Keeping Secrets: Knowing What You Shouldn’t Share
Blogger: Rachel Kent
In the publishing world, and especially in the Christian publishing market, we consider fellow writers to be friends, and we all want to help each other. The shared understanding of those long, lonely hours spent typing away to produce a book creates a bond between authors. And when we are friends, we want to share any helpful tips and tricks that we learn with everyone else. It is fine to be kind and helpful, and to pray for each other, but there are certain areas where information should be kept proprietary.
Here are a few areas to use caution:
1) Contracts and negotiations: Your publishing contract is proprietary. Do not share it with other writers, editors or publishing houses. That contract reflects an agreement between you and the publishing house and likely reflects years of work that your agent or agency has put in to negotiate important changes. This agency-negotiated contract is yours because of your ties with your agency, but those negotiations don’t belong to anyone else. Sharing a contract can create major problems for future negotiations because a publishing house will lose trust in an author or agent if word gets out about a special exception they made for one contract and then everyone starts asking for the same changes–with the same wording. It’s easily tied back to an author or agent when the change that was requested was a special request. When an agent requests changes, he or she agrees not to share contract details, but an unaware writer could create a big conflict by sharing a contract with others as well as harm the agent’s reputation. And certainly stymie that agent’s ability to negotiate with that publisher in the future.
2) Editor Requests, committee meetings and offers: Your agent will likely share with you where your project has been pitched, who has requested it, and which houses are taking it to committee or making an offer. This information is for you and your agent to know only. If you need to tell someone, tell your spouse, parents and close non-publishing-world friend and ask them to keep it a secret and to pray. Telling anyone in publishing these details could lead to a publishing house backing out of an offer or it could take away your agent’s ability to negotiate your offer. For example, if you post on Facebook that your agent received an offer for your book from Big Publishing House (even if you don’t share the amount of the offer), and Little Publishing House sees that but was prepared to make a bigger offer that Big Publishing House, Little House might back out because they mistakenly believe they can’t compete with Big House. If this wasn’t posted on Facebook, both houses would have come forward with their best offers, and you and your agent could have discussed the options and decided to go with the best publisher for you.
3) Your advance and royalties: Sharing this information is a big “no no.” Most contracts state that contractual details are not to be shared. Sharing how much you got for your advance could get you in legal trouble with your publishing house. There’s no reason to share this with anyone other than your agent, spouse, and tax accountant.
4) The inside scoop about what publishers are looking for. This one is probably the hardest because we all want to help each other, but if your agent tells you that a publishing house is looking for a certain type of book, or even if you find out yourself (perhaps at a writers’ conference), this information shouldn’t be shared with your writing friends. Telling someone else to submit to a publishing house creates competition for yourself, and in this tight publishing market, that could ruin your chance at publication. Do share information with your agent, so he or she can pitch your project to that house, but don’t take insider information out for all to see.
In what additional areas have you learned to use caution when talking to others in the publishing world?
How do you balance your writer friendships with the competitiveness of the publishing market?
What publishing information is proprietary? Find out here. With @RachelLKent. Click to Tweet.
How sharing publishing info could hurt your writing career. Via @RachelLKent. Click to Tweet.
How do you balance your writer friendships with the competitiveness of the publishing market? Click to Tweet.