7 questions on rejection letters


A Beatles demo tape famously rejected by Decca in 1962 because guitar bands are "on the way out" and the band has "no future in showbusiness" has been sold at auction. Test your knowledge of famous rejections.

The Beatles

1.) Multiple Choice Question

Of the following authors, who had the most rejection letters for their first novel?

  1. JK Rowling (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone)
  2. Stephen King (Carrie)
  3. John Grisham (A Time to Kill)

2.) Multiple Choice Question

Which classic of teenage life was described as "a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions".

  1. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole
  2. The Catcher in the Rye
  3. Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank's diary)

3.) Multiple Choice Question

"...Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one..." was the penultimate sentence of a rejection letter from an editor to his avant-garde author. Which one?

James Joyce
  1. James Joyce
  2. Gertrude Stein
  3. Virginia Woolf

4.) Multiple Choice Question

Which of Andy Warhol's artworks was rejected from New York's Museum of Modern Art because of - as the letter-writer put it - "severely limited gallery and storage space"?

Andy Warhol
  1. Double Elvis
  2. Campbell's Soup Cans
  3. A drawing entitled Shoe

5.) Multiple Choice Question

F Scott Fitzgerald was once told by an editor: "You'd have a decent book if you'd get rid of that ---- character." Which character?

The Great Gatsby
  1. Gatsby
  2. Daisy
  3. Nick

6.) Multiple Choice Question

What reason did Jimi Hendrix's commissioning officer give in a letter to try to have the then private discharged from the US Army?

  1. His poor eyesight
  2. He couldn't hold a conversation
  3. Dishonourable actions

7.) Multiple Choice Question

In the 4th Century BC Philip of Macedon invited Sparta to submit, saying: "If I enter your territories, I will destroy you all, never to rise again." With which one-word rejection did Sparta reply?

  1. No
  2. Come
  3. If


  1. King's Carrie was rejected 30 times, with one publisher saying: "We're not interested in science fiction that deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." Rowling's first book was rejected 12 times before Bloomsbury took it - even then only at the insistence of the chairman's daughter.
  2. It was the The Diary of a Young Girl, which was reportedly rejected 16 times before being published under the title The Secret Annex. It was a reader at publisher Alfred A Knopf who made the cutting remark.
  3. It was Gertrude Stein. Publisher Arthur Fifield was lampooning Stein's style. Mercilessly.
  4. It was the Shoe drawing, which was turned down in 1956. It may have been a decision that the museum later came to regret.
  5. It was Gatsby, who went on to be a rather remarkable character in The Great Gatsby.
  6. It was for not being able to hold a conversation. Hendrix's guitar-playing was also described as a "fault" because he could not stop thinking about it. Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash are among the singers to have been honourably discharged.
  7. According to Plutarch, the ephors sent back a message simply saying "if". It is given as a classic example of Laconic speech. Philip left Sparta unconquered.

Your Score

0 - 3 : You're fired

4 - 6 : Your letter's on file

7 - 7 : You're hired

For past quizzes including our weekly news quiz, 7 days 7 questions, expand the grey drop-down below - also available on the Magazine page (and scroll down).

You can follow the Magazine on Twitter and on Facebook

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites