Atlanta Nights

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.

Atlanta Nights 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.


Posted on Sun Feb 06, 2005


I admire the authors that have the courage to do this to themselves.
Posted by Splarka  on  Mon Feb 07, 2005  at  05:39 AM
You know, I think it's fairly common for publishing houses to cut down their slush pile by rejecting sight-unseen any manuscripts that don't fit the standard format (typed double-spaced, SASE included). The publishers tht did the newscaster's book might have just seen that they didn't include a SASE and rejected it without even looking at it.
Posted by Joe Mason  on  Mon Feb 07, 2005  at  10:17 AM
This reminded me of the Sokal Hoax:
Posted by AAB  on  Mon Feb 07, 2005  at  02:57 PM
This hoax is a classic--years ago Hollywood was tested with a slightly altered script of "Casablanca." Rechristened with the original title, "Everyone Comes to Rick's," it was sent to a variety of agents and production companies. The negative comments were hilarious, but a few of the marks did rumble the hoax.
Posted by Jayne  on  Mon Feb 07, 2005  at  04:53 PM
My favorite variation of this ploy was when a well-known writer (I think it was Doris Lessing) sent out a manuscript under a pseudonym to a bunch of publishers, and, when they all rejected the book, trumpeted this as evidence that all the publishers were stupid. It never occurred to her that this could alternatively be a sign that she had been coasting on a famous name for years, using it to sell mediocre work that otherwise would never have been taken seriously.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Mon Feb 07, 2005  at  05:05 PM
The basic fallacy of these "rejected" novels is that getting a rejection for retyping and altering a published novel does not indicate the editors didn't recognize it. It also indicates that the editor DID recognize it. Once the editor recognizes it, they will just send a form rejection and not get involved with someone who thinks he can pass off a published novel as his own. Did you really think they'd accept the novel if they recognized it as a plagiarism?
Posted by Chuck Rothman  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  07:54 AM
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