The New York Observer has an interesting article today, by author Leon Neyfakh: Note to Authors: Make Your Deadlines!
Neyfakh talks about how it used to be okay to go somewhat beyond your delivery deadline if a publishing company had bought your book, before the economy began forcing publishers to take more heed to their cash flow and bottom line. In the past, even if they had “buyer’s remorse” and regretted that they’d contracted two years ago to publish the book, they usually wouldn’t cancel outright.
Now, Neyfakh says, that’s changed to a large degree. If a publisher no longer wants to do the book, they’re going to start looking for an excuse. And getting it in late can now loom very large, resulting not only in cancellation of the contract, but the demand to pay back any advance.
As a result, authors are under unprecedented pressure from their agents to stay on schedule. Most of the literary agents interviewed for this article said they have tried to impress on their clients that if they want to make sure they don’t lose their contracts and find themselves having to pay back an advance that in many cases they’ve already spent, they had better be vigilant about turning their manuscripts in on time.
It may not matter that the Muse hasn’t visited enough to make your prose just perfect. It may be more important to sit down, get the thing written, and hand it in on time, to make sure it will still be published. Or save that advance until you’re absolutely sure the book’s going to happen.