A group of science fiction writers accused book publisher PublishAmerica of being a vanity press in disguise (i.e. a publisher that would print anything, for a fee). PublishAmerica fired back by calling the writers a bunch of 'literary parasites'. This inspired the writers to exact revenge
. They pooled their talent and jointly authored a truly awful book that they called Atlanta Nights
. The authors (each of whom penned a different chapter) had instructions to write as badly as they could. In addition one chapter was left blank, another was repeated verbatim, and a final one was pure gibberish. The writers then submitted this book to PublishAmerica to see if the publisher would indeed accept anything. Predictably, the manuscript was happily accepted. Although PublishAmerica will no longer be publishing Atlanta Nights
, having caught wind of the hoax, the full text of Atlanta Nights
can be downloaded as a pdf file here
joins a long tradition of tricking-people-into-praising-bad-work type hoaxes. A famous literary precedent was Naked Came the Stranger
, a trashy sex novel penned by a group of Newsday columnists during the 1960s in order to test how low America's reading standards had sunk (predictably America failed the test because the book became a bestseller).
An amusing variation on this type of hoax occurred in 2000 when a French magazine, Voici, concocted an experiment to test whether the recent novel of a well-known newswoman, Claire Chazal, had been published because of its literary merit or because of her celebrity status. Voici changed the first two sentences of her novel, gave it a new title, altered the name of the main character, and (most importantly) claimed it was the work of an obscure amateur. Then the magazine sent the manuscript around to publishing houses. All of them rejected it, including the actual publisher of the book, who not only didn't recognize it, but sent a letter back advising the author that she should have enclosed a stamped self-addressed envelope if she wanted the manuscript back.