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The star-making machinery

Grandpa got grumpy yesterday over one of his old nemeses: the Non-Disclosure Agreement. An NDA in this circumstance is when a publisher asks us to sign a contract putting certain restrictions on the Horn Book before forking over an advance review copy. We aren’t asked to sign them very often, and we never do sign them, and you’d think I could just let it go. Mostly, these agreements ask us to publish no review until publication date, which is a request I’m happy to honor. They can also ask that the book or details about the book not be shared with anyone outside our office, again, before publication date. I roll my eyes here, but fine, we won’t tell anyone that Beth Dies.

Like I said, we don’t sign them; sometimes they give us the book anyway (and we honor the request not to Disclose) and sometimes they don’t. In most cases, a book that is big enough* to trigger an NDA is not going to live or die by any Horn Book review. In the case of the book yesterday, no Horn Book Magazine review can appear before January anyway, as we are just tying the bow on November’s reviews. (I suppose I could still sneak it in at this point, but being asked to sign one of those suckers does not put one–this one, anyway–in a mood to be generous. Less work for mother!)

But yes, it is mostly crankiness on my part. While signing or not signing these NDAs has little impact on anything, I can’t help taking umbrage at their implicit swipe at my professionalism. And I don’t like signing a contract about what I can say (some of these NDAs have very tiny print about the publisher reserving the right to approve any public comment on our part about the book) or when I can say it with anyone but my actual employer. Mostly, I resent feeling like I work for the publisher, doing my bit to make the book’s debut splashy. That’s not my job.

*Sometimes I’ll be asked to sign an NDA for a book that only dreams of glory, where the last thing a publisher really wants to do is discourage people from talking about a book whose arrival is being anticipated by exactly nobody. These are the books that make me think to call Al and suggest a new sponsored-content program called Talk With Roger First.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Kiera Parrott says:

    “Mostly, I resent feeling like I work for the publisher, doing my bit to make the book’s debut splashy. That’s not my job.” THIS. So much this.

  2. Susan Corbett says:

    BETH DIES?????

  3. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Bruce Willis’s character is dead the whole time.

  4. And they actually never left Earth.

    But seriously. You’ve got to say “Spoiler Alert” before dropping a major plot twist! 😉

  5. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Alissa, and that is in fact the plot of a novel reviewed in our November issue. Oh, and, Sandra Bullock is imagining those conversations with George Clooney; he’s dead, too.

  6. Well Roger, you and your spoilers have ruined everything forever for me. I’m never reading another book again because of you.

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