I read this cute article on page 3 of The Guardian today about a disgruntled unpublished author who submitted three slightly altered Jane Austen novels to various publishers and agents to see if they would get published today. As it turns out, they wouldn’t, and only two publishers seem to have noticed that they were Jane Austens.
Then he played his trump card, sending off Pride and Prejudice, calling it First Impressions, again an early title Austen had used for it. The names of the main characters and places were changed, but with no great guile.
Mr Bennet became Mr Barnett while the estate Netherfield becomes Weatherfield, the fictional setting for the TV soap Coronation Street.
And he did not change the opening line, one of the most famous in world literature: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Still the deception was not spotted and the rejection letters thudded on to Mr Lassman’s doormat, most notably one from Penguin. Its letter read: “Thank you for your recent letter and chapters from your book First Impressions. It seems like a really original and interesting read.”
Penguin later claimed that their internal notes indicate that they noticed the “possible plagiarism.” Perhaps all the publishers merely sent form rejections, not considering it worth their time to call Lassman on his little joke. I don’t suppose this experiment proves much, but it certainly has gotten one unpublished author more free publicity than he could hope for!