to say that the book is unsaleable and unpublishable.”

So if you have been told a simple, ‘thanks, but it’s not for us” you are way ahead of where Ayn was, even with a bestseller under her belt. “Unsaleable and unpublishable”is just about as close as a an editor will get to “Go *&$@ yourself” in print.

But, to the delight of Republicans and despair of college freshmen everywhere, she didn’t give up. I guess you could say that her individual will won out over the collectivist demands of the publishing world.

So get out there and submit, people. And save those rejection letters – you may be the next famous author I write about: “Can you believe they told her that????”


3 responses to “Another Regrettable Rejection — Ayn Rand is “Unsaleable”

  1. Great post, Ro’mama! And of course, I too limit my philosophical discussions to smart-ass T-shirts. They save me time from telling people what I’m feeling.

  2. I tagged your blog at The Cozy Page for Versatile Blogger Award:

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