Pub Rants

Payment Schedules

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STATUS: All six contracts are almost complete. I’ll so drink to that!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ELENORE by The Turtles

Over the weekend I realized my whole Friday entry was a bit cryptic if one didn’t know anything about payment schedules in publishing contracts. I’m pretty certain I’ve covered this in one of my prior entries (check out the Agenting 101 blogs) but what the heck, it doesn’t hurt to repeat it.

When a publisher buys a book, they don’t pay out the advance all at once (and probably none of you suffer from that assumption that they did, but I’ll state the basics just in case). No, when a publisher buys a book, they will stipulate a certain amount for the advance and then the payments are attached to what I call triggers—as in something contractually happens and a portion of the advance is paid.

Typical triggers can be these:

1. on signing of the contract

2. on d&a (delivery and acceptance) of a detailed outline
Side note: this happens often when a publisher is buying new books from one of their already established authors and they are buying on spec—as in nothing has been put on paper yet.

3. on d&a of the final manuscript

4. on publication of the work

5. on publication of a paperback edition

My favorite payouts are, of course, ½ on signing and ½ on d&a. Personally, when the monies are small, I really don’t see the sense in doing it otherwise. Now, I can understand when the advance pops into the six figures etc. but I don’t have to like it and I will certainly use all leverage possible to eliminate it. That’s my job after all—to get the best payout structure possible amongst other things.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of emphasis from Publishers to have payment in thirds rather than halves.

Of course I don’t lean that way either but I’m okay with it for the most part—if I can avoid the upon publ pym.

I’m sure y’all are sensing a mantra here. I’m not always successful and I imagine as Publishers dig in on this topic, it will be harder and harder to get.

Now as to Friday’s entry, what I meant by weighting forward is this.

What if the advance is 30k for one book. Payouts can look any number of ways.

If it’s in halves, that’s easy:
15k on signing
15k on d&a

If in thirds:
10k on signing
10k on d&a of outline
10k on d&a of full manuscript

Now let’s say you have to have the pym on publication and I can’t budge the Publisher on it. My job is to weight the payments forward.

Instead of equal thirds like this:
10k on signing
10k on d&a of full manuscript
10k on pub

I’ll try to weight monies forward:
12.5k on signing
12.5k on d&a full manuscript
5k on publication

And this can have a myriad of variations. I just did what was easy math.

Clear as mud?

15 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:


    Thanks for the entry. I want to ask a question, and I hope you don’t think I am rude. I am just curious.

    You often say you fight hard with publishers over certain issues, such as advance payments. Now in my ignorance, I would have thought that it would be the publisher who had the real clout, unless the book was one really hot piece of property, and let’s face it, most are not. How often would you be able to get your desired outcome?

  2. Anonymous said:

    I have a question too. If a publisher wants a book, and let’s say they are not the only ones, so it’s something desirable, and you choose them, and they take EIGHT months to provide your first payment (the on acceptance payment) and the contract, while all the time doing edits with you, who is at fault here? My agent said the publisher was just slow and not to worry, but it seems like maybe there was something he/she could’ve done. Am I wrong? Is this standard?

  3. Morgan Dempsey said:

    I’m a newbie, so bear with me.

    Why would publishers want to do this? The only logical reason I can think to spread out the payments is (a) they lack the $30K up front and would rather pay as they go, or (b) there’s the concern that the contract will, for one reason or another, fall apart before finished product is out the door.

    Now, (b) may be the reason — I suspect between those two it would be, as most people would be squeamish about dealing with someone who promises more than they can deliver — but if so, why would a contract fall apart?

    I’m just placing myself in a soon-to-be-published writer’s shoes and finding that this desire to segment the payout would make me somewhat queasy. (From the sound of it, it makes you slightly queasy too 😉 )

    Sorry if the question seems silly. Just curious 🙂

  4. Anonymous said:

    When you contract someone to put an extension on your house, do you just hand over 30K and say “that should cover it — I look forward to putting in my furniture” ? Of course not — you pay out money upfront in good faith and then money when things are done. Unless you are a fool, of course. This is the way of the world.

