Yes, we are talking about you

Dearest, most beauteous Miss Snark, who is all-deserving of endless pails of gin, clue guns equipped with dilithium hyperdrives, and an immortal George Clooney love slave:

Is it considered 'common courtesy' for an editor to inform other publishers with whom Author X has published that she is considering a ms by Author X?

The long version: Author X published a novel with Publisher #1, with an options clause in the contract for 'future works' . Publisher #1 was aware of the existence of numerous previous novels by Author X, which were on submission to various other publishers. Publisher #1
required the options clause to include all genres despite only publishing one genre. Publisher #1 subsequently rejected four novels by Author X that were not within the genre, and accepted one within the genre. Author X queried Publisher #2 with one of the rejected novels, which had been written well before the contract with Publisher #1 had been signed. Publisher #2 replied with question about the status of the ms and whether it was free of an options clause.

Author replied in the affirmative. Publisher #2 then requested the full ms but noted they had already informed Publisher #1 of this request, as was common courtesy practice between colleagues.

Author X considered this a breach of privacy, not common courtesy, as Author X thinks it's none of Publisher #1's damned business what Author X does with her rejected mss.

What does the glorious Miss Snark say? (Besides "get an agent". Author X would kill for an agent, truly, but unfortunately writes for a niche market -- gay/lesbian -- and small presses don't offer advances or anything else that would interest an agent.)
many thanks, bonbons, confetti, and earnest wishes that George Clooney arrives on your doorstep soon,

I'm not sure what planet you live on if you think people in publishing don't talk to each other ALL the time about things just like this. In fact, talking about stuff is so much the norm, that not being able to talk about something is red hot news.

Given you don't have an agent, a publisher would be stupid not to make sure you're representing your situation accurately when you say you're free to publish with them. They're just avoiding problems. If you don't like it, don't take the deal.

"Expectation of privacy" is a phrase used about information on your tax returns, banking and libraries. You don't enjoy any expectation of privacy about making a business deal. We're not giving people your credit card info, we're talking about your book. We're going to talk about it to a LOT of people before you get an offer let alone accept.


Manic Mom said...

Okay, whatever. My head is spinning just trying to figure out what the question is. It's too much like a math equation! And you know how writing and math don't mesh for me. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, in a similar vein, if a big-time editor has requested a manuscript, and the writer mentions it in his/her query letter to agents, does that mean that the agents are probably talking with this editor about it, assuming that the agents are friendly with the editor, which they probably are? And how will that effect the editor who's got the manuscript? If the writer has been honest, is this kind of talk good or bad; will it help or hurt the author's chances? (Either with the editor or the agents.) Thanks so much, as always. Love.

Yasamin said...

wow... the only reason i could think that Author X might feel weirded out by this is if Author X was afraid of what Publisher #1 might say to Publisher #2 regarding the ms that was shot down. You would think that if one found it good and the other found it bad, then there would be a little decorum in chit chattin about it... who knows.

life of the business. i guess.

xiqay said...

So are you worried that Publisher 1 is going to put the kibosh on publisher 2's possible acceptance of your mss? Can't you just get publisher 1 to say, okay, we rejected, so it's free now?

Or do I need a clue gun shot too?


just a good life

The Unpretentious Writer said...

I had a partial on review with one agent, another asked for a partial and also if anyone was looking at it. I told the second agent (when I sent the partial) that the first agent had it too.

Three hours later I got a rejection from the first agent. Coincidence? Or do agents talk and one backed out so the other could have it? (I -do- know that the agencies are familliar with each other.)

Anonymous said...

How can multi pubbed authors with good track records write for several houses (that publish similar types of books)? Each obviously has an options clause, which would basically ask for the next book. How can they get away with it?

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm assuming that options clauses are generally related to what the publishing house actually prints, generally speaking. But if they pass it up, you have met their demand, so what's the beef here? Why get mad about submitting to them first? If that's a problem, get an agent and get the contract negotiated by her/him before you sign.

The Rejected Writer said...

Anon, good agents will get the options clause dropped. It's one of the first thing most reputable houses are willing to drop, because if the house treats an author well, she's likely to go back to them with the next book anyway.

Anonymous said...

What's the problem again? I don't get it. I mean, shouldn't you be grateful that someone has interest? Am I missing something here? Maybe so. My hair's wet, no coffee yet, I'll read it again.

Georgia Girl

Jenna Black said...

To Anon who wondered about multi-pubbed authors and their option clauses: If you're a multi-pubbed author with a good track record, then your agent can almost certainly restrict that option clause to something better than just "next book." (For example, your agent might be able to negotiate the clause to "next romantic comedy," or even "next book in the same series.")

Anonymous said...

This makes publishing sound like it's conducted on an entirely personal level. I'm sure agents and editors are friends, and talk among themselves.
But the bottom line is the bottom line, and no matter what comes between, I think they all want the good book.
So gossip, tales out of school, the whole thing falls by the wayside when it comes to the book.

Simon Haynes said...

Anon, my contract was for three books in the same series, and there was no option clause. Maybe they thought three was enough without asking for an option on a fourth.

~Nancy said...

My eyeballs almost became permanently crossed, like I was reading a damned word problem in math.

I feel your pain, manic mom. ;-)


Paula said...

Okay delurking for a moment to chime in with my two cents. The option clause is meant (I hope I state this right) that they reserve the right to look at anything further that you have or write in the future as long as you are under contract with them. If they reject it you are free to take it elsewhere. They don't own the rights to everything you write, just what they publish. If someone shoots me with the clue gun can you please aim for my arse, its where all my padding is. :)

snarked NOTD said...

The question was mine -- sorry for the convoluted phrasing, and thanks, Miss Snark, for the reply!

I knew everyone in the business talked to each other, but the phrasing of the "we have informed your publisher" smacked of "neener, neener, we narked on you." And, as a follow up, my partner (aka Author X) received the next day a communication from his current publisher with lots of Dire Threats and How Dare Yous and No Author Is Allowed to Publish With Two Different Houses Ever Ever Ever and, basically, If You Question Our Policy You Are Not A Patriot.

So, if your publisher rejects your ms, and your contract says you are free to send rejected ms to other publishers, you can do so but if you do your publisher will punish you by refusing to accept any more of your work and also refusing to let you out of your contract.

Surely *that's* not normal, is it?

Anonymous said...

What if that same Publisher A, after receiving the heads-up from Publisher B, sends an email to all its authors saying, "If we reject one of your novels and you sell it elsewhere, we refuse to buy anything else from you"?

Surely that's not normal business practice.

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Snark,

Get rid of the boyfriend wanna be.


Anonymous said...

It always depends on how the option clause is written--get an agent or a a lawyer who knows intellectual property law.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Unpretentious writer, it's possible that when you informed the first agent that another agent was looking at it, they put your anuscript on the fast track for review. (After all, there was competition and the other guy might snap you up first!) They read it and decided to pass.

As for the question-poster, it's your first pub sending you a nasty email like that which seems out of line... to me, anyway.

'Steene said...

Blackballing you for placing a manuscript elsewhere hardly seems normal. If this condition is the result of working in such a specialized genre, maybe Author X should look outside that genre for puplishers? These days, many larger genres welcome books with strong gay/lesbian themes, and offer money in quantities that might tempt an agent.

Pennyoz said...

Is the book going to be invisible?
Have I missed some new technology here?
Invisible book publishing?
What'll they think of next!!!