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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Authors! Meet Your Deadlines. Or Else.

A very interesting article appeared in the New York Observer recently. The article explained how and why some publishers are using an author's failure to make deadline as a breach of contract (which it clearly is), and then jettisoning those writers whose books have become (not to put to fine a point on it) excess (read expensive) baggage.

“Publishers are looking at their books and saying, ‘O.K., this book is two years late. Do we want it anymore?’” explained Eric Simonoff, an agent at WME Entertainment. “If the answer is no, they’re saying, ‘We don’t want it anymore—we’re calling [in] our loan.’”

Makes sense. Simonoff continued (and this is the money quote):

“Sometimes people have buyer’s remorse, and it’s a very convenient way of rectifying your buyer’s remorse after the fact. It’s safe to say that delivery dates are more meaningful now than they ever have been before. I think everyone’s putting their clients on notice and saying, ‘This is serious.’”

He really means "Authors' Remorse."

I have always been generous with authors because of the type of books Savas Beatie traditionally publishes. All I ask is that an author be responsive and demonstrate real progress.

Still, I admit to having culled the herd two or three times in the past several years for remorse in signing the author (even if the product was good) or because I fell out of like with the subject matter. One author, Mr. Sweetness and Light, turned to Count Bitters and Darkness once the contract was signed. Thankfully he did not get an advance. It was a real pleasure when he missed his deadline to pick up the phone and tell him what I really thought of his attitude.
I must say, though, that the culling of the herd by publishers back east has been to our benefit out west. Savas Beatie has noticed an uptick in submissions, many of which were once placed with other houses. We recently signed a manuscript that we think will be one of our biggest books late next year or in 2011.

Read the article. It is worthwhile.

Meet the deadlines or make sure your editor approves of a delay--and get that in writing.



Paul said...

Ted -

Just wondering if that remorse can (should?) work both ways? Is it standard for contracts to also have publisher time commitments, i.e., assuming the contract is signed on day X and the author clearly meets all time commitments, does the publisher then agree to have the book out by day Y?


TPS said...


Indeed it does. Contracts should (and ours always do) include a time within which, once an acceptable manuscript is produced and received, a book must be published. Generally you want at least 18 to 24 months.

The mistake authors make is that they want this date to be weeks or a few months. "My last publisher produced my book in just three months! Why can't you!" asked one author.

My reply generally runs along these line: "Because we actually understand how book marketing works. A book needs months of lead time AFTER it is edited and formatted in order to gather the reviews, placement, and fulfillment most books deserve. Production cycles (readers of this blog know what that means) are critical, and you have to work six months in advance of the next cycle just to be considered 'timely.' Without this lead time, publishers cannot position and channel a book properly for nationwide distribution."

This topic might be worth an expanded post. Thanks for posing the question, Paul.


Anonymous said...

Good advice, sir. You have a cannot-miss blog. I wish you posted every day!!

Melanie Channing