Anyone who works with books will be familiar with the increasingly ubiquitous non-disclosure agreement prohibiting media from divulging the contents of upcoming titles prior to publication day. Recently, the contents of Salman Rushdie’s new memoir, Joseph Anton, were kept under tight embargo, presumably because any leak of the breaking news that Rushdie was the subject of a fatwa that sent him into hiding for close to a decade would adversely affect the volume’s sales.
Arguably no author’s books have been embargoed more frequently or vigorously than J.K. Rowling’s, a trend that continues with her first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, due in bookstores on Sept. 27.
But in what Quillblog believes to be a first, it appears the non-disclosure agreement some U.K. media were asked to sign itself contained a non-disclosure agreement.
The arrival of The Casual Vacancy has been more remarkable for showing the ruthless, bullying side of publishing that has become all too common. And, given Rowling’s history of litigation, one can only imagine she has done little to discourage it. My colleague, Katy Guest, our literary editor, was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before her reviewer could be “hand-delivered” a copy of the book. Embargoes are normal, but within the legalese, Guest found a clause stating that even the existence of the agreement could not be mentioned. A sort of publishing superinjunction.
From a business perspective, it is perhaps arguable that a pre-publication embargo is useful for such a hotly anticipated book, especially given that the parcelling out of every last detail of this novel “ from its title to its cover design “ has been minutely stage-managed. But the injunction not to mention the injunction seems like an instance of leaping head-first down the rabbit hole.