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Publishers Reject Booker Prize Winners
Status: Publishers hoaxed
Convinced that the publishing industry can no longer recognize quality literature when they see it, the Sunday Times devised an experiment to test their theory. They submitted opening chapters of books by V.S. Naipaul and Stanley Middleton to twenty publishers and agents. The results:

None appears to have recognised them as Booker prizewinners from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best. Of the 21 replies, all but one were rejections. Only Barbara Levy, a London literary agent, expressed an interest, and that was for Middleton’s novel. She was unimpressed by Naipaul’s book. She wrote: “We . . . thought it was quite original. In the end though I’m afraid we just weren’t quite enthusiastic enough to be able to offer to take things further.” The rejections for Middleton’s book came from major publishing houses such as Bloomsbury and Time Warner as well as well-known agents such as Christopher Little, who discovered J K Rowling.

This isn't surprising. I don't think many publishers or agents look closely at work from unknown authors. This also isn't the first time an experiment like this has been conducted. The article mentions that Doris Lessing once submitted a novel to her own publisher under a pseudonym, and it was rejected. And back in 2000, a French Magazine called Voici sent a thinly disguised version of L'Institutrice (The Primary School Teacher) by Claire Chazal (who's a celebrity French newswoman) to Plon publishing house. Plon rejected it, which was embarrassing for them since they publish it, and therefore should have recognized it.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 02, 2006
Comments (7)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
I don't think this is a fair way to judge if the publishing industry can recognize good literature. Most are not in the "good literature" business, they are in the business of making money. The two are not necessarily the same thing. If consumers only want to buy trashy fiction, that's what they have to publish.

Most publishers will specialize in certain areas. Almost all editors say the most common reason for rejection is not that the book or article is no good, it's that it doesn't fit the needs of that particular publisher. If you specialize in Sports and Recreation, it's not likely you would pay much attention to someone who submitted War and Peace. I heard of a publisher that received an excellent book submission about "money saving tips for homeless people". The editor really liked the book but rejected it because homeless people don't buy books.

Even this article recognized most editors are overwhelmed with submissions. I could understand it if someone received an obviously plagerized manuscript, they may not bother to write the "author" to tell them that. They would just fill out the standard rejection form letter or not respond at all. Why waste your time?
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Mon Jan 02, 2006  at  05:04 PM
It Came from the Slush Pile
"I received one death threat, postmarked Norristown, the location of Pennsylvania's largest insane asylum." - George Scithers, editor at Weird Tales"
see URL link for rest of article
Posted by Slushreader  in  InterGalactic Medicine Show  on  Tue Jan 03, 2006  at  12:29 AM
Before it goes to an editor it goes to a slush reader
Posted by Slushreader  in  InterGalactic Medicine Show  on  Tue Jan 03, 2006  at  12:31 AM
This has also been done with movie scripts. I think it was New York magazine that once submitted the original script for Casablanca (using the original title of "Everyone Goes To Rick's") and got back rejection letters.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Jan 03, 2006  at  01:11 AM
"Naked came the Stranger" was a deliberatly bad book writen (if itcan be called that) by several journalists and was published and became a best-seller before the hoax was revealed. As the reciepent of many rejection notices I have come to the conclusion that good or bad writing matters less than other factors such as what the editor had for breakfast or what the marketing people believe the next "great thing" will be.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Tue Jan 03, 2006  at  08:16 AM
Also, once you get to be a recognised author, getting your works published is a lot easier. Many famous authors originally had trouble getting their early work published. The experiment that the Sunday Times performed turned those two famous stories into two new stories written by unknown authors, so it's not all that much of a surprise that they were rejected.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Tue Jan 03, 2006  at  11:54 PM
Maybe those books aren't that damned good to begin with. The trouble might be that the Booker prize is granted for the literary equivalent of the "emperors new cloths".
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  08:47 AM
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