FAQ

General

What is PEN American Center?
PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s leading international literary and human rights organization. International PEN was founded in 1921 in direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the First World War. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.

How can I receive news about PEN?
You can sign up to receive PEN’s monthly newsletter and event mailings, or follow PEN on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

I’m not a PEN Member. Can I still attend PEN Events?
Yes. Unless otherwise noted, PEN Events are open to the public. PEN Members receive discounts on ticketed programs, as well as invitations to certain Member-only events.

Can PEN help me find an agent or get published?
No. PEN offers a variety of Literary Awards to published authors, translators, and editors, and accepts submissions to PEN America: A Journal for Writers & Readers, but cannot otherwise help you find an agent or get published.

My online transaction did not go through, or gave me a threatening message. What do I do?
It’s possible your transaction has been held up due to security reasons; this sometimes happens when there are minor discrepancies in the information credit card or contact information you entered. Please e-mail Robyn DesHotel at rdeshotel [at] pen.org, who will identify the transaction and either push it through or suggest that you re-try. She can also be reached at (212) 334-1660, ext. 102, to process your information over the phone.

I want to donate to PEN or support its work in some other way. What can I do?
PEN gratefully accepts tax-deductible donations as well as various non-monetary contributions.

I am interested in sponsoring or advertising with PEN. Is this possible?
Yes. There are a number of sponsorship or advertising opportunities for both our online and print publications. World Voices Festival program and web site rates can be found here.

Where do I apply for internships or job openings?
There are a number of internship opportunities available at PEN throughout the year. Go to PEN's Opportunities page to learn about openings.

I used to receive a printed copy of Grants & Awards. Can I order a hard copy?
No. PEN no longer offers hard copies of its Grants & Awards listings. Our database is now available exclusively online.

My work has been published without my knowledge in a foreign country. What can PEN do for me?
Unfortunately, PEN does not offer legal services to its Members. Please contact your agent or the Writers’ Guild for further guidance.

Does PEN have space to rent?
No. PEN’s offices are not available for rent.

Supporting PEN

How can I donate to PEN American Center?
To make a financial contribution to PEN, please visit our support page; call the Development Department at (212) 334-1660, ext. 112 or ext. 113; or send a check to:

PEN American Center
Development Department
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012

Can I make a contribution to a specific program?
Yes. To make a contribution to one of PEN American Center’s programs, please visit this page. However, if you choose not to restrict your contribution for a particular program, you will allow us to distribute our resources to the areas in which current needs are greatest.

In what other ways can I make contributions to PEN?
By including PEN American Center in your will, you can leave the legacy of literature and free expression to future generations. For more information on planned giving, please go here. PEN also accepts gifts of stock, as well as memorial gifts and contributions in honor of a person or event. In-kind donations or services are also greatly appreciated, including communications and computing devices; advertising and publicity; or printing, photography, and video equipment. Please contact Linda Morgan or Jasmine Davey at linda@pen.org or jasmine@pen.org, or call (212) 344-1660 ext. 112 or ext. 113.

How can my company or organization contribute to PEN?
If your company has a Matching gift program, you can double, or in some cases triple your contribution. Please obtain a matching gift form from your personnel office or matching gift coordinator, fill it out completely, and send it to us. To become a corporate supporter, either by making a contribution or by purchasing a table at the annual PEN Literary Gala, please e-mail linda@pen.org or call (212) 344-1660 ext. 113. Sponsorship or advertising opporunities are also available through PEN’s online and print publications, as well as the annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, which can offer your press, company, or organization unique access to a broad audience of cultural enthusiasts.

Is PEN American Center a 501c3 nonprofit organization?
Yes. PEN American Center is recognized as a 501c3 nonprofit organization by the Internal Revenue Service. Our Federal Tax ID number or Employer Identification Number (EIN) is 13-3447888.

Is my contribution to PEN American Center tax-deductible?
100% of your contribution is tax-deductible, unless otherwise noted. Membership dues are not deductible

Literary Awards

Does PEN offer grants or awards to unpublished writers?
All of PEN’s Literary Awards are for writers who have already published work. The only support we offer to individuals who may not have previously published work are the PEN Translation Fund Grants. These grants go to translators who are in the process of translating works that have not previously appeared in English or have appeared only in an outdated or otherwise flawed translation. However, PEN does manage a database of Grants and Awards offered by other organizations, many of which are open to unpublished authors.

I see that publishers whose annual net sales are under $4 million dollars do not have to pay the Literary Awards submission fee. What documentation is needed to prove that my publisher qualifies to have the fee waived?
Simply mark on your submission form that your publisher’s annual net sales are under $4 million. If we have questions about the validity of your claim, we will contact you.

Can I submit an anthology to your Translation Awards?
Anthologies of translated works are only eligible if the entire anthology has been translated by no more than two people.

