Man Booker prize winner Marlon James’ debut novel was rejected 78 times

Good reason to never give up creating

Christopher Hooton
Wednesday 14 October 2015 12:40

It requires immense tenacity to be a successful author, as evidenced by Marlon James, who won the Man Booker prize this week, fiction’s most prestigious award, despite having his first novel 'John Crow’s Devil' turned down by 78 publishers.

“I had to sit down and add it up one day and I had no idea it was that much,” he told BBC Radio 4.

James won the £50,000 prize on Tuesday, and said he was so excited he didn't sleep that night.

Though he was clearly determined not to be put off creating by the initial rejections, there were wobbles along the way.

“There was a time I actually thought I was writing the kind of stories people didn’t want to read,” he recalled.

“I did give [writing] up. I actually destroyed the manuscript, I even went on my friends computers and erased it.”

Fortunately, on a more confident day James recovered it from the email outbox of an old computer.

Famous authors like James Joyce, JK Rowling, Stephen King and even Anne Frank also had their work rejected multiple times.

Man Booker judges described Jamaican-born James’s ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ as “an extraordinary book”, voting it the winner in a unanimous decision.

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