Thursday, January 14, 2010

Terms to Know: Embargoed Title

Those of you who have worked in book publishing or journalism will know what I mean by "embargo" (hint: it has nothing to do with Cuba), but for those of you not privy to the strange ways of the print media/publishing industries, an embargoed title is one that contains information (usually time-sensitive or previously confidential) that cannot be disseminated to reviewers, buyers, or (sometimes) even the sales force for fear of a premature leak.

Some embargoes are stronger than others: for example, a title might be available as a galley or ARC only to those industry professionals who have signed non-disclosure agreements, legally binding contracts prohibiting readers from discussing the contents of the book to anyone who hasn't also signed the agreement. Others are so colossally secret that galleys and ARCs are never produced, and virtually no one knows the contents of the book until the on-sale date. (An example of the latter would be the later Harry Potter novels.)

Now, embargoes are routinely broken, and I've actually never heard of a book that made it all the way to the on-sale date without having something sensitive leaked by a media outlet. The reasons for this are myriad, and range from the occasional errant bookstore that puts the title on shelves too early to the unscrupulous reviewer to the intentional-but-made-to-look-accidental leak by the publishers themselves. (This last measure can be surprisingly effective in terms of garnering additional media attention.)

If you're wondering if any of your titles have or will ever be embargoed, cats and kittens, the answer is: unlikely. Unless you're a corporate whistleblower, former Michael Jackson bodyguard, former CIA agent, or J.K. Rowling, publishers probably won't worry enough about the content of your book(s) to keep everything under wraps. Yes, they'll probably be miffed if a book store puts your title on shelves too early, but that generally has more to do with the timing of reviews, co-op, &c than fear that something groundbreaking will accidentally be released too soon.

10 comments:

  1. Haha. Funny about the 'accidental' leaks. Do publishers ever 'embargo' titles *don't read this. wink, wink* just to hype them up?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Edwards Bros in Ann Arbor, MI, was the American printer for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I had been in the publishing industry for six months when I got to tour their plant. I had to sign a waiver stating I would not take or attempt to take any material pertaining to the book off the premises. EVERYTHING related to that book was locked in cages, even the scrap. Chopped page and cover elements were vacuumed to an incinerator behind the plant so that there would be no physical remains that might get taken. Covers applied to their boards were kept in caged carts until they could be bound to the fresh-cut signatures.

    To their credit, nothing leaked from their plant. The leak on that book came from the UK publisher's plant. One of the employees smuggled something out.

    This kind of thing isn't just a big deal for the publishers, the printers agree to massive fines in their contracts if they slip up. It's big business for them, printing that many copies. One irresponsible employee or guest can screw the pooch for the entire deal.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I worked at Barnes and Noble when one of the HP books was released. Every one of us on the staff was told to be extra careful about what boxes we broke into in the back, just in case we hit one of the HP ones. (How that could happen is really beyond me. *eyeroll*) Do publishers still levy large fines against vendors if there's a breach in the embargo? I remember all the horror stories about those when I worked at B&N.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Doesn't it warm your heart the idea that a book is so important it ends up in a cage? Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm being sarcastic or not, I just think it's a fascinating idea...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for posting this. I was so worried about my title being embargoed, especially since I'm a CIA agent. Now I can sleep nights:)

    Love "the long arm of the law" label.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I protest. I am certain I am important enough to be embargoed. I think I'll include that in my query letters.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Kelly, I wouldn't put it past them, but I don't see how it would help, when the eventual revelation that they're publishing "My Life" by Myrtle Threepwood just makes everybody go "huh?"

    ReplyDelete
  9. Unlikely? I am sure that when my future publisher learns the title of my newest novel (Snoggins Leaves the Safety of His House and Goes to Public School Every Day) the contents will be secured with a chastity belt of an embargo. I just know it's going to be a bestseller! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for posting a brilliant information. I really too happy to read it. So much necessary information i'll get from these topic.Thanks once again.................
    printing services

    ReplyDelete