Even all the well-known authors received rejection letters in the beginning of their careers, yet they pushed forward until the right agent and/or publisher agreed to take a chance on the authors' work.
If you received a rejection letter recently (either one with some suggestions or the more common, dreaded form letter), here are a few rejections that may help both cheer you up and encourage you to go forward. Thanks to Pascal from Slush Pile Reader for finding these gems:
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter was rejected numerous times. Same with Twilight.
“It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA”
Re: Animal Farm by George Orwell
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
Re: Carrie by Stephen King
“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.”
Re: The Diary of Anne Frank
“It does not seem to us that you have been wholly successful in working out an admittedly promising idea”
Re: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
“It would be in extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.”
Re: The Torrents of Spring by Ernest Hemingway
“I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say…Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level”
Re: Catch – 22 by Joseph Heller
“I'm sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language.”
Re: Untitled submission by Rudyard Kipling
“Obsessively foul and grotesque”
Re: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
“An inordinately long love story, well up toward 200,000 words... has some unwelcome episodes of illegitimacy.”
Re: Jerusalem by Selma Lagerlöf
All the above went on to become popular - some even classic - literary works. Reading these, we realize all is not lost.
Don't dismiss self-publishing either. Self-publishing does not equal failure. A good example would be Legally Blonde, which started as a self-published book before being discovered and picked up by a major publisher. The book also went on to become a successful film and even a Broadway musical!
Moral of this story: Don't give up. It's not uncommon to get a few (even hundreds) of rejection slips before striking gold. It has nothing to do with you "not being good enough" (as some detractors like to think), but more along the lines of those who read (and later reject) your work being English Literature majors, personal tastes, or maybe fear taking on something "different" aside from the current, popular trends. Don't be afraid to toss aside the trends and do your own thing. One never knows when an agent or publisher is looking for something fresh - and your manuscript could be it!