Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rejection of Austen Books Reveal Modern Publishers' Pride & Prejudice

The Telegraph wrote: "Her work has endured for two centuries, sold in its millions and inspired countless film and television adaptations. But would Jane Austen be able to find a publisher and an agent today?"

In 2007, British author and the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, David Lassman decided to find out.

He made a few minor changes to the opening chapters and plot synopses of three of Austen's works, using the pseudonym Alison Laydee (a hat tip to Austen's nom de plume "A Lady"), and sent them off to 18 of the U.K.'s top publishers. He was astounded to receive decided rejections to his submissions.

Mr. Lassman said, "I was staggered. Here is one of the greatest writers that has lived, with her oeuvre securely fixed in the English canon, and yet only one recipient recognized them as Austen's work."

And this was despite the fact that he left this line intact in his submissions: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Not only did this experiment uncover modern publishers' pride and prejudice towards a different writing style, but it also revealed their shocking lack of education of the classics.

I mean, come on. Jane Austen has been so hot in the last few years, and that seminal opening line from her Pride & Prejudice appears on mouse pads and mugs. How on earth could acquiring editors not know it?!

Lassman then published an article, titled Rejecting Jane in issue 28 of Jane Austen's Regency World magazine, in which he detailed his literary experiment.