20 Bestselling Books That Were Rejected By Publishers Before They Became Classics

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Image: via RecentlyHeard / JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Image: via RecentlyHeard / JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

As with any entertainment medium, what looks good to some might not necessarily appeal to others. And this certainly applies to book publishing, too. It’s a message to all of those writers who dream of writing a bestselling book not to be disheartened by rejection, because as this list shows, many literary classics were also rejected on more than one occasion.

Moreover, all of these titles have had a long shelf life, so it’s a shame that the publishers couldn’t see their potential at the time. Here are 20 bestselling books that were rejected by publishers before they became classics.

Image: via WeAllSew / Riversdale Estate
Image: via WeAllSew / Riversdale Estate

20. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (by Beatrix Potter)

Kicking off our merry little list of maligned classics is the beloved children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Now a bona fide staple of the kids’ literary canon, the book was initially cast aside, despite its adorable story of a mischievous rabbit. But frustrated by the constant flow of publisher rejections, author Beatrix Potter decided to self-publish the tale in 1901. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Image: via ItsAndreaVilla / Richard Rothwell
Image: via ItsAndreaVilla / Richard Rothwell

19. Frankenstein (by Mary Shelley)

Mary Shelley’s gothic/romance hybrid Frankenstein was first published in 1818, but before that the manuscript had particular trouble finding a publisher. Yes, one of the most successful novels ever written was rejected, presumably due to its author’s lack of experience – she was just 18 when she started it. However, Shelley would have the last laugh, with a book that’s still as influential now as it was 200 years ago.

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