Jane Austen Makes the Publishing RoundsDavid Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, set out to learn how the British publishing industry would react to the author. So he bundled up some introductory chapters of her books, changing some small details (names, basically), and sent them on, according to a Guardian article. Apparently only one person responded noting that it was actually Austen. ("I suggest you reach for your copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I'd guess lives in close proximity to your typewriter, and make sure that your opening pages don't too closely mimic that book's opening.") Most simply responded with form letters, though, when questioned, were saying, "Well, oh, of course we knew it was Austen, or something famous, or maybe like a movie we saw once. You know, with Emma Thompson and she plays that potential old maid? Did you see it?" OK, possibly not quite like that.
This sort of literary prank does happen now and again, and the media generally treat it as something that no one has ever before tried. I do wonder how often the editors actually recognize the text and don't bother to say, "Oh, look, you're taking the structure of X" because they're ticked that someone is trying to trick them. Then again, maybe the kids - as they're often the only ones who will live on the meager salaries - that are in acquisitions haven't read them.