I applied for a PEN Translation Fund Grant but was not one of the recipients. Can PEN or the Translation Fund Advisory Board give me feedback on my project?
Due to the large number of submissions, we cannot give individual feedback.

When are the PEN Literary Awards?
The PEN Literary Awards Ceremony is held in the fall.

I used to receive a printed copy of Grants & Awards. Can I order a hard copy?
No. PEN no longer offers hard copies of its Grants & Awards listings. Our database is now available exclusively online.

Membership

How do I become a Member of PEN?
There are two categories of membership: Professional Membership is available to individuals who have published one or more books of a literary character or one book of exceptional distinction (i.e. winning a major national prize). Also eligible are editors who have demonstrated commitment to excellence in their profession (usually construed as five years' service in book editing); translators who have published at least one book-length literary translations; playwrights who have had one production of their work mounted in a professional theater of 250 seats or more; and literary essayists whose publications are extensive even if they have not yet been issued as a book. Associate Membership is open to anyone who supports PEN's mission. Associate Membership offers many benefits such as a subscription to PEN America, our award-winning journal, discounts to our public programs, discounted access to our online Grants and Awards database, and much more. 

I’m a beginning writer. Can PEN help me get published or find an agent?
PEN American Center cannot help you place your work with a publisher or assist you in finding an agent.

I’m trying to contact a writer who is a Member of PEN American Center. Can you give me his or her contact information?
We cannot give out contact information for any of our Members. In certain circumstances we will pass on e-mails or packages, but this is only on a case-by-case basis.

I’m a Member of PEN and have a friend who would also like to become a Member. What should I do?
You may send a letter of nomination to Membership Coordinator Daniel Guzman, or you can ask your friend to fill out an online application, and send it in via e-mail or snail mail.

PEN America Journal

What does PEN America publish?
A typical issue includes conversations, fiction, poetry, essays, excerpts from PEN award-winning books, and short and long responses to the issue’s theme by embers of PEN. PEN America also includes a good deal of work in translation. 

Where can I buy PEN America?
You can subscribe or buy single copies online. You can also find it in bookstores across the country. If your bookstore does not carry it, please ask them order it directly from us or from one of our distributors, which include Source Interlink and Ubiquity.

Who is PEN America?
See our most recent issue for the magazine’s current masthead.

When will the next issue appear?
Winter 2013.

I love this magazine! How can I support it?
If you are able, consider becoming a Friend of PEN America. You can also support PEN America by subscribing and sharing the journal with your friends.

Translation

How do I go about acquiring the rights to a foreign title I am interested in translating and shopping around to publishers?
Translators should keep in mind that translation rights are generally sold or granted to publishers, not to translators, and that it is generally the publisher of the translation who selects the translator, not the original author or that author’s publisher. A prospective translator should not start by asking the author about the status of translation rights to a particular work: the author may say that those rights are available and encourage the translator to begin without knowing who controls the rights. The translator should contact the author with rights questions only if the publisher confirms that the author has retained foreign language rights. When proposing a work in translation for publication, the translator should clearly indicate the foreign rights holder of the work to all publishers contacted.

The publication of an unauthorized translation of a copyrighted work is piracy. In the event that a translation is undertaken independently (i.e. not as a commission from a publisher), the Translation Committee recommends that the prospective translator investigate who controls the translation rights, and then obtain written permission from the copyright holder. It is always wise to determine whether translation rights are available before investing time and effort on the translation.

For works not in the public domain, the right to publish a translation is, under present copyright law, a derivative one that requires the consent of whoever owns the copyright in the original work. The prospective translator of an untranslated work should first contact the foreign rights manager of the publisher of the original work. This person’s name and contact information can generally be found in the International Literary Market Place (ILMP), which is available at the reference desk of most libraries. Questions to ask the foreign rights manager are:

1) Has a publisher already acquired the right to publish [an English] translation of this work?
2) Are any publishers currently considering the work for publication in [English] translation?
3) Have any publishers rejected the work for publication in [English] translation?
4) Are there plans to submit the work to other publishers?

What is a work-for hire? Is it ever acceptable?
The Copyright Act of 1976 (§101) defines a work made for hire as:

(1) A work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or
(2) A work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as part of a motion picture or outer audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary works, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. For the purpose of the foregoing sentence, a ‘supplementary work’ is a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes, and an ‘instructional text’ is a literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities.

In certain situations—anthologies, publications involving multiple translators, and magazines—the publisher may propose that a translator accept a work-for-hire agreement. In such cases the translator has no copyright in the translation and all rights to the translation are owned by the publisher. While a work-for-hire agreement may provide the translator with a higher flat fee, the translator receives no royalties, no share in subsidiary rights income, and no control over subsequent editions of a work. Work-for-hire contracts between translator and publisher must be explicit about terms. Although under such agreements the publisher is designated as the copyright holder, the translator may ask for payments beyond the initial flat fee. However, given the restrictions associated with them, the Translation Committee does not recommend that translators accept work-for-hire agreements.

