Why I Did Not Submit to Penguin

I’ve just sent out a manuscript in response to a request for a full. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, and it’s probably not the last. Ha – I sound like I could use more confidence. Know what? That isn’t true.

It takes an average of twelve years to be published.

I believe I will be published someday. It may take years. The average is twelve. Stieg Larsson, who wrote The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, took thirty. I’m hoping to manage a slightly quicker career-launch, but that’s off the topic.

You may have seen this amazing thing: Penguin UK is, for a limited time, accepting unagented submissions from authors. This is an incredible opportunity. Almost every unpublished author I know is taking advantage of this, as well they should.

I’m not.

Yeah, that’s the look you’re giving me now, I’m sure. You want to be published HOW MUCH and you HAVEN’T done this? Sputtercoughwtffaint.

There’ s a really simple reason why. A lot of authors are perfectly capable of handling themselves and all the legal intricacies that come with publication.

I am not. I know I’m not. Here’s what brought it home:

Several agent friends have confirmed that Macmillan sent a letter over the weekend asking authors to sign amendments that gave them electronic rights to backlist titles.

By the way, these letters went out to authors—not to the agents or agencies who represent them.

If you are an author and you received this letter, do not sign or return it without consulting with your agent or attorney first. If you haven’t got either, then pick up the phone and call the Authors Guild. I know the lawyers over there and they’d be happy to take a look at this amendment that has been sent out (if they haven’t seen it already).

Whatever you do, make sure you have a complete understanding of your rights and what you’d be granting if you signed the amendment and what other options exist if you don’t.

This is from amazing agent Kristin Nelson, who reps such incredible authors as Gail Carriger (author of Soulless) and Sarah Rees Brennan (author of Demon’s Lexicon). There’s a whole lot of backstory, of course, but the gist is that this was a well-known publisher trying to pull a fast one on authors without paying for it.

See, here’s what scares me: I would have signed the papers.

I guess I’m too trusting. It would not have occurred to me immediately that the publisher was trying to take rights from me – I would have thought that they were trying to protect me. (Insane things like this have made everyone jumpy about digital rights lately.)

I get it NOW, sure – now that I’ve been reading up more. But the fact is that I’m a trusting person. I try not to deceive, and I don’t assume people are being deceitful – thus, I likely would have fallen for this.

I need an agent. I know I need an agent, and I’m not alone. The brilliant John Green (author of Looking For Alaska)  actually managed without an agent for a while – and then in the end, AFTER being published, AFTER being lauded and awarded, decided he needed one anyway. Even for the ueber-smart, it was kind of a lot of work.

So – even though half of my brain is screaming at me that this is my chaaance and blow this and maybe you’ll never get theeeere, I am not going to submit to Penguin. I know I’ll make it someday – without the risks this would bring. I’m just going to keep goin, following  this path until it leads me where I want to go.

Now there’s a kind of confidence I never thought I’d have.

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