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Naipaul gets rejected, 20 times over

A ‘sting’ operation carried out by The Sunday Times on book publishers has shown that publishing industry has become incapable of spotting talent.

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LONDON: If Nobel laureate V S Naipaul had started writing novels today, rather than 50 years ago then his books would have ended up in publishers’ reject piles.

A ‘sting’ operation carried out by The Sunday Times on book publishers and literary agents has shown that today’s publishing industry has become incapable of spotting genuine talent.

In order to find out the real competence of literary agents, the newspaper took the cover off Naipaul’s 1971 Booker prize winning novel In a Free State, typed up the first few chapters and sent it to about 20 top publishers and literary agents.

Only the names of the author and the main characters of the book were changed, the style, prose and content were left intact. All 20 publishers rejected the manuscript arguing they “did not feel sufficiently enthusiastic or confident about it”. None of the agents either recognised the book or realised they were dealing with the work of a Nobel Prize winner for literature.

Naipaul, 73, when told of the treatment given to his award winning book said “the world has moved on” since he wrote the novel. “To see that something is well written and appetisingly written takes a lot of talent and there is not a great deal of that around,” said Naipaul.

A few publishers and agents when they realised they had been “stung” blamed the sheer volume of manuscripts they received and lack of time to read every page. “With other forms of entertainment today there are very few people around who would understand what a good paragraph is,” added Naipaul.

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