Jane Austen fan submits her work anonymously to publishers… and receives a dozen rejections
18th July 2007 Daily Mail, UK
It is a truth universally acknowledged that many of us who claim to have read a classic novel are telling porkies. Or have simply watched the film version instead. This even applies, it seems, to literary agents and publishers.
For when a budding author sent typed chapters of Jane Austen’s novels to 18 of them, changing just the titles and characters’ names, only one recognised her words.
Another managed to recognise they were ‘a really original read’. But the rest simply rejected them or never responded, according to the man who posted the manuscripts, David Lassman.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “If the major publishers can’t recognise great literature, who knows what might be slipping through the net?
“Here is one of the greatest writers that has lived, with her oeuvre securely fixed in the English canon and yet only one recipient recognised them as Austen’s work.”
Mr Lassman, 43, submitted opening chapters of three of Austen’s classic works – Northanger Abbey, first published in 1798, Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Persuasion (1818).
He typed them out himself, and signed them Alison Laydee after Austen’s early pseudonym A Lady.
To offer a few more hints, he called Pride and Prejudice ‘First Impressions’, the original title for the story, and wrote a return address of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, where he works as the director of the Jane Austen Festival.
In response, the literary agency Christopher Little, which represents JK Rowling, said it was ‘not confident of placing this material with a publisher’.
Penguin, which currently publishes Pride and Prejudice, responded that First Impressions ‘seems like a really original and interesting read’. But there was no request to see the rest of the book.
Others to turn the works down included Bloomsbury, Random House, Harper Collins and Hodder; Stoughton. The only one who emerged with any credit was Alex Bowler, assistant editor at Jonathan Cape publishers.
His reply read: “I suggest you reach for your copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I’d guess lives in close proximity to your typewriter and make sure that your opening pages don’t too closely mimic the book’s opening. After all, there is such a thing as plagiarism.”
Mr Lassman came up with the experiment when struggling to have his own novel published.
He said it highlighted the flaws in the publishing process.
“Getting a novel accepted is very difficult today unless you have an agent first, but I had no idea of the scale of rejection poor old Jane suffered.
又令我想起某天同學 W 發現我很喜歡 P&P 時意圖考驗我記得第一句與否。 “It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” 雖然每次談及時總會差一兩個字，倒是不會完全忘記的。