Friday, April 24, 2009


I am battling a cold and the title of this blog says it all: "Ugh." Caught it from my son, who caught it from his grandparents. The wife has it now, also. You know it sucks because I'm actually watching the clock for when I can next take something. I took straight cough medicine and not a multi-symptom product this morning and my nose is feeling left out.

On the business side, my day is a big "ugh," also. After fourteen or so months, I finally concluded a negotiation for a new deal with for one of my clients. When the final contracts showed up, I got them out to the client the same day. The client turned them around the same day. It is nearly two weeks since they were returned to the publisher and do I have a fully executed contract or the payment due on signing? Of course not.

So the question to me is, Should my client's deadline be changed? Why, after all, should he be expected to start work before he has a signed contract and payment?

An old girlfriend of mine once did some TV work for a division of Viacom, which also owns Simon & Schuster. I was complaining to her that I was waiting and waiting for a check from S&S and she said, "Why? I can get a check hand-cut the same day if I need it." My head nearly exploded. Why could one division get things done so much quicker than another? Why, for example, does one publishing company cut all of its checks from an office in Colorado or New Jersey, then send them to NYC, where they are sent out to agents? Why not send them straight out from the source? Why not source them in NYC?

Publishers blame agents for making the relationship with authors acrimonious or adversarial, but the truth is that it is the publishers' own corporate policies that more often than not earn them the anger of authors and agents. Contracts are negotiated for weeks and sometimes months. It's not like the publisher didn't know this deal was happening and that payment would have to be made. When the contracts go out for signing to the author, why isn't a check request done then, so that the check is ready when the contract comes back signed by the author? Why on earth does a contract have to sit on anyone's desk for days or weeks before signing? Your Contracts Deparment negotiated that agreement, possibly for weeks and even months. Can't you trust them and sign the damn thing?

Maybe what we need to have in publishing is "closings," like on real estate in NYC. All the parties in the room and cashier's checks drawn and ready to go. Everyone signs, the checks change hands, everyone is happy.


1 comment:

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I feel your pain as I'm sitting here I felt a twinge in my sinuses and then they began to run, so I've also got a cold coming on.

Six awful words to hear: The check is in the mail. Right.

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