Thursday, November 15, 2007

UPDATED Mike Lynch Cartoon in November 2007 Harvard Business Review

Above: my cartoon "How the hell am I gong to spin this?" from the November 2007 issue of HBR.

There comes a time when a little cartoon goes forth in the world and gets rejected, rejected, rejected. And every time the above cartoon was rejected, I would pick it up, dust it off and send it back out ... where it would be rejected again.

This was drawn in March 2003. It was mailed out 28 times, to markets in the US and Europe. Rejected 27 times; and then, finally, a sale.

What else was rejected 27 times?

The book THE FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS was rejected 27 times. Harshest rejection: "No one wants to read a book about old men weeping into the telephone." Yikes.

27 rejections for AND TO THINK I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET by Dr. Seuss (according to the National Education Association site).

Not that a gag cartoon has the shelf-life of a book, particularly the above very good books, but you can see what I'm getting at: talent is cheap, notoriety is fleeting, persistence is the only way to succeeding.

From the Nibs newsletter by Kathryn Craft (PDF link here):

10 rejections: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

14 rejections: The Good Earth

15 publishers/30 agents rejected A Time to Kill by John Grisham

18 rejections: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

21 rejections: M*A*S*H

22 rejections: Dubliners

25 rejections: Gone With the Wind

27 rejections: And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street

27 rejections: Steps by Jerzy Kosinski — after it won the National Book Award!
Chuck Ross, convinced that unknown writers had little chance of having their novels accepted, tested his theory by retyping the book and submitting it under a pen name to a total of 14 publishers and 13 literary agents. They all rejected it—including Random House, the original publisher.

40 rejections were received by Mary Higgins Clark before she made her first sale.

121 rejections: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

123 rejections: Chicken Soup for the Soul

350 rejections were received by Louis L’Amour before he made his first sale

600 rejection slips were received by Jack London before his first sale

A big tip o' the hat to Pletch, who let me know that my cartoon was in the magazine weeks ago. Thanks, Pletch!

Above: Dead, dead, dead. Like those red shirt guys in STAR TREK, sometimes good cartooons go out and killed in their mission. What to do? What to do?

UPDATE: Some rejection-oriented links from the Mike Lynch Cartoons blog:

Gag Cartoon Rejection and Persistence


Mike Lynch College of Gag Cartoon Knowledge -- Rejection, Rejection, Rejection


Writer, Rejected said...

First of all, a cartoon showing the worried thoughts of the spin doctor for "The Emperor has no clothes," is hysterical. Maybe people aren't smart enough to get it? Also, I love your stats and am going to post a link from my blog, which is Literary Rejections on Display (

Come on over any time you need company. Also, I have one cartoon rejection (under the mean categoy), which my friend John keeps in his bathroom because it says he isn't funny.

Also, maybe you'd share some of your rejections as inspiration. There's nothing nicer than airing the dirty laundry.

But if nothing else please know that you are not alone!

Enagwolo said...

I love this post and found it so inspirational. For starters, I found the cartoon hilarious and it's a wonder it got rejected so many times.

Secondly, I'm a writer and haven't even been at it (the querying and trying to get published) for up to a month yet and am already thinking of quiting. But the whole persistence thing has really brightened up my day.

Thanks :)

Mike Lynch said...

Thanks for the comments, guys!

Mark Anderson said...

Dear Mr. Lynch,

Thank you for writing today's blog. Unfortunately it is not suitable for our purposes at this time.

Thank you.

Mike Lynch said...

Thank you, Mark, for slapping me back into cold, harsh reality!