Monday, July 23, 2007

Jane Austin Rejected

From time to time, we unpublished authors like to take petty revenge on the publishing business that won’t accept our work. Usually, this involves sending them a bestselling book under an assumed name and publicising the fact they rejected this too. The implication is that most editors wouldn’t know a bestseller if it was waved under their nose.

The latest attempt to embarrass the unflappable was when frustrated writer David Lassman sent in various classic novels and got uniformly rejected. Only one of the editors and agents realised that they had just received a proposal for Pride and Prejudice. Of course, this is not strictly fair. While I have no idea if any of the other editors would have recognised classics from the nineteenth century, almost none of them would have read the material they were sent. So all this exercise proved is that editors don’t read proposals, which we already knew. The only embarrassing thing for the publishing houses is that they claim in their standard rejection letters to have carefully considered the proposal when, plainly, they haven’t. It is this dishonesty that gets me. My agent is powerful enough to expect feedback when a submission is rejected, but even then the comments by some editors reveal that they haven’t read the proposal. And if the publishing houses aren’t even reading submissions from literary agents, what hope do authors who are unrepresented have?

Newspaper columnists have been quick to come to the editors’ defence, claiming that Jane Austin is passé and so old fashioned. This rather misses the point but the attitude of these journalists is hardly surprising. They probably have books in the pipeline and don’t want to snap at the hands they hope will feed them. As for Penguin, they have responded to having with some real bile. It’s worth a read.

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