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When is an Embargo not an Embargo?

 Wednesday, 24 November 2010

When it's the Last Sacrifice Embargo!

Ok so I want to make this clear that this post is not intended to be a criticism of Penguin UK in any way but this is a rather perplexing issue that I want to talk about. Do tell me if I'm over-thinking these things.

I saw a tweet on Sunday 21st from Cassandra Clare stating that "Embargoed means no advance review copies. No one reads the book before its release. Bookstores can't open the boxes of books before a strict date. Foreign publishers have to sign non disclosure agreements that they will release no information or excerpts from the book. The publisher's employees are basically not allowed to read it. That's an embargo." 

I thought this to be  a very interesting point since the press release I received from Penguin UK states that Last Sacrifice (The 6th book in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy Series) is under Embargo until its release date on December 7th, yet here I am with a *finished copy* of Last Sacrifice that I have already read. I'm not the only UK blogger with a copy of the book either! I can name at least six or seven other people who received it from Penguin in the last week and Penguin Australia (does that count as a foreign publisher since it's presumably Penguin US who hold the original publishing rights?) have been releasing teaser quotes for the last week or two! 

I know that there are restrictions on us UK bloggers in that we are not allowed to post quotes, excerpts, opinions or reviews of the book until its release date as we agreed when we signed the confidentiality agreements before the books were sent out, but when you compare this to what Cassie Clare defined as an embargo, is it really an embargo?

This is not the only book in the past year which has been under Embargo, back in August Mockingjay (the third and final book in the Hunger Games Trilogy) was supposed to be under lock and key until the 24th/25th yet some bloggers including Kristi of The Story Siren had copies nearly a week before that date and a US newspaper actually broke the embargo by posting a review - with spoilers -  the day before general US release. I'm sure that the majority of those lucky folk in the book blogging community didn't break the embargo but when it's such a highly anticipated book and a final book in a series isn't there always the risk that someone may break ranks and post a spoiler-filled review before anyone else has a chance to read it?

I am by no means pooh-poohing the fact that I was one of the incredibly lucky people who got a copy of Last Sacrifice. Heck No! I am *ecstatic* to have been given the opportunity to read the last book in a series I adore earlier than everyone else, but I'm feeling slightly antsy about the fact that thanks to me and a video I did showing my reaction to the arrival of my copy of Last Sacrifice, it has become common knowledge amongst VA fans on *FOUR* continents that I, and several other British Bloggers have copies of Book 6. I feel rather exposed even though I haven't actually said anything about the book itself. It's the fact that I've publicised the existence of it which may prompt other people to search out spoilers before it's officially released. 

But does that mean that publishers shouldn't send out copies of embargoed books before their release date to bloggers and other media people? No, as long as everyone respects the non-disclosure agreements and only post reviews *AFTER* its public release then I believe they should be allowed to read and enjoy those books, plus they get the added thrill of being one of a select few who got a sneak peek before everyone else (as does anyone who sees an advance showing of an awesome film).

However I don't think that the Last Sacrifice or even the Mockingjay embargo can be compared to the insane levels of secrecy surrounding the 2007 release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Regardless of what Anna Hathaway managed in the Devil Wears Prada you either had to be J.K. Rowling or some sort of Omniscient Deity to get a look at even the dedication page of DH before it was published let alone sitting pretty with a finished copy on the 19th of July 2007. Just look at the agreement that bookstores had to sign before they were even supplied with copies of DH - HP Embargo Contract <--- that is what I call an embargo and a half! Although sadly there were several breaches of even this incredibly stringent embargo, but I'm sure they regretted it when hit with the lawsuits that Bloomsbury and Scholastic threw their way.

I think that the definition of an Embargo that Cassie Clare stated is more reminiscent of the Deathly Hallows release than may be needed by other Highly Anticipated YA books even if the genre is now much more publicised than it was pre-HP. Until there's another book or series that reaches the world-wide, generation-spanning furour that Harry Potter did then I don't think that such extreme embargoes are necessary. Early Reviews and ARCs are part of what creates the hype and interest in a particular book in the months leading up to it's release date although if the blogosphere becomes flooded with reviews of one single book in a short space of time then it can have the opposite effect and by the time the book is generally available people are too tired of all the hype to bother picking it up straight away.

What Penguin has done with Last Sacrifice has worked very well I think, a select group of bloggers who get to read it early - BTW I'm really rather glad that it was UK bloggers since no offence to the US bloggers but you get so many awesome books before us it made a nice change :P- and with the embargo on reviews until December 7th there is enough excitement and anticipation especially with the addition of the teaser trailer quotes from Penguin Australia to ensure that release day should be a big success. 

I really can't wait for everyone to be able to read Last Sacrifice because I'm dying here not being able to share my thoughts with you all! Only 13 Days to Go!!

This has been my first proper discussion-style post so I would love to know your thoughts about whether book embargoes should be stricter or not, should bloggers post reviews of highly-anticipated or last-in-series books before or after the release date and with or without spoilers? Let me know if there's any other points about the issue of Embargoes that I haven't mentioned.

Have a great Wednesday Folks


Audra 24 November 2010 at 16:59  

Interesting post! I worked at an indie bookstore when the HP books first came out and while we had sales embargoes, it never occurred to me that it extended to bloggers/reviewers. Wouldn't the purpose of sending to bloggers/reviewers be to drum up interest for when the book eventually does go up for sale?

I look forward to the discussion from other bloggers.

Also, your comment about being pleased to have a copy before US bloggers made me snortle my coffee. :)

Audra 24 November 2010 at 16:59  

PS: Mind if I tweet this post? I think others might find it interesting.

LadyViolet 24 November 2010 at 17:25  

Oh please do tweet it, I'd like to get other views on this issue. :)
It's one thing to drum up interest but if reviewers are posting spoilerific reviews before the book is released I find that more annoying than helpful.

Audra 24 November 2010 at 17:32  

Oh, absolutely -- a review full of spoilers is just mean. I suppose that might be the reason for the embargo, to prevent that possibility in any way.

So, how does it feel to have an embargoed book? Have you been pestered by fans for a hint of what's to come?

LadyViolet 24 November 2010 at 17:40  

I haven't been pestered (much :P) to say what happens but when people speculate on what may happen I wanna flail cos I *Know*! Gah I just need the release day to come soon so I can discuss the book with people lol.

meags222 25 November 2010 at 05:40  

This was a very interesting post. I definitely agree with you on the wording embargo. If it is a true embargo then that would mean no advanced reader copies and it would be quite secretive. Perhaps they should change their wording if they are giving out limited amounts of ARCs. I can tell you are quite anxious to talk about this book. It shouldn't be too much longer.
Anyhow, I wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog and because of this I want to give you an award. The info can be found at the following link:
Thanks and happy blogging!

Chutzpah 26 November 2010 at 05:08  

This is a great post! But I'm so an author, maybe I should feel like these should be stricter? As a book lover, though, I'm like YES GIVE ME THE BOOKS GIVE ME ALLLL THE BOOKSSSS. Also I really like being able to read reviews of upcoming books (though it's frustrating when I can't actually go out and find them).

Ellie 27 November 2010 at 23:44  

Brilliant post Rachel! It's not something that's ever really applied to me - but I will say that spoilered reviews before the book even comes out SUCK! I guess the terms of an embargo are for the author and publishing company to decide, and perhaps with the growth of the blogosphere and its role in promotion, they'll shift and redefine the way they apply it to bloggers in future.

Also, you should definitely write more posts like this - it's fantastic!

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