When I finally wrote my Hero [With a Thousand Faces] it was refused by two publishers and it was the Bollingen [Institute Press] that picked it up. If they had not picked it up, I don’t think anyone here would have heard of Joe Campbell. I’m sure of that.
Hero With a Thousand Faces went on to inspire Star Wars and it continues to be standard reading among anyone interested in stories and narratives today. By the time Hero was rejected, Campbell had been working on it for five years. The story reminds me of the publication story for The Lord of the Rings, which hinged on a reader report from the initial publisher’s son, who was around nine or ten when his opinion was solicited.
Stories like those are some of the reasons self-publishing is so exciting. There are no gatekeepers. Getting a firm count of the number of important but unknown works that never happened because publishers rejected them is impossible. But realizing that they’re certainly out there is important.
Campbell also describes how he kept writing productively for so many years: “You can get a lot of work done if you just stay with it and are excited and it’s play instead of work.”