We all know that the constant changes in the economy have a way of affecting the artistic landscape. We see it when we go to the cinema and observe how all the upcoming releases seem to fall in the same categories and styles. We notice this when tuning the radio it all sounds the same. Even when we’re at the airport searching for our in-flight read and the wall of choices, feels like we’re at an ice-cream parlor that only has three flavors. Yet we’re constantly told how there are so many unique opportunities waiting for us, particularly by the gate keepers in charge of sifting through the millions of artistic proposals.
In 2007 David Lassman, director of the annual Jane Austen Festival that takes place in Bath, England, thought up a ruse. His purpose was to discover if the works, of one of the most beloved authors of the nineteen century, would be able to get past the initial query phase of publishing. I think his job title can already tell you whose work he was thinking of. Lassman was inspired in the hoax after encountering rejections from several publishing big-shots when sending sample of his work. “I know it isn’t a masterpiece but I think it is publishable.”
So he took the first chapters from three different Austen novels: Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and, of course, Pride and Prejudice. He made minimal changes, only switching character names and the titles of the books. Instead of signing the queries with the original writer’s name or his own, he set up the pen name to be Alison Laydee. He then mailed the packets to 18 of the United Kingdom’s most famous and respected literary publishers and agencies. The results were shocking.
The first two books received staggering responses, all no’s. Yet none of these literary giants mentioned anything about the work being copied from such a known figure. Finally Lassman doubled down and sent the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice under the title First Impressions. The Janeite didn’t even bother changing the first sentence, which most of us would assume is one of the most recognized openings of a book: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
In an unexpected twist, only one publishing house, Jonathan Cape which is owned by Random House, responded to Lassman’s phony queries stating there were staggering similarities between First Impressions and the work of Jane Austen.
When news broke of the deceptive ploy, publishers and agents were soon to comment. They were all too eager to claim that they’d all been aware the queries were a form of plagiarizing, but they had been polite by simply sending a mass-written letter rejecting the piece. While others were even more brutal and bold by saying that given the response that was sent back to Lassman, the manuscript had more than likely not been read at all.
So what does this say about the industry, not just the publishing and literary one, but the entertainment one as a whole? Is it possible that unique and special voices are being lost in the sifting process? Maybe it isn’t unexpected then that emerging writers are joining MFA programs in order to gain academic recognition that might lead to publishing exposure. We can only hope that this is just a phase that will eventually pass. A day when there will come a point where the floodgates will have to be opened to allow creative and original artists to present and show their work.
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Fuente: Cultura Colectiva