Older, Wiser...deeply chagrined

Dear Miss Snark,

About four years ago (when I was a moron) I signed contracts for two of my books with PublishAmerica. Now, with a lot more knowledge, I'm querying agents on a new novel.

I don't mention the PA books in the query letters, but I'm wondering if I have to mention them at all. Possibly at the stage that an agent might be interested in representing me.

Either way, leaving that info out or mentioning it in a phone conversation gives me the willies since I'm quite ashamed of those books. Not only because of the name of the publisher, but also because I know now why I was rejected so many times before falling into PA's trap. I was a young writer still in desperate need of some growth.

It will be our little secret. You don't really have to mention it unless someone wants to tout you as a "debut novelist". Speak up then and give your publisher/agent the info before they decide to do that. PA doesn't really count as publication, it's more like an expensive printing job with an ISBN number but you don't want to win "Best First Novel" and have to give back your tiara.

Bottom line: you don't have to mention it in your query at all. And don't be ashamed of it. All of us do things when we are young and stupid. Miss Snark did not publish with PA, but she's hoping Grandmother Snark never discovers what the check given to Miss Snark for her 16th birthday actually paid for.


Mark said...

I think the same could be said of an iUniverse book that didn't warrant a full page ad in the NY Times. They're books, but not credits, and unless you make some indordinant claim about them, keep them in the background.

Bella Stander said...

Miss Snark wrote:
You don't really have to mention it unless someone wants to tout you as a "debut novelist".

You can still be a "debut novelist"--just as you can wear white at your wedding even if you're not a virgin. I once reviewed a book touted as a "fiction debut" and the author had recently published fiction in Canada.

Lou said...

Hmm. I can't find it now on the PublishAmerica site or I may have seen it on Preditors and Editors or a similar site - but didn't PA's contract bind the author to sub any further mss to them for another 7 years?

T. M. Hunter said...

didn't PA's contract bind the author to sub any further mss to them for another 7 years?

Back in the day (back when I signed...sigh), the old lifetime PA contracts had a "right of first refusal" clause. I don't think there was a time limit on those, but there was also no requirement that you had to accept their contract as presented (a fact that many didn't realize, and so burdened themselves by signing a second book away).

Myself, I submitted the required second manuscript, and when the (of course) contract came back, I asked for a few changes to the verbiage. They didn't see eye to eye with the vast majority of the changes (including, but not limited to 100 author copies, an editor of my choice paid for by them, and higher royalties on the cover price), and so I'm free to shop any other books to other publishers.

Thank God.

none said...

Following up what lou says, I think the questioner would be well-advised to look closely at their PA contract(s) and make sure that PA have no contractual rights to this new book. If they do, don't panic--PA contracts have been got out of before now, although I hear it's difficult. There's a never-ending PA thread at AbsoluteWrite that might help.

Miss Snark said...

Yipes! It never crossed my mind that PA would have rights to future novels. Excellent point, thanks for mentioning it.

And, I'd LOVE to see PA go after soemeone who didn't give them a subsquent novel, and have to defend their "publishing program" in court.
But then...it's Monday, I'm still not quite back in Realityville.

Diana Peterfreund said...

I think PA gets rights to the book they BOUGHT. for seven years -- unlike most POD publishers, who let rights revert back to the author after a year, or upon request, or never leave the author, or whatever.

Mark said...

I don't think anyone has ever been held the full seven years, yet. Most get out way early, but there are many two book deals, even if I've never heard of any author held to the second submission even if their contract required it.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Recently, PA has terminated a number of contracts and given rights back to the authors after those threatened to bring things to arbitration and/or court. PA doesn't like the words 'arbitration' and 'court', not after they lost an arbitration. *evil grin*

Cynthia Bronco said...

I love the beginning of that letter: "About four years ago (when I was a moron)..." It would be a great beginning for a novel.

Fionnix said...


What did you buy with Grandma's check? Do tell.

Only focusing on important stuff,
Rhi ;)

Anonymous said...

I was one of those writers taken in by Publish America. I signed with them in 2000, when there was no information about them online. My contract required I give them the next book.

A year ago my rights were reverted back to me and my novels are no longer in Publish America's slimy hands.

My question to Ms. Snark is this: I am rewriting my books under new titles. Would there be anything preventing me from submitting them elsewhere? Should I tell my agent or publisher a book was previous with PA or does it matter? If it isn't a publishing credit to begin with, and if the books are rewritten under new titles, do I have to say anything at all?

What is your opinion on this?

Matt said...

I suspect the rights reversion gets you out of the contract anyway, but...

I'm not a lawyer, but I've seen it suggested more than once that it's a "right of first refusal" on your next book.

If I was in your position I would put a bunch of gibberish from poetry generators and title it the "The Totally Erotic Tales of Miranda Prather and Larry Clopper" and submit it. Once it's rejected (or even accepted. I don't believe you have to accept the deal anyway) you're free, since that was your next book.