Those stuck in a querying rut ought to read this (thanks to my birth mom for tipping me off about the story). For those who don’t know about the Steps experiment, it had to do with a guy in the 70s named Chuck Ross who badly wanted to be a writer. However, he didn’t trust that publishing companies always recognized viable talent. To test this, he submitted to four four publishers Jerzy Kosinki’s award-winning novel, Steps, that had sold over 400,000 copies in its first six years. He claimed it as his own using a false name. All four rejected the submission, including the one who was its original publisher.
He tried this experiment again four years later, using a different fake name–this time he submitted the entire manuscript to a larger number of publishers. The results were similar; every publisher rejected the work.
Now, there are some X factors to consider. For starters, a publisher may not be in the market for the same kind of book five or so years later. Also, they often have multiple professionals considering works, so in this case the person considering the work may have had more affinity to a different kind of writing. But it’s intriguing and shows that the industry is fickle, inconsistent and subjective, which is human nature. It’s not an exact science, in other words.
As much as this may feel like a blow to an author’s drive to keep at it in the face of rejection–How can I win against this?–it should also be taken as a ray of hope. After all, you only need one to say yes.