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Publishers toss Booker winners into the reject pile - Sunday Times - Times Online

Wednesday January 04th 2006, 12:47 pm

Publishers toss Booker winners into the reject pile - Sunday Times - Times Online

THEY can’t judge a book without its cover. 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.

In response, Free Lunch writes:

On Sunday London’s Times ran one of those periodic ambush articles in which the reporters make themselves feel wonderfully superior by submitting two Booker-winning novels from the 70s anonymously to 20 publishers and agents. (One is VS Naipaul’s IN A FREE STATE; the other is Stanley Middleton’s A FREE STATE.)

The paper claims “the exercise by The Sunday Times draws attention to concerns that the industry has become incapable of spotting genuine literary talent.” Don’t you wonder what would have happened if they had done the same thing with some op-ed essays submitted blind to top newspapers?

Mostly they prove that dropping submissions on “top” publishers and agents with no context and no compelling story about the author at holiday time is likely to yield little. (The Naipaul submission “received only a handful of replies”; only half of the newspaper’s queries were answered before they wrote the article.) They also take it as a given that Booker winners from three decades should remain inherently compelling to the publishing world today, though they didn’t bother to even check Bookscan results for the two books.

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