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The Most Rejected Bestseller

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

The Most Rejected Bestseller

Many books that went on to sell millions of copies were summarily rejected by several publishers. It's all evidence to support the fact that publishing is often a crapshoot. However, if there was ever a "record" of sorts for the book that was most rejected and ultimately most successful, it would have to be Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig.

Persig has documentary evidence of precisely 121 rejections by agents and publishers. Absolutely no one was interested in this odd story that mixed road trip with philosophy, Greek tragedy, mysticism and social psychology. Finally, Persig found an  editor at William Morrow (now part of HarperCollins) who resonated so much with the book's ideas that he decided to publish it. The editor warned Persig that he was publishing it because of its impact on him, not for any financial gain. He told Persig that he would likely never earn out his $3,000 advance.

The book has now sold over 5 million copies worldwide and continues to sell very well (always hovering around the 1,000-level mark on Amazon).