Thursday, September 13, 2007

Contracts 101: Delivery and Acceptance

The dreaded and very important delivery and acceptance clause. Did you know that you don’t get paid until your work is delivered and accepted? While everyone seems to know this in theory, few seem to understand what that really means until they are hungry for a check, or just plain hungry and need a check.

This means that if it takes your editor six months to actually read your manuscript you could be waiting six months, or more, to get your check. Even though you delivered on time and even though you are already hard at work on your next project. Frustrating, isn’t it? What actually deems acceptance depends on the publisher. Some won’t officially accept the book until they are through what they call author review. That means the book is edited, copyedited, and the author has reviewed and accepted all edits. Others will want to make sure revisions have been completed by the author and accepted by the editor. Some publishers will not allow a d&a (delivery and acceptance) check to go through until the manuscript is in the copyeditor’s hands, and others will gladly put it through the minute the material is delivered. What you end up with really depends on your publisher and on your editor. It can also be dependent on your relationship with your editor.

In an ideal d&a clause you will have wording that gives the publisher a limited time to read and accept your work. In other words, ideally the publisher will need to respond in about 45 days. Of course not all publishers will agree to this, and even if it’s in there it doesn’t always mean editors will make the dates. You should also have some sort of description as to what is to be delivered. Is it expected that your book will be 80,000 words, but what else will you need to supply? Are you also required to include photos, maps, or an author bio? As much as possible you want the delivery and acceptance clause in your contract to tell you, and the publisher, what exactly is required to deem the material acceptable. You also want information in there that provides for what happens should the publisher deem the material unacceptable. Usually this means a time frame as to how long you have to revise the material and make it acceptable.

The most important advice I can give to writers when it comes to your d&a clause is to make sure the delivery date is actually attainable for you. Don’t feel pressure to submit quickly just because you’re afraid the publisher will lose interest. They wouldn’t have bought the book if they thought they might lose interest. Pick a date that not only works with your schedule but, most important, that you can reach while writing the best book possible. And second, make sure when reviewing your d&a clause that there are no surprises. If you expect to deliver maps, that’s fine, but if your d&a clause states that maps are required and you had no intention of providing maps, you might be getting yourself into a situation that’s going to cause nothing but headaches down the road.

As with anything, on all contracts, if there is something in the clause that looks wrong or out of place to you, call your agent. You never know what might be standard and non-negotiable in certain contracts or what she negotiated on your behalf.



bob said...

Wow great post - as my current book is still being reviewed by an editor and as I search for an agent I appreciate the info and glimpse into a world I have not fully entered.

That is one area as new to the business you wonder about but are sometimes afraid to ask.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jessica, for an informative and needed post. This aspect of the publishing industry isn't explained very often and it helps us pre-pub people to set our expectations in a more realistic time-frame.


Kate Douglas said...

FWIW, knowing what to expect and when to expect it doesn't make it ANY easier waiting on that advance!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for the better part of a year now, and I've got a question I don't think I've seen you address. Say an aspiring writer has an (albeit romantic) notion that there's one agent and one agent only for her. If she's submitted a requested partial and been declined, how long an interval should she allow before querying with a different project? Is there a frequency at which ambition becomes stalking?

Miss Hypothetical