A Laydee rejected as novelist - manuscripts unread

After I've had occasional bum rejections from editors to whom I've sent story ideas, had to laugh at story re "A Laydee" being turned down by most publishers that manuscripts sent to. At least once,I've figured my ideas went unread despite the "not quite right for us I'm afraid" rejection note. Once, I received a rather pompous reply saying the magazine only accepted articles from people who were experts in their field: I wrote back saying I was an expert (on bird migration in China), and received response saying the first letter was from intern who had left the mag - and leading to my doing an article for the magazine.

On, then, to "Alison Laydee" aka would-be-novelist David Lassman. As explained in The Times:

Mr Lassman, 43, had spent months trying without success to find a publisher for his own novel Freedom’s Temple. Out of frustration – and to test whether today’s publishers could spot great literature – he retyped the opening chapters of three Austen classics: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

He changed only the titles, the names of the characters and his own name – calling himself Alison Laydee, after Austen’s early pseudonym “A Lady” – then waited for the offers to roll in. Instead he received yet another sheaf of rejection letters, including one from Penguin, which republished Pride and Prejudice last year, describing his plagarised chapters as “a really original and interesting read” but not right for Penguin. [good grief: not just liars, but pompous to boot!] ...

The literary agency Christopher Little, which represents J.K. Rowling, regretted that it was “not confident of placing this material with a publisher”. Jennifer Vale of Bloomsbury publishers turned down Northanger Abbey,renamed Susan, saying “I didn’t feel the book was suited to our list.” The one publisher to recognise the deception was Alex Bowler, assistant editor at Jonathan Cape. His reply read: “Thank you for sending us the first two chapters of First Impressions; my first impression on reading these were ones of disbelief and mild annoyance, along with a moment’s laughter.

“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 and I’d hate for you to get in any kind of trouble with Jane Austen’s estate.” Last night a spokeswoman for Penguin admitted that Mr Lassman’s submission may not actually have been read. ...

How A Laydee showed that First Impressions really are misleading - and there we have it: "not actually read" yet the rejection letter suggests someone's taken a careful look, so a big lie really. I'd prefer having letter saying they're overwhelmed, suggesting maybe try an agent.

Not all editors are so bad. I've had a couple of personal replies from editors at National Geographic magazine: one telling me re around 3 in 1000 queries making it to publication; another saying my idea - for piece on China's environment - would make for a whole book: kind of frustrating that a few years later, saw just such an article in the mag (but, things change - can be worth re-submitting ideas). Just come across another piece in the Times, from last year, where they tested manuscripts, and found:

Publishers and agents have rejected two Booker prize-winning novels submitted as works by aspiring authors.

One of the books considered unworthy by the publishing industry was by V S Naipaul, one of Britain’s greatest living writers, who won the Nobel prize for literature. The exercise by The Sunday Times draws attention to concerns that the industry has become incapable of spotting genuine literary talent. Typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of Naipaul’s In a Free State and a second novel, Holiday, by Stanley Middleton, were sent to 20 publishers and agents.

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.

Publishers toss Booker winners into the reject pile

I found that after searching re story I was just told re JK Rowling's first Harry Potter manuscript landing in an agent's bin, but being rescued.

Bryony Evens, Little's office manager at the time, said Rowling's manuscript went straight into the reject basket because "Christopher felt that children's books did not make money". But its unusual black binding caught her eye, prompting her to read the synopsis and show it to Little.

Harry Potter's wheeler-dealer - so it seems that to get published, should of course write well, but having some luck helps too!

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