This is definitely a rant-worthy topic.
Publishing houses have implemented new corporate policies to pay advances in thirds—a portion of which must now be on publication.
The Penguin Group implemented this last year and a recent Random House negotiation showed me that it’s new policy over there as well. It’s lousy news for the authors and, as much as we would like, agents can’t just wave a magic wand and make such an unfair payment structure disappear.
I’ve talked to a number of agent friends—from independents to those at the bigger outfits—and the general consensus is that we get stuck with it unless we’ve got some leverage—leverage such as multi-interest, a pre-empt, or an auction situation going down.
Then we can eliminate that pesky condition.
Drives me nuts. It’s taking the “advance” out of the advance if you know what I mean. In a 2-book deal, the author might have to wait up to two years to see that final payment. It’s royally unfair.
But we aren’t miracle workers. Sometimes the best that can be done is to weight the majority of the advance to the earlier payments and get something minimal on publication because it’s pretty darn rare for an author to say NO to a deal on the table from the only publishing house that has offered.