2 January 2006

Major publishers and agents prove themselves to be 'incapable of spotting genuine literary talent'

Publishers and agents have shown their true colours in an exercise conducted by by The Sunday Times. Two Booker prize-winning novels were submitted to prominent publishers and literary agents as works by aspiring authors. The exercise has raised 'concern' that the industry is 'incapable of spotting genuine literary talent'. One of the books considered unworthy by the publishing industry was by V S Naipaul, one of Britain’s greatest living writers and a Nobel prize winner.

Typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of Naipaul’s In a Free State and a second novel, Holiday, by Stanley Middleton, were sent to 20 publishers and agents. None recognised the novels; among the 21 replies sent to the 'aspiring authors', only one was not an outright rejection -- the literary agent wrote of Naipaul’s book:

'We ... thought it was quite original. In the end though I’m afraid we just weren’t quite enthusiastic enough to be able to offer to take things further.'

Rejections for Middleton’s book came from major publishing houses such as Bloomsbury and Time Warner, and from well-known agents such as Christopher Little who discovered J K Rowling.

Timesonline continues: 'Critics say the publishing industry has become obsessed with celebrity authors and “bright marketable young things” at the expense of serious writers. Most large publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts from first-time authors, leaving the literary agencies to discover new talent. '

Read the full story at: Times Online

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