Wraith Picket Experiment

Status: Literary Hoax
The Weekend Australian recently announced the results of a literary experiment. They took chapter three of celebrated Australian writer Patrick White's novel The Eye of the Storm, changed its title to The Eye of the Cyclone, changed the names of the characters in it, and changed the name of the author to Wraith Picket (an anagram of Patrick White). Then they submitted this to twelve Australian publishers. Ten of them rejected it, and two never responded. One reviewer wrote that "the sample chapter, while reply (sic) with energy and feeling, does not give evidence that the work is yet of a publishable quality."

This particular brand of literary hoax has been done countless times before, and always, it seems, with the same result. Most recently the Sunday Times submitted chapters of a VS Naipaul novel to British publishers, who summarily rejected it. The perpetrators of the hoax always claim it reveals the weak literary standards of the publishing industry. Meanwhile the publishing industry just shrugs off the hoaxes and continues on trying to figure out how to make money. My theory is that journalists love to repeat this experiment because most of them are wannabe novelists and like to imagine that their lack of literary success is due to the short-sightedness of the publishing industry, not their own lack of talent. (Though I should note that I like to complain about the publishing industry as much as anyone.)

I think that the Weekend Australian should have submitted the chapter to horror publishers, because Wraith Picket would make a great name for a horror writer.


Posted on Wed Jul 19, 2006


Did you know that the name of the great silent film star "Theda Bara" was an anagram for "Arab Death"? That's messed up. I think the name "George Bush" is an anagram for "Shubeg Ogre", which is Ramonian for "Sh*t Head", or so says Raoul, but I wouldn't belive him, that lying sack of shubeg. By him, I meant: Raoul, not GWB, who is a Truckload of shubeg, in my opinion
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Wed Jul 19, 2006  at  10:54 AM
I've seen a lot of accounts of these "experiments."

The writers always use them to argue that publishers don't know good writing when they see it. While this hypothesis is hardly implausible, I always wonder why they don't consider the equally likely possibility that the manuscript they're submitting really isn't all that good. Once a writer achieves a certain level of success, even the worst dreck he or she turns out is virtually assured of being published. The history of publishing is also replete (sic) with terrible novels that were huge financial successes thanks to heavy injections of P.R. and good luck. Do you really think something like "The Da Vinci Code" or "Bridges of Madison County" would be accepted by ten random publishers on a cold reading?

For that matter, many publishers no longer accept manuscripts "over the transom." You need a good literary agent to get these publishers to even glance at your book. If they sent the manuscript to ten of these firms, they would have automatically gotten ten rejections.

Although there's a sort of rough consensus about what makes a book good from a literary standpoint, nobody has a surefire formula for publishing success. If publishers knew this, the vast majority of books published wouldn't end up as remainders in the bargain bin after a year or two.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Bataiva, Illinois  on  Wed Jul 19, 2006  at  10:57 AM
Having worked in publishing, most will also recognize a prank like this and instead of basically accusing the individual of plagerism, they find some other way of discouraging it.
Posted by Lounge Lizard  in  El Paso, Tx  on  Wed Jul 19, 2006  at  11:14 AM
If I wanted a novel published, I don't think I'd give up after 12 faliures. I bet Patrick White didn't, either.
Posted by Citizen Premier  in  spite of public outcry  on  Thu Jul 20, 2006  at  03:49 AM
Big Gary's right. Have you guys seen the stuff Stephen King is cranking out now? I love the Family Guy episode that takes the piss...

Stephen King: Now for my 300th novel, a couple... uh...
[casts about desperately]
Stephen King: is attacked... by a giant... uh... lamp monster! Oooooooo!
Editor: You're not even trying anymore are you?
Editor: When can I have it?

Speaking of Stephen King, the plot of his latest book Cell seemed really familiar and I'm sure I've seen something similiar on here. Didn't someone post about people dying suddenly after answering calls on their mobile phones that came from particular numbers? I can't find it on a search anywhere but I'm sure it was on here...or was it Snopes? I forget. Anyway, in Cell, a terrible plague gets spread by cell phones...and people die, obviously, and it was because of the cell phones...

Ok, I'll shut up now. red face
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Thu Jul 20, 2006  at  04:51 AM
Nettie, the "death phone number" panic was covered on the MoH site and is also discussed in (plug, plug) Alex's book "Hippo Eats Dwarf." As I recall, it happened in Nigeria, a country where reality doesn't seem to have a whole lot of influence.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Batavia, Illinois  on  Thu Jul 20, 2006  at  07:22 AM
Ah, so it was in Hippo that I read it. I knew I read it somewhere and I was sure it had something to do with Alex...

Thanks Big Gary!
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Fri Jul 21, 2006  at  05:03 AM
why would you need a publisher? u can make so much money by publishing yourself... you might make less sales, but you'll also not need to pay other people to sell your book. You can make 1% of a million or 90% of 100000. Which sounds more reasonable to you?
Posted by trish  on  Tue Jul 26, 2011  at  03:52 PM
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