View Full Version : First Impressions

08-14-2007, 02:19 PM
Hi. I bet this one has been covered elsewhere but I wonder if there is a different experience between agents in different countries and the chances of getting read? I read the story below about the writer who submitted Jane Austen to publishers and got rejected by them all and it says an Australian bestseller was rejected when a paper tried the same thing. Is there really a chance of getting read as this is what worries me when we put so much time and effort in? Is it a numbers game like the last one says?

Last year, The Weekend Australian pulled a little stunt in which they sent off chapter three of Patrick White's Nobel prize-winning novel, The Eye of the Storm, to 12 different publishers under the pseudonym 'Wraith Picket'.
They got back 10 rejections and two didn't respond. The little stunt turned into a (http://www.abc.net.au/news/arts/articulate/200607/s1688898.htm) literary tempest...

Now, over in the UK, a similar experiment was carried out with the work of Jane Austen - or 'Alison Laydee' to be precise.
The Guardian reports that (http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2129738,00.html) David Lassman, director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, sent off opening chapters of Austen's three most famous books - with some changes of course - to 18 of the biggest UK publishers.
They all came back as rejections.

The reason publishers rejected Austen

Publishers are everyone's favourite whipping post, writes Andrew Franklin, publisher and managing director of Profile Books. Franklin is responding to the news that publishers rejected a retyped books originally written by Jane Austen.
"The real reason that publishers miss good books is no secret, and it is nothing to do with literary judgement, knowledge of first lines or acquaintance with the classics. It is the same reason that film companies miss great scripts and record labels fail to sign up the most interesting bands. It is the numbers game - the sheer volumes of paper (and now, worse still, the email attachments), that cross our desk every day. Every year 200,000 books are published. This is far too many, and really the first duty of every publisher should be to publish fewer, rather than more, new titles."

Franklin continues: "So publishers use euphemistic - all right, let's be honest, weaselly - phrases when rejecting manuscripts, like "not quite right for our list" or 'would not fit our publishing programme'. The clear subtext is that the manuscript is unpublishable and the writer should consign it to their bottom drawer. For ever."

This topic post 'First Impressions' is what the Austen writer called the book to give an added hint as apparently it was the original title intended for the story!

08-14-2007, 04:14 PM
Jane Austen was an amazing writer--but her books today do not ring to the modern ear as clearly as they did back then.

The prose is dated by today's standard. Most publishers either will not want to take it, or recognize it for what it is.

Just because they are publishers it does not mean they are unread and incapable of recognizing someone else's prose. If I were an editor and someone did that to me, I'd haul them up short and kick them in the metaphorical ass.


08-14-2007, 04:52 PM
This is nothing new. I think sometime last year, or maybe it was earlier this year, a paper in the U.K. did something similar. U.S. newspapers have done the same stuff.

Keep in mind that people's interests change over time, as does the language. What people found interesting in, say, 1973, they might yawn at today.

I think comparing novels from different eras isn't fair to either era, and I wish newspapers would stop with this sort of stuff. What worked in one era won't necessarily work in another era.


Momento Mori
08-14-2007, 05:14 PM
Is there really a chance of getting read as this is what worries me when we put so much time and effort in? Is it a numbers game like the last one says?

If you follow an agent's/publisher's submission requirements then you've got as much chance of getting read as the next person. I don't think any agent is going to decide not to read what gets submitted because as a business model, they can't afford to - they need to get new authors in to sell their manuscripts (if they think they can sell them), as much as they need their current authors to keep churning out material they can sell.

It really proves nothing when people (usually people who have had their own work repeatedly rejected and who decide that there's obviously something "wrong" with the industry rather than their own work) submit other people's work to agents or publishers. The guy who submitted Jane Austen's work was particularly daft to suggest this proved that agents didn't know anything about writing, because in most cases he was submitting to agents who either didn't accept that kind of fiction or who did recognise it and weren't prepared to acknowlege blatant plagiarism.

Worry about your manuscript - worry about getting it to those agents/publishers who are the best possible fit to it, then write something else whilst you're worrying about them reading it.