Out on your ass, Jane Austen

Some frustrated writer apparently submitted a Jane Austin novel to a publisher and had it rejected.  The point being, I guess, that publishers are all screwed up and therefore the author in question can now whine a little louder about his work being rejected.  John Scalzi makes short work of this:

Honestly, you'd think newspapers would be bored of reporting this genre
of stunt by now.
You know, as an aside to this foolishness: If I were an editor today,
and Jane Austen had not previously existed, and someone submitted Pride and Prejudice as a mainstream novel, I'd probably reject it. Because it's the 21st goddamn century,
that's why, and the style is all wrong to sell a whole bunch of them
(even if it were pitched as a mainstream historical novel). In point of
fact, I'd probably reject anything written in a 19th century manner,
with the possible exception of Mark Twain's work; for my money he's
probably the only 19th century author whose writing style doesn't make
me feel like I'm slogging through a morass of commas and odd language

So, yes. Out on your
ass, Jane Austen, until you can write in a contemporary way.

Yes, its a major pain to get published by a top house, and in fact I have yet to be successful, though I honestly think the current book I am writing has a good shot.  But there are lots of reasons a publishing house might reject a perfectly good book:  It may not fit the types of books they publish (you don't send a period piece to a sci-fi house); the publisher's pipeline might be full;  the author's synopsis or the first 30 pages might not be catchy enough (publishers cannot read every word of every submission they get); or the publisher could be missing an opportunity; or the book might, gasp, not be as good as the author thinks it is.


  1. KingM:

    It's silly, too, because the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice are among the most well known in literature. I'm guessing that people either recognized them or were turned off by the 200-year-old style.

  2. la petite chou chou:

    Heh, yes and editors don't even read their slush piles. They get readers to do that. So when you send in your manuscript, keep in mind that it may not even make it to the editor. And it is up to the editor to champion a work to the entire publishing house before they will even accept it. Gotta appeal to everyone.

  3. Alice Rutyens:

    The publishing industry argues that classic literature is no longer appropriate; by that logic, we shouldn't bother to read anything at all, because then yesterday's words are meaningless today. And if that's true, why bother at literature at all?

  4. Francis W. Porretto:

    There's a fourth reason that trumps all the others. In fact, it's the only reason a publisher ever declines a submission: the publisher doesn't think the book will make money for him.

    Publishing is a business. It's not some sort of aesthetic or intellectual charity effort. Edification has little to do with it, though there are a few cases of publishers taking on a book they expect to lose money on, for the sheer prestige of doing so. Most daunting of all, publishing is the business whose practitioners have the least and weakest tools for forecasting what the reading market will buy, which is why their editors' motto is "the same, only different."

    I, too, write fiction. I've won a number of contests, yet I, too, am unable to get paper publishers interested in my work. It's very simple: I write for an audience publishers either deem too small to address profitably, or too obscure to target with promotion and advertising. Given the high costs of paper publishing, they'd prefer a better bet. That's not my opinion, but theirs, expressed to me on several, widely spaced occasions.

    In business, you can't argue with dollars-and-cents logic. As publishing really, truly is a business, there's no point in trying.