    To make you all feel better, illustrators all too often must finish entire books, particularly rushed ones, before even seeing the first payment, which comes after the contract is drafted, redrafted, signed, and processed. So quit your whining.

  5. Ghost Girl said:

    Thanks for the clarification, Kristin. My DH’s book was done in 3rds, with the last payment due on publication (which will be this fall).

  6. Anonymous said:

    P.S. Soon-to-be-published-writer-shoes-wearer: you should be worrying about how to diminish the unlikeliness of ever getting published with a $300 deal instead of spending your time worrying how they’re going to chop up your 30K.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Anon # 1 (and #2 since they are the same person I suspect) is crabby today.

    One of the reasons people like to avoid payment upon pub is that pun can be so far away. Also, there is always the chance that the publisher will not actually publish your book, even though they have accepted the manuscript. Slim, but real chance.

  8. CM said:

    The only logical reason I can think to spread out the payments is (a) they lack the $30K up front and would rather pay as they go, or (b) there’s the concern that the contract will, for one reason or another, fall apart before finished product is out the door.

    Actually, it probably has more to do with the time-value of money. Given that there’s usually a year or two between signing and publication, if the publisher can put off paying that final $10K for two years, they can earn interest on it. It’s probably worth an extra thousand or so dollars to them to pay it as late as possible. Multiply by the several hundred books they produce each year, and you can see why they put off payment for as long as they can.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Wouldn’t a new writer be someone who has already submitted a complete manuscript (because it is seen as very poor taste to submit to an agent or publisher without a fully realized manuscript, for a newbie; I can see it would be different for a writer with an established track record)? That would mean two tenets of the issue have already been met; contract signed, manuscript completed and delivered, all in one fell swoop.

    Am I incorrect?


  10. Anonymous said:

    Oh, and how is this going to be effected by the eventual advent of e-publishing?

    #1– will there be agents at all when it is more cost effective for publishers to take on twice as many writers (or more) as they have in the past?

    #2– will contracts be delegated to something as simple as e-mail accounts, electronic signatures and payment through services like PayPal and electronic fund transfers?

    #3– will publishing drop in profitability enough that many writers will leave writing for lack of time & money, once again opening the market up down the road?


  11. joelle said:

    By manuscript delivered, I believe she was talking about the final edits. Even if you’ve got a whole book done and it’s sold that way, you will get an editorial letter (except under special circumstances) and then you have to do your edits. When the edits are accepted, then it’s considered “manuscript delivered”. I think.

  12. Anonymous said:

    Looking at the numbers Kristin posted about the payout schedule for a low paying novel, I think it might actually be approaching the point when a good writer can make more money selling short stories to decent magazines. Sell a big enough story to a well-paying mag, and you make three grand or so. No agent fees, flat payment schedule, and recognition are the rewards. Better yet, sell enough, get noticed by agents/editors, and get a bigger offer on your novel. Get some of your stories published in an anthology next to some really big names and drive up the sales of your novels!

    Move to the coast, live on a yacht, marry a supermodel and pump out a few good looking kids. Watch your novels be made into movies, invest wisely and write your memoirs. Attend conferences and look contrite, not smug, and lend a helping hand to struggling writers.

    Simple, easy! See you all in Santa Barbara for the wine festival.

  13. Rachel Glass said:

    This is really helpful information, thank you Kristin. I found a blog you did a while back (not on this site) that listed agents that accepted e-queries. It has proven most useful, thank you!

  14. erica_henry said:

    Thank you for this post. I’m not sure why it got several people so riled up but oh well. I just wanted to say thank you for giving a will-be-published-one-day-writer a good idea of what to expect.

    *in a positive mood today. notice I didn’t put if I get published lol*