Pub Rants

Payments on Pub

 14 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: TGIF! I’m going to be so happy when all these contracts complete. That’s my new definition of happiness. That way I can get back to reading—which is the more fun part of the job.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU LEARN by Alanis Morissette

I wish this issue would go the way of the dinosaur. I was talking with a few agent friends today and this topic came up—as it often does. Unfortunately, I’m convinced this one is stuck here for good so what to do about it.

Certain publishers are demanding payments on pub no matter what the advance is. (Cough—a publisher that begins with a “P” comes to mind). Other houses are more relaxed until the money gets into the six figures, then the upon pub payment rears its head.

Unless there is an auction going on. Then the agent can get the publisher off it because they want the book enough to be in an auction so will often be flexible where payout is concerned so as not to lose the auction.

If an author is big enough or established enough, well, anything is possible right? Not just no payments on pub.

But if you can’t get rid of it, what do you do? Well, we weight the money forward so as little money as possible will be paid on pub.

One agent did point out another factor I hadn’t really considered which is that an on pub payment allocates money in a different year as other monies in the contract (as publication more often than not happens in a year other than the contract). This can be better for authors in terms of paying taxes. This is true but it seems to me that taxes can be managed properly and most people would prefer the monies earlier.

I’m out.

14 Responses

  1. jwhit said:

    Waving ignorance flag here: does this mean no money from the publisher to the writer at all until the book hits the shelves?

    What protects the writer from a publisher that decides it will renege on the contract? Does that ever happen?

    Is this something that is happening with small houses as well that may be less financially able to pay up front or upon signing? What if they go out of business before publication?

    Thanks for raising it, Kristin.

  2. Anonymous said:


    Traditionally there have been two payments – usually on contract signing and on manuscript acceptance. Now this payment on pub adds a third payment, when the book hits the shelves. I’d rather manage my taxes and get two payments, especially in the case of a book being published 18-24 months after contract signing. That’s a long wait for the final third of the so-called advance.

  3. Eric Riback said:

    It thwarts the newer author who’s getting a small advance but is smart enough to spend it on marketing, except she needs the cash to start doing this well before pub date. That doesn’t help the publisher, does it?

    As well, it seems to me that when the mss. is delivered, the author has held up his end of the deal. If for some reason the publisher delays release, that shouldn’t affect the authors cash flow beyond the fact that any royalties above earn out will now come later.

  4. Dave Shaw said:

    They’re just trying to improve their cash flow by cutting into ours. Seems like every business these days is trying to get better payment terms. Most would rather not pay for anything until they’ve already sold it.

  5. San Remo Ave said:

    Yep, I agree with Dave. This is for their cashflow not the author’s. It allows them to spread out their investment. The longer they keep the money in their bank, the more interest they can accrue. I see companies all the time dragging out “net 30 day” invoice payments to 45 days. In my opinion, it’s a shameless and cheap business practice.

    The impact on the individual author’s taxes is just a rose-colored-glasses way to look at it.

  6. Anonymous said:

    It sounds like the publisher’s idea of a layaway plan. Gee, I wish I could put my electric bill on plan like that.

  7. Anonymous said:

    It’s a matter of publishers (like most businesses) wanting to hold on to their money for as long as they can.

  8. Richard Nash (Soft Skull) said:

    Well I don’t notice booksellers paying advances to publishers for the rights to sell a book, and I don’t notice agents paying advances to authors for the rights to sell a book–so why, exactly, is the publisher being “shameless and cheap” and the agent, and the bookseller not being?

    Treating the publisher as adversary in this transaction is crazy. It is already an insanely capital-intensive business, far more so than in other media. Why on earth does it make sense to extract as much capital as possible out of the part of the supply chain that is already under the most pressure?

  9. Jamie Hall said:

    To Richard Nash:

    I would assume that authors are “the part of the supply chain that is already under the most pressure” instead of publishers. And this would be more true with the biggest publishers.

  10. Tannat Madiran - The Darkest Grape said:

    this is a lot like the liquor business – not right or wrong, just another form of money management.

    a winemaker makes wine, takes him a year. a broker pitches it to a wholesaler, the broker does not get pad until the winery does. the wholesaler wants 30-60-90 plus day terms, i.e. he doesn’t want to have to pay for the wine until he has had ample amount of time to have it sold.

    not the greatest deal, but industry standard, though better brokers nail them down to 30 day terms…

  11. Ithaca said:

    Not sure about this. The UK tax system allows income averaging, so it makes no real difference if you get a big payment in one year and nothing the next. The US (as far as I know) doesn’t allow that. So staggering payments actually is a way of managing taxes. Which is not to say, of course, that one wants part of an advance to be contingent on publication.

  12. Anonymous said:

    Excuse the anonymous commenting, but in order to share some details, I find it necessary. For average sized-deals, I agree with Kristin that the money should all be given in advance, thus, the “advance.” However, big deals–especially multi-book deals–I understand wanting to hold a little back. I’m going to use some nice round numbers and suggest that an author received a three-book deal for $100,000 per book. Let’s say the agent is able to negotiate half on signing and half on delivery. That means that the author will get $150,000 on signing, and an additional $50,000 on delivery. That means that a year before the first book is even released, the publisher has essentially paid for two whole books. Cool for the author, but can you understand why the publisher balks at that? On the other hand, if you do a third on signing, a third on delivery and acceptance, and a third on publication, then the author gets $100,000 up front, $33,333 a few weeks later (d&a of the first MS is almost always within a month or two of signing) and then $66,666 a year for the next two years (one D&A and one publication per year) followed up by a final year of $33,333. That way, by right before the first book has come out, the publisher has paid $133,000 for that book so far. They’ll be much happier to cough up that next $33,000 on publication. And really, what author can complain about that? I personally like knowing that I am going to have a steady income over the next several years rather than one big lump sum right up front and then several slightly sparse years.

    And like Kristin said, it’s in the author’s best interest to try to get more of the pie before publication, but having a bit left over (for me it’s 25% upon publication) just seems fair when you are working with big deals or multi-book sales.


  13. Anonymous said:

    It’s frustrating. I am with that ‘P’ publisher and they’re great, except for–yes–the publication payment. This sucks but is almost impossible to get out from under. I hoped it would change when I moved to a much higher advance per book but nope, nope, it got more entrenched. But at least I don’t have joint accounting, which gives me a lot of comfort. 🙂