Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This is Why You Always Meet Your Deadlines (Rerun)

Meetings abound this week, mes auteurs, so I'll be posting reruns today and tomorrow. Enjoy!

Episode: "This is Why You Always Meet Your Deadlines"
Originally aired: Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

In case you hadn't heard, Yahoo! sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski (say that three times fast) has been sued by Penguin Books for failure to meet his deadline regarding a book about former North Carolina State University basketball coach Jim Valvano. The original manuscript delivery date? August 1, 2007.

Wojnarowski was originally offered a cool $400,000 (of which he received $140,000), but his repeated delays caused Penguin to reduce the total advance to $325,000. Now, over three years later, they've canceled the book and are taking Wojnarowski to court to recover the $140,000 they already paid him.

I wish I could say this kind of story was uncommon, but honestly, the only unusual aspect is the filing of a lawsuit. Books are delayed by months (sometimes years) all the time, and failure to meet deadline (sometimes more than once) is not unheard of. I think, however, that publishers' patience is particularly short in the midst of the recession, so I wouldn't be surprised if they were to become even less lenient about missed deadlines, particularly for books bought for six- or seven-figure advances.

The reasons for delays can range from author laziness to the publisher's disapproval of various drafts (that is, sending them back for rewrites) to changes in current events that warrant substantial revisions (generally affecting only nonfiction). Remember, too, that most advances are cut into pieces: often one installment is paid on signing, another on receipt of the manuscript by the publisher, and occasionally a third on or around the date of publication. If you're getting $400,000 and you've already gotten $140,000 just for signing a piece of a paper, one can see how your motivation might be temporarily shot.

That said: this business is slow enough as-is, so as début writers who always want to make the best of impressions, it's in your collective best interest to get your manuscripts and revisions delivered on time. Always be professional, always be on time, and always ask your agent or editor if you have any questions about deadlines, timelines, or any of the other myriad -lines to which you might be subject.


  1. Oh, man. I could do a lot with $140,000.

    I bet most of it wouldn't be writing.

  2. This honestly does not make sense to me. If I were paid $140,000 in advance I would pay my bills and either rent an office or go on a retreat to finish that book.I would be as far ahead of the deadline as I possibly could be. Patti

  3. I'm forced to admit, $140k would wreak havoc with my ability to focus on writing as well. Although once I blew through the money I guess I would be highly motivated to produce something so I could get the next installment. Amazing.

  4. In principle, there has to be some leeway in any professional relationship, but three years sounds like a very long time to keep someone waiting on a deal.

  5. I'm with Patti K. That kind of money would free my mind from a ton of everyday worry, leaving me with plenty of time and motivation to finish the book. Sheesh! Talk about a sense of spoiled entitlement.

  6. Excuuuuuuse me !
    Pay me that and I would have it done yesterday and the next book done tomorrow.
    Helloooooooo...anybody listening ?

  7. ...and if the advance is cut into pieces, wouldn't that be the proverbial carrot to keep pushing forward?

  8. I'm wondering if anyone has tried to sue George RR Martin, or if the publisher just doesn't care if he finishes his epic fantasy series "Song of Ice and Fire". This guy has had enough time to edit and co-author dozens of other books as well as over see the adaptation of his book "Game of Thrones" into an HBO series, yet he can't seem to find the time to finish the series. Sooooo frustrating!

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