What happens when a translation to which I have the copyright goes out of print? How do I assert my rights?
Arbitration. Sometimes an arbitration clause may be needed in the contract. Most contracts do not contain this provision, and fortunately it is rarely necessary. However, some translators have encountered problems that require arbitration, especially when the author of the original work has the right to review the translation. The issue involved is the delicate one of the “moral rights” of the author conflicting with the “paternity rights” of the translator, as defined under the Berne Convention. The Committee feels that if it is deemed necessary, the solution set forth in the added clause below would be the most equitable for all concerned:

“Should the translation as submitted be deemed unsatisfactory by the Publisher, the Translator may ask that the translation be submitted to examination by a three-member panel of qualified translators, one member to be chosen by the Translator, one by the Publisher, and the third member by the two panel members thus designated. The costs of such arbitration will be borne by the Publisher, and the panel’s findings will be binding.”

Website

My online transaction did not go through, or gave me a threatening message. What do I do?
It’s possible your transaction has been held up due to security reasons; this sometimes happens when there are minor discrepancies in the credit card or contact information you entered. Please e-mail Robyn DesHotel atrdeshotel@pen.org, who will identify the transaction and either push it through or suggest that you re-try. She can also be reached at (212) 334-1660, ext. 102, to process your information over the phone.

How can I receive news about PEN?
You can sign up to receive PEN’s monthly newsletter and event mailings, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr. 

What are PEN Podcasts?
Podcasting is the generic term for making audio content available for automatic download and later playback on your computer or portable devices. You “subscribe” to a podcast through music software like iTunes, and episodes are downloaded directly onto your computer when they are released, hassle-free and free of charge. 

I used to receive a printed copy of Grants & Awards. Can I still order a hard copy? No. PEN no longer offers hard copies of its Grants & Awards listings. Our database is now available exclusively online. You can see sample listings and subscribe here.

World Voices Festival

What are the dates of the upcoming World Voices Festival of International Literature?
The 2013 World Voices Festival will run in spring of 2013.

I’d love to participate as a panelist or reader at the upcoming Festival. How can I submit my name for consideration?
Please e-mail elizabeth@pen.org with a description of your book.

I’d like to attend Festival events. Where can I find the listing?
All events for the 2010 World Voices Festival of International Literature will be made public in mid-March. At that time you can visit the Festival web site to review the schedule of events. PEN Members will receive a copy of the program guide via snail mail.

Can I purchase tickets to Festival events by calling the PEN office?
No. While many daytime Festival events are free and open to the public, most evening events are ticketed. Please refer to the Festival web site for ticketing information about specific events. Smarttix.com manages the ticket sales for most events. They can be reached at (212) 868-4444.

Writers’ Emergency Fund

Do you have to be a Member of PEN to receive grants from the Writers’ Emergency Fund?
No. Writers do not have to be Members of PEN American Center to receive a grant. The Writers’ Fund uses the following guidelines when evaluating applicants’ professional credentials (combinations of these criteria are acceptable): at least one book by a reputable publishing house, ten or more essays, short stories, or poems in literary print anthologies or literary print journals in the last two years, a full-length play, performed in a theater of over 250 seats by a professional theater company, employment as a full-time professional journalist, columnist, or critic by a reputable print periodical OR 12 or more literary reviews in a nationally recognized print periodical in the last two years; editors and agents who have been professionally active for the last five years are also eligible.

I am unemployed. Will the Writers’ Emergency Fund give me a grant so that I can look for work / finish my novel / travel for research / edit my work / start my own publishing company?
The Writers’ Emergency Fund does not exist for research purposes, to enable the completion of writing projects, or to fund publications or organizations. The Fund is for writers in a crisis, where a grant of approximately $2,000 or less will enable them to last through the acute emergency situation. Most grants are given to those who have short-term medical or housing situations that they are financially unable to resolve independently due to a specific incident or set of incidents. The Fund cannot attempt to solve the complicated issues of long-term unemployment or continuing medical expenses.

I know of a writer that is in need of an emergency grant. How can I help them?
Please have them fill out an application at www.pen.org/writersfund. If you are not comfortable talking to them directly, please e-mail Arielle Anema, Writers’ Emergency Fund Associate at arielle@pen.org and she will contact them confidentially. You can also help the Fund by making a donation to enable the Fund to give more grants to more writers in crisis. We also encourage you to form a network; please spread word that the Writers Fund is available, and help PEN look after our colleagues in need.

If I apply for the Writers’ Emergency Fund, will my name be on any lists?
No. The Writers’ Fund is a confidential program at PEN, and protects the privacy of all applicants.