Jane Dystel wrote an informative blog post earlier this week about the Acceptability clause, which can come into play when an author’s completed work proves unsatisfactory (fortunately, a rare occurrence) or when an author does not make the contracted deadline.
The writing process requires great discipline, but it can also be unpredictable. Authors may promise, and fully believe, that their work will be completed and delivered by a certain date, but that date might prove to be somewhat unrealistic. As soon as it becomes clear to a writer that this may be a looming problem, he or should make it known to the agent and editor.
In this business, where publication dates are slotted in so far ahead, a late arrival of a manuscript can create a domino-effect of problems. The editing process may turn out to be extensive, requiring large amounts of time for rewrites. Publishers’ catalogs are planned seasonally, far in advance. And so it is not a good thing if your book is already in the Fall catalog but, because you turned in your manuscript so late, it now won’t be coming out till the following Spring. Consider your editor: she will now have to add your late manuscript to the ones she will already be working on from other authors who turned in their work on time. That creates quite an editorial logjam.
Moreover, marketing plans are also made far ahead, timed to the book’s publication. If that publication is delayed but you already have several big media breaks or appearances set, then everyone, especially you, will wind up with egg on their faces. And of course, avoidable problems like these do not leave your publisher happy, or willing, to work with you again.
Most publishers are understanding when an author lets them know that the manuscript will be coming in later than expected, and they will make adjustments if necessary. Just be sure to alert them as far in advance as possible—because nobody likes nasty surprises.