Never give up!!!
My first book contract was with Doubleday. Four science fiction books, any subject I wanted. I wrote and published the first three (Killerbowl, A Generation Removed, The Resurrectionist.) For the fourth, I wanted to write something completely different. Something that incorporated my boyhood loves, cartoons, comic books, and noir mysteries. After two years of research and writing, I produced Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
I sent Who Censored Roger Rabbit? to Doubleday as the final book in my four book deal. To my great surprise, they rejected my work. This marked the first time in my writing career that I have ever gotten a reject.
I asked my editor why she had rejected what I thought was my best book ever. She said personally, she loved the work. However, the book was so unlike anything I had written before, unlike anything anybody had ever written before, that she felt compelled to send it to The Marketing Department. They were the ones who rejected it.
I called the head of The Marketing Department. I asked him why he had rejected my work. He said that unfortunately there was no category for it on the bookstore shelves. It wasn’t a traditional mystery, not really a general novel, not a children’s book, not true science fiction. He said they couldn’t sell my book.
I asked him what he would do if somebody today gave him Alice In Wonderland, or Gulliver’s Travels, or The Wizard of Oz? He thought for a moment and said, “I couldn’t sell those either.”
I was heartbroken. I told my agent that if I couldn’t sell this book, I didn’t want to be a writer anymore, because this was the kind of story I wanted to write. He told me not to worry. That we would find the book a home.
He started sending the book to other publishers. Sometimes to multiple editors at the same publisher. Along the way, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? got rejected 110 times!!! Always for the same reason. There was no category for this on bookstore shelves. Although a few publishers came up with another reason to turn me down. They thought nobody would understand a story about a private eye and a talking rabbit.
In those days, rejects came by mail. My wife took to calling my daily trip to the mailbox the Daily Disappointments because I would always come back with 1, 2, 3, once even 6 reject letters.
On the 111th submission, the book crossed the desk of an editor at St. Martins who had just published a major best seller for them. She was given a vanity project. She could publish any book of her choice. She chose Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Although, when she showed the book to the President of the Company, he reneged. He said he knew he had promised she could publish any book, but she couldn’t publish this one because he couldn’t sell it. She stepped up to the plate and said, “Publish this book or I quit.”
They published the book, although in very small quantities. Less than 5,000 copies.
The book was incredibly well reviewed and swiftly sold out.
A few months later, I got a call from Disney asking if I’d be interested in having them turn my book into a movie.
The rest is history.
Who Censored Roger Rabbit went through 16 printings in paperback. There has been a book club edition, a limited collectors’ edition, an audio book, and finally a reprint.
When I wrote the sequel novel Who P-p-p-plugged Roger Rabbit?, 16 publishers bid for the rights to publish it. All of them had rejected the first book once, 6 of them had rejected the first book twice, 2 of them rejected the first book three times.
The lesson here? If you believe in what you’re doing, never give up. Sooner or later, you will succeed.
If you want to read the book that so many publishers believed they could never sell, or that readers wouldn’t understand, go here. Read the book and see for yourself how wrong those publishers were.
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